Chickpea tempeh. A review of research papers and food blogs

Last week I was invited to a fermentation course in Taipei to teach how to make chickpea tempeh. I took the opportunity to review the scientific knowledge and the online recipes about this tempeh variation!

Here is the result of my research, where I synthesized 5 scientific papers and 11 food blog articles. At the end, you can find the list of references and you can also download the data summarised in a table.

Tempeh is an Indonesian fermented food traditionally made from soybeans or soy okara, fermented with the mold Rhizopus oligosporus. In another post, I show how to make tempeh from soy okara.

As tempeh becomes more and more popular around the world, foodies experiment with many kinds of legumes and grains, and scientists assess the nutritional properties of these variations of tempeh.

Chickpea tempeh, or garbanzo bean tempeh, is a popular version among people following a soy-free diet. It does not have the beany flavor of soy tempeh. And, compared to cooked chickpeas, chickpea tempeh also contains less antinutrient and shows a higher protein digestibility.

In this review, you will learn about chickpea tempeh nutrition facts from scientific papers. Then I summarize the best conditions of fermentation from scientific papers and online recipes. I propose a zoom on chickpea tempeh taste to see how we can modulate its aroma. Finally, I describe the variations from online recipes, to help you identify which recipe you want to try.

Oh, and before starting, I did a quick investigation into the price of chickpea tempeh in different countries. It turns out that, in April 2021, the price range is wide and mainly depends on whether or not the chickpeas are organic.

For non-organic chickpea tempeh, I found 7 euros/kg in Taiwan and 9 euros/kg in South Africa. For organic chickpea tempeh, it goes from 22 euros/kg in France to 27 euros/kg in Hong Kong, and up to 31 euros/kg in Singapore!

Here in Taiwan, I can find quite inexpensive tempeh starter coming from Indonesia (Ragi Tempe), and buy 1 kg of organic chickpeas for less than 6 euros/kg.

Thus, the price alone is a strong motivation to have fun making my own organic chickpea tempeh!

So, let’s see how to do it…

Highlights and key figures

Here is a summary of the key ideas in this post. Click on the links to jump ahead and read the details.

Nutrition facts

In terms of macronutrients, the fermentation of chickpea into chickpea tempeh consumes half of the lipids, transforms part of the starch into resistant starch, and increases the amount of protein by 13 %.

The fermentation also increases the quality of the protein as Rhizopus synthesizes additional essential amino acids and increases protein digestibility. This improved digestibility is partly due to the decrease of about 84 % in antinutrients.

50 % of minerals leach to soaking and cooking water, but the remaining minerals are likely to be easier to assimilate thanks to the lower amount of antinutrients.

Eventually, fresh chickpea tempeh contains 15 g of protein per 100 g, which is comparable to fried egg, although its digestibility is still lower than that of fried egg.

Best fermentation conditions

It is easier to use small chickpeas.

Soak 200 g of dry chickpeas for 16 hours, boil them for at least 30 min, and drain them.

When they are relatively dry, dehull or break the chickpeas, acidify with ~1 tbsp of vinegar, and inoculate with 1-2 % of tempeh starter compared to the weight of dry chickpeas.

Pack about 2 cm thick (0.8 in) of inoculated chickpeas in plastic bags with holes every 1-2 cm (0.4-0.8 in) and incubate at 36°C for 43 hours for optimized nutrition.

Taste and texture

Chickpea tempeh does not have the beany taste of soy tempeh. It also has a harder texture yet is a bit less chewy.

Two studies investigated the taste of chickpea tempeh. As you will see, if you are from Ethiopia or Turkey, chances are that you like chickpea tempeh!

But you may anyway like one or another version of chickpea tempeh, as there are easy ways to modulate its flavors by adjusting fermentation conditions. For instance, you might prefer an umami-fortified aroma, a fishy-toasty elaborated flavor, or a more pungent stinky tofu-like taste.

Online food blog recipes

In addition to the 5 scientific papers, I reviewed 11 online recipes. This diversity of sources allows you to adjust the recipe depending on your objectives and constraints.

Some people use tinned chickpeas to save time. One lady germinates her chickpeas before fermentation.

Some people dehull, others don’t. After cooking, there are several strategies to dry the chickpeas.

Standard chickpea tempeh is made of whole chickpeas, but some bloggers propose to slightly mash chickpeas, which I like very much because it is an easy way to increase the umami aroma! And most people acidify the chickpeas, but they use different techniques for this.

Although plastic bags are widely used, some creative people propose interesting alternatives. As for the choice of the fermentation chamber, the variety of ideas is even higher and inspiring.

Ok, now, let’s dive into the details.

Chickpea vs. Chickpea tempeh: Nutrition facts

Let’s start by reviewing the nutrition facts from scientific publications for chickpea and chickpea tempeh. In case you want to download the data, jump to this section.

First, I present the macronutrients. Second, I zoom on protein, with essential amino acid content and protein digestibility. Third, I address antinutrient content. And fourth, I finish with mineral content.

As of writing these lines, none of the published studies measured vitamin content in chickpea tempeh. Tannin and phenol contents were measured by Abu-Salem and colleagues1, but I don’t show this data here.

Macronutrients

Fresh chickpea tempeh contains 2 % of fat, 37 % of carbohydrates, and 15 % of protein.

Nutrition facts Unit Chickpea Chickpea tempeh Chickpea tempeh References
per 100 g raw, dry dry fresh
Energy Calories or kcal 414 402 222 -
Water g 0 0 45 2
Fat g 6 3 2 1,3,4
Carbohydrates g 67 67 37 1,3
— Fibers g 2 3 2 1,4
— Total starch g 49 48 27 5
—— Resistant starch g 2 8 4 5
Protein g 23 26 15 1,3,4

Jump to this section to download data

During the fermentation of chickpea into chickpea tempeh, Rhizopus uses about half of the lipids, probably as a source of energy for growth3.

Total starch is stable, but the proportion of resistant starch increases from 2 to 8 g per 100 g of dry matter. The transformation of some starch to resistant starch is likely due to cooking, before fermentation5.

Protein increase by 13 % when making chickpea tempeh, reaching about 26 g per 100 g of dry tempeh, which is 15 g in fresh tempeh. This increase results from two different processes6. First, some material is lost when soaking, dehulling, and cooking. In these steps, no proteins are created, only the proportion of proteins increases. Second, Rhizopus synthesizes amino acids during the fermentation phase. In this step, new proteins are created.

Interestingly, 15 g of proteins per 100 g is comparable to soy tempeh (16 g), slightly more than fried eggs (13.5 g), although still less than beef (20 g)7.

However, when it comes to comparing protein content between foods, it is always interesting to consider amino acids profile and protein digestibility for a more complete picture.

So, let’s have a look at the amino acid profile first.

Essential amino acids: increase by 23 %

On average, the content of the 9 essential amino acids increases by 23 % during the fermentation of chickpea into chickpea tempeh1,5. It is likely due to the synthesis of amino acids by Rhizopus during fermentation6.

This increase is higher than the average increase in proteins of 13 %, probably because other non-essential amino acids are created in lower proportions. But these other amino acids were not measured in these scientific studies.

Jump to this section to download data

Essential amino acids are precisely the ones that our body cannot synthesize, meaning that a food richer in essential amino acids is more adapted to human needs. Thus, fermenting chickpea into chickpea tempeh not only increases the quantity, but also the quality of chickpea proteins for human consumption.

But eating more protein does not necessarily mean assimilating more protein. So, let’s compare the digestibility of proteins in chickpea and chickpea tempeh.

Protein digestibility: increase by 26 %

When fermenting chickpea into chickpea tempeh, protein digestibility increases from 73 to 92 (+26 %)5.

These results are expressed according to the protein digestibility corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS)8. This unitless score allows to assess a protein source for human consumption, by taking into account the proportion of protein that is digested — its quantity —, as well as the content in essential amino acids — its quality.

With 15 g of protein per 100 g and a PDCAAS of 92, chickpea tempeh has a bit more protein than in fried egg but is less digestible (13.5 g7, PDCAAS: 1108), and is as digestible as beef but contains less protein (20 g7, PDCAAS: 928).

But, how does protein digestibility increase when making chickpea tempeh?

Authors identify several mechanisms3:

  • during soaking, some antinutrients leach, that would otherwise inhibit our protein digestive enzymes,
  • during cooking, some antinutrients leach, and proteins are denatured which makes their bonds easier to access by our digestive enzymes; and,
  • during fermentation, Rhizopus synthesizes its own enzymes which break down some antinutrients and some proteins.

If you are interested, I explain in another article how proteins are digested in our digestive tract, with many details and a lot of visuals.

And now, let’s see how antinutrients content decreases when making chickpea tempeh.

Antinutrients: decrease by 84 %

Chickpea contains phytic acid and trypsin inhibitor. Both molecules are considered antinutrients because they limit the digestion of nutrients in our digestive tract.

Phytic acid strongly binds to minerals present in chickpea seeds, which decreases our ability to absorb them in our small intestine9. Trypsin inhibitor limits protein digestion in our small intestine by binding to trypsin, a key protein enzyme produced by our pancreas.

As you can see, antinutrients fortunately decrease by about 84 % when fermenting chickpea into chickpea tempeh.

Phytic acid decreases from 0.8 to 0.2g/100g1,3,10. Trypsin inhibitor activity decreases from 1096 to 112 TI/mg/100g1.

Jump to this section to download data

The phytic acid amount decreases by 77 %. The decrease during soaking is actually not statistically significant1. Cooking at a temperature of 100 ºC is not enough to destroy phytic acid9. Its decrease during cooking results from its leaching in the cooking water1. The further decrease during the fermentation phase is due to the breakdown by phytase, which is an enzyme produced by Rhizopus11. Finally, it is interesting to note that in one study, the amount of phytic acid in chickpea tempeh was so low that it was not detectable2.

Trypsin inhibitor amount decreases by 90 %. During soaking, trypsin inhibitor is partially leached in the soaking water1. It is heat-sensitive, so its further decrease during cooking is likely due to its partial deactivation, as well as some leaching. The decrease during the fermentation phase is likely due to a breakdown by Rhizopus’ digestive enzymes1.

The dashed lines correspond to the case when chickpeas are not dehulled1. The dotted lines are a simple extrapolation of the dashed lines that I made to estimate roughly the level of antinutrients that we get in the tempeh when we do not dehull the chickpeas. However, the difference between dehulling and not dehulling appeared not to be statistically significant1.

And, finally, what about the mineral content of chickpea tempeh?

Minerals: decrease by 50 %

On average, the mineral content decreases by about 50 % during the transformation of chickpea into chickpea tempeh1. Potassium has the highest decrease of about 75 %.

This reduction in mineral content is likely due to the leaching of the minerals in water during soaking and cooking1.

Jump to this section to download data

However, we saw that phytic acid content also reduces during the process. Then, a higher proportion of the remaining minerals is likely to be assimilated in chickpea tempeh compared to chickpea.

So now, how to make chickpea tempeh?

What are the best conditions for fermentation?

Here I summarize the ideal conditions and ranges found in scientific publications and food blogs.

For the many possible variations and links to online recipes, I invite you to read the section hereafter. All the data that I describe here is available for download in this section.

Use small chickpeas

It is easier to use small chickpeas of about 0.5 cm (0.2 in) of diameter, as Erkan and colleagues did in Turkey2. But it is still possible to use larger chickpeas of about 1 cm (0.4 in) of diameter, as Reyes-Moreno and colleagues did in Mexico3.

Soak 200 g of chickpeas for 16 hours

Scientists soak chickpeas for 16 hours. Food bloggers soak for 6-24 hours.

As we saw earlier, this step is important to help reduce the amount of trypsin inhibitor that is found in raw chickpeas.

Dehull or break the chickpeas

Removing chickpeas skin increases the chances of success, favors the development of Rhizopus, and improves the texture and the taste. Indeed, all the scientists dehulled their chickpeas! As we saw earlier, dehulling does not seem to reduce significantly the amount of antinutrient in chickpeas, though.

But dehulling is probably the most work-demanding part.

Most people dehull before cooking. I tried to dehull after cooking, it was easier and worked well.

As an alternative, many food bloggers propose to slightly break the chickpeas after cooking, which seems to be a good compromise if you want to save time. Don’t break the chickpeas before cooking as you may end up with a puree sticking to the pan!

Later, I develop a bit more on dehulling and breaking.

Boil the chickpeas for at least 30 min

When cooking, the idea is to obtain chickpeas that are soft but not mushy.

Scientists boil the chickpeas for 30 min. Our food bloggers boil them for about 50 min on average (30-90 min). I also tried steaming for 30-45 min and it worked.

As we saw earlier, this step also helps reduce antinutrients.

After this, people drain the cooking water and dry the chickpeas. Later, I develop a bit more on drying.

Mix 1 to 1.5 tbsp of vinegar to the cooked chickpeas

In the standard recipe, chickpeas are acidified.

Scientists acidify the soaking water to pH ~ 3 with vinegar. Some bloggers acidify the cooking water, by adding ~5 tbsp of vinegar per kg of dry chickpeas. Other bloggers acidify the cooked chickpeas directly by mixing with them ~6.5 tbsp of vinegar per kg of dry chickpeas. Here I propose to use this latter solution, that is, 1 to 1.5 tbsp per 200 g of dry chickpeas.

Bloggers who acidify the chickpeas directly are hence acidifying much more than the ones adding a comparable amount of vinegar which dilutes into the cooking water. Maybe this means that the actual amount of vinegar is not very important.

Later, I develop a bit more on acidification.

Inoculate with 1-2 % of the weight of dry chickpeas

Bloggers inoculate on average with ~3 tsp of tempeh starter per kg of dry chickpeas (from 2 to 6 tsp, depending on the recipe), or ~10-20 g per kg of dry chickpea (1-2 % of the weight of dry chickpeas).

Of course, it is difficult to know if the different brands of tempeh starter contain a similar concentration of spores. So, these figures are not to be taken very precisely.

From my trials, it seems 1 % is indeed enough. But in non-optimal fermentation conditions, the chances of success seem higher with 2 % of the weight of dry chickpeas. For these trials, I used this kind of starter: Ragi Tempe.

Pack 2 cm thick (0.8 in) of chickpeas in a plastic bag with holes every 1-2 cm (0.4-0.8 in)

We need containers to help regulate moisture and oxygen availability, and for our tempeh to develop a shape.

Most scientists and bloggers use plastic freezer bags. It is not very exciting, but it is indeed easy to use and to reproduce. Later, I develop more on alternative containers proposed by bloggers.

In general, scientists use plastic bags of 15 x 15 cm (6 x 6 in). On average, people put chickpeas about 2 cm thick (0.8 in), but it varies from ~1 to 4 cm (0.4-1.6 in). On average, people make holes every 2 cm (0.8 in), but in the scientific studies, the holes tend to be closer, every 1 cm (0.4 in).

The combination of chickpea thickness and concentration of holes will determine moisture content and oxygen availability inside the containers.

Oxygen availability is a critical parameter for Rhizopus growth. Rhizopus can still grow at quite low oxygen concentrations, as low as 0.2 %12, while we have around 20 % of oxygen in our atmosphere. At such low concentration, the growth of bacterias is limited and the sporulation of Rhizopus is delayed.

Incubate the chickpea tempeh at 36°C (97°F) for 43 hours

A study investigated the optimal incubation conditions for chickpea tempeh to obtain high digestibility and low phytic acid. They found 35.8°C (96.4°F) for 42.7 hours to be the optimal conditions!10

In general, any temperature between 25 and 35°C should be fine (77-95°F). On average, people report temperatures of 30°C (86°F), sometimes as low as 20°C (68°F) and rarely more than 35°C (95°F).

On average, people report a fermentation time of 48 hours (2 days). But it varies greatly, from as short as 24 hours to as long as 96 hours (4 days).

It is not always clear why the fermentation time can vary so much, except in specific cases. For instance, Gourmet Vegetarian Kitchen maintained the fermentation for up to 4 days, most probably because of a low incubation temperature of 20°C (68°F).

Finally, it was observed by researchers that the mycelial growth started after 17-18 hours of incubation4. From that moment only Rhizopus started to produce its own heat4. This means that you should never be worried after 12-15 hours if you don’t see anything growing, nor can feel any heat produced by the fermenting chickpeas! It is normal.

Now, let’s see how chickpea tempeh tastes, and how we can modulate the taste by adjusting fermentation parameters.

How does it taste and how to modulate the taste?

A softer taste than soy tempeh

If you don’t enjoy the beany taste of soy tempeh, you may prefer chickpea tempeh whose taste is milder, without any beany taste.

As well as for soy tempeh, fresh chickpea tempeh has a soft mushroomy flavor, from the Rhizopus’ mycelium. This taste doesn’t disappear when cooking, but rather transforms itself from a mild and fresh smell to a slightly stronger flavor of fried mushrooms. Interestingly, chickpea tempeh was reported to have a yeast-like odor in one study4, which I have never noticed.

In a scientific study, the texture of chickpea tempeh was reported as comparable to that of soybean tempeh2. They measured that it was just a bit harder yet a bit less chewy than soy tempeh. Another study confirmed that chickpea tempeh was firmer4. It is an interesting characteristic which eases the manipulation when cooking, like frying for instance.

Chickpea tempeh is slightly acidic, with a pH of about 6.44, but this acidity is not really noticeable when eating.

Online, some people report that tempeh can have a bitter aftertaste. But I have never noticed any bitterness in homemade okara or chickpea tempehs. This might be specific to store-bought tempeh?

Two studies of sensory analysis

Interestingly, two studies investigated the taste of chickpea tempeh. One was made in Ethiopia in 19914 and the other one in Turkey in 20202. For this purpose, they invited people to perform sensory analyses, that is, to taste and score different tempehs!

In Ethiopia, the researchers invited 100 students from a college of agriculture. They offered wat to the students, an Ethiopian spicy stew traditionally based on meat. Here, however, they replaced the meat with small pieces of chickpea tempeh. It turned out that about 60 % of the students liked it, from slightly to extremely!

In Turkey, the researchers invited 13 people to taste fried tempehs made from chickpea, soy, white bean, black bean, red lentil, green lentil, and broad bean. Chickpea tempeh showed the most popular!

How to modulate the taste of chickpea tempeh?

Standard chickpea tempeh has a firm texture, a white color, and a mild mushroomy flavor. You can modulate the development of aromas and textures by adjusting fermentation conditions.

Here I present 3 variations.

If you are looking for a comforting umami-fortified flavor , you can mash or break the chickpea seeds after cooking and inoculating. This way, Rhizopus’ protein enzymes will break proteins further down. It will liberate more glutamate amino acid that is responsible for the delicious and savory umami flavor.

The volume of air between the chickpea particles is lower than between whole chickpeas. As a result, the tempeh will tend to be ready quicker.

In the next section, I give more information on this umami variation.

If you want to enjoy an elaborated fishy-toasty taste , then you can leave the tempeh ferment a bit more, while allowing more air entering into contact with the tempeh. For instance, you could slightly open the plastic bag.

When Rhizopus has already grown comfortably and is suddenly in presence of more oxygen, it triggers sporulation. The formation of spores will give a greyish color to the tempeh and this peculiar fishy and toasted bread flavors. Even when grey, tempeh is still edible!

Sporulation is a complex phenomenon whose triggering depends on several factors like temperature, oxygen availability, moisture, and even light. In one study, sporulation started after about 45 hours of incubation at 30°C (86°F)4. They also reported that adding vinegar at the beginning delayed sporulation. If you open the container to increase oxygen availability, it is important to make sure the air moisture is still high, otherwise the tempeh will start to dry instead of sporulating.

If you are looking for something pungent, then you can try the stinky tofu-like  version! By simply letting the tempeh fermenting more, bacterias will start to compete with Rhizopus. This will further predigest the chickpeas, soften the texture and generate new flavors.

These flavors are a bit pungent and ammonia-like. It can be challenging for Western palates, but it is more acceptable for Taiwanese or Chinese taste buds, as it reminds stinky tofu! It is still safe to eat when this aroma is mild to moderate.

If the smell is too strong, however, or if you see curious colors appearing, then it is safer not to eat…!

By now, we already know a lot about nutrition facts, fermentation conditions, and taste. Let’s have a look at the main variations found in food blog recipes.

Choose an online recipe

Here I help you to choose an online recipe to make your chickpea tempeh, depending on your objectives and constraints.

Using tinned chickpeas

If you feel a bit lazy or don’t have enough time, Enni Sitepu from Indonesia, and La cuisine végétale de Christine (French) propose to use tinned chickpeas! In this case, no need to soak, and the cooking time is reduced to 5-20 min.

To germinate or not to germinate?

Most of the time chickpeas are not germinated to make tempeh.

One food blog, Le cul de poule (in French), proposes to germinate the chickpeas after soaking, for 24-48h.

I haven’t found chickpea tempeh studies investigating the nutritional interest of this variation. But germination might indeed help increase the amount of protein and decrease the amount of some antinutrients.

To dehull or not to dehull?

All the scientists dehulled their chickpeas, or used hull-free chickpeas, to make their tempeh experiments! In contrast, only about half of the food blogs advise dehulling.

When dehulling is performed, it is always done between soaking and cooking. In my case, I also tried to dehull after cooking. This might increase the risk of contamination by other micro-organisms, but it worked well.

Dehulling allows Rhizopus to better colonize and bound the chickpeas to one another.

Here I tried to dehull only half of the chickpeas.

The mycelium could not penetrate significantly through the skin of not dehulled chickpeas. As a result, when I stretch, the slice of tempeh breaks between the skin and the chickpea.

In contrast, dehulled chickpeas are tightly bound together. So much that, when I stretch, chickpeas turn out to be the weakest parts, and tempeh breaks within the chickpeas while the mycelium stays strongly bound around them.

Proteins in dehulled chickpeas will likely be further broken down, increasing digestibility and umami flavor. But there was no scientific research on this.

Finally, dehulling may favor the decrease of antinutrients, but as we saw earlier the difference does not seem to be significant1.

Considering the most detailed recipes, Superfood Evolution dehulls, while Full of plants does not.

To dry or not to dry?

In general, it is advised to make sure that the cooked chickpeas are dry for the fermentation to occur properly.

This is because, in a too wet environment, oxygen will not be able to reach every corner. If some places are deprived of oxygen, that is they become anaerobic places, some bacterias will start to grow and compete with Rhizopus which cannot grow under anaerobic conditions. In this case, you will end up seeing spots where there is no mycelium at all.

Some people will put the cooked and drained chickpeas into a pan with the fire on for a short time. Others pat dry the chickpeas with a clean and dry towel. Others put the drained hot chickpeas below a fan. And others add a little bit of starch to the cooked and drained chickpeas.

Interestingly, Tempeh info advises not to dry chickpeas too much!

Indeed, in my case, I find that just leaving the chickpeas for a few minutes after cooking is enough to dry them. Then, when I inoculate with the starter, the chickpeas dry a bit more due to the rice or corn starch in the starter.

Mashing, gently pounding, or halving

Most of the time scientists and food bloggers keep the chickpeas whole.

In some cases, however, food bloggers propose to gently pound or mash the cooked chickpeas. Cultures for health suggests using a potato masher, Superfood Evolution is using a food processor, and Maurica IndoBule from Indonesia, actually halves the chickpeas manually while dehulling.

All these techniques increase the potential contact area between chickpeas and Rhizopus. Also, it was shown for soy tempeh that Rhizopus’ mycelium only penetrates about 2 mm depth (0.08 in) in soybeans in 40 hours of fermentation12.

By increasing the contact area and decreasing the size of the particles, we hence very likely increase the breakdown of proteins and decrease antinutrient content. We can actually taste it clearly, through the more developed umami flavor compared to tempeh made from whole chickpeas.

I have to say, I have an inclination for this umami-fortified version of chickpea tempeh!

However, in this case, as well as for okara tempeh, we generally need to have a lower thickness of chickpea and to provide more air openings because the oxygen will not reach as easily all areas compared to when we use whole chickpeas. To help you in this process, I invite you to have a look at this other article where I address precisely how to make okara tempeh.

To acidify or not to acidify?

The great majority of scientists and food bloggers acidify their chickpeas to make tempeh.

For this, they use either white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, wine vinegar, or vegan lactic acid.

Interestingly, in most scientific studies the vinegar is mixed with the water for soaking the chickpeas, e.g. Angulo-Bejarano and colleagues5. In some online recipes, vinegar is added to the water during cooking, e.g. Enni Sitepu. And for most of the online recipes, vinegar is added directly to the cooked chickpeas before inoculation with Rhizopus’ spores, e.g. Superfood Evolution.

Acidification is supposed to support the growth of lactic acid bacterias that co-develop in parallel with Rhizopus. In one study on chickpea tempeh, scientists found that acidification also resulted in better growth of Rhizopus and delayed the sporulation4.

As I like to simplify things, I tried without acidification and it worked well. It may just decrease a bit the chances of success if you are a beginner or in case of non-optimal fermentation conditions.

Plastic bags or no plastic bags?

The great majority of scientists and food bloggers grow their chickpea tempehs in plastic freezer bags.

However, Superfood Evolution suggests using drilled plastic boxes that can be cleaned and reused to avoid plastic wastes. And Gourmet Vegetarian Kitchen even proposes an elegant system to simply use glass containers.

Which fermentation chamber?

Growing tempeh can be a bit intimidating at the beginning because we have to monitor the temperature in a “fermentation chamber” during the fermentation time.

Here are a few ways people use to grow their chickpea tempeh. Just choose the most appropriate for you!

Le cul de poule (in French) uses an electric home fermenter. In the same line, Fermenting for foodies uses a slow cooker. A Taiwanese friend told me that she was using a rice cooker. Full of plants uses an oven off with light on, while La cuisine végétale de Christine (in French) uses a dehydrator. Superfood Evolution proposes to use a cooler. TazPantry shows how to make a simple DIY fermentation chamber with cardboard. And last but not least, Gourmet Vegetarian Kitchen uses a cute wooden box to put her elegant glass containers.

For cold climate

In case you live in a cold climate, two online recipes might give you some ideas.

TazPantry uses a heater to maintain the temperature in the cardboard fermentation chamber. Gourmet Vegetarian Kitchen proposes an interesting alternative, which is simply keeping a low temperature of 20°C (68°F) while prolonging the fermentation time to 72-96h (3-4 days).


And here is the full data that I collected on the different chickpea tempeh recipes! From 5 scientific publications and 11 food blogs.

Author Precision Language Type Blog post Video Chickpeas Soaking Cooking Acidification Tempeh starter Germinated Dehulled Broken Container Perforations intervals Fermentation chamber Thickness Temperature Incubation
type diameter quantity duration source quantity proportion (tbsp/kg dry chickpeas) quantity proportion inches cm inches cm °F °C hours
Superfood Evolution Very good English Online recipe Yes No Dry chickpeas - 3 cups (~490 g) Overnight, in pure, filtered non-chlorinated hot boiling water until soft Apple cider vinegar (unpasteurized) 2 tbsp (30 mL), added to cooked chickpeas 4.1 2 tsp 4 tsp / kg dry chickpea No Yes, after soaking Yes, with food processor or potato masher Drilled plastic box 1.5-2 3.5-5 Multiple (cooler, oven, etc.) 1/2-3/4 1.2-2 85-90 29-32 24-36
Full of plants Good English Online recipe Yes No Small dry chickpeas - 1 cup (~160 g) Overnight, in clean water 60-90 min White vinegar 1 tbsp (15 mL), added to cooked chickpeas 6.2 1 tsp 6 tsp / kg dry chickpea No No No Plastic freezer bag 2 5 Oven off with light on 1 2.5 86 30 38-50
Gourmet Vegetarian Kitchen Good English Online recipe Yes Yes (12 min 14) Dry chickpeas - 1 cup (235 mL, ~160 g) Overnight until soft Apple cider vinegar 2 tbsp (30 mL), added to cooked chickpeas 12.5 1/2 tsp (5 mL) 3 tsp / kg dry chickpea No No Yes, roughly smashed Glass container - - Wooden box 0.8 2 68 20 72-96
Cultures for Health Fair English Online recipe Yes No Dry chickpeas - 1 lb. (~450 g) 12-24 h 60 min Vinegar 2 tbsp (30 mL), added to cooked chickpeas 4.4 1 packet - No Yes, after soaking Yes, gently pound with potato masher Plastic bag 0.5 1.3 - 1-2 2.5-5 88 31 24-48
Enni Sitepu Fair English Online recipe No Yes (6 min 36) Tinned chickpeas - 700 g No 20 min White vinegar 2 tbsp (30 mL), added during cooking 2.9 1 tsp 1.5 tsp / kg dry chickpea No No No Plastic freezer bag 0.8-1 2-3 Oven off 0.5 1 - - 72
Le cul de poule Fair French Online recipe Yes No Dry chickpeas - 350 g 24 h 25 min Apple cider vinegar 2 tbsp (30 mL), added to cooked chickpeas 5.7 7 g 20 g / kg dry chickpea Yes, 24-48 h No No - - - Home fermenter - - 86 30 60-84
TazPantry Fair English Online recipe No Yes (5 min 42) Dry chickpeas - 2 cups (~330 g) 8 h minimum 30-60 min Vinegar 4 tbsp (60 mL), added during cooking 12.1 3/4 tsp (3 g) 9 g / kg dry chickpea No Yes, after soaking No Plastic freezer bag 0.4-0.8 1-2 DIY - cardboard with heater and moisture 1 2.5 85-91 29-33 36-48
Fermenting for foodies Low English Online recipe Yes No Small dry chickpeas - 2 cups (~330 g) 6-8 h 30-40 min White vinegar 2 tbsp (30 mL), added to cooked chickpeas 6.1 1 tsp 3 tsp / kg dry chickpea No No No - - - Slow cooker - - 88 31 24-48
La cuisine végétale de Christine Low French Online recipe Yes No Tinned chickpeas - 530 g No 2-3 min Vinegar 1 tbsp (15 mL), added during cooking 1.9 2 tsp 4 tsp / kg dry chickpea No No No Plastic freezer bag numerous holes numerous holes Dehydrator 0.8 2 86 30 24
Maurica IndoBule Low English Online recipe No Yes (5 min 11) Dry chickpeas - - 12 h minimum - No - NA - - No Yes, after soaking Yes, manually halved Plastic freezer bag 0.4-0.8 1-2 - 1 2.5 85-90 29-32 24-48
Tempeh Info Low English Online recipe Yes No Small dry chickpeas - 600 g 8 h in 2 L of water 60 min Vegan lactic acid 80% 2 tsp (10 mL), added during cooking 3.3 1 tsp (3-5 g) 7 g / kg dry chickpea No No No Plastic bag (18 x 18 cm) 0.4 1 - - - 86 30 36-48
Erkan et al., 2020 Good English Research paper (measurements) No No Small dry chickpeas 0.5 mm - 2 h in tap water 30 min Grape vinegar 2.85 mL / 100 g cooked chickpeas 1.9 0.4 g / 100 g - No Yes, after cooking No Plastic bag - - Drying-oven - - 86-93 30-34 28
Abu-Salem et al., 2011 Low English Research paper (measurements) No No Dry chickpeas - - 16 h at 25°C in vinegar water (100 g chickpea / 400 g solution) 30 min, 90°C Vinegar (acetic acid) vinegar water, pH 3.1, used during soaking NA - - No Yes, after soaking No Plastic bag (15 x 15 cm) - - - - - 86-99 30-37 43-77
Angulo-Bejarano et al., 2008 Good English Research paper (measurements) No No Dry chickpeas - - 16 h at 25°C in vinegar water (100 g chickpea / 400 g solution) 30 min, 90°C Vinegar (acetic acid) vinegar water, pH 3.1, used during soaking NA - - No Yes, after soaking No Plastic bag (15 x 15 cm) - - - - - 94.8 34.9 53.1
Reyes-Moreno et al., 2004 Good English Research paper (measurements + modelling) No No Extra-large dry chickpeas 10 mm - 16 h at 25°C in vinegar water (100 g chickpea / 400 g solution) 30 min, 90°C Vinegar (acetic acid) vinegar water, pH 3.1, used during soaking NA - - No Yes, after soaking No Plastic bag (15 x 15 cm) - - - - - 88-97 31-36 48-72
Ashenafi & Busse, 1991 Fair English Research paper (measurements) No No Dehulled dry chickpeas - 200 g 24 h at 30°C in tap water (200 g / 600 mL water) 100°C Vinegar (acetic acid), or No acidification 1.5 mL, used during soaking, or No vinegar 0.5 1.2 x 10 spores/100 g cooked chickpeas - No No, but hull-free seeds Yes, store-bought split seeds Plastic bag 0.4 1 - - - 86 30 35-40

Jump to this section to download data

Unanswered questions

Here is some missing knowledge for chickpea tempeh. I could not find information in the scientific literature to answer these questions.

  • How much vitamin does chickpea tempeh contain?

  • How much antioxidant does chickpea tempeh contain?

Abu-Salem and colleagues1 measured tannin and phenol contents. What about other potential antioxidants?

  • Is there a way to limit minerals’ leaching while still reducing antinutrients?

As we saw earlier, 50 % of minerals are lost during the process of making chickpea tempeh. Would there be some alternative ways to retain minerals while still reducing antinutrients?

Method: how I did this mini-review

Search and selection of scientific papers and food blogs

In April 2021, I searched all available scientific papers about “chickpea tempeh” and “garbanzo tempeh” in Google Scholar.

Meanwhile, I also identified online recipes by searching for “chickpea tempeh”, “garbanzo tempeh” and “tempe(h) de pois chiche” (French) in Duckduckgo, Google, and Youtube. I retained the recipes ranking on the first page of the search engines result and the 16 first videos on Youtube search results.

I found 5 research papers and I selected the 11 most informative and complementary online recipes.

Synthesis of the information

I summarized the nutrition measurements from research papers into a table. I used this data to plot the graphs with the R software and the ggplot2 package. The full table on nutrition facts is available to download as supplemental material.

I summarized into another table the ingredients and instructions for making chickpea tempeh, from the research papers and the food blogs. The full table is also available for download.

Personal experiments

I completed the above sources with my own experiments to address some vague or missing information.

I compared dehulling vs. not dehulling, acidifying vs. not acidifying, as well as adjusting some parameters to modulate the taste of the tempeh.

Supplemental material

You can download freely the data that I compiled for this article.

It is an .xlsx file containing all raw data used for the tables and figures, along with references and links.

This article and the supplemental data are under an open license, meaning that you are free to adapt our work, as long as you give credit to us by mentioning “Elegant Experiments” with a link to www.elegantexperiments.net

Creative Commons Attribution
CC-BY

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Scientific references

1. Abu-Salem FM, Abou-Arab EA, others. Physico-chemical properties of tempeh produced from chickpea seeds. Journal of American science. 2011;7(7):107-118.

2. Erkan SB, Gürler HN, Bilgin DG, Germec M, Turhan I. Production and characterization of tempehs from different sources of legume by rhizopus oligosporus. LWT. 2020;119:108880. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lwt.2019.108880.

3. Reyes-Moreno C, Cuevas-Rodrı'guez E, Milán-Carrillo J, Cárdenas-Valenzuela O, Barrón-Hoyos J. Solid state fermentation process for producing chickpea (cicer arietinum l) tempeh flour. Physicochemical and nutritional characteristics of the product. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. 2004;84(3):271-278. https://doi.org/10.1002/jsfa.1637.

4. Ashenafi M, Busse M. Production of tempeh from various indigenous ethiopian beans. World Journal of Microbiology & Biotechnology. 1991;7(1):72-79. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Mogessie_Ashenafi/publication/278940317_Production_of_Tempeh_from_various_indigenous_Ethiopian_legumes/links/566c494d08ae1a797e3d768f.pdf.

5. Angulo-Bejarano PI, Verdugo-Montoya NM, Cuevas-Rodrı'guez EO, et al. Tempeh flour from chickpea (cicer arietinum l.) nutritional and physicochemical properties. Food Chemistry. 2008;106(1):106-112. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2007.05.049.

6. Paredes-López O, Harry GI, Murray ED. Food biotechnology review: Traditional solid-state fermentations of plant raw materials—application, nutritional significance, and future prospects. Critical Reviews in Food Science & Nutrition. 1988;27(3):159-187. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/10408398809527483?casa_token=jvvN88NKq2wAAAAA:gQYOZ-Wb7eTWRfDb2Ep8Q98q1LSb3ppOiUNgb2cmgByxcKZQlv-9aKhAN3x1Kbvzk1csruv3Z137 .

7. ANSES-ciqual french food composition table. French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety. 2020. https://ciqual.anses.fr/#/cms/download/node/20.

8. Schaafsma G. The protein digestibility–corrected amino acid score. The Journal of nutrition. 2000;130(7):1865S-1867S. https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/130.7.1865S.

9. Schlemmer U, Frølich W, Prieto RM, Grases F. Phytate in foods and significance for humans: Food sources, intake, processing, bioavailability, protective role and analysis. Molecular nutrition & food research. 2009;53(S2):S330-S375. https://doi.org/10.1002/mnfr.200900099.

10. Reyes-Moreno C, Romero-Urias C, Milan-Carrillo J, Valdez-Torres B, Zarate-Marquez E. Optimization of the solid state fermentation process to obtain tempeh from hardened chickpeas (cicer arietinum l.). Plant Foods for Human Nutrition. 2000;55(3):219-228. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A:1008192214018.

11. Sudarmadji S, Markakis P. The phytate and phytase of soybean tempeh. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. 1977;28(4):381-383. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/jsfa.2740280410.

12. Nout MR, Aidoo KE. Asian fungal fermented food. In: Industrial Applications. Springer; 2011:29-58. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/MJ_Nout/publication/226920088_Asian_Fungal_Fermented_Food/links/54db02ce0cf233119bc4d332.pdf.

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