Finding a meat alternative with ample protein and flavor is quite a challenge for anyone focused on a plant-based diet. Tempeh and Tofu are two of the most popular meat alternatives.
Both Tempeh and Tofu are excellent alternatives to meat in your diet. They provide you with the protein and fibers that your body needs. You will find that both can be versatile when used in cooking and have many similarities. But, there are also many differences, such as the number of nutrients, how they are made, and the final product you get.
Are you ready to figure out if you should be using Tempeh or Tofu? Keep reading, and we are going to dig into what each of them is, the main differences between them, how nutritious they are, and ways that they can be used.
What Is the Difference Between Tempeh and Tofu?
The first difference between Tempeh and Tofu is what they are made from. Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans and is then compacted into a firm and dense cake. Tofu, however, is made from coagulated soy milk and then pressed into white concrete blocks.
Also, on a nutritional level, because Tempeh is also made with things like nuts, seeds, and whole grains, it tends to be higher in calorie count, proteins, and fibers. Tofu, on the other hand, is lower in calorie count and protein but carries nearly double the calcium of Tempeh.
Which is Healthier: Tempeh or Tofu?
While both Tempeh and Tofu are both great supplements to meat in your diet, Tempeh is considered healthier than Tofu. There are a couple of reasons for this, but the main one is that Tempeh is less processed.
Tempeh is also fermented, making it much easier on people’s stomachs. By fermenting, it pre-digests the carbohydrates, protein, and fat making it easier to digest and reducing the gas inducing components that you find in beans in general.
Just like with anything you supplement in your diet, you always want to make sure you are still getting the nutrients that your body needs to function correctly and stay healthy. So let’s compare the suggested daily values and the values that Tempeh and Tofu provide.
|Nutrient||Suggested Daily Value||Tempeh||Tofu|
|Protein||50 Grams||16 Grams||8 Grams|
|Carbs||325 Grams||10 Grams||2 Grams|
|Fiber||25 Grams||7Grams||2 Grams|
|Fat||65 Grams||5 Grams||5 Grams|
|Calcium||1000 mg||6% of the Daily Value||15% of the Daily Value|
|Iron||18 mg||10% of the Daily Value||8% of the Daily Value|
|Potassium||35000 mg||8% of the Daily Value||4% of the Daily Value|
|Sodium||2300 mg||10 mg||10 mg|
|Cholesterol||300 mg||0 mg||0 mg|
How to Prepare: Tempeh vs. Tofu
There are many ways that you can cook your Tempeh to enhance its texture and flavor. Since Tempeh can be an acquired taste, how you cook it can make all the difference.
Steaming your Tempeh can remove some of its bitterness that it has when you take it out of the packaging. If you have fresh Tempeh that is not packaged, you won’t need to do this unless you choose to. Place your Tempeh in water or vegetable broth and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Tempeh can be very bland by itself, so marinating it can be an excellent way to add flavor to your Tempeh. Cut your Tempeh into thick slices. Marinate for 10-20 minutes (or overnight). Then cook on the grill, bake or pan fry it.
Slice your Tempeh thinly and grill or pan-fry until crispy.
Adding crumbled Tempeh to your sauces and stews is a great way to add protein to them.
How to Cook Tofu
Like Tempeh, Tofu can be cooked in many ways. Unlike Tempeh, it can also be bought in many ways. When you decide to add Tofu into your meal planning, you will want to make sure you buy the correct kind of Tofu for what you plan on making.
Kinds of Tofu
- Silken Tofu: Best for blended foods like smoothies, puddings, sauces, and dips
- Medium Tofu: Best for simmered soups
- Firm Tofu: Best for stir-fries and pan-fried
- Extra-firm Tofu: Best for pan-frying, stir-fries, baking, grilling, and scrambles
After you determine the type of Tofu, you will be using it. You will need to press and drain it before cooking. Tofu has a lot of liquid, so it will cook best if you remove as much as possible before cooking.
Just like with Tempeh, you may want to consider marinating your Tofu before cooking it. Tofu has a very mild flavor, so adding in a marinade will increase your experience and enjoyment of your meal.
You can make crispy Tofu by pan-frying it. Toss your Tofu with cornstarch and add to your pan for frying.
Stir-fried Tofu cooks quickly, so it will not be on the stove very long. You will want to use an extra-firm or firm Tofu for this one.
Baked Tofu will give you the crispy outside and chewy inside when coming out of the oven. After it has cooled, you will lose the crispy but will still have the firm and chewy consistency.
Grilled: You can also grill your Tofu. You will want to use extra-firm Tofu and cook it kebab style.
Scrambled Tofu is just like doing scrambled eggs. Just like with scrambled eggs, you can use this however you would like. On its own, as part of a breakfast hash or even in a sandwich.
What Are The Best Marinades To Make For Tempeh and Tofu
Marinading Tempeh and Tofu is an essential step in cooking. Neither Tofu nor Tempeh is flavorful on their own, but they’re great at absorbing flavors. Thanks to this quality, they lend themselves to a variety of recipes.
These marinades will work well with both Tempeh and Tofu. You can also make these ahead of time and freeze the marinade with the Tempeh or Tofu, or you can even freeze it by itself for future use. When you are marinating, remember for the best results. The longer you let it marinate, the better the flavor you will get.
- Tandoori Marinade: curry flavored and slightly sweet from the coconut yogurt
- Smoky Maple Marinade: smoky, salty, and mimics maple ‘bacon.’
- Satay Marinade: another curry-flavored marinade but with a Thai twist
- Korean BBQ Marinade: salty, sweet, and full of Asian flavor
- Spiced Yogurt Marinade: mega flavor and creates a spiced crust on the outside
Tempeh and Tofu are an excellent alternative to meat in your diet. Whether you’re vegetarian or vegan, or even just choosing a plant-based diet for health reasons, finding flavorful meat swaps is tricky. Both will provide the nutrients that you need from the meat in your diet without sacrificing taste.
You will also find that since there are so many types that you will easily be able to replace meats in your recipes. Also, since they are both so versatile, you can find many recipes to try out to find something that fits your taste and cooking style.
While Tempeh does appear to be on the healthier side you can still meet your nutritional requirements with whichever one you prefer to use. Just remember both can be on the bland side so you might want to use marinades when preparing them. This is the best way to make sure Tempeh and Tofu absorb as much flavor as possible.