Tempeh: A semicentennial review on its health benefits, fermentation, safety, processing, sustainability, and affordability

Compr Rev Food Sci Food Saf. 2021 Mar;20(2):1717-1767. doi: 10.1111/1541-4337.12710. Epub 2021 Feb 10.


Tempeh is a fermented food made of mainly soybeans and is a nutritious, affordable, and sustainable functional source of protein. Globally, tempeh is a widely accepted fermented product. Although there is a growing body of literature on tempeh, most research has focused on unfermented soybeans, thus the impact of tempeh fermentation on biological properties of soybeans has been largely left scattered. The objective of this review is to summarize the literature of tempeh fermentation over the past 60 years. A search of articles on tempeh published from 1960 to 2020 was performed using the Cochrane Library, Web of Science, EBSCOhost FSTA database, and Google Scholar. References from identified articles were reviewed for additional sources. In total, 321 papers were selected for this review, of which 64 papers were related to the health benefits of tempeh. This review concluded that sufficient evidence exists in the literature supporting tempeh fermentation as a low-cost, health-promoting, and sustainable food processing technology to produce protein-rich foods using various beans, legumes, and grains. This comprehensive review suggests further studies are needed on tempeh fermentation and its impact on human health; research and standardization of nonsoy tempeh; assessment of food safety-improving modification in tempeh production system; and initiatives supporting the sourcing of local ingredients in tempeh production.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Fermentation
  • Humans
  • Rhizopus
  • Soy Foods*
  • Soybeans