When I changed my diet to plant-based it was Thanksgiving 2008. I was attempting to prepare a turkey for the first time. Having to remove its innards was such a horrible experience I simply decided then and there to go vegan. That night I ate steamed tofu and plain mashed potatoes and have been plant-based ever since. 🍉🍓🍎🐥🐔🐓
I knew about tofu but had never heard of tempeh or seitan, much less how to pronounce it — (temp-“A”) (sai-TAHN) — or what the heck to do with it.
So I turned to the internet for help. Oh She Glows blog was just getting started. FatFreeVegan, Post Punk Kitchen, 101 Cookbooks, and Show Me Vegan were some of my go-to sites for recipes (and still are today).
Through trial and many errors I have discovered some of my favorite ways to prepare the three.
Tofu, an excellent source of protein, iron and calcium, is made from soymilk that has been curdled and pressed into blocks. It is a very versatile ingredient. The firm or extra firm tofu as well as sprouted tofu can be found in the cold section of your market. This type of tofu can be crumbled for a kale, potato & tofu scramble (recipe follows), or diced into cubes for a thai-paste curry……or in a soup recipe of veggies and cashew cream from Oh She Glows. Tofu (firm or extra firm) can also be processed (or mashed) with nutritional yeast flakes, lemon juice, salt and basil to form a tofu ricotta for lasagna or for these delicious eggplant roll-ups from Minimalist Baker. Silken tofu is often found in dry goods in the Asian section. Soft, firm, and extra firm have produced very similar results for my recipes. My go-to silken tofu recipes are:
tofu sour cream (box of silken tofu, 1 juiced lemon, & salt to taste blended) and chocolate tofu pudding (1/2 box of silken tofu, 2 TBS agave, and 2 TBS cacao–or unsweetened cocoa powder or melted dark chocolate–blended until smooth and cooled in fridge) or try this healthy version of chocolate silk pie from Minimalist Baker. I use my handy immersion blender to whip these up.
Super Speedy Tofu & Bean Scramble for 2: Saute in a pan with a tiny bit of olive oil (or vegetable broth for oil-free): 3 cloves minced garlic & 1/2 box of firm or extra firm tofu crumbled with fingers (not silken but sprouted is okay) + add 1/4 tsp paprika, 1/8 tsp cumin. Saute this about 2-3 minutes on medium heat before adding 1 TBS salsa and 1 handful of spinach or kale.
Cover and cook on low heat for a minute or 2 more more (until spinach is wilted) then add 1 heaping TBS nutritional yeast flakes (for a cheezy flavor, adding more to taste) and about 1/2 cup of cooked beans (kidney, black, or pinto are all great choices). If you happen to have any leftover potatoes, add a small handful (diced small) to the pan.
Serve tucked in a warm tortilla with avocado slices or guacamole (mashed avocado, salsa, salt & pepper), or melted vegan cheese, like Chao brand from Field Roast. If flour-free serve over a baked potato & broccoli with my vegan cheez queso (leaving out the potatoes in the scramble).
Recipes for tofu from around the web:
- Vegan Richa has a tofu, mashed potato & peanut sauce recipe that looks amazing.
- These Seared Tofu Banh Mi Sandwiches from Love & Lemons look scrumptious!
- Show Me Vegan, although no longer actively posting, has some great recipes for the beginner vegan chef, such as the Sesame Tofu Bowl with Peanut Dressing.
Tempeh is the least processed of the three, made from fermented soybeans. It has a nice chewy, earthy flavor and soaks up flavors well (as does tofu). Tempeh contains 16 grams of protein per seving + lots of fiber & is a good source of calcium and iron.
There are so many ways to use tempeh! Crumble it in chili or in a tomato sauce or make tempeh meatballs or burgers (recipes below)…
…Cube it for a warm kale & butternut squash saute OR in a fresh salad instead with a creamy tahini-garlic dressing + add toppings of walnuts & dried cranberries, OR using these same ingredients turn it into a sandwich and toast until warm and crunchy…. …Tempeh sliced in thin strips and wrapped in a warm tortilla with melted vegan cheese, steamed kale, quinoa, garlic & slathered with guacamole or hummus is my husband’s favorite.
If tempeh is simmered in water before baking, it will take away some of the bitterness tempeh can have + it won’t be as dry after baking in the oven. I personally skip this step & just bake. To simmer tempeh, place it whole (or halved) in a skillet of boiling water + 2-4 TBS tamari or soy sauce (optional), turning down to low heat for 10-20 minutes or until liquid has evaporated. Serve as is or proceed to baking, crumbling for a chili, cubing for a salad, etc.
To bake tempeh, place on 2 sheets of foil at 425 for 20-30 min (flipping halfway) with tamari, oregano, onion flakes & garlic powder + a dash of cayenne for heat.
Store tempeh in fridge for 5 days or freezer for long-term until ready to use.
Tempeh can also be sauteed (simmering beforehand is optional) like in this recipe: Southern Thai Tempeh Coconut Curry: A tropical southern Thai recipe where Thai basil and eggplant, coconut curries, & homemade spicy pastes abound. Save time by using a store-bought red curry paste. For this delicious, ready-in-10-minute curry: Saute in a soup pot (or a deep skillet) 1 minced shallot & 3 cloves garlic, 1/2 chopped red bell pepper & 1 cup mushrooms + 1/2 block of tempeh diced into cubes. Let this saute for about 5 minutes in 2 TBS tamari–a low-sodium & gluten-free soy sauce–and 2-4 TBS of veggie broth.
Next add 1 cup (+ 1/2 cup more) of veggie broth turning up heat until it boils then turn down to simmer adding in 5 tsp of red curry paste, a few handfuls of chopped sugar snap or snow peas, 1 small pre-cooked potato cubed, and 1 cup of cooked kidney beans. Turn heat up again for 3 minutes then down to low & add 1 can of coconut milk, simmering until warm (without letting it boil). Enjoy this soup over freshly chopped spinach, rice, a squirt of fresh lime, and Sriracha sauce.
More Ways to Use Tempeh from Around the Web:
- Keepin’ It Kind has a meaty chili that is full of flavor.
- Then there is the TLT sandwich from 101 Cookbooks + a recipe for potato & tempeh curry.
- Tempeh bacon anyone? Try it with a salad, or served with the tofu scramble, or tucked in a sandwich of lettuce, tomato, avocado & dijon mustard.
- These tempeh meatballs from Minimalist Baker would make a great meatball sub topped with your favorite marinara sauce & melted vegan cheese!
- This kid-friendly Tempeh Bolognese w/ Gnocchi recipe looks like a quick & tasty weeknight supper.
Then there is seitan known to some as “wheat meat”. It can easily be made at home but can be store-bought and cooks up in mere minutes. R likes the Upton’s brand at Whole Foods–ingredients include water, vital wheat gluten, soy sauce, whole wheat flour, garlic, salt, & onion. I simply rinse it and chop into bite-sized pieces. It only needs about 3-5 minutes to brown.
It can be stir-fried with crunchy veggies like snow peas, cabbage and carrots then topped with a peanut sauce. It is great in hearty stews, and my husband’s favorite, backpacker seitan burritos (recipe follows).
Backpacker Fuel: Seitan Burritos! Either as a burrito or a burrito bowl with seitan, kale, and brown rice and topped with guacamole, this meal takes just 10 minutes to prepare and is a healthy, clean, protein-packed dinner!
Saute in a lightly-oiled pan 4-6 minced cloves garlic, 1 tsp paprika (I used smoked paprika), pinch of cayenne & 1 package of seitan cut into bite-sized pieces. Let it cook about 3-5 minutes on med heat, adding some water if sticking, then throw in a handful of kale with a small drizzle of tamari (veggie broth works also) & 1 cup cooked pinto beans (or kidney or white beans). For a cheezy burrito, wrap it up in a warm tortilla with melted vegan cheese.
Recipes for seitan from around the web:
- Show Me Vegan’s Mexican Vegetable Stew with Cilantro Lime Rice is one of the best seitan stew recipes I have had.
- Seitan is great for making sandwiches such as a Greek gyro from Veg Kitchen or check out this long list of seitan sandwiches.
- Or skewered for kabobs.