Soybean as Tofu v/s Tempeh: Which is Healthier for you?


As we embark on a journey to adopt a healthier lifestyle, we often need to make consciously healthier food choices. For vegetarians and vegans, soy protein proves to be the best choice as a dairy as well as a meat replacer while meeting the protein needs. This articles deep dive from why to eat soybeans, into the popular soy foods - tofu and tempeh.

Why Soy-Based foods in the Diet:

  • Rich in protein: Soy based foods are a complete source of protein, with all the nine essential amino acids. They are known for their high protein content, which is even more than eggs, meat and milk.
  • Nutrient Density: Soy-based foods are not only rich source of protein, fibre and omega 3 fatty acids, but also provide vitamins [vitamin B-complex, especially riboflavin, and folate, and vitamin-K], minerals [manganese, iron, calcium, and magnesium] and antioxidants [polyphenols and sub polyphenol - isoflavones].
  • Heart Health: Since soybean is low in saturated fats, while enriched with omega 3 fatty acids and fibre. A soy rich diet can benefit in lowering cholesterol levels and supporting cardiovascular well-being.
  • Lower blood pressure: Being a natural source of isoflavones and amino acid - arginine, soy has proven to regulate blood pressure levels.
  • Bone health: Soy isoflavones has shown to improve bone health in postmenopausal women, while managing its associated symptoms such as hot flashes.
  • Weight Management: The high protein content of soy based foods aid in appetite control by increasing satiety and decreasing hunger. That said, a recent study found that soy snacks are better than high fat snacks as they regulate appetite, and satiety, thereby managing weight by reducing calorie intake.
  • Other Health Benefits of Soy: Soy consumption has been associated with protection against inflammation, certain cancers, diabetes by improving glucose metabolism, relief from depressive symptoms, and better skin health – contributing to overall health and wellness. Consuming 25 grams of soy protein per day has shown LDL- lowering effects.
  • Environmental Sustainability: Choosing soy-based foods reduces environmental impact, supports sustainability, and minimises ecological footprint.

Not all soy products are equally beneficial. A general rule to follow is to look for minimally processed soy foods to get more of the vitamins, minerals and benefits associated with soybeans. Some of the minimally processed soy foods include: soybeans, tofu, tempeh, edamame, and unsweetened soy milks and yogurts. 

Among all, tofu has gained popularity among weight watchers and fitness enthusiasts because of its gluten-free, cholesterol free and low in saturated fats composition. But have you heard of tempeh? It's definitely the less known among the two, but it has a growing fan base — and for good reason. Originated from soy, but tempeh is still pretty different from tofu when it comes to flavor and nutritional value. Continue reading as we shed light on the unparalleled advantages presented by both tofu and tempeh.

Origin and Production:

Tofu: Tofu, originated in China, is made from coagulating soy milk, which is a liquid extracted from soaked, cooked and crushed soybeans. The resulting curds are then pressed into blocks. .

Tempeh: Tempeh, a traditional Indonesia origin food, is made from whole soybeans that are cooked and fermented, resulting in a dense, cake-like product.

Texture, Appearance and taste:

Tofu: Tofu is known for its versatility in texture, which ranges from silky and smooth (soft or silken tofu) to firm and dense (firm or extra-firm tofu). It has a neutral flavor and takes up the flavors of the food with which it is cooked.

Tempeh:Tempeh, on the other hand, boasts a dry, firm and dense, but chewy texture with a nutty flavor. Its compact structure is due to the fermentation process, which binds the soybeans together.

Isoflavones - an antioxidant 

Tofu, Tempeh and other soy based foods contain naturally occurring plant compounds called isoflavones, which mimic the effect of estrogen in the body. Many of the health benefits of soy based foods - including cholesterol management, oxidative stress, heart disease and diabetes - are attributed to its high isoflavone content. 

My favourite fact: Tempeh has more isoflavones than tofu. 

Nutritional Content:


1. Protein: Tempeh is a rich source of protein, providing around 20 grams of good quality protein per 100 grams. Since tempeh has a compact structure, it provides more protein than other soy products with a similar serving size.

2. Fiber: Tempeh is high in fiber, which aids in digestion. It typically contains about 5 grams of fiber per 100 grams.

3. Prebiotics: Tempeh is also rich in prebiotics, types of fiber that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria [Probiotics] in the digestive system. 

4. Probiotics: Due to the fermentation process, tempeh contains probiotics that can be beneficial for gut health.

5. Vitamins and Minerals: Tempeh is a good source of various vitamins and minerals, including iron, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin B6.

1 cup of tempeh provides ⅔ of the calcium found in 1 cup of whole milk. However, it’s still less than tofu. While tempeh is higher in iron and potassium than tofu.

6. Calories: Tempeh is moderately high in calories, providing around 193 calories per 100 grams.


As mentioned earlier, there are different varieties of tofu classed as silken, soft, firm and extra firm. The more soft the tofu is, the more water it has.The more firm the tofu is, less water it has. The more the water is, the fewer calories and other nutrients tofu has. Choose your type of tofu wisely!

1. Protein: Tofu is also a significant source of good quality protein, providing approximately 8 grams of protein per 100 grams.

2. Fiber: Tofu contains less fiber compared to tempeh, with about 0.9 grams of fiber per 100 grams.

3. Probiotics: Tofu does not contain probiotics as it is not fermented.

4. Vitamins and Minerals: Tofu is rich in minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. It also contains vitamins like B1 and B2. 

Interestingly, Tofu has double the amount of calcium than tempeh.

5. Calories: Tofu has about half the amount of calories as compared to tempeh, offering around 76 calories per 100 grams and also, it contains fewer carbs.

Nutrients values per 100g:

How to use:

Tofu: Make sure tofu is rinsed and pressed prior to consumption. They are often cubed, crumbled and sometimes baked and then added to recipes like stir fries, salads and wraps. Blend silken tofu to make creamy desserts. Tofu can be a substitute to feta cheese or paneer or egg in recipes.

Tempeh:  Marinated or seasoned to increase flavor and then crumbled, baked, steamed or sauteed to include in your favourite recipes including sandwiches, soups, salads and stir fries. As tempeh is firm, it can perfectly replace meat in recipes.

Shelf Life:

Tofu: an opened pack of tofu can be refrigerated for up to 1 week, dipped in water. Make sure to change the water daily. A closed pack of tofu can also be frozen to increase shelf life up to 5 months.

Tempeh: Your store bought tempeh is very much alive and needs to be stored properly to stop the fermentation process. To slow down the fermentation process keep it cool, dry and airtight. For safe storage up to a week, consider refrigeration. You can extend the shelf life up to a period of a month by freezing tempeh. Remember if it becomes slimy or has a brightly colored or strong smelling mold means you should discard your tempeh.

Soy may not suit everyone

Eating soy based foods are generally safe for most people. However some individuals may need to evaluate their risk before consuming soy based products.

One with a soy allergy should avoid all soy products. Eating them can trigger an allergic response showing symptoms like swelling, hives, and breathing difficulty.

Those with an impaired thyroid function need to limit their intake of soy products as well.

Final say: Tempeh vs tofu

Both tempeh and tofu are exceptional plant-based protein sources, but they differ significantly in their nutritional profiles.

Tempeh stands out with its higher protein and fiber content, making it a robust choice for those seeking a protein-packed, gut-friendly option. The fermentation process in tempeh introduces probiotics, further contributing to digestive health. The only downside to tempeh is that its calorie count is higher. 

On the other hand, tofu, with its lower calorie count and versatility, remains a valuable protein source, especially for those focusing on overall nutrient intake.

Choosing between them depends on the individual preferences for taste and health goals. Eating a variety of plant proteins is important for overall health. Whether you prefer the nutty taste of tempeh or the versatility of tofu, both are valuable for a healthy diet.

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Which is Healthier: Tofu or Tempeh?