General/ Health/ Nutrition/ Organic/ Veganism

Tempeh Advocates

“We hope that our simple method of making this valuable cultured soy food will lead to both an increased demand for organically grown soybeans and more local and regional food production. This will result in healthier people and a healthier planet.”

– Betsy Shipley and Gunter Pfaff


Tempeh, or tempe in Indonesian, is made by a natural culturing and controlled fermentation process that binds soybeans into cake form. It is unique among major traditional soy-foods in that it is the only one that did not originate in China or Japan. Indonesian in origin, it is especially popular on the island of Java, where it is a staple source of protein.

Like tofu, tempeh is made from soybeans, but tempeh is a whole soybean product with different nutritional characteristics and textural qualities. In addition, tempeh’s fermentation process gives it a higher content of protein, dietary fiber, and vitamins. As a result, it has a firm texture and strong flavor.

Two of the world’s most enthusiastic tempeh advocates are Betsy Shipley and Gunter Pfaff. They have been making organic tempeh for over thirty years – nine of those commercially. Their love for tempeh began on a farm near Ann Arbor, Michigan. Gunter says of those early days, “We husked, cracked and roasted soy beans on the farm where we made, and locally distributed, fresh tempeh”. Their love for the goodness of tempeh grew as did their business.



As a result of their efforts Gunter obtained a patent on a water bath method for fermenting tempeh and Betsy obtained a trademarked name for their product, Betsy’s Tempeh. In 1997, Betsy and Gunter’s efforts were honored at the  International Tempe Symposium in Bali, Indonesia.

Today, Betsy and Gunter live in Oxnard, California where they are retired. Even in retirement, however, Betsy and Gunter are still enthusiastic about tempeh. You might even call them tempeh activists. They formed Betsy’s Tempeh Foundation a couple of years ago as means of promoting organic tempeh. As Betsy tells it,Our foundation was formed in 2008 to help disseminate the information we accumulated over many years for making a consumer friendly tempeh. When we were producing ‘Betsy’s Tempeh’ commercially we received two patents for making tempeh on stainless steel trays, using a water bath method for heating and cooling.”

“The resulting tempeh was superior to other tempeh on the market and our version was a great success with retail customers as well as restaurants and institutions.”

Betsy says, “In early 2008 we conducted additional tests to produce our tempeh using readily available food approved items. It is now possible to make it both at home and in a commercial setting. We would love to see some interested people launch a worker owned coop franchise because this would assure our ‘keep it small and local’ and ‘keep it organic’ goals and would assure the fastest duplication once a small prototype facility was ‘proofed’.  We think that the minimum people working in a shop would be two, the maximum four. The primary outlet for the product should be restaurants and institutions and farmers markets.”

Betsy continues, “We would like to give presentations to interested groups like co-housing groups, church groups, neighborhood groups. We are especially interested in consulting with people interested in starting worker owned tempeh production co-ops either in the city or the countryside.”

For more information you can visit their website. You can get in touch with them from there or write to: They are always delighted to hear from other people who are excited about the possibilities of tempeh.

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  • Chia (328 comments)
    July 26, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    Hi there, thanks for sharing this blog entry. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Besty and Gunter seemed like real down-to-earth elders. And the pictures are great. My family enjoys eating tempeh from time to time.

  • Howard Herscovici (1 comments)
    August 7, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    I have been corresponding with Betsy and Gunter for a little while now and they are enthusiastic and tremendously encouraging and helpful. I am collecting my equipment and hope to be making my first batch of tempeh in the next few weeks. I feel that with Betsy and Gunter’s help I will be an accomplished tempeh maker in notime.

  • Chia (328 comments)
    September 6, 2010 at 11:22 am

    I make easy and delicious BBQ tempeh burgers at home sometimes. But I don’t make the tempeh from scratch. I buy tempeh from the market.
    1. First, I place the tempeh patties cut-to-size in a pan with some water, and boil until the water is gone. The tempeh become soft.
    2. Then I reduce the heat to low-medium and continue to cook the tempeh in the same pan dry (no added oil).
    3. I add BBQ sauce, and just let the tempeh blackened very slightly. That’s it.
    4. Place the tempeh between slices of toasted buns along with half of an avocado and slices of onion. Sometimes I add a slice of tomato and some veganaise to the buns. YUMMY.

  • happycowgirl (37 comments)
    May 18, 2011 at 9:10 pm

    Great article. Where can we buy Betsy’s Tempeh? Is it distributed through Whole Foods or local health food stores?

  • robinhood (19 comments)
    March 12, 2012 at 10:34 am

    Being healthier on a vegetarian diet means spending less on health care. Food costs. Vegetarian foods tend to cost less than meat based item.Be vegetarian live more.Have a look of vegan making receipe dvd

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