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5 Best Tofu Substitutes for Your Culinary Adventures

Whether you’re a seasoned vegetarian, a dedicated vegan, or someone with an insatiable curiosity for healthy, plant-based eating, the mention of ‘tofu’ is likely to trigger your gourmet instincts.

Tofu is a versatile ingredient, adored for its chameleon properties in the kitchen. But what if I told you there are five compelling alternatives to tofu that might just elevate your dishes to new heights?

Key Takeaways:

  • Tofu has a firm texture and tangy taste, making it a popular alternative to meat.
  • Tempeh, seitan, chickpeas, lentils, and TVP are all versatile options for substituting tofu in recipes.
  • You can easily make your own tofu at home, giving you control over the texture and flavor.
  • It’s important to explore different options and incorporate a variety of plant-based proteins into your diet for sustainability and inclusivity.

5 Best Tofu Substitutes

In today’s deep-dive, we dismantle the myth that tofu is irreplaceable, and show you that when one door closes, five windows open to greet the adventurous chef.

We’re talking about tempeh, seitan, chickpeas, lentils, and texturized vegetable protein (TVP) — five substitutes that not only fulfill your culinary inclusivity but also promise to tantalize your taste buds in five entirely unique ways.

1 – Tempeh

Derived from soybeans and known for its firm texture and tangy taste, tempeh is a powerhouse of nutrients and a rockstar when grilled, fried, or marinated.

Its unique fermentation process not only makes it easier to digest but also imparts a dose of gut-friendly probiotics not commonly found in other meat substitutes. Tempeh excels in absorbing flavors and is a common star in East Asian and Indonesian cuisine.

Tempeh offers nutty and earthy flavors with a touch of umami. It boasts a dense and chewy texture, complemented by a subtle hint of crunchiness.

Cooking Tip: Slice it thin or thick, depending on the recipe. If you’re stir-frying, slightly steam tempeh slices for a softer texture before tossing in with vegetables.

Substitute Ratio: Replace one cup of cubed tofu with one cup of cubed tempeh.

2 – Seitan

Also called ‘wheat meat’, seitan is a staple in many vegetarian and vegan diets. Made from gluten, the protein component of wheat, seitan has been used for centuries in Asian and Buddhist cuisine. Its neutral flavor makes it a canvas for a variety of seasonings and sauces.

Seitan has a meaty bite and a flavor that you can mold to your will. Its texture is incredibly dense, making it an outstanding candidate for hearty dishes.

Cooking Tip: When making your own seitan, knead the dough thoroughly to develop the gluten, giving it a meat-like chew.

Substitute Ratio: One cup of cubed tofu can be replaced with one cup of seitan strips or cubes.

3 – Chickpeas

Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, are one of the oldest cultivated crops and remain a dietary staple in many cultures. They offer a pleasing texture and a subtly earthy flavor that blends well in a variety of dishes.

Chickpeas offer a distinctive blend of starchiness and creaminess, providing both substance and silkiness to dishes. They can be mashed, roasted, or made into flour for a variety of uses.

Cooking Tip: If using canned chickpeas, be sure to rinse them thoroughly to remove excess sodium and the metallic flavor often found in canned legumes.

Substitute Ratio: For one cup of cubed tofu, use one and a half cups of cooked chickpeas (rinsed and drained).

4 – Lentils

Lentils have made a name for themselves not just as a side dish but as a viable meat substitute in vegan and vegetarian diets. They come in various colors, with red and green being the most commonly used in cooking.

With an earthy, slightly peppery flavor and a touch of sweetness, lentils provide a delicate yet satisfying texture.

Cooking Tip: Red lentils cook quickly and can become mushy, which is perfect for thickening soups or making dal. Green or brown lentils hold their shape better and are great for stews or salads.

Substitute Ratio: For one cup of cubed tofu, use one cup of cooked lentils.

5 – TVP

TVP, short for texturized vegetable protein, is created from soy flour after the soybean oil has been extracted. Because it is dry, it is shelf-stable and soaks up flavors like a sponge, making it perfect for dishes where you want it to take on the taste and texture of the sauce or ingredients around it.

TVP is neutral in flavor, making it a versatile and convincing stand-in for ground meat. Its texture can range from soft when rehydrated to chewy when used in stews or chilis.

Cooking Tip: Rehydrate TVP by combining it with a 1:1 ratio of hot water for a more meat-like texture.

Substitute Ratio: For one cup of cubed tofu, use one cup of rehydrated TVP.

Homemade Tofu — The Underestimated Underdog

Perhaps the most unusual ‘substitute for tofu’ is… tofu itself. It’s not just a product; it’s a process.

And that process can be replicated in your very own kitchen, creating a fresh, homemade tofu that’s leagues ahead of its store-bought counterpart. By doing so, you control the firmness, texture, and any accompanying flavors of your tofu dish.

Ingredients and Methods: The basic ingredients for tofu are soy milk and a coagulant (like lemon juice, vinegar, or Epsom salts). The process resembles that of making cheese, where curds and whey separate.

Cooking Tips: The key to making homemade tofu is heat and timing. Heat the soy milk slowly to the temperature where it forms curds but doesn’t boil. Then strain and press the curds into the desired shape and texture.

Use the leftover whey-like liquid to cook grains or in baking for added protein and flavor.


Homemade Tofu Recipe

This homemade tofu recipe is a great way to create your own fresh, flavorful tofu at home. With just a few ingredients and some basic kitchen equipment, you can make a delicious substitute for store-bought tofu that will elevate any dish. Whether you're vegetarian, vegan, or simply looking to incorporate more plant-based protein into your diet, this homemade tofu recipe is a must-try.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Asian
Servings 6 people
Calories 648 kcal


  • Large pot or saucepan
  • Thermometer
  • Cheesecloth or muslin cloth
  • Tofu press (optional)


  • 8 cups of unsweetened soy milk
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice or apple cider vinegar


  • In a large pot or saucepan, heat the soy milk over medium-low heat until it reaches a temperature between 170°F and 180°F. Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature.
  • Once the milk reaches this temperature, remove it from heat and stir in 2 tablespoons of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. Let the mixture sit for 5-10 minutes until it curdles and separates into solid curds and liquid whey.
  • Line a colander with two layers of cheesecloth or muslin cloth and place it over a large bowl.
  • Carefully pour the curdled soy milk into the lined colander, allowing the liquid whey to drain through. Gently press down on the curds to release more liquid.
  • Gather up the edges of the cheesecloth and twist to form a ball with the curds inside. Squeeze out any remaining liquid.
  • Place the wrapped tofu ball on a flat surface and place a heavy object (like a cast iron skillet or book) on top to press down and remove more liquid. Leave for 20-30 minutes.
  • Unwrap the pressed tofu and shape it into desired form (blocks, cubes, etc.). If you have a tofu press, use it to press the tofu for an additional 20-30 minutes.
  • Store the homemade tofu in an airtight container with cold water and refrigerate until ready to use. Use within 3-4 days.


Serving: 0.5cupCalories: 648kcalCarbohydrates: 36gProtein: 56gFat: 31gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 20gMonounsaturated Fat: 8gSodium: 720mgPotassium: 2364mgFiber: 10gSugar: 9gVitamin A: 4026IUVitamin C: 12mgCalcium: 2412mgIron: 9mg
Keyword homemade tofu
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5 from 2 votes (2 ratings without comment)
Recipe Rating