Just the other day, I was whipping up one of my specialties — tempeh pasta with red sauce. Pan-seared tempeh crumbles, sautéed green onion, any type of pasta, and marinara. It’s delicious and super easy.
As I handed my mom her bowl of sauce-covered noodles, she asked me what the meat substitute was.
“It’s tempeh” I answered. What came next was just evil.
“Oh, cool. That is like tofu, right?”
NO, MOM. It is NOT like tofu. I was furious. Tempeh is this beautiful fermented food crafted by the Gods themselves from soybeans. We humans are lucky to have it in the pantry. Tofu is just, well, tofu.
Here is why you should use tempeh instead of tofu indefinitely.
1. The Scrumptious Taste
I have heard that people do not like tempeh because it is bitter. In reality, they totally goofed on the cooking procedure. Similar to how plantains open up with a beautiful flavor after some heat, tempeh needs a little TLC.
First, take your brick of tempeh out of the package and give it a little hot water rinse. That's really all it needs since you are going to be then cooking it which will do wonders to it anyway.
If you are still on the fence, cut the tempeh into smaller pieces, and steam it. Problem solved.
From here, tempeh shines. Where tofu is always touted as this amazing blank canvas to which you can impart any flavor, tempeh comes with a subtle nutty profile that amplifies with heat.
Once you cook the tempeh in whatever way you choose (baked or stir-fried are my favorites) you can add the sauce. “Can” is too weak; you must add the sauce. Tempeh is the premiere sauce vessel in the vegan food panty.
2. The Texture…THE TEXTURE.
Beyond the better flavor, the texture of tempeh is a million times better than tofu. Any other opinions are just false.
To get tofu to have a BITE, you have to do a lot to it. Press it, freeze it, freeze it again, press it again. Even after all that, the spongy texture still lurks in the background.
Tempeh is different. After cooking, you have your bite. In my expert opinion and if cooked correctly, tempeh is the least processed vegan option that could face off with meat any day of the week.
The mouthfeel of tempeh makes is perfect for a pizza topping, a ground ‘beef’, sliced for ‘bacon’, cut up for ‘steak tips’, you name it! Tempeh has your back. (Tofu completely does not).
3. In Terms of the Numbers, Tempeh is a Better Answer to “Where do you get your protein?”
We’ve all heard it. Non-vegans immediately become registered dieticians the second they find out you are vegan.
All vegans are tired of answering this pesky, nonsensical question. I know I am. But, if you do still like to chat up with the omnivores about proteins, tempeh is really the star of the show here.
In a single cup of tempeh, you get 31 grams of protein. Tofu has only 20 per cup.
So, if you are worried about protein on a vegan diet, or just want to fend off those vegan haters, add tempeh to your ingredient rotation.
(Also, it is worth mentioning that tempeh also has more fiber, iron, and potassium than its little cousin tofu).
In the (Soy-Based) End…
Tempeh offers an exceptional flavor, texture, and nutrient profile that leaves tofu in the soy-based dust.
Any sane person should drop tofu like a hot potato and pick up tempeh on your next grocery run. Trust me, once you master the easy cooking of tempeh, you will be grateful you did.
Even though I believe it to be an objective fact of this universe we are in that tempeh is superior to tofu, either one is a great option if you are cutting out animals from your diet.
But tempeh is better.