Tofu vs. Tempeh: What's the Difference? And Which Is Better for You?

Tofu and tempeh are both enjoying a moment in the spotlight right now, and for good reason. These two soy-based cousins are rich in protein, and when seasoned and marinated, offer a delicious, meaty alternative to animal products. But while they are closely related, tempeh and tofu are slightly different in taste, texture, and nutritional value. Here, we dive into the differences, before guiding you through 16 delicious vegan recipes, each with tofu or tempeh as the star.

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What is the difference between tofu and tempeh?

Tofu and tempeh are undeniably similar. They are both made from soy, both versatile, and both popular plant-based cooking ingredients. But they are different in many ways. For a start, they come from different countries. While research suggests tofu likely originated in China, tempeh was first developed in Java, Indonesia. And because of this, they are produced in different ways.

Traditional Indonesian tempeh production involves fermenting soybeans with a specific type of mold called Rhizopus oligosporus. This binds the soybeans together into a firm cake-like texture. Tofu production, however, begins with making milk from soybeans. Coagulants are added to curdle the milk, which forms tofu curds. These are then pressed and shaped into blocks.

As a result of their different production processes, tempeh and tofu have differing textures. While tofu is smooth and soft, tempeh is firm, dense, and chewy. The taste also differs: tofu is bland and neutral and tempeh is a little more earthy and nutty.

Which is better for you, tempeh or tofu?

When it comes to nutrition, both tofu and tempeh are good protein sources, but tempeh is the winner. There are around 19 grams of protein in 100 grams of tempeh, while tofu contains less than half of this, at around 8 grams per 100 grams.

Due to the fermentation process, tempeh is also a better source of probiotics and fiber. It also contains more vitamins and minerals, including manganese, copper, and even B12 (although it is relatively low in this nutrient).

Tofu is still packed with goodness, however. It’s low in calories, and it contains iron, potassium, and calcium, too. In fact, it has double the amount of calcium than tempeh.

On top of this, both tempeh and tofu are high in isoflavones. These plant compounds, which mimic the effects of estrogen in the body, are linked with a potentially reduced risk of certain cancers and improved heart health.

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How to cook with tofu and tempeh

Tempeh and tofu can be cooked in similar ways, and both are best when marinated, seasoned, and added to dishes like curries, stir-fries, pastas, salads, sandwiches, and so much more. There are a few differences, however. Due to its softer texture, tofu is a better alternative to, say, feta or paneer cheese and it makes a great vegan scrambled egg, too. Tempeh, on the other hand, is firmer, and so works best as a mince or as a bacon alternative.

If you want to learn more about how to cook with tofu or tempeh (or both!), we’ve compiled some of our favorite vegan recipes below.

8 vegan recipes with tofu

VegNews.VeganEggSaladHannah Sunderani

1 Easy Vegan Tofu Egg Salad

This easy eggy salad, made with just under nine ingredients (including tofu and that all-important kala namak), is perfect for deli-style sandwiches and salads. For extra delicious texture, add pickles, celery, or capers.
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VegNews.BanhMi.RobinRobertsonWilliam and Susan Brinson

2 Vietnamese-Inspired Vegan Tofu Bánh Mì

Classic Vietnamese bánh mì is transformed into a vegan delight using hoisin-glazed tofu, vegan mayo, and crisp vegetables. It’s a bold and satisfying lunch that’s packed with delicious flavor.
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VegNews.Caprese

3 Quick and Easy Vegan Tofu Caprese

This delicious vegan caprese offers a quick, elegant, and dairy-free twist on the classic Italian dish. Instead of mozzarella, it’s made with soft tofu, which is served alongside traditional ingredients like tomatoes, basil, and balsamic vinegar.
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VegNews.PopcornChik'inFrancesca Bonadonna

4 Easy, Crispy Vegan Tofu Popcorn Chicken

Forget chicken nuggets, these tofu popcorn bites, which are made with extra-firm tofu, are just as crispy, meaty, and satisfying. Just like the animal version, they’re delicious with either sriracha mayo or a flavorful BBQ sauce.
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VegNews.SummerZucchiniKylie Perrotti

5 Vegan Whipped Tofu With Summery Basil Zucchini

This quick, creamy, and light dish is perfect for the warmer months. It comes together with just a handful of ingredients: velvety whipped tofu, stewed tomatoes, and perfectly cooked zucchini.
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VegNews.Sisig

6 Vegan Filipino Tofu and Mushroom Sisig

Sisig usually features pork, but instead, this recipe calls for sizzling tofu and mushrooms. It still has all the savory, sour, and fatty flavors (thanks to calamansi juice, coconut vinegar, and fiery chilis) as the original, though.
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VegNews.KoreanBBQSatayWade Hammond

7 Vegan Spicy Korean BBQ Tofu Satay

This tasty plant-based twist on Indonesian street food features marinated tofu skewers. With a fusion of smoky-sweet Korean flavors, it’s easy to make and perfect for appetizers or a meaty snack. For a full meal, pair them with rice, kimchi, green onion, and vegan fried egg.
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VegNews.TandooriTofuSkewersNadine Horn and Jörg Mayer

8 Vegan Tandoori Tofu Skewers With Yogurt Sauce

These irresistible tofu skewers, which are paired with a fiery marinade, are perfect for summer grilling. They’re meaty, packed with flavor, and are sure to go down a treat at your next outdoor gathering.
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8 vegan recipes with tempeh

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1

Smoky Tempeh, Mushroom, and Roasted Potato Breakfast Skillet

Packed with veggies, roasted potatoes, and vegan tempeh, this breakfast skillet makes for a satisfying morning meal. Serve with toast, plenty of avocado, and a drizzle of hot sauce.
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VegNews.SweetPotatoSaladWithTempeh.GenaHamshaw.800Gena Hamshaw

2 Sweet Potato Salad With Tempeh and Maple-Mustard Dressing

This simple yet satisfying salad features marinated tempeh, roasted sweet potatoes, and a sweet-and-salty maple mustard dressing. It’s the perfect hearty, nutritious, and flavorful lunchtime treat.
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VegNews.TempehPeanutSatayAshley Maddan

3 Vegan Smoky Tempeh Peanut Satay

These hearty tempeh skewers are marinated in vibrant Thai flavors and then lightly charred for a savory appetizer. If you want a more robust evening meal, pair it with lemongrass rice and garlicky vegetables.
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VegNews.Picatta.HannahKaminsky

4 Sheet Pan Vegan Tempeh Picatta

Picatta is usually made with chicken breast, but tempeh presents a delicious, protein-rich, plant-based alternative. When combined with zesty dairy-free lemon-caper sauce, you won’t miss the animal-packed original.
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5 Vegan Pumpkin Sage Pasta With Blackened Tempeh

Glazed tempeh and creamy pasta are a delicious combination, perfect for those evenings when you want a satisfying, cozy meal. If you want a little extra, pair it with roasted, marinated Brussels sprouts and garlic bread.
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VegNews.MisoMustardTempeh2Alexandra Shytsman

6 Miso-Mustard Tempeh With Roasted Baby Bok Choy

Another great way to enjoy tempeh: Pan-seared and infused with spicy mustard and salty miso. It’s umami-rich and loaded with flavor, especially when served with roasted baby bok choy.
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VegNews.SpicyKoreanBLT.FeatureClare Winfield

7 Korean-Inspired BLT With Spicy Gochujang Mayonnaise

This spicy twist on a classic BLT is made with tempeh, homemade gochujang mayo, and pickled red chilis for a little extra heat. It’s guaranteed to leave you craving more, and you certainly won’t miss the bacon.
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VegNews.TostonesKarla Salinari

8 Vegan Tostones Rellenos

Seasoned tempeh is the star of these Caribbean-inspired, flavor-packed plantain cups. When seasoned with a blend of aromatic spices, tempeh makes for a delicious ground beef alternative.
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