What’s the Difference Between Tofu, Tempeh, and Seitan?

What’s the Difference Between Tofu, Tempeh, and Seitan?

  • Julie Cappiello
  • Julie Cappiello

Tofu, tempeh, and seitan are all products that can be used in place of meat. They’re all delicious, but very different and can be used in a variety of ways. Let’s break it down.


Also known as bean or soya curd, tofu is a soft, cheese-like food made of condensed soy milk pressed into tight blocks and mixed with nigari. While this product can be rather bland, tofu easily absorbs flavors of other ingredients, such as spices. Tofu has been a staple in Asian countries for more than 2,000 years!

Because of its versatility, tofu can be used in a multitude of dishes to make vegan versions of omelets, desserts, cheeses, and smoothies! Today, you can buy tofu in the produce section of many stores, and a variety of companies use it to create delicious vegan alternatives.

Cooking with tofu is not as scary as you think! Check out these simple tofu chilaquiles!

YUM! Recipe here.


Also known as wheat gluten, seitan first appeared during the sixth century as an ingredient in Asian cuisine and has been a common meat substitute for more than a thousand years.

Traditionally, seitan was the product of rinsing and cooking wheat dough to remove the starch, leaving a protein-dense substance that turned out to be an excellent meat alternative. Today, you can buy ready-made seitan at the store, and a variety of companies, including GardeinTofurky, and Upton’s, use it to create delicious mock meats.

You can also buy “vital wheat gluten” at most natural food stores. This powder is easily transformed into a dense, delicious meat waiting to be added to your favorite recipes. Seitan easily takes on the flavors of your favorite seasonings. It’s also protein-packed (60 grams per cup!), cholesterol-free, and low-carb.

And to sweeten the deal, it’s super affordable and relatively easy to prepare!

Check out these savory seitan barbecue ribs!

Recipe here.


This Indonesian staple, made by fermenting soybeans in banana leaves until a firm, earthy patty forms, has been a common meat substitute since around the 12th century. Tempeh contains more protein (31 grams per cup!) and dietary fiber than tofu, and its mild nutty flavor works great in a wide array of recipes.

Today, tempeh is readily available in a variety of brands, and you can buy it unseasoned and season it to your liking! Ready to get started cooking with tempeh? These Chesapeake tempeh cakes are sure to please!

Ugh, so good!! Recipe here.

So there you have it! While very different, tempeh, tofu, and seitan can make delicious vegan meals packed with protein and flavor.

For more recipes, check here and here.