Tempeh, Tofu, Seitan, and Jackfruit: What They’re Made of and How to Enjoy Them

September 14th, 2015

Chances are you’ve seen some delicious recipes that call for some interesting ingredients that might be a bit unusual. Foods like tempeh, tofu, seitan, and jackfruit, are rapidly taking the spotlight in dishes that are perfect for Meatless Monday meals. These foods add the texture and protein we often crave without using any meat at all – but what are they made of, and what’s the difference between them?


Tempeh is growing in popularity in the US, and has begun showing up on restaurant menus and grocery store shelves. Originally from Indonesia, tempeh is made of soy that has been fermented with natural cultures. The fermentation process turns the raw soy into a fairly firm cake-like consistency.

Tempeh is known for providing over 18 grams of protein per serving, and easily-digestible B12 vitamins. The food as an innate nutty flavor, but takes on the taste of spices an marinades well (just like its cousin, tofu).

Bell Pepper Tempeh Fajitas, Meatless Monday

Meatless Monday


Tofu is one of the most popular meat substitutes, and is an essential ingredients in East Asian and Southeast Asian cuisine. Tofu is made by coagulating fresh soy milk (made from raw or sprouted soy beans) until curds form, pressing the curds to release the remaining liquid, and cooling the resulting blocks of curd. Differences in how the tofu is pressed account for the differences in texture between silken/soft tofu and regular/firm tofu.

Tofu is known for its ability to soak up flavors of spices and marinades, and is popular in healthy recipes as a robust source of protein and minerals that is entirely cholesterol free.

Honey Glazed Tofu and Plum Summer Rolls, Robin Asbell

Robin Asbell


Seitan (pronounced say-tan) is made of protein-rich wheat gluten, and boasts an impressively meat-like texture. Because of this texture and its ability to pick up flavors in cooking, seitan is frequently used in restaurants as meat substitutes like faux-duck. Seitan can be purchased seasoned and prepared, and is made by combining vital wheat gluten with water and any desired spices.
Seitan is known for its texture, but it is also a prominent source of protein with up to 36 grams of protein per serving (more than tofu or tempeh) and has a high concentration of carbohydrates per serving.

Seitan Cheeseburger Pizza, Upton’s Naturals

Upton's Naturals


Jackfruit is a tree fruit indigenous to tropical regions, and has recently been making waves in western meatless cooking. The flesh of the fruit is highly versatile and is perfectly healthy to consume raw or cooked in a recipe to mimic or replace meat.

Jackfruits are high in protein and potassium, and are a rare example of fruits that are high in essential B-complex vitamins including B-6 (pyridoxine), niacin, riboflavin, and folic acid.

BBQ Jackfruit Sandwiches with Avocado Slaw, Minimalist Baker

Minimalist Baker