I’m pretty new at working with tempeh. I broke out a newly-purchased package of it last week to get crackin’ on our Tamari Tempeh Burgers, and was surprised (and bummed!) to find spots of what looked like light grey mold down in one corner and in its nooks and crannies.
Before I tossed it and went back for another, I decided to poke around in a few foodie forums. Good thing I did, because I’m certainly not the only one who’s doubted the freshness of their tempeh—and as it turned out, it was just fine.
Tempeh is a fermented soybean product much like tofu, but rather than being cultured from soymilk, it is made from whole soybeans and pressed into a cake. It’s more flavorful than tofu, with a hint of what many describe as nutty or earthy, and packs more protein and fiber per serving.
Like many fermented products, the presence of natural cultures (i.e., friendly bacteria or mold) in tempeh is normal and does not indicate that it’s going bad. You’ll often see small grey or black dots, or a greyish/whitish substance particularly in between the cracks and spaces—this stuff won’t hurt you, doesn’t taste or smell bad, and will be undetectable in your final product (as long as you’re cooking it, which we highly recommend you do!).
Tempeh has a slightly sour smell to it, but one that should be delightfully so, like kombucha or sourdough. If you notice a foul odor, and/or the growth of a thick or fuzzy mold, throw it out. Always check the “use by” date on the packaging to be safe.
Otherwise, don’t be afraid of a little culture. It’s what makes bleu cheese blue and tempeh, well, tempeh. My burgers came out fantastic, and without a single trace of anything funky. Phew!