Understand Difference

Tempting Tofu and Tasty Tempeh: A Nutritious Guide

Introduction to Tofu and Tempeh

Soybean products have been an essential part of many cultures for centuries, and tofu and tempeh are among the most popular soybean-based foods worldwide. Tofu is a versatile and tasty plant-based food, while Tempeh is a fermented soybean cake with a nutty flavor.

In this article, we will take a closer look at both these soybean products, starting with a brief history of their origins, then discussing the nutritional benefits of tofu and tempeh. We will also delve into how to make these soy-based products, their varying forms, and ways to prepare and eat them.

Lastly, we will stress why it is important to use non-GMO soybeans for tofu and tempeh production.

History of Soybean Products

Originating from China, soybeans have been cultivated for over 5,000 years, and over time, they became an important crop in Asian cuisine. The tofu-making process dates back to the Han Dynasty in China (202 BC – 220 AD), where its preparation was discovered by accident when someone curdled soy milk by using a primrose flower.

In Japan, the first recorded use of tofu was during the Nara period, between 710 and 794 CE. Organizers of religious feasts quickly adopted this versatile food as a meat substitute.

The first recorded use of tempeh was in Indonesia in the 17th century. It was made using fermented and cooked soybeans, which were then formed into patties for grilling.

Today, both tofu and tempeh are globally popular sources for protein.

Importance of Non-GMO Soybeans

When it comes to making tofu and tempeh, the importance of using non-GMO soybeans cannot be overstated. The majority of soybeans in the United States are genetically modified to resist herbicides.

GMO soy has been linked to various health issues, including digestive problems and hormone disruption. These potential health risks are why it is wise to choose organic and non-GMO soybeans.

What is Tofu? Tofu is a protein-rich food made from soybeans by way of coagulating the protein and oil and curdling the mixture into a curd.

The coagulating agent used in the process can be epsom salt, vinegar or an enzyme called nigari. The curd is then pressed into different shapes, which determine the type of tofu.

Nutritional Value of Tofu

Tofu is a complete protein, meaning that it contains all nine essential amino acids necessary for good health. In addition to protein, tofu is an excellent source of calcium, iron, and manganese.

Tofu made with calcium sulfate is particularly high in calcium, as it delivers around 25-35% of the recommended daily intake per serving. It is also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and vitamin B1.

Various Ways to Prepare and Consume Tofu

Tofu is an incredibly versatile ingredient that can be eaten in various forms and tastes. Its texture and flavor can vary based on how it is prepared and cooked.

The most popular versions of tofu include firm tofu, medium tofu, and silken tofu. It can also be found in different forms such as smoked tofu, tofu puffs, and crispy or freeze-dried tofu.

Here are some popular ways to prepare and consume tofu:

– Add firm or medium tofu to stir-fries for extra protein. – Silken tofu can be used in desserts and dips.

– Smoked tofu can provide a smoky flavor to salads and sandwiches. What is Tempeh?

Tempeh is a fermented soybean product originating from Indonesia. It’s made by fermenting whole soybeans with a mold called Rhizopus oligosporus.

The fermentation causes the soybeans to bind together to form a dense cake, similar to a veggie burger. The inoculated beans are then incubated for a day or two until the mold overtakes the beans, binding them into a solid cake.

Cooking tempeh is essential to eliminate any potential bacteria growth from the fermentation process.

Nutritional Value of Tempeh

As it is a fermented soybean product, tempeh also represents an excellent source of protein and fiber, offering numerous health benefits and protecting the body against disease. It is also one of the few plant-based foods that contain vitamin B12.

Additionally, the fermentation process enhances the bioavailability of nutrients resulting in more absorption of nutrients from tempeh than unfermented soybeans.

Ways to Use Tempeh

Tempeh’s nutty flavor and chewy texture make it an ideal ingredient for various dishes. The most common ways to prepare tempeh are:

– Slice it into pieces and fry it in a pan for a crispy finish.

– Crumble it and use it as a ground meat substitute in taco fillings or spaghetti sauces. – Marinate and grill it as a skewer for tasty BBQ parties.

Final Thoughts

Soybean products like tofu and tempeh have increasingly gained recognition for the many health benefits they offer. They make a great alternative to processed meat products and are versatile ingredients that sustain a healthy diet.

Knowing the nutritional value of soybean products, how to make them, and different ways to prepare and consume them is essential. As we shared previously, it’s best to use non-GMO soybeans for both products for better health, better flavor, and better environment.

3) What is Tempeh? Tempeh is a traditional Indonesian food that has been consumed for generations.

It’s an amalgam of fermented whole soybeans, which includes the hulls as well. The fermentation process gives this vegetarian protein a slightly nutty flavor and firm texture similar to day-old bread with a hint of mushroom aroma.

Fermentation process of soybeans

Compared to tofu, tempeh is made by fermenting whole soybeans. The process starts by boiling soybeans for several hours, which softens them and breaks down the complex carbohydrates into simpler sugars.

Once cooked, the beans are drained, rinsed, and mixed with spores of Rhizopus oligosporus, a fungus that infects soybeans. The mixture is then placed in plastic packaging or a container lined with banana leaves and left to sit at a warm temperature to encourage fermentation.

During fermentation, the fungus consumes the sugars in the beans and produces enzymes that convert proteins and carbohydrates into amino acids, organic acids, and short-chain fatty acids. Eventually, a white, thin, and tightly bound mass of beans is formed into a cake.

The fermentation process takes around 24 to 48 hours, and the result is an excellent source of protein with increased nutritional value compared to unfermented soybeans.

Nutritional Value of Tempeh

Tempeh is not only rich in protein but also serves as a good source of essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B-12, vitamin K, iron, and calcium. A serving of 3 ounces of tempeh provides around 200 calories, 20 grams of protein, and 9 grams of fiber, a value higher than other soy-based products.

The fermentation process enhances the bioavailability of nutrients. Hence, our bodies can absorb and use the following nutrients more effectively:

– Isoflavones – a plant compound that offers antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and which helps reduce the risk of heart disease and breast cancer.

– Phytic acid – The fermentation process helps to reduce the phytic acid content of tempeh, improving its digestibility. Phytic acid reduces the bioavailability of nutrients, like zinc, calcium, and iron.

– Cobalamin or Vitamin B12 – A vitamin that is scarce in plant-based foods but found in fermented products.

Different ways to use tempeh in meals

Tempeh is a versatile ingredient popular among vegans and vegetarians that can be used in various ways. Here are a few ways to incorporate tempeh into your diet:

– Slice and fry tempeh for a crispy side dish and serve with your favorite dipping sauce.

– Crumble it and use it as a ground “meat” substitute in various dishes like tacos or spaghetti sauce. – Marinate and grill tempeh on skewers for a tasty BBQ meal or salad topping.

– Cut tempeh into thin pieces and use as a lettuce wrap filling with various sauces. – Cut tempeh into thin strips and fry to use as a topping in noodle soup or ramen.

– Lastly, blend tempeh in a food processor until its texture resembles coarse cornmeal and use it as a breadcrumb substitute.

4) Difference Between Tofu and Tempeh

Manufacturing Process

Tofu, or bean curd, is made from coagulating fresh hot soy milk with a curdling agent or coagulant like vinegar, lemon juice, or calcium sulfate. The coagulated mixture is then pressed into blocks, boxes, or various shapes, depending on how much moisture is left in the resulting curd.

Tempeh, on the other hand, is made by boiling soybeans and then fermenting the cooked and dehulled soybeans as a cake formed either between banana leaves or in simple packaging. This fermentation causes the beans to join together into a cake-like shape.

Packaging and Appearance

Tofu typically comes in a square block or rectangular shape, which can range from soft and creamy to firm and chewy, depending on the water content. Additionally, tofu can be found in different flavors and sizes, including smoked, sesame, garlic, or even tiny bite-sized pieces.

Tempeh typically comes packaged in small rectangular blocks and is usually more dense and solid than tofu. At times, it is textured with grains like rice, wheat, millet adding extra crunch to the bite.

The inside texture of tempeh differs from the outside texture, making it perfect for marinating and seasoning.

Consistency and Taste

Tofu does not have a strong taste on its own and needs to be marinated or cooked in a savory sauce for maximum flavoring. It has a soft, fluffy texture and is versatile for various cooking methods and styles, like frying, steaming, baking, or grilling.

On the other hand, tempeh has a distinct flavor of its own, with its characteristic nutty, earthy, slightly fermented taste that has a more pronounced grainy texture, and which is firmer than tofu. Tempeh has a chewy consistency with a hearty bite that does not break apart or melt as tofu does.

Caloric and Protein content

In terms of calories, tempeh and tofu have virtually the same content, around 200-300 calories per 100-gram serving, depending on the preparation and type. However, tempeh has a higher protein content than tofu, offering approximately 15 – 20 grams per serving compared to tofu’s 8-10 grams per serving.


Tofu has gained more popularity globally due to its versatility, easy availability, and neutral taste. While tempeh has recently gained more recognition as a vegan/vegetarian-friendly food, it is still unfamiliar to many people.

However, tempeh’s fermented characteristic is becoming increasingly popular among health and nutrition enthusiasts, and its protein and iron content and potential health benefits can help familiarize more individuals to this soybean-based food.

Final Thoughts

Tofu and tempeh are both excellent soybean-based products that are nutrient-dense and can form a solid base for various dishes. Tofu, being more popular, versatile, and neutral in flavor, can be used in a wide range of dishes, from desserts to savory dishes.

In contrast, tempeh has a native nutty flavor and is a tasty protein-rich ingredient that can be used as a meat substitute or a complete protein source. Understanding the difference between these two soy-based products can help individuals select the best option for their nutritional needs.

In conclusion, tofu and tempeh are both nutritious soy-based products that offer unique flavors and textures to a variety of dishes. Tofu, with its versatile nature and mild taste, can be prepared in numerous ways, while tempeh’s nutty flavor and firm texture make it an ideal meat substitute.

Both foods provide protein, essential nutrients, and health benefits, but it is crucial to choose non-GMO soybeans for their production. Incorporating tofu and tempeh into our diets can not only provide us with delicious and satisfying meals but also contribute to a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle.

So why not give these soybean products a try and experience the diverse flavors and health benefits they have to offer?

Popular Posts