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The Difference Between Tofu, Seitan & Tempeh

On your journey to eliminating meat and looking for alternative protein it is important to know and understand the top three plant-based proteins! That is, tempeh, seitan, and the probably the most popular tofu. I am not going to tell you everything these proteins contain and how they are made (yet). However, I would like to state that both tempeh and tofu are made from soybeans while seitan is derived from wheat gluten. Now that we know the three plant-based proteins let us deeper into each one. We will start with my personal favorite, tofu!

The oldest out of the three and believed to have originated from China is the ever-delicious tofu. As stated earlier it is made from soybeans, well it is actually made through pressed soy milk. There are several variations of tofu and the one I use and that I believe is the most popular is “firm” but in the grocery store you can find several variations such as: soft, firm, silken, and tofu skins. This is the most versatile out of the three. Now, what you are wondering probably: “what does it taste like?”. That is a great question and the best way to put it is that it can taste like whatever you want it to taste like. Now, that does mean that it actually doesn’t have any taste unless you add some flavor yourself! I recommend tofu for beginners as it is very easy to cook and allows you so much range for taste and texture.

Let us talk about tofu’s relative, tempeh! This plant-based protein is made from soybeans as well and the interesting thing is that is fermented! Tempeh originates from Indonesia and is actually believed to be an accidental invention. While tofu was being shipped to Indonesian islands, they found that soybeans that had a layer of white mold were still edible! I am glad that I wasn’t the one testing that hypothesis. The most important bit, what does it taste like? To understand its taste, we must first understand the texture. Tempeh has the firmest texture out of the three and it will not crumble on you unlike the three. This will allow you to cut thin slices or strips while it maintains its form. The taste can be compared to that of a mushroom. However, my personal experience I attest to that because again I flavor my tempeh! If you are looking to grill out, I would suggest tempeh!

The last plant-based protein and probably the most expensive, seitan! As stated earlier, seitan is made of wheat gluten and allows you to manipulate and create many things with it, such as “chicken” wings! Seitan also originates from China and believed to be created by Buddhist to promote a plant-based diet. A lot of people compare the texture of seitan to that of a chicken nugget while the flavor can also be compared to a mushroom. However, again it is all how you flavor it. If you are looking to replicate meat, I would suggest seitan! If you want meatballs, chicken nuggets, or even ribs seitan is the way to go!

All of these plant-based proteins are delicious and honestly not that expensive! Seitan being the most, but you still can look to spend under $10 for something that will last you a few meals. All in all, it is up to you! These are all delicious plant-based proteins if you allow them to be! I always hear “I tried tofu before, but it had no flavor!”. Well duh, have you ever had an unseasoned chicken? Probably not that good. You must create the flavor and I promise you will change your mind. These three soaks up flavor and pair well with anything you want to make. Do not be discouraged and give it a shot! We have blogs on how to prepare crispy tofu if you need somewhere to start! Pu peace :)


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