Tempeh and tofu are meat alternatives that probably every vegetarian has heard about. They are both made of soybean plant but the process is totally different. If you have never tried tempeh or tofu before or you simply want to eat less meat, let’s learn the difference between tempeh vs tofu.
What is tofu?
Tofu is made of condensed, unfermented soy milk in a process similar to making cheese. Soy milk is mixed with nigari coagulant, which is salt extracted from seawater. This is a natural coagulant that gives tofu a solid form and it is used in traditional tofu recipes. However, when you buy tofu at the store, have in mind that some tofu products are not made of natural coagulants but chemical ones.
Tofu looks like a white sponge. It doesn’t have a rich flavor, it’s neutral and usually takes on the flavor of the food you combine it with. Tofu is available in different textures so you can find firm blocks of tofu but also softer ones. Because of its different consistencies, you can eat baked or roasted tofu, you can fry it in a pan, put it in smoothies and soups.
What is tempeh?
Tempeh is also made of soy, but of fermented and pressed soybeans. That is the main difference between tempeh and tofu. Similar to tofu, you can prepare tempeh in all ways: baking, frying, on a grill, in a stew or a soup. Tempeh is always firm and it has a sweet and nutty taste. It also takes on the flavors of the food you are combining it with but it doesn’t have so neutral taste as tofu. You can buy plain tempeh or some other seasoned combinations such as tempeh with sesame or flax seeds, with rice or wheat etc. Seasoned tempeh can also contain added sugar and salt, so it’s always better to use plain one.
Tempeh and tofu nutrition facts
One block of tofu, that weighs 3.5 ounces (100gr) has 76 calories, 8 grams of protein, 2 grams of carbs and 5 grams of fat. On the other hand, the same portion of tempeh has 195 calories, 20 grams of protein, 8 grams of carbs and 11 grams of fat.
Tofu is rich in zinc, potassium, iron, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin B, C, K.
Tempeh is also rich in iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin B.
Thanks to the preparation process, tempeh is very rich in fiber, because it contains the whole soybean. When compared to tofu, tempeh is made in a better and healthier way but it is hard to say which is more nutrient.
- Tofu has less calories than tempeh
- Tempeh has more protein than tofu
- Tofu has less fat than tempeh
- Tempeh has more fiber
- Tofu has less carbs
- Tempeh is less processed than tofu
Tempeh vs tofu estrogen facts
Both tofu and tempeh are made of soy and it is widely known that soy is a phytoestrogen which is a type of estrogen that is a plant based. Soy contains two different isoflavones that behave like estrogen in our bodies. The amount of isoflavones varies from product to product.
Fresh tempeh (3 ounces) has 51.5 mg of isoflavones whereas cooked tempeh has 30.3. Tofu has 19.2 mg of isoflavones.
Of course, these amounts can vary from brand to brand, and you should take this information with a grain of salt.
Many people are afraid to consume soy products including tofu and tempeh because of the potential risk of increased cancer. The thing is, many studies couldn’t prove that soy is harmful to people. As a matter of fact, some studies show that soy can prevent cancer. If you are healthy you can eat tofu, tempeh and other soy products but similar to other food, don’t overeat.
People who should be cautious with soy intake are those with thyroid problems and with cancer history in the family.
Also, some studies show that women in menopause can consume tempeh safely because isoflavones (genistein) can reduce menopausal symptoms. However, if you or someone in your family had breast cancer, you should definitely not consume it.
Is tempeh easier to digest than tofu?
The answer is YES. Tempeh is prepared of fermented soybeans and you probably know that fermented food is very gut friendly. On the other hand, tofu is made from unfermented soy which can be bad for your stomach especially if you eat it on a daily basis.
Tempeh is easier to digest than tofu or vegetables that are high in protein because it is made of fermented soybeans. Thanks to natural fermentation, soy anti nutrients decompose and soybeans become softer. Proteins, fat and carbs found in soy are easier to digest because the fermentation process created enzymes that pre-digest them. Furthermore, bioactive peptides are more concentrated.
Apart from fermentation, there is another reason why tempeh is easier to digest. Tempeh is very rich in fiber and food rich in fiber is very beneficial for digestive tract. Furthermore, tempeh doesn’t cause flatulence and constipation.
Tempeh vs tofu – Is there a winner?
Both tempeh and tofu have good and bad sides but it seems that tempeh has more good ones. Not only is it rich in protein and fiber, but it is also less processed and easier to digest. On the other hand, tofu has neutral taste and can have a wider usage. Plus, it has less calories.
In the end, it is up to you which one you will choose to eat, or why not both?