I've been a vegetarian for over 20 years, so tofu, tempeh, and seitan are always stocked in my fridge. If you're new to the meat-free world, preparing and eating these new foods can be really intimidating. I'm here to break down the basics so you know how to choose the right one for your nutritional needs and what to expect from your first bite.
|Firm Tofu (1/2 cup)||Tempeh (1/2 cup)||Seitan (1/2 cup)|
Now that you know the nutritional stats, learn how these meat alternatives are made, what they taste like, and discover yummy recipes for preparing them after the break.
Tofu: This spongy, smooth, wet white food is made by curdling fresh hot soy milk with a coagulant. Yummy, huh? But really, it is, especially when cooked right. Tofu comes in block form and is often stored in water to prevent it from drying out. Tofu is sold in a variety of consistencies, ranging from silken (very soft) to super-extra firm. Since tofu has an extremely mild taste, when added to recipes, it takes on the flavor profile of whatever you're making. Tofu can be eaten plain and raw, marinated and baked, browned in a pan, grilled (yum!) or freeze-dried.
Here are some ways you can make tofu at home:
- Baked Tofu and Buckwheat Spring Salad
- Tofu Chili With Black Beans
- Green Curry Tofu With Rice Noodles
- Sesame Maple Roasted Tofu
Tempeh: This brownish and more textured soy product is made by fermenting cooked soybeans. Sounds pretty unappetizing, but it makes for a firm and chewy texture people might prefer over the often squishy tofu. Sold in long, flat rectangular cakes, it tastes so sweet, nutty, and almost earthy that you can just cube it and eat it raw. Tempeh can also be stir-fried, baked, breaded, or grilled. Although it's firm, it still absorbs the flavors around it, so it's an easy and versatile ingredient to add to any dish.
Check out these tempeh recipes:
Seitan: Also called wheat meat or mock duck, this animal alternative is made from wheat gluten, so it's a no-no if you're on a gluten-free diet. That also means it's an excellent option if you're trying to avoid or cut down on soy products. It's made by washing wheat flour dough with water until all the starch dissolves, which leaves an elastic mass that's cooked before being eaten. More similar to the look and consistency of meat, those who miss meat might prefer eating seitan. It's brownish in color, has a chewy texture, and just like tofu and tempeh, can take on whatever flavor you add to it. Wheat meat is delicious grilled, baked, or pan fried, and if you don't like it plain (and don't have time to marinate it yourself), many brands sell flavored seitan such as barbecue and teriyaki.
If you need some ideas, check out the recipes below:
Which meat alternative do you eat more often?