Tofu Vs Tempeh Vs Seitan: The Differences Explained

Tofu Vs Tempeh Vs Seitan: The Differences Explained

With the rise in flexitarianism & plant-based eating, an increasing number of consumers are looking to add meat substitutes to their diet. While yesterday we covered the recent research on meat substitutes and their nutrient content, the below will outline the differences between the three most commonly used meat replacements: tofu, tempeh, and seitan. Each is detailed below, including its ingredients, production process and nutritional content. As always, a well planned plant-based diet should be comprised predominantly of fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and grains, with some space for processed plant-based meat substitutes.



What Is Tofu?

Tofu, possibly the best-known meat substitute in existence, is made by coagulating (change from a liquid to a solid) and pressing soy milk. This is similar to traditional cheese making, where milk is curdled and solidified. It has neither a texture or a flavour, and so will absorb any flavour which it is cooked in. Nutritionally speaking, 100g of tofu contains 16% of your daily protein intake, which technically means it can be classed as a meat substitute. 100g of tofu also contains the following minerals: Manganese: 31% of the RDI, Calcium: 20% of the RDI, Selenium: 14% of the RDI, and Phosphorus: 12% of the RDI. It should be noted that commercially available tofu tends to be highly processed. Soy & tofu-based diets also promote Kidney Stones, and so tofu should never be a foundation or staple on which to base one's diet on.


What Is Tempeh?

Similar to tofu, tempeh is a soy-based product that is made by fermenting whole soybeans into a block or "cake". As whole soybeans are used, tempeh is closer to its natural state than the heavily processed tofu. It originated in Indonesia, and the fermentation process is initiated by adding a fungus, Rhizopus oligosporus, to the soybeans. This fermentation process breaks down the phytic acid in soybeans, which makes the end product easier to digest. Unlike tofu, which is textureless & flavourless, tempeh has both texture and a nutty, umami flavour, which makes it a "meatier" meat replacement than tofu. Tempeh is also high in magnesium, and 100g of tempeh contains 38% of your daily protein allowance. Its mineral content is similar to tofu, with 100g of tempeh containing Phosphorus: 21% of your RDI, and Manganese: 54% of your RDI. Tempeh can be considered a healthier alternative to tofu, but again, should not be considered a staple on which to base one's diet on.


What Is Seitan?

Seitan, which is pronounced "say-tan", is a meat substitute made entirely of vital wheat gluten, the main protein found in wheat. It has risen to popularity in recent years as a go-to meat replacement, as it has a neutral flavour and a meat-like texture from its fibres. It is made by kneading wheat gluten and water, which form sticky, meat like strands of protein. Nutritionally speaking, 100g of seitan contains 75g of protein, well over the recommended daily amount. Seitan is also high in calcium and iron. However, those who are celiac or are following a gluten-free diet should avoid seitan, for obvious reasons. It is a heavily processed product and therefore should be consumed sparingly



If choosing a meat replacement from the three options above, tofu, tempeh, and seitan, one must consider the occasion and overall dietary spectrum. If eating for nutritional reasons, tempeh is the best choice. If price is a factor, tofu is always the cheapest option. Seitan can be impressive to make on a special occasion, to impress meat-eating or newly plant-based eaters. Whatever the choice, one must always remember that a well planned plant-based diet is based predominantly on fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and grains, with processed foods kept to a minimum. If you would like to learn more, check out our PLANT BASED BASICS ONLINE COURSE