Tempeh makes meatless Mondays a whole lot more exciting.

Even if you're not a vegetarian, you've likely had tofu at some point. Maybe you even cook with it regularly. But have you heard of tempeh? It's definitely the less popular of the two, but it has a growing fan base — and for good reason. 

Tempeh, like tofu, is a meat alternative made from soy, but that's about where the similarities end. Tofu and tempeh are pretty different when it comes to flavor profile and nutritional makeup. If you're looking to incorporate more plant-based proteins into your diet, keep reading to learn everything you need to know about tofu and tempeh.

What Is Tofu, Exactly?

Tofu on white background
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You've probably wondered how soybeans go from their original form to those solid white blocks. Tofu is made from curdled soy milk, which is a liquid extracted from ground, cooked soybeans. The curds are then drained and processed into a block. Tofu originated in China but has since been widely adopted across the world. 

Tofu has become popular as a meat alternative because it is one of only a few plant-based foods that provides a complete source of protein. And it doesn't hurt that it's low in saturated fats and contains no cholesterol. 

While tofu has very little taste on its own, it tends to take on the flavor of the other ingredients it's paired with. This makes it ideal for flavorful dishes like stir-fries or soups

Related: Browse our entire collection of Tofu Recipes.

So, What Is Tempeh?

Tempeh sliced on cutting board with knife
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Tempeh, which originated in Indonesia, is made from whole soybeans that are cooked, fermented, and molded into a block. Often additional ingredients like brown rice, quinoa, or flax seeds are added. Unlike tofu's bland flavor profile, tempeh has a naturally nutty flavor. 

Because tempeh generally contains legumes, grains, nuts, or seeds, it's a very good source of protein and healthy fats, making it an ideal substitute for meats and other protein sources.

Tempeh vs. Tofu: Which Is Healthier?

While you can't go wrong with either plant-based protein, tempeh is generally considered to be the healthier option due to its rich nutrient profile. It contains more protein, fiber, and vitamins than tofu.

Tempeh is also fermented, and fermented foods are easier to digest and provide healthy gut bacteria. Perhaps the only downside to tempeh is its calorie count is higher than tofu's, but the nutrients it packs more than make up for this. 

But tofu is not without its advantages. Because tempeh is often made with additional ingredients, it may not be gluten-free, so keep that in mind if you have dietary restrictions. And although some may prefer the earthy flavor of tempeh, others will prefer tofu because its neutral flavor makes for endless culinary uses.

Tofu and tempeh side by side
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How to Cook Tempeh

You can cook tempeh many of the same ways you would cook tofu — basically anywhere you want to replace meat. Some find tempeh to be too bitter straight out of the package. If this is you, try steaming it before cooking. Do this by placing the tempeh in a saucepan and covering it with water. Then put a lid on the saucepan and let simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.

Need recipe inspiration? We have a few ideas:

Slice it up and sauté it, fry it, marinate it, bake it, or use it in stir-fries. You can even crumble it up by hand or in a food processor and use it in place of ground beef or pork. Try adding it to grains bowls, salads, soups, sandwiches, tacos, casseroles, for an extra dose of protein.

How to Store Tempeh

Tempeh should be stored in the refrigerator for up to seven days. Keep in mind that it's a fermented food, meaning it will continue to ferment with time, causing the flavor to become even richer.

If you don't use all your tempeh at once, simply wrap whatever's left in either parchment or wax paper, and return it to the fridge.