What the FLIK is…the difference between tofu, tempeh, and seitan?
Meat-alternatives are all the rage with brands like Impossible and Beyond Meat dominating the market, but three staples have been a standard option for vegetarians and vegans for years: tofu, tempeh, and seitan.
These plant-based options differ in texture, taste, and even preparation style – so which one should you eat? We’ve got a few answers for you just in time for your next Meatless Monday creation.
What the FLIK is…tofu?
Tofu is made from soybeans, more specifically soy milk. The soy milk is curdled and pressed, resulting in a soy curd that is traditionally shaped into a cube form and then prepared as the recipe calls for. It’s actually a similar process to how cheese is made from milk, but instead uses a dairy-free base.
Cooking wise, tofu is one of the most flexible plant-based proteins out of this infamous trio. Because it is available in various textures – soft, firm, silken, etc. – it’s an incredibly versatile ingredient to cook with. Relatively tasteless, tofu is known for taking on flavors of spices and sauces really well. It can be eaten plain and raw, grilled, pan seared, baked and even freeze-dried.
Try this Tofu Cucumber Bahn Mi as a creative, low sodium, meatless lunch option that’s easy to make and perfect for the back-to-school season.
What the FLIK is…tempeh?
Another soybean based protein, tempeh is most notable because it’s made from a fermented soybean. An Indonesian staple, this fermentation process adds a bit of nuttiness and density to tempeh compared to a more bland flavor and texture of tofu.
Tempeh looks more like a pressed soybean cake and traditionally contains more protein and dietary fiber per cup than tofu, but triple check the nutrition information before you make your purchase. Sold in long, rectangular cakes, tempeh has a firmer consistency than tofu and might be the better plant-based protein for you if you don’t like the squishier texture of tofu.
To cook with it, try marinating it and then pan frying, grilling, or baking it. It can also be crumbled and added to sauces to add an extra oomph of protein.
What the FLIK is…seitan?
Unlike tofu and tempeh, seitan is derived from a wheat gluten and is a soy-free protein. It’s made by rinsing and cooking wheat dough to remove the starch, leaving a sticky, dense product that can be shaped and molded into your dish.
Available as a ready-made product in stores, you might also see seitan on menus as a mock meat or more specifically, as mock duck.
So, what’s the best plant-based protein for me?
Any of these holy trinity are great options if you’re looking for a plant-based protein to incorporate into your diet. As long as you’re not allergic to soy or wheat, you can try any of these three.
If you’re looking to cook with bright, bold flavors tofu might be your best choice given that it will take on these flavors instead of competing with them. Tofu Green Pea ‘Meatballs’ in a delicious curry sauce are a hearty option for dinner.
If you want your protein to be the star of your dish, try tempeh. Marinate it in soy sauce or coconut milk – or even maple syrup – for creative twist on this protein.
If you’re looking a truly meat-like texture, try seitan. It can have a similar look and texture to animal-based meats and can be shaped into bacon, sausages, burgers, chicken wings and more!
Whether you’re a proud carnivore, devoted vegetarian, or newly focused on veganism, incorporating these proteins into your ‘Meatless Monday’ routine are a great way to keep your dishes light, respect animal welfare, and reduce our global footprint on the planet. Ultimately, the choice is up to you.
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