Seitan vs Tofu: What are the Differences?

28 January 2020

Food

If you are following a vegetarian or vegan diet, or you are curious about how to cut down on your meat consumption, you may have wondered about seitan and tofu. What are the differences between these two vegan protein sources? Is one better than the other? Read on, and all will be revealed. Plus, we'll share a super easy tofu stir fry recipe for the perfect fast and healthy mid-week meal.

What is Seitan?

Seitan is also known as vital wheat gluten or wheat meat. It is made from gluten and water, and when cooked, has a surprisingly meaty texture and savory taste. Because the starch is rinsed away during the processing, seitan is a low-carb food. Seitan has approximately the same amount of protein as meat, but a fraction of the fat content, making it a popular choice with people trying to reduce their fat intake.

Seitan is also a very versatile ingredient. It can be used in the same way as meat in recipes, and it cooks much faster.

What is Tofu?

Tofu is the coagulated protein from soya milk. A coagulating agent such as nigari (magnesium chloride) is added to the milk. This separates the solids from the liquid. The solid is pressed into blocks to form tofu.

The taste of tofu is very plain, but it soaks up flavors and marinades very well. For this reason, many people will marinate their tofu in flavorful sauces before cooking. The texture of tofu can vary depending on how firm it is. Silken tofu is the softest and is often blended to make drinks and puddings. Firm or extra-firm tofu is used for baking or frying.

There is some controversy over the safety of consuming tofu because a large portion of the world's soy is genetically modified. Always opt for organic, non-GMO tofu and soy products to ensure you avoid the risks of consuming genetically modified foods.

Seitan vs. Tofu - Which is Better?

Which is better depends upon your point of view. If you are looking for a meat substitute that is higher in protein and similar to meat in texture, then seitan would suit your needs. Seitan is much higher in protein than tofu, but unlike tofu, it is not a complete protein.

However, tofu contains a considerably higher number of nutrients, including zinc, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, calcium, selenium, and phosphorus. Seitan contains iron, calcium, copper, selenium, and phosphorus, and in much lower levels than are found in tofu. Tofu also has a higher fat content than seitan.

It is worth noting that seitan is not suitable for individuals who have a gluten allergy or intolerance. Those who have a soy allergy or intolerance would need to avoid tofu.

Easy Tofu Stir Fry

For the tofu:

  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2-inch fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 fresh chili, finely chopped
  • 1 block of extra-firm tofu, cubed

Whisk the first five ingredients in a large bowl. Divide, reserving one portion for later. Add the tofu cubes to the bowl, stirring so that the marinade evenly coats the tofu. Leave to absorb for a minimum of 10 minutes, up to overnight in the fridge, stirring occasionally.

When ready to cook, heat two tablespoons of oil in a wok and stir fry the cubes, turning regularly until they are golden brown on all sides. Remove from the wok and drain on kitchen paper.

For the stir fry:

  • Remaining tofu marinade saved from earlier
  • 3 tbsp peanut butter + 3 tbsp water (optional, for a satay style sauce)
  • 2 heads bok/pak choi
  • 1 pack baby corn
  • 1 pack snow peas
  • 1 head broccoli
  • 6 medium mushrooms
  • 1 bunch scallions
  • If you would like to make a satay style sauce, mix the reserved marinade with the peanut butter and water to make a sauce.

Chop the veggies into bite-sized pieces. Heat two tablespoons of oil in the wok and add the vegetables. Stir fry for five minutes on medium-high heat until they are softened but still have some bite. Add the sauce or marinade and the cooked tofu cubes and mix well. Serve over rice or noodles and garnish with chopped peanuts or cashews and extra chilis, if desired.

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