Here’s The 411 On Tempeh Vs. Tofu

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Devoted vegetarians and vegans probably know the 411 on tempeh versus tofu like a meat-lovers know the difference between brisket and chuck. If you’re on the fence about trying these meat alternatives, here’s what you need to know.


Tofu has become pretty mainstream over the years. When you add salt or acid to heated soy milk and press the curds, it results in soft spongy white blocks. When you want a fast and cheap protein that you can transform into any dish, tofu is your jam. It has a custard-like consistency and a bland, slightly nutty flavor that can take on whatever surrounds it. The three main varieties of tofu are pressed, fresh and silken. You can use the silken tofu for creamy vegan sauces, but the pressed and firm tofu is what you’ll typically see in vegetarian restaurants as a meat substitute. On average there are about 10 grams of protein in one-half cup.

The density of the tofu is determined by how long the curds are pressed. For an easy comparison, think of tofu as the product of soymilk, like cheese is the product of milk. The processes are pretty similar. The main reason for tofu’s popularity is its blank slate of flavor, which makes it extremely versatile when it comes to any savory or sweet recipe.


Compared to tofu, tempeh is on the more eclectic side. It’s made by fermenting whole soybeans into chewy and dense blocks. Tempeh has more of a meatiness to it with an earthy, sweet taste. It’s pretty underrated in our opinion. Where tofu is white, smooth and wet, tempeh is brownish, dry and you can see the chunks of whole soybeans. The fermented soybean product (you should make sure it’s non-GMO) has more protein than tofu, 15.4 grams per one-half cup, and it’s less processed. It’s healthier overall with 3.5 grams of fiber per one-half cup, where tofu has .5 grams. The fermentation process gives tempeh a nutritional and probiotic boost. You can use the earthy ingredient in a stir-fry, with tacos, salads, vegan BLTs or vegan BBQ.

The Verdict

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There is a big difference in nutritional value when you’re comparing fermented versus unfermented soy beans. While the history of tofu is more notable than tempeh’s, it’s also more processed and you run the risk of getting tofu that’s been made with a chemical coagulating substance. Tempeh works better on its own with heartier flavors, so it acts as more of a meat substitute than tofu does, and it can absorb and work well with other flavors in the dish. Tempeh contains more vitamins and minerals and the fermentation process makes the proteins more digestible.