Tofu and tempeh—you've probably heard of at least one of the two. Maybe you think of them as big globs of soy that vegetarians turn to as an alternative. However, even though I'm not a vegetarian myself, I still love me a sofritas burrito bowl at Chipotle, a grilled tofu salad, or a filling stir-fry. Both tofu and tempeh are loaded with health benefits and are super versatile. However, what's the difference between the two? They're both soy products, after all. It's time for the ultimate showdown: tofu vs tempeh. Which soy product will rule Meatless Monday? 

What is Tempeh?

Tempeh is an Indonesian soy product and a popular alternative to meat. Tempeh is made from soybeans that are soaked, hulled, cooked, and slightly fermented, which are then placed in a mold to make a patty-like shape, similar to a veggie burger. Some companies add other grains, such as barley, along with different spices. Tempeh is often sold in a packaging similar to deli meats. 

What is Tofu?

Sarah Dale

Most people are more familiar with tofu than tempeh. Tofu (or bean curd) is made through a process of curdling fresh, heated soy milk, and then adding a coagulating substance. However, tofu it is made from unfermented soy. Tofu is also much more processed than tempeh. Tofu is usually sold in sealed containers that are kept at room temperature or in the fridge. When opened, all tofus needs to be rinsed, covered with water and kept in a refrigerated container.

Which one is healthier?

vegetable, broccoli, chicken, rice, stir-fry, pepper, meat
Katherine Baker

It can be a challenge deciding which soy product to use in your vegetarian recipes. Tofu is packed with amino acids, iron, and calcium. Tempeh has about 30g of protein per cup, while tofu has about 20g. However, tempeh is much higher in fiber than tofu. Tempeh is fermented, while tofu is not. Through the fermentation, the phytic acid found in soybeans is broken down, which helps improve digestion. 

Because it's less processed than tofu, tempeh can give you more nutrients overall, but both tempeh and tofu are low in fat, versatile, and are super filling. And both glorious forms of soy can be used to make all of your favorite recipes. 


vegetable, pepper, onion, meat, saute, carrot
Kimberly Kao

Tempeh has a slightly earthy and sweet flavor. Tofu, however, doesn't really have a flavor, but it takes on the flavor of whatever you're making. Tofu has a soft and spongy texture, while tempeh is firm and chewy. 

Tofu is great for stir-fry, salads, and tofu scrambles (an irresistible alternative to scrambled eggs). Tofu can also act as ground meat and be used to make burgers, tacos, and chili. Although it seems odd, silken tofu is can be blended into smoothies and used for vegan baking

vegetable, salad, lettuce, cabbage
Katherine Baker

Tempeh is also a good addition to stir-fries, but its firm texture allows it to stay all in one piece in a freshly-tossed salad or a hot, steamy bowl of soup. If you want more protein after a workout or a long day of class, tempeh can also be used to make burgers, sandwiches, and breakfast hashes. It can even be baked, coated with tons of spices, and eaten on its own

Tofu and tempeh aren't just sponge-like blobs of processed soybeans. They are protein-packed, rich in fiber, and are super good for your gut. Try them both next Meatless Monday, and you won't even think about the meat.