The Difference Between Tempeh, Tofu and Seitan

The Difference Between Tempeh, Tofu and Seitan
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The Difference Between Tempeh, Tofu and Seitan

Read on to learn the difference between tempeh, tofu and seitan—and discover recipes you can make with each!

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What Is Tempeh?

Tempeh is a soybean-based protein that originated in Indonesia. It typically comes in the form of a patty, and some say it's healthier than tofu, because it's not only packed with protein, but it contains a lot of fiber and a number of other nutrients. It's also fermented, which makes it easier to digest (which is great for vegetarians who are sensitive to gaseous foods like beans).

Another way it differs from tofu? Its flavor. It has a richer and nuttier taste, and it's also more textured. It can be steamed and grilled, or even thrown into a stew.

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What Is Tofu?

Like tempeh, tofu is also made from soybeans. They're dried, ground, filtered and boiled to make the tofu you'll find at the grocery store. Also known as bean curd, it was invented in China thousands of years ago, and is now a popular meat alternative in the U.S. It's high in protein but low in calories and fat, and when it comes to preparing it, it's pretty versatile. Tofu comes in a silken, soft form, as well as firm, so depending on what you want to make, you can choose the consistency you prefer.

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What Is Seitan?

Seitan differs from tempeh and tofu in that it isn't made from soy. It's actually made from wheat, and more specifically gluten. Some even refer to it as "wheat meat." It's high in protein as well, and has a very similar texture to meat, making it ideal for vegetarian dishes meant to mimic meat-based ones. It can be grilled, roasted or used in a stir-fry.

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Read on for recipes using tempeh, tofu and seitan.

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Tempeh with Apricots and Capers

In this dish, tempeh is steamed and then sauteed with chopped apricots, fennel and capers. Lemon juice, garlic, mirin and basil provide an additional boost of flavor.

Get the recipe: Tempeh with Apricots and Capers

Scrambled Tofu Rancheros

This breakfast substitutes tofu in for eggs, which gets seasoned with turmeric and smoked paprika and tossed in a skillet before being topped with pinto beans, tomatoes, avocado and cilantro over a corn tortilla.

Get the recipe: Scrambled Tofu Rancheros

Tofu Parmigiana

This recipe acts as an alternative to the traditional chicken parmigiana, using extra-firm tofu in place of meat, prepared with marinara sauce, mushrooms and mozzarella cheese.

Get the recipe: Tofu Parmigiana


Vegetarianism has been around for decades, and now more than ever, the options for those who don't eat meat are incredibly accessible. Even if you're a carnivore, it's likely that you've come into contact with more than a few vegetarian and vegan alternatives at the grocery store or out to eat at a restaurant. Tofu may be one of the most common, but for those who want to venture further than swapping mushrooms in for their burgers and eating a ton of beans, there are also meat substitutes like tempeh and seitan.

You've probably heard of them, but you may not be totally clear on what they're made of—or how to use them. So what makes tempeh different from tofu? And what is seitan, anyway?

Check out the slideshow above for a break down of the differences between these popular meat alternatives (and what you can do with them in the kitchen)!

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