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Tempeh vs Tofu - Know Your Soy Superfoods!

Tempeh vs Tofu - Know Your Soy Superfoods!

We live in an age, in which we have access to a lot of incredible ingredients and brilliant recipes from all around the world. This is especially great for people looking for an alternative, meatless source of fat and protein. And while a lot of us are already pretty acquainted with tofu - and a lot of tofu-based meals - it's definitely not the only soy-based meat alternative out there. Another great option is tempeh - and recently, it's been gaining a lot of popularity.

So what is it, what is it good for - and is it better than tofu? Let's have a look.

What is tempeh?

Tempeh is a soy-based meat alternative, that comes from Indonesia - and until the 1970s, it mostly stayed there. But in the last few decades, it made its way to Western cuisines, and now it's pretty common to find tempeh in your local supermarket.

And while the main ingredient in tempeh is good old plain soybeans - it's absolutely not the limit. Any bean or grain can be used to change and amplify the taste of this product. And some creative masters go a step further and power up their tempeh with seaweed, seasonings, or even vegetables. The sky is the limit.

What's the difference between tofu and tempeh?

The main difference between tofu and tempeh comes from the production process. Tofu takes ground-up soybeans in water, then they are heated, and coagulated using minerals like magnesium salt. The curds get pressed, and the finished product is known as tofu. And it comes in many different forms: from a solid, steak-like super firm tofu, to soft and creamy silken tofu - and everything in between.

And what is tempeh made of? The exact same thing. However, tempeh takes already cooked soybeans, which are injected with fungi, which ferments the bean mass. It's a process similar to making cheese or yogurt. During the time, the beans form into a firm block. The block is now known as tempeh. And unlike tofu, it comes in only one form - a solid block.

As you can see, the process of making the two products is wildly different. Despite using the same base - the wonderful soybean - everything else then goes to two completely different directions

Therefore, it's no surprise that there are several differences between tempeh vs tofu when choosing the option for your next meal. So, let's cover them one by one!

Tempeh vs Tofu: Flavor

Tofu has a very similar flavor to soy milk - and by that, we mean that it's very neutral and easily gets overpowered by all the spices and sauces you may throw at it. The porous texture of tofu helps as well. Acting essentially like a sponge, it soaks everything up and acts as a vehicle for flavor.

Wondering what does tempeh taste like? Well, tempeh actually gets a fair bit of flavor from its cooking and fermenting processes. The fermented proteins give off an umami-ish mushroom and nut notes, which makes it a good meat alternative flavor-wise. And it contains no salt - so you're free to marinate it with soy sauce or even season it a bit of MSG, increasing tempeh's meaty qualities a little bit more.

Tempeh vs Tofu: Nutrition

Tempeh and tofu are made out of the same thing - so many can expect both of these products to share pretty similar nutritional qualities. Right?

Well, that's only partially true. In order to see what we have in mind, let's have a look at some of the key nutritional facts for 1 serving (100 grams or 3.5 oz) of both tofu and tempeh:

Tofu (super firm):

  • Calories: 84
  • Protein: 10 grams
  • Fat: 5 grams (1 gram of saturated fat)
  • Carbohydrates: 1.2 grams
  • Potassium: 130 mg
  • Sodium: 4 mg
  • Calcium: 22% daily norm
  • Iron: 12% daily norm


  • Calories: 195
  • Protein: 20 grams
  • Fat: 11.5 grams (3.5 grams of saturated fat)
  • Carbohydrates: 8 grams
  • Potassium: 410 mg
  • Sodium: 14 mg
  • Calcium: 8% daily norm
  • Iron: 12% daily norm

As you can probably tell, tempeh is much more calorie-dense than tofu. But it's no problem - both tofu and tempeh have a pretty similar 2:1 ratio of protein to fat, are rich in potassium, and low in sodium.

Besides, they're both pretty low in carbohydrates, making those two options great for a low-carb keto diet. While the numbers look different, they're both pretty good.

Is tempeh healthy? Absolutely yes. It has all the qualities of tofu, a widely-acclaimed superfood, and takes them a little bit further. Tempeh nutrition makes it suitable for people, looking to eat smart and healthy.

Tofu vs Tempeh: Use In Recipes

You can substitute tempeh for tofu in many scenarios, where the tofu has to be fried, steamed, or otherwise treated with heat. Because there's one very important thing to note:

Tempeh cannot be consumed raw.

Before consuming, tempeh has to be heated, killing the culture and making the product completely safe to eat. Since there's no culture in tofu, it can be consumed without heating.

And whereas we're used to eating tofu in all kinds of shapes and forms, tempeh is a lot more limited. Its mushroom-y taste makes it great in stir-fries, sandwiches, and curries, but is almost impossible to be used in desserts and other sweet dishes.

Of course, a lot of that comes down to not only the heat treatment and flavor but texture as well.

Tofu is available in various types - while tempeh is only known in its own, unmistakable, super firm form.

Should You Choose Tempeh or Tofu?

Your choice between tempeh vs tofu will depend entirely on your meal preference. Tempeh is a denser, meatier option, that only works when it's treated with heat. It's much more similar to meat than tofu is, so if you're looking for a good meal alternative taste-wise, give it a shot!

But tofu still wins when it comes to versatility. It can be consumed both hot and cold, and comes in various forms, allowing it to be used for dishes of all types. It doesn't make the same umami flavor that tempeh can provide, but it's still capable

In nutrition, there's no major difference between the two. They're both packed with nutrients and micronutrients and are very healthy options. But there's still some difference there.

Tempeh is like tofu times two - twice the fat, twice the protein - and twice the calories. So make sure to plan your tofu and tempeh meals accordingly, if you're counting your calories.

Overall - you don't have to choose only one or the other. They're both brilliant in their own right, and any person looking for a great meat substitute should be looking forward to having both tempeh and tofu in their fridge. Happy eating!