School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

BNF Healthy Eating Week 2017

Caramelised Onion Tempe

You will no doubt have heard of tofu, but have you heard of tempe? If you haven't, the potential health and nutritional benefits, compared to tofu, might just persuade you to try a tiny bit of tempe. Why not start off with this delicious recipe from Loughborough researcher, Shelina Kassam?

Researchers at Loughborough University have found that eating a lot of tofu (every day) was not as good for people over 65, but may be part of a healthy diet in mid-life, especially for women during and after the menopause. 

Studies have shown that people in Indonesia have a lowered risk of dementia. And part of the explanation for this could be the popularity of tempe, a soy product (like tofu) originating from Indonesia and a staple source of protein on the island of Java.

Like tofu, tempe is made from soybeans, but unlike tofu, it is a whole soybean product with different nutritional and textural qualities. The fermentation process ensures a higher content of protein, dietary fibre and vitamins. It is rich in cobalamin and folate, shown to reduce the brain plaques seen in dementia and to improve memory, even in old people. At the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences a study is currently underway to ascertain if tempe consumption can improve memory, and if it would be a suitable preventative product to avoid cognitive decline and dementia in older men and postmenopausal women.

If you're tempe-ted to give it a try you should be able to find tempe at your local Asian supermarket. 


  • 400g tempe
  • 2 tbsp of soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp of tamarind paste
  • 2 tbsp granulated white sugar
  • 1 onion (red or white)
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 200ml water


  • Slice the tempe into 1.5cm wide slices
  • Score each piece with a cross on each side
  • Finely chop the garlic and onions
  • Add water, bay leaves, garlic, onion, sugar, soy sauce and tamarind paste into a pan and bring to the boil
  • Add the tempe and reduce to a simmer for approximately 30 minutes, turning twice


Eat it on its own as a tasty snack or as part of a healthy nutritious meal with stir-fried vegetables.

Try tempe for yourself

Shelina Kassam will be giving you the chance to taste tempe on Thursday 15th June. Join her in the NCSEM-EM observation rooms (0.20/0.21) between 1.15pm and 2.00pm to try this Indonesian speciality and find out more about Shelina's research.