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Vegetarian Protein Spotlight: Seitan, Tempeh, and Tofu


By +Carolyn Richardson on Nov 16, 2011 10:00 AM in Healthy Eating

For the first time in 2010, in addition to eggs, lean meats, poultry, seafood, legumes, nuts and seeds, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans added soy products to its list of proteins to incorporate into meals.  Despite it being a $5.5 billion industry, meat eating Americans may still be apprehensive about replacing a piece of chicken with food associated with being vegetarian.  These high protein foods offer similar amounts of protein per serving as meat and can add a different taste and texture than you may be used to.

Seitan (SAY-tan)

Made from wheat gluten, seitan is generally used in products to mimic the taste and texture of meats.  If you’re a meat eater that ventured into a vegan or vegetarian restaurant to try the Hot Wings or Corned Beef, chances are your mock meat was made of seitan.  It is also used often in deli-style sandwiches and casseroles.  A serving generally packs anywhere between 18 to 24 grams of protein yet is low in fat and carbohydrates.  If you’re feeling adventurous try your hand at making seitan at home.

Tofu (TOH-FOO)

One of the most popular protein alternatives, tofu is the resulting curds from coagulated soymilk that is formed and cut into blocks. It is available dry and extra firm or fresh and flavored among other varieties.  A half cup serving of soft tofu yields 10 grams of protein and 94 calories with a fat content of about six grams. Often a major ingredient in veggie burgers, it is also added to soups, chili, and stews and may also be served with stir fry vegetables over grains like rice or quinoa.

Tempeh (tem-PAY)

The product of fermented soybeans, tempeh is generally sold in block form that looks similar to large Rice Krispie treats.  Tempeh has more protein per gram than tofu at around 30 per one cup serving.  Because it is more firm than tofu, it is generally baked or fried.  Tempeh has its own distinct taste as additional grains and extra flavoring are added to it.  Its calorie count stands at around 320 calories per cup and it has a substantial amount of calcium and iron to go along with almost 18 grams of fat.

What to Look For

The serving size of these protein alternatives vary widely across brands, so be attentive to how many servings there are per package.  Remember also that although all three are plant-based, they are processed foods, so be weary of their sodium content.  Some brands have up to a fifth of the daily recommended value per serving.  


Your thoughts…

Which of your favorite dishes do you add seitan, tempeh or tofu to?



Comments


As a vegan - people might think I eat a lot of fake meats but I don't. We rarely have analog meats. I would consider them more of a transition food or a special treat served now and then. However I do enjoy making a few dishes and have found that home made seitan is much better then store bought.

Here is another good seitan recipe:
http://www.theppk.com/2009/11/homemade-seitan/

A  flavorful recipe using tempeh
http://caloriecount.about.com/gado-sweet-potato-stew-recipe- r395665



Ninav, I LOVE theppk. I have about 4 of Isa Chandra Moskowitz's books and they are my "go-to" to find a great recipe to taste something different. I'm a reformed Vegan and I joined CC a few months ago when I was instructed to watch my salt intake. 

I try not to go for the meat-alternatives because of the high sodium and some of them taste so much like meat, but they do taste great. Gardein, Morningstar and Boca carry Vegan products (for those who don't know).



lavidab77  theppk is the best! I love all of their cookbooks. CC has some great tools for tracking food intake. Glad you found your way here.  Boca burgers are one of my husband's favorite for a quick meal.



Soy has potential issues, look them up.  Don't try and make something meat.  Just eat whole plant foods as nature intended and eat as much of it raw and organic as possible.  No wonder someone recommends soy, it's one of the only crops grown anymore.



I used to make my own seitan when I was vegan, but now I worry about it killing my stomach since it's essentially pure gluten.

The most healthful of the three would be tempeh because it's fermented, provided the soybeans used are organic and non-GMO. I never liked tempeh because it tastes too much like mushrooms to me.

I would never eat Morningstar or Boca because of hexane. Gardein at least uses non-GMO soybeans, but it's not organic and it's still heavily processed.

They say soy is healthy and a good alternative to other protein sources, but that's because it's putting money in their pockets. Also, if you eat non-organic, GMO soy, you're hurting people too. There's a small German documentary about the effects of non-organic soy farming on people in South America. The pesticides are causing Chernobyl-like deformities in the children growing up there. So you eat your Boca at a cost. 

http://youtu.be/mqXId_-dTbw



I'm not a vegetarian, but I do love eating vegetarian meals that my mom prepare. Tempeh, fried with seasoning, and I love having tempeh mixed into a stir fry. Tofu is good with soups and vegetables. Seitan, I bet that's like fake meat, so I never wanted to even give it a try and if I had, I never liked it.


I do not care for tofu!



Tofu is not so bad when it's cooked properly! I was one of those vegetarians who hated it because I never strained it and it also frightened me. Invest some time in removing all the water! Though, seitan is probably my favorite protein and I definitely recommend making it! Store bought mock meat is horrific and contains unnecessary ingredients so, go fresh and invest in some gluten flour :) Isa Chandra Moskowitz's seitan recipe is excellent!!



Soy products and Soy are not good for us.  Please do your homework on Soy and Soy products .  Bad for someone with Thyroid condition and we know that there are a lot of undiagnosed thyroid conditions out there. 



I stopped using Soy years ago because I read bad things about but cow's milk is bad too

what to do what to do

I like almond beverage and rice but you can't put these in coffee lol and yes coffee is bad too



Soy may not but suitable for everyone. But, I don't have a thyroid condition and but I have ulcerative colitis which makes most foods intolerable. Soy is not one of them.



Soy is evil.... and is there such a thing as "non-GMO" soybeans? Monsanto has taken over the world!



Question:

Where do I find these things in the grocery store? What aisle are they in generally? I shop at Wegman's, so if anyone knows specifically where they're sold at Wegman's, that would be awesome.

I have also heard some bad things about soy products and am hesitant to make them a big part of my diet. Then again, I think I'm just biased, because I hear bad things about dairy and meat all the time, but I still eat those regularly.

Maybe it's a matter of, "I've always eaten dairy and meat and never had a problem, but I never ate soy regularly, so it makes more sense to continue leaving it out if there's a risk involved." ?

I've always wanted to learn to cook with tofu and other meat substitutes, but I a) never knew where to find them in the store, b) worried they'd be more expensive than meat, and c) didn't know who would be willing to eat it with me. Tongue out

Hopefully the next CC blog post will be some recipes for how to use these things and make them less intimidating for those of us raised on regular old meat...



themcmaster - I guess it depends on the particular Wegmans. In the Wegmans' stores here (PA), tofu, tempeh and seitan are all kept in the refrigerated cases in the natural foods section. If your Wegmans doesn't have a natural foods section, I suggest asking at the customer service counter. (Note: homemade seitan really does taste better if you have the time...)

Re: "bad soy" Yeah - some forms of soy should be avoided. Seitan is non-soy so no worries there. Tempeh is fermented soy and generally considered to be a highly safe form of soy. Be a little more careful with tofu - go with organic. As some other posters have mentioned or inferred, the worst offenders are the highly processed meat substitutes. Read packaging carefully - look for organics and for a non-GMO symbol or seal. Cost-wise ... some of it gets pricey. Your own cooking is always going to taste better and cost less.

As for recipes, there are oodles of good cookbooks out there. I highly recommend anything by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. But if you just want to dip your toes in, the forums on the website ninav shared is amazing (www.theppk.com). Plus, the forum regulars (and Isa, of course) are crazy helpful and always willing to answer questions and offer advice. You can find The PPK on Facebook too.

A final note on tofu, especially for tofu-haters: Pressing can make a big difference, as darlingjeffie mentioned. But try buying a package and throwing it in the freezer. Thaw it out a couple days later, then drain and press out the excess water. You'll find that thawed tofu has a dramatically different texture - firmer, chewier and much more palatable for those looking for a meat-like chewing experience. I always use thawed for tofu steaks or in stir-fies when I don't want the cubes to break apart.

Happy experimenting!



When I was not on birth control I would eat one soy yogurt exactly one week after my period started and then I could time almost to the hour when my next period would start.  Eating the yogurt a couple days earlier made my period start earlier.

Is my body inordinately sensitive to the estrogens in soy, or have other women noticed something similar? 



Original Post by: toroneh

I stopped using Soy years ago because I read bad things about but cow's milk is bad too

what to do what to do

I like almond beverage and rice but you can't put these in coffee lol and yes coffee is bad too


Soy works for many not for others. A blanket statement isn't really accurate. O have done extensive research on this topic. The Okinawans, Japanese and other Asian contries do EXTREMELY well as so do many, many vegetarians and other soy- consuming individuals. There are those- women who are estrogen positive, people with thyroid problems and other soy sensitive individuals it does not work for. Just like whole wheat and gluten, and nuts, and dairy, everything has a school of people that have allergies to certain things. To add to this, the higher fat, gmo, artificial, and other non organic products for soy, and other foods can cause further misunderstanding and things like "fake meats" are in my experience not healthy either. HOWEVER, lets take an example:

"Jo so and so is obese and eats fast food daily. Due to a heart attack he has eliminated fast food, has gone through therapy and his nutritional program consists of Non-GMO soy, nuts, grains and fruit and vegetables....."

SEe the individuality here?

Soo not to cause an argument, just adding a perspective.

Further examples- broccoli, raw cabbage and othe rvegetables raw can cause hinder thyroid. They also are not "good" for people with IBS' believe em I know- so it can be said, to me, broccoli is not good for you- of course this is far from the truth!

I have also had people I train not tolerant of almonds due to thyroid. Intersting.



Original Post by: ninav

As a vegan - people might think I eat a lot of fake meats but I don't. We rarely have analog meats. I would consider them more of a transition food or a special treat served now and then. However I do enjoy making a few dishes and have found that home made seitan is much better then store bought.

Here is another good seitan recipe:
http://www.theppk.com/2009/11/homemade-seitan/

A  flavorful recipe using tempeh
http://caloriecount.about.com/gado-sweet-potato-stew-recipe- r395665


what a great website that Punk kitchen dear. I have never tried saitan, but I wanto to do it soon. Thanks.



Original Post by: lazatiger

I used to make my own seitan when I was vegan, but now I worry about it killing my stomach since it's essentially pure gluten.

The most healthful of the three would be tempeh because it's fermented, provided the soybeans used are organic and non-GMO. I never liked tempeh because it tastes too much like mushrooms to me.

I would never eat Morningstar or Boca because of hexane. Gardein at least uses non-GMO soybeans, but it's not organic and it's still heavily processed.

They say soy is healthy and a good alternative to other protein sources, but that's because it's putting money in their pockets. Also, if you eat non-organic, GMO soy, you're hurting people too. There's a small German documentary about the effects of non-organic soy farming on people in South America. The pesticides are causing Chernobyl-like deformities in the children growing up there. So you eat your Boca at a cost. 

http://youtu.be/mqXId_-dTbw


Thanks for sharing this video!  It just reinforces my belief that Monsanto is the devil. A great point the video made is that the vast majority of GMO soy is used in animal feed. That means that if we're consuming conventional animals and their products(milk, meat, and eggs), we are contributing to the deformities shown in the film.   But, until the cost comes down, most people won't be able to afford organic animal products. Much more affordable to eat organic plant-based foods. 



Original Post by: christi462

Soy is evil.... and is there such a thing as "non-GMO" soybeans? Monsanto has taken over the world!


If you purchase organic soy products, they are non GMO.  And yes, Monsanto is the devil! lol



And soy isn't the only crop they've gotten their hands on..

http://www.disabled-world.com/fitness/gm-foods.php



I like using Quorn - it's a fungus (mushroom) based meat substitute that tastes awesome and really does have the right texture.  I like firm tofu as well.

http://www.quorn.com



Original Post by: mikecazzx

Soy has potential issues, look them up.  Don't try and make something meat.  Just eat whole plant foods as nature intended and eat as much of it raw and organic as possible.  No wonder someone recommends soy, it's one of the only crops grown anymore.


The majority of soy is not grown for human consumption, Mike, and it's not really food grade soy. Just like varieties of dogs, there are varieties of soybean plants.



I love tempeh. It has such a rich taste and works great for dishes that you want to resemble poultry. I also like TVP, but it's really bad for one to eat frequently. I use TVP for my mock fried chicken so it's not meant to be healthy, but that was until I tried Isa's chickpea cutlets. For me, it was never the meat that I liked, but the crispy breading and the texture. I would always pick the crispiest most breaded peices. My attempt at homemade seitan was a failure and I haven't tried again, but I do like lightlife's smart brand of BBQ "pulled pork".



Genuinely curious: what does a vegan with soy and gluten allergy do? It seems to limit the remaining options a lot ...


I miss eating seitan. I used to love 'fake meat' but I had to give it up when I found out I was gluten intolerant. There are no good gluten free 'fake meats' out there... but I do love tofu.



http://www.vegfamily.com/health/vegan-soy-information.htm

Here's a decent article on the pros and cons. 

Honestly, even on days I don't eat soy products I usually meet or exceed the protein needed on a vegetarian diet.   Its all in doing things in moderation and what is best for your individual health needs.

 

 



Original Post by: mikecazzx

Soy has potential issues, look them up.  Don't try and make something meat.  Just eat whole plant foods as nature intended and eat as much of it raw and organic as possible.  No wonder someone recommends soy, it's one of the only crops grown anymore.


Wow, everyone has been busy on this post.  Fresh and unprocessed seems to be the most wholesome, filling, satisfying meal. I feel really bad when I throw back a 1/2 bag (or whole bag) of Morningstar Chick'n Grillers.  For those Vegan/Vegetarians or Meat Eaters that just want to try veggie for a while pick up a copy of Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. She worked with a dietician to calculate nutritional facts of her recipe's.  I've tried the sweet potatoe bisquits and Cauliflower Spinach Lasagna. Amazing dishes!



Whoops, I didn't mean to quote the Mikecazzx.



I like the extra firm tofu. I like to put it in vegetable fried rice.



I love tempeh!!  I like to slice a block up into little rectangles (like 2"x1/2", 1/4" thick) and toss them in the cast iron skillet with a tablespoon or two of olive oil till it is golden brown and kind of crispy.  Sometimes I'll sprinkle a little seasoning on there.  Cajun spice works well.  Then I dip them in natural ketchup, ranch or BBQ sauce just like french fries!  They are like glorious, protein packed nutty little nibblettes of joy.

As a side note, my husband complains that tempeh tastes like cardboard, but I just love the stuff.  To each their own I guess.

I can't do seitan because of the gluten.  I used to use tofu in a lot of stir-fry have moved away from tofu and try to keep my soy intake low.  I just love tempeh though.  Good to know that soy is better for you when it's fermented!

I get the stuff from Trader Joe's.  It is organic, but it doesn't say Non-GMO.  So does that mean it definitely does have GMO soy?



If it is labelled organic it is not allowed to contain GMOs


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