photo by The Vegan Project.
Tofu, Tempeh, Seitan… Oh my!
With so many faux meat, replacement protein, just plain tasty, whatever you want to call it options, it is easy to be confused about what exactly each of these products contains. Well I’m here to help break it down for you.
The classic veg head staple. The bean curd. The vegan chameleon; the food that can literally taste like anything you like.
What it is: Soy milk coagulated into blocks for your convenience.
What to do with it: Stir fried, sautéed, baked, blended, deep fried, etc. Marinating tofu is a good way to soak up a specific flavor, considering tofu’s natural flavor is very mild.
Health benefits: Tofu has a low calorie count and relatively large amounts of protein. It is high in iron and depending on the coagulants used in manufacturing (e.g. calcium chloride, calcium sulfate, magnesium sulfate), it is often high in calcium and/or magnesium. Woah tofu!
What it is: Originated in Indonesia and brought around the world since. Like tofu, tempeh is made of soy beans. However, tempeh is a whole soy bean food, which makes it higher in protein than tofu. Specialty tempehs may be made from other types of beans, wheat, or may include a mixture of beans and whole grains depending on your brand.
What to do with it: Grill, bake, shish-kabob it, sautee, you name it. Marinating takes longer that it does for tofu, but is still a good idea. The best sandwich I ever had was called a TLT, Tempeh, Lettuce and Tomato. Add some Veganaise on whole wheat bread, so very good.
Health benefits: High in protein, high in carbohydrates, and also high in B12! Every vegan wants more B12 in their diet.
photo from Veggie Diva’s Kitchen. See here for recipe.
What it is: Seitan, also called ‘wheat meat’ is a protein substance made almost entirely from gluten. Seitan has a surprisingly similar look and texture of meat when cooked, making it a popular meat substitute for new veg heads. Seitan is high in protein and low in fat, and used in the popular brand Tofurky.
What to do with it: Like tempeh, seitan is a really good substance for shish-kabobs (can you tell I like shish-kabobs) as well as tacos, enchiladas, and other traditional Mexican dishes. Seitan is super easy to cook with because it usually comes pre-cooked and all you have to do is warm it up with the rest of your meal. Super easy, super filling.
Health benefits: Being made from wheat, seitan is vegan but not gluten free, so obviously this product is not recommended for those with gluten intolerances. For the rest of us, seitan seems to be a pretty good source of protein, carbohydrates, and is super filling. 16 grams of protein per 3.5 oz serving, which is 40% more than a serving of tofu and more protein supplied by two medium sized eggs, without the cholesterol. All hail Seitan.