A white plate of salad including rocket beetroot and seeds, topped with blocks of fried tofu on skewers

In the realm of vegan gastronomy, certain ingredients stand out for their adaptability, nutritional value, and culinary potential. Tofu, tempeh, and seitan are three such pillars that have revolutionised plant-based cooking.

Each offers a unique texture and flavour profile, providing chefs and home cooks alike with a diverse palette to craft dishes that rival their meat-based counterparts in taste and satisfaction.


Originating from ancient China, tofu is the result of curdling fresh soy milk, pressing it into solid blocks, and then cooling these blocks. The process is somewhat akin to traditional cheesemaking.

Depending on the pressing time, tofu can range from soft and silken to firm and dense. Its neutral taste makes it a chameleon in the kitchen, readily absorbing flavours from spices, herbs, and marinades.

Tofu can be grilled, stir-fried, blended into smoothies, or even crumbled as a substitute for scrambled eggs. Its high calcium and magnesium content further enhance its appeal as a healthful choice.


Tempeh’s origins lie in the warm archipelago of Indonesia. It’s produced by fermenting cooked soybeans with a specific fungus, Rhizopus oligosporus, until they form a firm, compact cake.

The fermentation process not only imparts a distinct nutty flavour but also increases the digestibility of the soybeans and enriches their nutrient content. Tempeh shines when it’s sliced and pan-fried until golden, marinated and grilled for a smoky finish, or crumbled into vegan chilli and stews.

Its rich texture and robust flavour make it a favourite among those seeking a substantial meat alternative.


Seitan’s roots trace back to Asian cuisines, particularly in China and Japan. It’s crafted by kneading wheat flour with water to form a dough, which is then rinsed to remove the starch, leaving behind a sticky mass of gluten.

This gluten is then cooked and flavoured, resulting in seitan. Its meaty texture has earned it nicknames like ‘wheat meat’ or ‘gluten meat’.

Seitan can be sliced thin for sandwiches, diced for stir-fries, or even shaped into roasts. Its ability to mimic the texture of meats like beef or chicken makes it a popular choice in various cuisines, from Asian to Western. When seasoned well, seitan can be the star of a dish, offering both taste and a protein-packed punch.