This nutty soybean loaf is a nice change from tofu.

This nutty soybean loaf is a nice change from tofu.

When cooked soybeans, sometimes combined with rice or millet, are inoculated with a beneficial mold and allowed to ferment briefly, the result is a chewy, nut-flavored soybean loaf called tempeh. The grains are covered with a whitish mold, which is fully edible. Commonly vacuum-sealed, sometimes marinated, smoked or grilled, tempeh is usually found next to the tofu. Store, wrapped in plastic, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days after opening.

Tempeh might not be a refrigerator staple in your house, but whether you're vegetarian, vegan or not, it's a worthy ingredient to experiment with. Since it's fermented, it has a higher concentration of protein, fiber and vitamins than tofu. Tempeh's firmer texture may appeal to those who don't like tofu's soft texture. But its strong flavor can turn people off as well. Knowing not all tempehs are created equal, we sautéed up all the brands and flavors we could get our hands on and tasted them plain. Overall, we liked the ones that had grains in them best. The grains balanced out the natural bitter flavor of the tempeh nicely.

Our Top 3 Picks

Soyboy Organic 5 Grain Tempeh

Brown rice, rye, millet and barley add a "nutty, sweet flavor," which Carolyn preferred over the other tempehs. Our favorite overall, it received the highest marks in both taste and texture. Lowest in calories and total fat.

Lightlife Organic Flax Tempeh

Flecks of flaxseeds in this offering from Lightlife made it the most appealing to the eye. Hilary liked its "mild flavor and good texture." Sodium-free and a good source of omega-3s.

Lightlife Organic Wild Rice Tempeh

Stacy liked the bits of wild rice and the crumbly texture of this tempeh. It has a whopping 17 grams of fiber per serving.

Others Worth Trying

Lightlife Organic Garden Veggie Tempeh

Lightlife Organic Soy Tempeh

Lightlife Organic 3 Grain Tempeh

Turtle Island 5 Grain Tempeh

Didn't Love

Soyboy Organic Soy Tempeh

Turtle Island Soy Tempeh