Tempeh: a mold-modified indigenous fermented food made from soybeans and/or cereal grains

Crit Rev Microbiol. 1993;19(3):137-88. doi: 10.3109/10408419309113527.


A variety of indigenous fermented foods exist today; however, tempeh has been one of the most widely accepted and researched mold-modified fermented products. Tempeh is a traditional fermented food made from soaked and cooked soybeans inoculated with a mold, usually of the genus Rhizopus. After fermentation has occurred, the soybeans are bound together into a compact cake by dense cottony mycelium. An important function of the mold in the fermentation process is the synthesis of enzymes, which hydrolyze soybean constituents and contribute to the development of a desirable texture, flavor, and aroma of the product. Enzymatic hydrolysis also may decrease or eliminate antinutritional constituents; consequently, the nutritional quality of the fermented product may be improved. Current technology and new scientific advancements have enabled researchers to examine specific strains of Rhizopus and new substrates such as cereal grains. Because Kansas produces numerous cereal grains, production of a fermented tempeh-like product using wheat, sorghum (milo), oats, rye, barley, corn, and triticale is a definite possibility for generating a Kansas Value-Added Product. In this study, several different tempeh-like products were produced using various cereal grains inoculated with Rhizopus oligosporus NRRL 2549 or R. oligosporus NRRL 2710. Grains used included hard red winter wheat, triticale, yellow sorghum (milo), and red sorghum (milo). The grain source as well as the strain of R. oligosporus used influenced the product's appearance, flavor, and patty integrity. Results showed that R. oligosporus NRRL 2549 produced more mycelium at a more rapid rate than did the R. oligosporus NRRL 2710 strain. The combination of red sorghum and R. oligosporus NRRL 2549 yielded a product with good patty texture, aroma, and appearance. Furthermore, the red sorghum fermented product was well suited for slicing. On the other hand, yellow sorghum inoculated with either R. oligosporus NRRL 2549 or R. oligosporus NRRL 2710 failed to produce an organoleptically suitable product. Triticale also was found to be an unacceptable substrate for the production of a tempeh-like product. Although the fermented wheat product had a desirable aroma and flavor, it lacked patty integrity and crumbled when sliced. Further research is needed to evaluate the economic significance and industrial applications of these tempeh-like products.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Edible Grain / microbiology*
  • Fermentation*
  • Food Analysis
  • Food Microbiology*
  • Food Technology
  • Rhizopus / growth & development*
  • Soybeans / microbiology*