Where To Buy Tempeh & Finding It In The Grocery Store Easily

How To Find Tempeh Near You

Tempeh is an amazing plant-based meat substitute that’s gaining in popularity. It absorbs marinade well and holds up during cooking making. The meaty texture of tempeh makes it a good bacon alternative that’s vegan-friendly.

Where can you find tempeh? Traditionally you could only find tempeh in natural food stores or grocers like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. With its rise in popularity, large chain grocery stores like Walmart and Target even carry it.

Despite being found in popular grocers’, it can still be difficult to locate. Below I’ll go over where to buy tempeh, how to find it when it’s hidden in the grocery store, go over the benefits of tempeh, and how to determine whether your tempeh is bad or not.

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fresh tempeh closeup image showing fermented soybeans

What stores carry tempeh?

If you’re wondering where to buy tempeh, it’s not nearly as hard to find as it once was. Today, tempeh is gaining as much popularity as tofu so many grocery stores contain now have it in stock.

1. Health Food Stores & Natural Food Co-ops

If you live near a local health food store, they will most likely carry tempeh. This used to be the only place you could find it in the past.

These local stores are great to support to keep small businesses in your community. You can find hard-to-find vegan essentials at these stores like nutritional yeast, seaweeds, and vegan vitamins.

Nowadays, natural food co-ops carry a wide variety of tempeh, tofu, seitan, and other plant-based meat alternatives you may never have heard of before.

Your local store may even have local handmade fresh tempeh depending on the popularity in your area. Check to see if they offer a membership program where you get shares of items or discounts.

3. Specialty Grocery Stores

Whole Foods Market, Sprouts, Trader Joes, and MOM’s Organic Market are a combination of a large chain store and health food store.

They’re the grocery stores that brought tempeh and many other vegan items into the consciousness of the general public by making them easily available.

Trader Joes and Whole Foods are available nation-wide. For affordability, Trader Joes usually wins out. Sprouts and MOM’s are other specialty grocers that carry tempeh brands but they aren’t as wide-spread as the other two.

3. Large Chain Grocery Stores

Major grocery supermarkets like Walmart and Target now carry tempeh. It’s not guaranteed that they’ll have it at your local store but it doesn’t hurt to try.

With more and more people switching to the plant-based lifestyle, tempeh is an easy meat substitute. Other large grocery chains like Wegmans, Safeway, Harris Teeter, Food Lion, and Giant will most likely have temeph in stock.

Sometimes these large supermarkets put tempeh in strange locations so if you can’t find it, be sure to ask.

Do discount grocery stores like Aldi carry tempeh?

Stores like Aldi, WinCo, Save-A-Lot, and Fiesta specialize in name brand and store brand groceries at discounted prices. On the question of whether they carry tempeh? It depends…

Aldi typically does not carry tempeh but other discount grocers may. Some may carry tempeh seasonally or sporadically as overstock.

It never hurts to check and put in a request if they don’t. If enough people ask for tempeh, they may eventually start carrying it.

Can you find tempeh at a Farmer’s Market?

Yes, with tempeh’s rise in popularity, many farmer’s markets feature vendors who make their own locally fermented tempeh and tofu.

Check the farmer’s market vendor website or ask your local natural food co-op store if they know of any local tempeh vendors.

Where To Find Tempeh In The Grocery Store

Tempeh is a refrigerated product but it can sometimes be found in the freezer section, though unlikely.

It’s almost always next to the tofu so if you know where your store’s tofu section is, go there first.

Most common places to find tempeh in the grocery store:

  • Refrigerated next to the tofu.
  • In the store’s natural/health foods area.
  • Next to the refrigerated produce.
  • Meatless section of the freezer aisle (unlikely)

Natural Foods Section

If your store as a natural or health foods section that has refrigerated cases, then check there first. This is usually where the tofu is found as well.

I’ve never come across tempeh that wasn’t directly next to the tofu so if you need to ask a store employee about it, you can ask about tofu as well since that’s more well known.

Check The Refrigerated Produce

Most store’s produce sections have a perimeter of refrigerated cases. They put all of the produce that gets misted into these cases like carrots, bok choy, fresh herbs, mushrooms, etc.

Often in the larger chain grocers like Walmart, HEB, and Target, this is where you’ll find tempeh. It’ll be next to soy cheese, veggie hot dogs, meat-alternative fresh burgers, and faux bacon.

This is just a refrigerated case and not a freezer. Sometimes they’ll have refrigerated aisle end caps that all of these products are in.

Meatless Freezer Aisle

Finding basic blocks of tempeh in your grocer’s freezer section is highly unlikely unless they were accidentally misplaced.

You may find meat alternatives that incorporate tempeh into them though. This is a good way to see the different ways tempeh can be flavored and try it out.

To find this freezer area, look for the word “Meatless” or “Meat Alternatives” in the aisle labels.

What do tempeh packages look like?

Tempeh packages are shrink-wrapped around the block of tempeh. This keeps air out and the tempeh fresh for much longer. The front of the package has the label with ingredients and the nutritional value.

The back of the tempeh package is typically clear so you can see exactly what the block looks like. If you’re choosing a tempeh variety with flaxseed or whole grains, you can see how that looks.

Don’t be alarmed if you see light gray spots or even dark gray mold covering the tempeh; it’s probably still good! I go over quick tips to determine whether tempeh is bad or good later on.

Where To Buy Tempeh In Trader Joes

If you’re lucky enough to live near a Trader Joe’s, you know that they’re full of delicious and unique plant-based vegan products.

One of my favorites of theirs is their tempeh. Trader Joe’s carries their own brand of Organic 3 Grain Tempeh.

Trader Joe’s tempeh is found in the refrigerated case section along the perimeter. I found their tempeh closer to the pre-packaged meals and refrigerated dips and not near the refrigerated produce.

It can sometimes get buried under the tofu but it’s in the same area. You may need to move a few items if the tofu got moved around everywhere.

If you don’t see it, ask one of the Trader Joe’s employees. They can look up to see if their store even carries tempeh. Some Trader Joe’s stores don’t carry certain products if they don’t sell well in that area.

What is the best tempeh brand?

With so many varieties of tempeh, the best brand will be the one that carries what you’re looking for. There are original blocks, flaxseed and whole grain varieties, black bean tempeh, and tempeh marinades.

Here are some of the best tempeh brands:

  • LightLife – Block varieties and marinated fakin’ bacon.
  • WestSoy – Block varieties
  • SoyBoy – Blocks and fakin’ bacon.
  • Smiling Hara – Marinated tempeh
  • Tofurkey – Marinated tempeh varieties

If you’re brand new to tempeh, I recommend starting out with the faux bacon strips. They’re already seasoned and easy to cook. They go great with brunch too.

The marinated tempeh is another excellent option for beginners or someone looking for a quick meal. The tempeh is packaged with the tempeh in marinade so you don’t have to wait hours to marinade your own.

With the pre-seasoned versions, you can get ideas for flavoring blocks of tempeh yourself and test out what flavors you like.

If you’re new to meat alternatives, I recommend also trying seitan. It’s the most meat-like product to me. Here’s how you can find seitan.

Can you buy tempeh online?

In today’s digital age, pretty much everything can be found online. If you’ve checked all your local grocers and simply can’t find tempeh, then buying it online is one of your last options.

You can buy tempeh on Amazon but you may also be able to find artisan tempeh sold not too far away. Tempeh needs to be refrigerated so it must ship with a freezer pack to keep it from spoiling.

If you love tempeh and want to buy it in bulk, here’s some organic tempeh from Vermont that ships refrigerated.

What is tempeh?

Tempeh is soybeans that have been fermented with Rhizopus oligosporus into a block. It is high in protein and a great plant-based meat alternative. High protein foods help you stay full on a vegan diet.

Traditional tempeh contains only soybeans. There are many varieties today that include flaxseed, whole grains, and even chickpeas. Some tempeh doesn’t even contain soy at all.

How do you pronounce tempeh?

The word “tempeh” has two syllables and sounds like tem-pei or tem-pay when spoken.

Is tempeh a probiotic?

It technically is not a probiotic because tempeh cannot be eaten raw. At bare minimum, it must be steamed which deactivates the culture.

All of the tempeh you buy in grocery stores has been pasteurized to make sure it’s completely safe. Even in Indonesia, the birthplace of tempeh, the most popular way of eating it is by frying with salt.

Tempeh is rich in fiber which is a great prebiotic though. It feeds your gut bacteria which keeps you and them healthy.

Does tempeh need to be cooked?

All of the tempeh sold in American grocery stores has been pasteurized before it reaches the shelf so you can eat tempeh right out of the package without cooking it if you’d like.

But if you’re making your own tempeh or eating the local cuisine in Indonesia, then it’s best to cook it thoroughly first.

Can you eat tempeh raw?

It’s not advised to eat tempeh raw because it can make you sick. Tempeh is a fermented food that has been sitting around in warmth to allow the Rhizopus oligosporus to do its thing. Chances are that other bacteria may have had the chance to grow as well.

Tempeh vs Tofu

Tempeh and tofu are both made from soy and processed products but that’s where the similarity ends.

Tofu is made from coagulated soy milk that is pressed into solid blocks. Tempeh is made from soybeans that are fermented and pressed into a dense block.

Tofu is less dense and typically has fewer calories than tempeh. Tempeh is higher in protein as well.

Since both are made from soy, both tempeh and tofu contain phytoestrogens. The fermentation process that tempeh goes through reduces the phytic acid that blocks nutrient absorption and even contains vitamin K2.

Both tempeh and tofu can make transitioning to a plant-based vegan diet easier.

What does tempeh taste like?

Tempeh has a slightly nutty/mushroom flavor and a chunky texture. The fermentation process gives it an umami flavor.

Unflavored tempeh can taste slightly bitter but after marinated and cooked, it heightens the rich meatiness.

Benefits Of Adding Tempeh To Your Diet

The tempeh culture ferments the soybeans into an easily digestible block. It is a good source of protein and iron, which is important for someone on a vegan diet.

Increased protein consumption keeps you feeling full longer which can help with weight management.

Is the soy in tempeh a health concern?

Many people are concerned about consuming too much soy due to the phytoestrogens in it. There are links that too much soy can be bad for you.

There are also studies showing that fermented soy is much healthier than unfermented varieties. Fermented soy includes tempeh, natto, and miso.

So if you’re concerned about soy, stick to the fermented products or opt for soy-free tempeh.

Is there soy-free tempeh?

Yes, there are a few types of soy-free tempeh but they’re more difficult to find.

Types of soy-free tempeh:

  • Black Bean
  • Chickpea
  • Lentil
  • Hemp
  • Mung Bean

If you need to eat soy-free, it may be easier to make your own tempeh at home. This soy-free starter culture has great reviews.

Ways To Cook Tempeh

Tempeh is extremely versatile and can be cut in a variety of ways. Some of the most popular are:

  • Strips – Marinated and baked for sandwiches or topping a salad.
  • Cubed – Seasoned, fried, and coated in a sauce.
  • Ground – Crumbled into a sauce or used as a taco meat substitute.

Depending on how you want to use the tempeh will determine how to cut it.

How To Get The Bitterness Out Of Tempeh

Tempeh straight out of the package tastes slightly bitter. Even if you marinate it and cook it, you may find the bitter taste ruins the meal.

To get around this, steam your tempeh before doing any cooking or marinade. Another option is to place the tempeh into a pan with enough water to cover it halfway and boil it for 5 minutes on each side.

Once the tempeh has been steamed or boiled, you can slice it and use it as normal.

How To Make Tempeh Taste Good

Marinades are a popular way to prepare tempeh. The longer you have to marinade the tempeh, the more flavorful it will become.

Marinading makes tempeh taste delicious and is my favorite way to prepare it. Place the slices into your marinade and let is soak for a few hours before cooking it.

Tempeh Substitute

Tempeh is a great substitute for meat but if you can’t find it you may be wondering what to use instead.

There isn’t a perfect substitute for tempeh but seitan probably comes closest. Seitan is wheat gluten that mimics the taste and texture of meat. It also holds flavor well.

The easiest tempeh substitute is tofu. Firm tofu will be the best. Tofu is made from coagulated soy milk so it doesn’t have the chew as tempeh does. It also contains a lot more liquid and is unfermented soy.

Can you make tempeh at home?

Yes, you can make tempeh at home. You’ll need some beans, tempeh starter, and a warm place in your house. Tempeh fermentation takes between 21-48 hrs but you can make a few batches to save for later.

This book walks you through the steps to make lots of tempeh types as well as natto, miso, and other ferments.

fresh made tempeh block on a banana leaf

How To Store Tempeh

After you buy tempeh at the grocery store, it’s usually good in the fridge for about 10 days. If you don’t plan on using it before then, put it in the freezer for up to 3 months.

How To Tell If Tempeh Has Gone Bad

Did you know that tempeh can be covered in gray mold and still be good to eat? Yes, it’s quite alarming when you first buy tempeh and see it covered in mold spots.

Quick tips to tell if tempeh is good:

  • Should smell nutty.
  • Should not be slimy.
  • Should not have dark black or pink mold. (dark gray is fine)
  • Should be firm, not mushy.

The easiest way to tell whether tempeh has gone bad is to smell it. Tempeh has a natural nutty smell that is pleasant. If your tempeh smells sour or like ammonia, throw it out.

If your tempeh is slimy, toss it. Most tempeh from grocery stores come packaged with a little bit of liquid inside to keep it from drying out. This is fine; it’s when you clearly feel a layer of slime that it’s gone bad.

Mold is just a part of tempeh. Most of the time, the “black mold” that people usually see is dark gray and is completely fine to eat.

Tempeh regularly has light gray mold spots covering it. If your tempeh’s mold is truly black or you’re unsure, then it’s safer to not use it just in case.

Pink, red, green, blue, or any other color mold means the tempeh is past its prime and shouldn’t be eaten. Who knows what molds are actually growing on it with those colors.

The biggest takeaway is that if you’re uncertain, throw the tempeh away and don’t risk your health.

Conclusion

Tempeh is a high-protein meat substitute for anyone on a plant-based vegan diet. There are even soy-free versions and can be made at home easily.

Now that you know where to buy tempeh and how to find it in a grocery store, how do you plan on using it?

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Stephanie Mantilla

Plant-Based Diet & Vegan Lifestyle Expert

Stephanie is the founder of Plant Prosperous, a plant-based vegan living, and parenting blog. She has been eating a plant-based diet for over 24 years along with a B.S. in Biology & Environmental Science. Stephanie is currently raising her son on a plant-based diet and hopes to help others who are wanting to do the same. You can read more about her here.

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