Ingredient Insights: Tempeh, Tamari, Tofu, & Miso


Here’s a topic to talk about at brunch: Do you think soy milk is heart-healthy, eco-friendly, and overall better for your body? Is the entire anti-soy propaganda simply funded by the dairy industry to scare us away from consuming soy milk or is it actually bad for you?

Welcome to Ingredient Insights.

As you can guess from the title, this Sunday’s post is all about things made from soybeans. There’s been some controversy going around about soy being good or bad for years now and that’s how I got to this week’s ingredient highlights: tempeh, tamari, tofu, and miso.

Let’s get started!


Tempeh:

Say hello to tofu’s leaner, more muscular cousin, tempeh.

Tempeh comes from, you guessed it, soybeans. The entire process follows whole soybeans that are soaked to soften, then cooked, fermented for about 18 hours, and then formed into a firm patty or thin block (which is how you’ll find it sold in stores).

It may seem like this food is just now gaining recognition in the culinary world but actually, it’s been a popular meat replacement in Indonesia for hundreds of years.

In comparison to tofu, tempeh is less processed, contains more fiber, and contains more protein (more than double!). Plus, the fermentation eats up 98% of the lectin content, making tempeh gut friendly.

You can find tempeh at any health store and most grocery stores – look in the refrigerated section where tofu and other meat alternatives are held, and check the ingredients list to make sure there’s no added grains in it!

Here’s a nice lil’ recipe we curated with tempeh: Maple Tempeh Sausage Sliders, yummmm!


Tamari:

“Soy sauce, also known as tamari” nope
“Soy sauce and tamari are like the same thing” nope
“Tamari and soy sauce contains equal amounts of sodium” nooooope

I’ll explain.

Tamari also comes from, you guessed it again (wow, you’re really good at this), soybeans. Tamari is the liquid byproduct that runs off of miso as the miso matures. The word tamari actually derives from the Japanese word tamaru, which means “to accumulate.”

Now in comparison to soy sauce; soy sauce is saltier and thinner than tamari and is created by cooking soybeans with roasted wheat, along with other grains, and adding it to a salty brine to brew and then left to sit for a period of time to ferment. After that, it’s pressed to extract liquids.

Below is a quick run-through of both condiments – because sometimes, bullet points are easier to understand than sentences.

Tamari:
  • Japanese origin
  • No wheat (but always check labeling, just in case) – aka it’s gluten-free!
  • 30% more protein than soy sauce
  • Contains approx. 700 mg of sodium per 15 ml serving
  • Great source of vitamin B3 and manganese
  • Maintains flavor in cooking
Soy sauce:
  • Chinese origin
  • Contains wheat & possibly other grains
  • 10x more antioxidants than red wine
  • Contains approx. 1000 mg of sodium per serving

You can easily find tamari in the Asian section of grocery stores or online.
Click here to shop our favorite brand of tamari!


Tofu:

You either love it or you hate it. There’s really no in-between here.

Tofu originated in China about 2000 years ago by a cook who accidentally curdled soy milk by adding nigiri seaweed into his dish. Nowadays, tofu is created by curdling fresh soy milk, then the curd is pressed into a solid brick and left out to cool.

What’s great about tofu is that it’s super versatile; you could make a tofu scramble, grilled tofu, fried tofu, or even brownies made with tofu! It’s super cheap in stores, it’s a high source of protein (15 grams per block, to be exact), and it contains all eight essential amino acids. No wonder vegetarians and vegans go crazy over it!

Tofu doesn’t quite follow the lectin-limited diet, but here’s a recipe for a grilled marinated tofu sandwich with garlic aioli, creamy avocado, and grilled onions (sounds phenomenal, huh?)

You should be able to EASILY find tofu in any grocery store – just check the refrigerated sections. And be sure to press and drain the tofu before you cook it; the less water, the better. Unless you’re putting it into miso soup, then, carry on.


Miso:

Time to take that container of miso paste outta the back of your fridge, where it’s been hiding for months, because you decided to make something out of it once and forgot about it since. Yeah, I called you out.

To those who are new to the miso world, welcome to the dark side. If you don’t have miso readily sitting in your fridge, it’s time to travel across the lands to your local Japanese grocery store (or Whole Foods) and get yourself a container. Thank me later.

Miso is a sweet and salty paste made from soybeans, koji (a fungus used to initiate fermentation), and barley or rice malt, fermented anywhere from 3 months to 3 years.

You’re not ready for all the health benefits of miso – but I’ll let you know anyway.

  • It’s a potent probiotic, aka it contains lots of friendly bacteria that are beneficial to the intestinal tract
  • enzyme-rich food
  • helps stimulate secretion of digestive fluids in the stomach
  • high in antioxidants
  • strengthens the immune system and quality of your blood and lymph fluids
  • good source of vitamin B12
  • contains all essential amino acids

Yeah, there’s a lot.

Now, you’re standing in the grocery store, comparing all of the different types of miso, contemplating which one you should buy. I’ll roughly help you out with that! You see the sweet miso? That one’s light in color, it contains more koji than soybeans, and it’s fermented for a short period of time. You see the red miso and brown miso? Those are darker misos, which means they have a higher salt content, contain more soybeans to koji, and are fermented for a longer period of time. Purchase what you think you’d enjoy most – but be sure to avoid any that’ve been pasteurized.

Darker misos are ideal for robust, deep flavors whereas lighter misos are better suited for blending into a dish and highlighting other ingredients.

You can make soups with miso, or add it into a stir-fry, or create our quick & easy feel-good bowl with topped with a sweet miso glaze!


Happy Mother’s Day!

Till next week,
Kimberly

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