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Make your own chickpea tempeh from scratch with just 3 ingredients! This soy-free tempeh is high in protein and can be used in stir-fries, soups, sandwiches, and more!

How to Make Chickpea Tempeh (Vegan)

Do I have a thing for fermented foods? Probably.

I recently discovered chickpea tempeh and loved it even more than regular soy tempeh. It has a slightly different texture. It’s a bit softer but has no bitter aftertaste at all like regular ones have! The thing is, it’s not as widely available and, most of the time is more expensive. After a quick search on how to make basic tempeh, I tried to adapt it for chickpeas, and it worked!

Not only is it completely soy-free, but it is also delicious and a lot easier to make than you may think! Get ready for A LOT of step-by-step photos!

📘 What is Tempeh?

Let’s start from the beginning. What is it exactly? Tempeh is a traditional Indonesian fermented food. It is made by cooking soybeans and fermenting them with a mold called Rhizopus Oryzae for 24-48H. Once the fermentation is done, all the soybeans are bound together into a compact cake by a white mold. It then becomes sliceable and ready to cook.

🥬 Health Benefits

Since tempeh is a fermented food, it is very rich in probiotics, which aid in digestion and improve overall health. Tempeh is also:

  • Rich in protein: Even if chickpeas have less protein than soybeans, they still contain 15g per cup, which makes them a great meat replacement.
  • High in fiber: In addition to being protein-packed, chickpeas are also rich in soluble fiber and increase satiety.
  • A whole food: tempeh is less processed than tofu since you consume whole beans. Tofu is made from soymilk, where the ground beans are discarded.  So even if tofu is a healthy food, tempeh is often considered healthier and packs more nutrients.

🥣 How to Make Chickpea Tempeh

Making chickpea tempeh requires only 3 ingredients (and some patience):

It all starts by soaking the chickpeas overnight. When I did my first tests, I went with large garbanzo beans, but due to their size, the white mold had trouble growing, especially on the inside, because of too much empty space between the chickpeas. It results in a tempeh that is not super compact and crumbles very easily. So I recommend using the smallest chickpeas you can find, or read the note at the end of the recipe if you plan to use garbanzo beans. I guess split chickpeas will work, too. Just reduce the cooking time.

How to Make Chickpea Tempeh (Vegan)

The next step is to drain and rinse the chickpeas, transfer them to a large pot, cover with water, and cook from 1 to 1H30, or until they are soft but still keep their shape well. You don’t want undercooked or mushy chickpeas!

How to Make Chickpea Tempeh (Vegan)

Once your chickpeas are perfectly cooked, you will have to let them drain for 30 minutes. For optimal growth of the mold, the chickpeas must not be too moist.

After 30 minutes, if they are still a bit moist, use a paper towel to absorb excess water. Transfer the cooked chickpeas to a large bowl, stir in the white vinegar, and mix until well distributed. The vinegar will help stop the development of possible bad molds or bacteria.

How to Make Chickpea Tempeh (Vegan)

The last step is to stir in the tempeh starter and mix well to ensure it is uniformly distributed. Once this is done, you transfer them to a transparent plastic bag. I used a freezer bag, but any food-safe plastic bag would work. It’s important to perforate the plastic bag with a skewer (or a chopstick) to allow for air circulation. Otherwise, the mold won’t grow. Alternatively, you can use a perforated plastic container or Tupperware.

How to Make Chickpea Tempeh (Vegan)

You must pack the chickpeas well and press them flat so the thickness is about 1 inch. Then, place the bag on a baking sheet and put it in the oven for about 12-14 hours at 86°F (30°C). My oven can go to low temperatures, but if yours don’t, then just let the oven light on, or use a dehydrator.

I read some people had success by putting a lightbulb in a container, but in my opinion, the oven is an easier option.

How to Make Chickpea Tempeh (Vegan)

After 12-14 hours, you should start to see some white mold growing on the chickpeas. At this time, you can remove it from the oven and let ferment for another 24 hours in a dark and warm place. It can take up to 48 hours in total for the chickpeas to be coated with white mold.

When the tempeh is fully coated and forms a cake, it is ready to use! Just wrap it in plastic film and store it in the fridge. It will keep for up to a week in the fridge.

How to Make Chickpea Tempeh (Vegan)

🌯 How To Use it?

Just like soy tempeh! If you want a milder taste and firmer texture, I recommend steaming it for 20 minutes before using it in recipes. This is not mandatory, though. Here is how you can cook tempeh:

  • Marinade: Marinating tempeh slices is the best way to add flavor. A simple and tasty marinade is one part sesame oil, one part maple syrup, two parts soy sauce, chopped garlic, and your favorite herbs or spices. Marinade at least 2 hours before baking or shallow frying. For something fresh, check out my Marinated Tempeh Salad recipe.
  • Bake: Marinated or plain tempeh can be baked for about 20 minutes at 350°F. The longer you bake it, the firmer and dryer it will get.
  • Fry: Tempeh fries beautifully. It becomes crispy on the outside and remains soft on the inside. Frying obviously adds some calories but makes very tasty tempeh.

Tempeh is so versatile. It can be used in salads, burgers, sandwiches, curries, scrambles, and a lot more!

I hope this guide will give you the desire to make your own tempeh. It’s a fun and easy process. Homemade tempeh is delicious and can be used in a lot of recipes!

Let me know in the comments if you try this recipe!

How to Make Chickpea Tempeh (Vegan)
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Recipe
How to Make Chickpea Tempeh (Vegan)

How To Make Chickpea Tempeh

4.84 from 12 votes
Author: Thomas Pagot
Chickpea tempeh made from scratch! Soy-free, gluten-free, it requires only 3 ingredients and some patience!
Prep Time : 30 minutes
Cook Time : 1 hour 30 minutes
Incubation time : 2 days
Total Time : 2 days 2 hours
Servings 1 Tempeh Loaf
Calories 220 kcal

Ingredients
 

  • 1 cup dry small chickpeas
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar I used white rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp tempeh starter

Instructions
 

  • Place the chickpeas in a large bowl, cover with clean water and soak overnight.
  • The next day, drain and rinse the chickpeas. Transfer to a large cooking pot, cover with water (about 2-inch higher than the chickpeas). Bring to a boil and let simmer for 1 hour. Depending on the size of your chickpeas it might take up to 1 and 1/2 hour. They must be soft but not mushy. If some foam forms on the surface during cooking, remove it with a spoon to prevent any spillover.
  • Once the chickpeas are cooked, drain them and leave them in the strainer for 30 minutes. After that, pat them dry using a paper towel to make sure they are mostly dry on the outside.
  • Transfer to a large clean bowl. Add the white vinegar and stir to coat. Add the tempeh starter and mix well using a spoon until uniformly distributed.
  • Using a metal skewer, or chopstick, prick some holes (at about 2-inch intervals) in a clean freezer bag. This step is important to create good air circulation and allow the mold to grow.
  • Transfer the chickpeas to the freezer bag and form a rectangle of about 5×8 inches with a thickness of about 1-inch. Place the bag of chickpeas on a baking sheet and put in an oven with the light on for about 14 hours. I set the temperature of my oven to 86°F and let the door very slightly opened because I can’t just let the light on.
  • After 14 hours, some white mold (not a lot) should have appeared on the chickpeas. You might also see some condensation inside the plastic bag, this is normal. It’s time to remove the baking sheet from the oven and let it ferment for another 24-36H in a dark and warm place. I recommend covering the chickpea bag with a clean towel to make sure it’s not under direct sunlight.
  • Your tempeh is ready when it is fully covered with white mold and forms a solid cake, which usually happens at the 48-hour mark. It can be quicker if the temperature in your house is high.
  • Raw tempeh will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator. If you want to freeze it: steam the tempeh for 25 minutes, let cool completely and wrap in plastic film before freezing.

Notes

I recommend using the smallest chickpeas you can find for this recipe. White mold has trouble growing inside when using large garbanzo beans. If you still want to use garbanzo beans, roughly chop them after they are cooked, this way there will be less empty space inside the tempeh cake.
If you don’t mind soy, you can also use this tempeh starter.

Nutrition

Serving: 5 oz | Calories: 220 kcal | Carbohydrates: 27 g | Protein: 18 g | Fat: 3 g | Fiber: 8 g | Sugar: 4 g
Course : Entree, Main Course
Cuisine : Indonesian
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About the Author

Thomas Pagot is the founder, photographer, and recipe developer behind Full of Plants. He created the blog in 2016 as a personal cookbook for vegan recipes. Through years of recipe development, Thomas has successfully grown Full of Plants into a trusted resource for plant-based recipes.

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122 Comments

    1. Sure! The oven is only at 85°F (30°C) so there is absolutely no risk. Most of the tempeh you can find in stores is actually incubated in plastic bags.

  1. Thank you for sharing. How did you come up with the nutrition count? I want to to make tempeh with black beans

      1. Many people confuse the terms fermented pickled cultured etc.

        Fermentation is a biochemical process that metabolizes energy from carbohydrates without oxygen. So growing a ‘mushroom’ doesn’t count.

        Cultured would cover it.

  2. Pingback: Tempeh Khao Soi - Full of Plants
  3. Another excellent presentation! Been making tempeh for over a year and I always break the peas into smaller pieces and remove as much of the “skins” as possible. Interesting that you did not do either and yet your tempeh looks fantastic!

  4. I’ve have tried this twice now. after the 14 hour mark and then putting it in the dark created unwanted brown/black mold as well as the white. so i tried cutting the beans in half and put more holes in the bag but still after 14 hours looked good but when i put it in the dark i again got the unwanted yucky mold along with the while mold started forming. any suggestions?

    1. I’m a newbie to tempeh making. I’ve had more success when I sanitize all utensils, use vinegar, make sure beans are not too wet or too hot, and I use an icebox with temp control for incubation.

    2. As Roy said, make sure all your kitchen tools are super clean. If there is too much moisture on the beans when you stir in the starter it can cause black mold. The beans should not be wet, this is very important.

    3. Tempeh mold can be darker; it just means it’s getting more mature and closer to sporulation. Don’t throw out the tempeh. It is perfectly safe!

    4. 5 stars
      The black spots are spores. If you set some of your beans in a single layer in an open container and let it all get black, you can grind this up to a powder and have your own starter at no cost. In the freezer it will keep for a couple of years.

    5. Same problem too. Starts off looking good and then suddenly the black gross mold shows up and I wind up chucking it. The second time I made supper sure that beans were dry by putting them under a fan. Added the vinegar and then the soy free tempeh starter. Put in the oven with the light, everything was going good until the 26 hour mark and then the beans went grossly black.

    6. 5 stars
      I found really useful to get a “meat” thermometer with an alarm. When you measure the tempeh getting above 30ºC that you turn the pilot light in the oven off as the tempeh starts generating its own heat. I normally don’t use the oven much, so I don’t move the tempeh just leave in the oven with the pilot light on (my goes precisely to 30ºC) and then turn it off when the temperature starts rising inside the tempeh. Then the black spores don’t develop.
      I have also had the beans get too dry and had to spray water later as the mould wouldn’t develop.

  5. This is the first time I’ve run across your website. It looks like you’re a real black belt in vegan cooking. So exciting.
    Thanks!

  6. First time success! It’s in the fridge and will try it tonight. Feel so pleased with it. Now I want a proper incubator as I used a cool box with two hot water bottles! Thanks for the good instructions.

  7. Hi Thomas

    It looks like tempeh starter is hard to find in Europe. Amazon’s is only shipped to the UK. Do you know any other source they ship around Europe.

    p.s. love ur recipes 🙂

    L

        1. In the staes I never received my order from tempeh info. I went to the one pound bag on Amazon. I have since bloomed homemade tempeh (let it go black and fuzzy), then grind it to a powder. this works well, fresh or frozen.

          1. That’s weird! Have you tried contacting them? I bought from them several times and the cultures always arrived a few days later.
            Interesting to know that you can make your own starter from tempeh!

  8. I am planning on making this later since I am absolutely obsesed with tempeh and it can be pricey in stores. I am just wondering how this tastes in comparison to store bought tempeh?

    1. I would say it tastes milder than most store-bought tempeh, which is a good thing to me as I don’t like when tempeh has a bitter aftertaste.
      Chickpea tempeh is also a bit softer than soy tempeh.

  9. Made soy tempeh last week, this will be my next. My recipe is almost the same as yours. I use tapioca, corn or rice starch (flour), if there is a lot of moisture. I also rub the beans after soaking, this removes some of the skins and halves alot of them. It only takes a few minutes of rubbing. The skins can be floated off, but I leave them. Enjoy your site very much. THANX. DAVE

    1. Thanks for sharing Dave! It can definitely be useful for those who end up with too moist chickpeas.

    1. Greets Maria, Would appreciate any specific recipe info on your lentil version 🙂 I’ve used soy and chickpea but want to try other legumes.

      1. Hi Roy, I made the lentils tempeh with red split lentils that I under-boiled, for only 4-5 minutes, so they were still hard.Also I put the vinegar in the water from the beginning in the boiling process and dried them well before putting them in the bags. I think is important the lentils are not mushy and that they are dry. It came out great, nice texture and smell. Good luck.

  10. Should I buy a instant pot or a dehydrator for making tempeh using chickpeas or lentils?
    I have a big oven and a mini oven – both can’t go on for many hours at a time at low temperatures 🙁

    Can tempeh be made from any legume?

    Thanks

    1. Well, since I got my Instant Pot, tempeh making became much easier! You can cook the beans directly in the Instant Pot without having to soak them the night before. Plus the IP can stay on for hours at the perfect temperature when set on Yogurt mode. Be aware that it’s still possible to make tempeh without an Instant Pot, especially if it’s summer and very warm. Or you can turn your oven light on, it might take a bit longer for the tempeh to grow the mold but that should work too.

      Yes, tempeh can be made from other legumes, I have a recipe coming soon! 😉

  11. I tried a chickpea tempeh here in the UK – but was a little more chewier / crunch than regular? Is that just because it’s harder to soya?

    Also, stupid question, but is tempeh always really bitter / fermented if you don’t marinate overnight? If i marinate overnight i love it, if not i have trouble.

    Please let me know your thoughts.

    1. My guess is that they didn’t cook the chickpeas enough, it’s probably why it was crunchier than soy tempeh.
      Regarding the bitterness, it depends. Some brands are bitter than others. I find homemade tempeh has very little to no bitterness.

  12. Hi Thomas, love your chickpea tempeh making recipe. I bloomed my bought tempeh starter and mixed with rice flour in one on one ratio and made tempeh from it twice already and both came out good. I used small electric blanket on low setting which is about 88 degrees. The tempeh was ready complete after 16 hours. I now have so much starter for a whole year of tempeh making. I would like to try mung beans and lentil tempeh next. Have you tried them since?

    1. Hi Mizan, I haven’t tried mung beans or lentils but tried black beans. It works great and yields a delicious tempeh with a nutty/beany flavor.
      I definitely have to try your technique to make tempeh starter!

    1. Not that much. Vinegar is not like water, it will actually keep bad mold from growing and create the perfect conditions for the growth of the tempeh mold.

    1. Hi Lisa,
      I have never tried with canned chickpeas but I doubt it will work well. I recommend cooking the chickpeas from scratch.

      1. You were right. It was great fun making the tempeh using canned chickpeas but the texture of the finished product was really soft and a bit disgusting – just one step away from mush. I’ll be using dried chickpeas from now on.

  13. 5 stars
    Great recipe! I’ve just made some wrapped in banana leaves and it looks delicious.

    Why do you recommend steaming the Tempeh before freezing? I noticed another recipe recommended boiling. Is it possible to just throw it straight into the freezer?

    1. Awesome! I’m glad to hear it works with banana leaves! I have yet to try it.
      Well, I recommend steaming to get rid of the subtle bitterness the tempeh may have. It is not mandatory and I have to admit I very rarely do it as I don’t find mine to have a bitter flavor. I guess it depends on the temperature and starter used.

      1. Good to know. Thanks! It’s in the freezer now without steaming so I’ll eventually find out if it was needed or not for this batch. Cheers.

  14. This recipe sounds wonderful. I’ve never made anything like this before and our family is trying to reduce our use of plastic. Do you have any idea whether or not this could be made in a glass container? Thank you!!

    1. Thanks Julia,
      Humm…I’m not sure about the glass container honestly, I think the mold will stick to it and it will be difficult to remove the tempeh from the container. You may use banana leaves though.

    2. 5 stars
      Hey

      I have made it in a glass container and it was fine. Didn’t stick at all actually. I have limited to a max 1 inch high. Best results I had so far was covering with an aluminium foil with holes on it trying to keep it as tight as possible. I tried also covering with organic cotton cloth it was ok but less compact on the top because there was more air circulation vs aluminium foil.

      Also tried doing it in cotton cloth(wrapping the whole thing) it was ok but not very compact compared to the above methods.

      I want to try with silicone ziplock next

      1. Why would the aluminium foil need to be really tight? (if there are holes in it, then the tightness serves no purpose).

      2. The vinegar (and fermenting mold) risks attacking the aluminum and adding a mawkish off-taste of aluminum salts, which are also slightly toxic. The taste may not be noticed because tempeh’s own strong flavor, but you might not want to be consuming biologically active aluminum ions.
        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28752219

  15. Hi Thomas, I was thinking of making this in the instant pot (finally got one!!!). Do I just follow the soy instructions but replace with chickpeas? Also do you have to peel the chickpeas doesn’t seem to mention that you have to in this recipe.

    1. Hi John, yes it will work with the instant pot recipe!
      I usually don’t peel the chickpeas but if you prefer to do so, you can place them in a bowl of water and rub with your hands to remove most of the peels. Then drain on a clean kitchen towel.

  16. Has anyone tried making lentil tempeh? On my 1st attempt now incubating french lentil, hemp seed & brown sesame seed tempeh in instant pot on yogurt less setting. I am nervous it won’t turn out.

  17. Hi Thomas,
    My chickpea tempeh turns out great, nicely packed and great mycelium growth but it has a very strong fermented taste that I find over powers any flavor i try to cook it with. Any suggestions? Ive read it could be to do with the vinegar and when this is added?
    Thanks for your help.

  18. I have tried making tempeh twice now, but always have condensation forming even though I dry my beans well. Instead of throwing away the current batch, could I just add more vinegar and starter culture to the beans with new plastic bags and containers?

  19. I will be cooking garbanzo beans in Instant pot to help with lectin removal. Has anyone had expirience with how long to cook them?
    Also is it OK to season prior to incubation? I was going to use onion granules, hickory salt & chipotle powder.

  20. I made soybean tempeh successfully. I just tried making chickpea tempeh but only a bit of white mold formed and the rest of the beans turned gray/brown. It tastes funky. Should I try splitting the chickpeas in a blender before boiling them to create smaller more compact tempeh so that the mold spreads throughout?

    1. I would recommend soaking overnight, and then pressure cook 5 minutes. Then let the pressure release naturally for another 20 minutes.