Is Tempeh Gluten Free?

Tempeh is a soybean product from Indonesia. It’s made in a similar way to tofu, except that tempeh retains the whole body of the soybean. It’s denser and tougher than tofu, and more strongly flavoured. It also has much more protein, dietary fibre and vitamins than tofu. All of which is of academic interest if you can’t eat it, of course, so is tempeh gluten free?

Soybeans don’t contain gluten, so the only risk of gluten being present in tempeh is by contamination during manufacture. It’s a good idea to check the ingredients list, though. Naturally no companies will absolutely guarantee the absence of gluten contamination – because they would be laid open to massive lawsuits if even one person were ill, so their lawyers won’t let them But a lot of US and European manufacturers of tempeh provide the product ready-flavoured and the flavouring can contain gluten. If in doubt, buy unflavoured tempeh and cook it in a more traditional way.

Tempeh can also be a good choice if you’re a gluten-sensitive vegetarian. It’s one of a group of products referred to as ‘meat analogues,’ meaning it can take the place of meat in a dish and a diet. That’s because, unlike most vegetable proteins, soybean proteins are nutritionally complete. However, there are complications – some people will suffer soybean allergies, which can present with similar symptoms to celiac disease, so if you’re eating unflavoured or gluten-free tempeh and still getting symptoms, that might be the problem. Otherwise, it’s safe for gluten sensitive people.