From edamame, tempeh, and tofu to soy milk, TVP, and veggie burgers- there’s a lot of soy out there!
This dietitian has developed a soy-based foods guide that teaches you about the different types of soy, where you can find them, their health qualities, and how to cook with them.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by SNI Global and U.S. Soy. As always, all opinions are my own.
You might be asking yourself, why soy? Soy is a high-quality plant-based protein. It provides a complete package of all 9 essential amino acids that our bodies need to build proteins. We can’t make these amino acids on our own, so we have to get them from the foods we eat.
Soy is a source of folate, potassium, and fiber AND is the only plant protein that carries FDA’s heart health claim confirming it may be able to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.
I like to think about soy in 2 different categories- soy protein and soy for flavor. Here I share my Soy-Based Foods Guide breaking down the different types of soy for protein and flavor!
Let’s dive in!
What are soybeans?
Soybeans are a type of legume that is sustainably grown by U.S. farmers. They can be found raw, dry, roasted, and canned in most grocery stores.
The most common type is edamame (green soybeans), which are soybeans harvested at about 80% maturity.
Soybeans vs. Edamame
Edamame is a soybean harvested at a fresh green stage-about 80% maturity. They have a larger seed size and are more oval in shape than either yellow or black soybeans.
Are Soybeans good for you?
Despite its growing popularity, myths about soy are still present. Check out this guide that debunks popular soy myths!
Soybeans are a source of:
- Essential fatty acids
- Vitamin E- acts as an antioxidant protecting cells from the damage of free radicals.
Soy and Breast Cancer
One of the most popular myths I hear is the concern that soy will worsen the prognosis of women with breast cancer or potentially increase the risk of developing breast cancer. This concern is related to soy’s isoflavone content, which is classified as a phytoestrogen.
Extensive clinical data shows that exposure to high amounts of isoflavones does not affect the rate at which breast cells replicate in women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.
The World Cancer Research Fund, the American Cancer Society, and the Canadian Cancer Society have all concluded that women with breast cancer can safely consume soy.
Where to buy soybeans?
You can find dried soybeans in the dried beans section of the grocery store. Canned black and yellow soybeans can typically be found in the canned vegetable section. U.S.-grown edamame is available in the pod or shelled in the frozen food and produce sections of grocery stores.
How to cook soybeans?
The easiest way to cook soybeans is to purchase them canned/ pre-cooked, but if you would like to make your own, you can follow these steps:
To cook soybeans, begin by rinsing them thoroughly under cold water to remove any debris. Transfer the beans to a large pot and cover them with enough water to allow for swelling. Let the soybeans soak overnight or for at least 6 to 8 hours.
Drain and rinse. Return them to the pot and add fresh water. 3 cups of water for every 1 cup of soybeans. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Once the water comes to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and allow soybeans to cook for 1 to 1.5 hours.
Skim off the foam, drain, and rinse to cool.
How to store soybeans?
Stored in an airtight container, cooked soybeans can be refrigerated for up to 4 to 5 days or frozen.
What is soymilk?
Soy milk is the liquid that comes from soaked and pressed soybeans. It is free of lactose and milk protein, making it an alternative to dairy milk. In fact, soymilk is the only dairy milk alternative recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It comes in many different flavors and can be swapped for conventional milk in most recipes.
Is soymilk good for you?
Many versions of soymilk have a protein content comparable to that of cow’s milk. If they are fortified, they also have a comparable calcium content, which many plant-based dairy alternatives lack.
Fortified soymilk is the only plant milk dairy alternative approved by health professionals for children ages one to five.
Where to buy soymilk?
Soymilk is available in shelf-stable cartons or refrigerated sections alongside other milk alternatives.
What is tofu?
Tofu is made from condensed soymilk. It’s highly versatile and is a good source of complete plant-based protein. There are many types of tofu- silken, soft, firm, and extra firm. Firm tofu is often higher in protein and calcium than soft tofu.
What is silken tofu?
Silken tofu is a type of tofu with a delicate and silky-smooth texture. It is made from soymilk that has been coagulated. Silken tofu is often used in dishes where a creamy or smooth texture is desired, such as desserts, smoothies, dressings, dips, and sauces. It can also be used as an egg or dairy substitute in vegan or vegetarian recipes.
Is tofu healthy?
Tofu is a good source of plant-based protein, containing all the essential amino acids the body requires. It also provides minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus.
Where to buy tofu?
Tofu can be found in the refrigerated section of grocery stores, often near other plant-based or vegetarian products. This is usually near my juice or egg section.
How to cook tofu?
Here’s a basic guide on how to cook tofu:
Preparation: Start by choosing the right type of tofu for your recipe. Firm or extra-firm tofu works well for stir-fries, grilling, or baking. Before cooking, gently drain the tofu and place it between paper towels or clean kitchen towels. Place a weighted object, like a skillet or plate, on top to press the tofu for about 30 minutes. Pressing helps remove excess moisture,
resulting in a firmer texture and better crispness.
Seasoning or marinating: Tofu readily absorbs flavors, so marinating or seasoning it before cooking enhances its taste. Create a marinade or seasoning using ingredients like soy sauce, garlic, ginger, or your preferred herbs and spices. Let the tofu marinate for at least 15-30 minutes to infuse the flavors.
For stir-frying: Heat oil in a pan, add tofu cubes or slices, and cook until golden and crispy on the outside. This usually takes about 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
For baking: Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C). Toss pressed tofu cubes in a mixture of cornstarch and your desired seasonings, ensuring an even coating. Place the coated tofu on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 25-30 minutes, flipping halfway through, until the tofu is crispy and golden.
Recipe incorporation: Cooked tofu can be incorporated into a variety of dishes. But the sauce is the KEY! After cooking, be sure to coat in your favorite sauce for a flavor boost. Then add it to stir-fries, curries, or noodle dishes, or use it as a protein component in salads or wraps.
How to get crispy tofu?
To achieve extra crispiness, you can toss the tofu cubes in cornstarch before cooking. This helps create a thin coating that turns crispy when cooked. By pressing the tofu before cooking and coating it in a little cornstarch- your tofu will turn out crisp and delicious!
What is TVP?
TVP is a dried granular product made from defatted soy flour. It has a long shelf life and is even used in ready-to-eat meals for camping, survival kits, and in the military.
Is textured vegetable protein healthy?
TVP is low in fat and is an excellent source of protein, with 11 g for ½ cup! It’s also a good source of dietary fiber, iron, and other essential minerals.
Where to buy TVP?
TVP can be found in the bulk foods section at many natural foods stores. I found it near the flour at one of our natural grocery stores. You can also purchase it online.
How to cook TVP?
Before using TVP, you need to rehydrate it with hot water or broth. Follow the package instructions and then flavor as you would ground meat.
What is tempeh made of?
Tempeh is made through a fermentation process that binds soybeans into a cake form. Fermentation is achieved by aging the tempeh with a starter, which is a Rhizopus fungus. It is often mixed together with brown rice or another whole grain.
Where to buy tempeh?
You can find tempeh at most well-stocked grocery stores in the refrigerated section by the tofu. I have seen it near the juice and egg section in my local stores.
Is tempeh healthy?
Tempeh is a good source of plant-based protein, making it a great option for vegetarians, vegans, or those looking to reduce their meat consumption. 3 oz has 11-17 grams of protein, and it contains all nine essential amino acids required by the body.
Is tempeh gluten-free?
Naturally- yes! But it can get tricky when brands add grains or flavor to the fermented soybeans. Always check the ingredients and allergen label to ensure tempeh is gluten-free if that’s what you’re looking for.
How to cook Tempeh?
Tempeh is very easy to cook! Simply cut into 1/4″ thick slices and pan fry in oil until crispy brown around the edges. You can also crumble and brown for tacos, stir fry, or chili. Add your favorite sauces and seasonings, and enjoy!
Tempeh also holds up well when marinated prior to cooking. Steaming the tempeh for 10-15 minutes prior to marinating allows the tempeh to absorb the rich flavors of your seasonings.
Plant-Based Meat Alternatives
What are plant-based meat alternatives made of?
Plant-based meat is made from various meat-free ingredients, like soy, pea, wheat gluten, legumes, mushrooms, or even jackfruit.
The selection of plant-based meat alternatives includes almost every animal protein beef, chicken, pork, seafood, eggs- you name it! There’s something for everyone.
Is plant-based meat healthy?
Most soy-based meat alternatives are a good source of protein, with some providing as much as 15g/serving. Some plant-based meat alternatives are fortified with micronutrients, such as vitamin B12 and zinc.
It is important to be mindful of the sodium content in these products. Sodium is often used to enhance flavor, mimic the taste of meat, and act as a preservative. Read the nutrition label and choose low-sodium versions if available.
Where to buy plant-based meat?
Most well-stocked grocery stores have a dedicated section for plant-based products, including meat alternatives. Look for these products in the refrigerated or frozen sections, often near the vegetarian or vegan products.
Soy Nut Butter
What is soynut butter?
Soy nut butter is made from roasted whole soybeans rather than peanuts. Its taste and texture are reminiscent of peanut butter, but soy nut butter is a tree nut-free alternative.
Is soynut butter healthy?
Soynut butter is a source of protein, iron, and fiber and can be a great alternative to nut butter if you have a nut allergy.
Where to buy soynut butter?
Look for soy nut butter in the nut butter or natural foods section of well-stocked grocery stores.
Soynut butter Recipes
What is soy sauce?
Soy sauce is made by fermenting soybeans, wheat, salt, and a fermenting compound such as yeast. It’s a pantry staple and used in a variety of recipes.
Is soy sauce healthy?
Soy sauce is typically high in sodium, so it should be consumed in moderation, especially for those that are salt sensitive or those following a low-sodium diet. Consider using the low-sodium varieties to help cut down on salt.
Where to buy soy sauce?
Most grocery stores have a dedicated section for international foods where you can find soy sauce. It may also be in the condiment aisle.
There are various types of soy sauce available, including light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, low sodium options, and gluten-free varieties. Read the labels and choose one that aligns with your dietary needs and preferences.
Soy sauce Recipes
What is miso?
Miso is a sweet, flavorful paste made from fermented soybeans. It’s used to enhance the taste of sauces, soups, dips, marinades, dressings, and main dishes.
Where to buy miso?
Miso is available in most grocery stores, particularly those with an international or Asian section. Look for miso in the refrigerated section, often near other fermented or Asian ingredients. You can also find miso in natural food stores, health food stores, or specialty Asian markets.
Is miso healthy?
Miso can be a healthy addition to a balanced diet. It has plant-based protein, dietary fiber, and essential minerals like manganese and copper. Miso also contains probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that can support gut health. However, miso is high in sodium, so it should be consumed in moderation- especially for those that are salt sensitive.