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All About Soy

All About Soy

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Soy has been a staple in Asian diets for centuries. But just a couple of decades ago, only committed vegetarians here ate tempeh or tofu. Back then, Americans had to venture to health-food stores to buy soy foods. And finding easy, tasty recipes that called for items such as edamame or soy flour was a challenge.

That's all changed. The creaminess of tofu, the meaty texture of tempeh, the saltiness of miso, and the nutty crunch of edamame are so mainstream these days that most of us have learned to love soy for what it is. We can be up front with it, no longer sneaking it into recipes in place of something else, or serving it solely as a meat substitute.

Eating healthy should still be delicious.

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Served in Japanese restaurants and now offered in many supermarkets, these sweet, bright green soybeans are delicious served in the pod or shelled, like baby limas. The Chinese call edamame mao dao, or "hair bean," because of the fuzz on their plump, sugar snap pea-sized pods. Originally from China and imported to Japan by the 10th century, the Japanese named them edamame, meaning "branch bean," which describes how they grow.

Edamame are not a variety of soybean. They are immature soybeans that are picked green and served fresh. In season, usually from late July to September, you might find fresh edamame at local farmers' markets. Frozen, they are available year-round, both in the pod and shelled. For a snack, boil edamame in the pod, drain, and sprinkle with coarse salt.

Yellow and Black Soybeans
As soybeans mature, they ripen into hard, dry beans. Though most mature soybeans are yellow, there are also black varieties. These dried beans require an overnight soak and about three hours of cooking time to make them tender. Canned yellow or black soybeans, usually found on the organic food aisle, are a fast alternative. They have a slippery texture and firm bite. Yellow soybeans require assertive seasoning to enhance their bland taste; black soybeans, however, can stand alone in salads and side dishes. Both are good in chili, stews, and soups, and pureed for dip. Rinse canned beans before using.

No one is sure when the Chinese began making tofu (soybean curd) or how they figured out the process, but tomb paintings from a.d. 220 show it being made. In European writing, the Japanese word tofu first appeared in 1603. Today, you find this traditional neutral-tasting soy food in nearly every U.S. supermarket.

Tofu is good in Asian stir-fries, desserts, drinks, dressings, salads, stews, and soups. It's also good tossed on the grill. It varies in texture from creamy and smooth to firm enough to slice. Today, tofu also is sold marinated and smoked, or flavored with such seasonings as teriyaki or garlic and herbs. Selecting the right kind is the key to good tofu dishes.

• Silken (Kinugoshi, or Japanese-style): Sold in aseptic boxes and available in soft, firm, and extrafirm textures, silken tofu is custardlike and ideal to puree for dressings, soups, desserts, and drinks. It's much too delicate to grill, sauté, or stir-fry.

• Regular (Momen, or Chinese-style): Also found in soft, firm, and extrafirm textures, this tofu is packed in water in plastic tubs and pouches. Its dense texture makes it ideal to sauté, grill, or broil. Choose soft, water-packed tofu for scrambling and to use in spreads, thick dips, and some desserts; select firm for grilling, sautéing, and stir-frying. Squeezing, pressing, and freezing can enhance tofu's texture.

Although tempeh (tem-PAY) was first made in Java about 1,000 years ago, it's actually a relative newcomer to the soy category. The Dutch discovered it in Indonesia in the 1600s and introduced it to the West.

A fermented food, tempeh is made from partly cooked soybeans inoculated with spores of a friendly mold in a process resembling cheese-making. The mold creates threads that bind the beans into a flat cake. Tempeh is blanched or frozen to slow fermentation and preserve active enzymes. It has a yeasty flavor and firm texture.

Tempeh can be made with soybeans alone, but you often find it composed of soy and a grain, such as rice, barley, or quinoa. All-soy tempeh is highest in protein, has the most pronounced flavor, and is highest in fat. Good grilled, sautéed, pan-crisped, or braised, tempeh is sold at natural-foods stores and in some large supermarkets.

Soy Milk
Soy milk is squeezed from dried soybeans that have been soaked, ground, and cooked. Asian markets sell it just as it comes from the bean, thin and strong-tasting, perhaps sweetened. The soy milk sold in supermarkets and natural-foods stores tastes mild by comparison and is thickened to resemble dairy milk. Besides chocolate and vanilla, it comes in an increasing selection of flavors, such as chai and latte.

Like tofu, which is made from soy milk, it varies significantly by brand in taste, protein, and fat content. (To reduce fat, water is added.) Most soy milk is calcium-fortified to equal dairy milk. A replacement for dairy milk in recipes, unsweetened soy milk is best in desserts and some savory dishes.

This fermented soybean paste originated in ancient China and migrated throughout Asia, where it is still popular. Chefs love miso, especially for seasoning fish. Made from a blend of soy and grain or with soy alone, it instantly adds rich flavor to all kinds of dishes―we spiced up the spaghetti sauce in the recipe at right. It also adds creaminess to sauces and soups, and thickens them slightly.

Resembling peanut butter, miso ranges in color from light to dark and in taste from mildly sweet to very salty. It contains less sodium per serving than salt and regular soy sauce. Miso keeps indefinitely, refrigerated in a glass jar.

• Light [Sweet and Mellow White ( Shiro), Mellow Beige ( Tanshoku)]: Use with fish, poultry, dressings, creamy soups, and vegetables. Light miso contains the least salt.

• Dark [Red ( Aka), Barley ( Mugi), and all-soy ( Hatcho)]: All dark misos are good with grains and legumes, and in stews, tomato sauce, and gravy.

Soy Flour
Made of finely ground dried soybeans, this high-protein soy food can replace some flour in many recipes. Commercial bakeries often use soy flour in breads and pastries because it retains moisture and gives baked goods longer shelf life. Soy flour also creates a large, fluffy crumb. Adding even a small amount to your favorite bread recipes boosts protein. Using 20 to 30 percent soy flour along with all-purpose works best, as soy flour contains no gluten. Higher amounts can produce a heavy, grainy result. Full-fat soy flour works better than defatted in baking. Store soy flour in a glass jar in the refrigerator or freezer for up to 6 months.

Meat Alternatives
From crumbles that resemble ground beef to soy sausage and bacon, these refrigerated and frozen products can replace meat in most recipes. Made with soy protein, they are cholesterol-free and cook quickly.

All About Soy - Recipes

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Trader Joe's recipe for biscuits and soyrizo gravy was delicious, especially with the addition of a fried egg

I decided to first try the soyrizo by using the chain's own take on biscuits and gravy, as it seemed easy enough.

While I baked some store-bought biscuits in the oven, I cooked the soyrizo on the stove for about eight minutes, added some salsa and plant-based milk to it, and stirred the simmering mixture.

Once everything was individually prepped, I split open a biscuit, poured a generous helping of the soyrizo mixture on top, then added an over-medium fried egg.

The "gravy" was incredibly thick but still pretty tasty. And this meal didn't require much time or effort, but I enjoyed that it felt like a decadent brunch.

Adding milk to the gravy tamed the soyrizo's spiciness, but you can mix in more hot sauce or chile powder if you favor extra heat.

And although Trader Joe's recipe didn't call for the fried-egg topping, the meal's very flexible and would be delicious with a number of different additions, like crispy veggies, a heaping pile of cheese, or a hearty dollop of sour cream.


4 x 5 ounces (150 grams) sablefish portions
500 millilitres soy sake marinade

200 grams Du Puy lentils
100 grams shallots (minced)
5 grams fresh thyme
two Bay leaves
50 grams shiitake mushrooms (sliced thin)
50 grams asparagus, cut into ½-inch spears
50 grams pearl onions
50 grams carrots, cut into ¼-inch cubes
50 grams celery, cut into ¼-inch cubes

100 millitres gastrique (wine and vinegar reduction)
50 millitres whipping cream
250 grams butter unsalted
juice of one lemon
15 millilitres truffle oil

four coral garnishes (flour tuile)
2 grams fresh micro cilantro

Soy sake marinade

500 millilitres tamari soy sauce (gluten free)
200 millilitres sake wine
200 grams mirin
200 grams sugar
30 grams ginger fresh (peeled and chopped)
30 grams garlic (chopped)

Combine all ingredients in pot and bring to a boil.
Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes until ingredients are well infused.
Cool marinade down to a room temperature and cover fish entirely.
Cover marinated fish with plastic film and place into fridge for 24 hours.

To cook lentils (it is very important to use Du Puy lentils, simply for unique and fragrant flavour and aroma), bring pot of water to a boil with aromatics (fresh thyme and bay leaf) and add lentils that are washed well under cold running water. Reduce heat and simmer until al dente. Strain lentils, remove thyme and bay leaf and reserve until ready to serve.

200 millilitres white wine
200 millilitres seasoned rice vinegar
four bay leaves
2 grams whole black peppercorns

Combine all ingredients in small pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook until syrupy consistency.
Strain, save liquid, and discard aromatics. Reserve until ready to serve. Gastrique can be prepared many days in advance as long if is kept in refrigerator.

Truffle butter sauce

Combine gastrique and whipping cream into saucepot and simmer for one minute. Reduce heat to a minimum and start adding butter cubes one at the time while constantly whisking until all butter is used and sauce has velvety consistency. Season with salt to taste and add lemon juice and truffle oil.
Keep sauce on warm place until ready to serve.
Remove sablefish from marinade and place onto parchment lined baking tray.
Place fish into 350 F (177 C) preheated oven. Fish will be ready in approximately 9 minutes. Color will be dark brown, and fish will start flaking.

Coral garnish

95 grams water
10 grams all-purpose flour
2 or 3 drops of red or black food colour (if not big fan of food colour, squid ink is great choice)
50 millilitres vegetable oil

Mix flour, water, and food colour well.
Heat frying pan and add 15 millilitres of oil. Pour 15 millilitres of flour water mixture into heated oil.
During this process, water will evaporate, creating holes that will look like lace or dry coral.
Reserve for garnish.

Heat medium frying pan over moderate heat. Add 15 millilitres vegetable oil and minced shallots. Cook for one minute and add carrots, celery, pearl onions, and shitake mushrooms.
Cook for another 3 to 4 minutes until mushrooms are cooked. Add asparagus, and a splash of white wine that you are drinking that evening. Season with salt and pepper and 2 to 3 cubes of butter (reserved from butter sauce).

I personally prefer using large shallow bowls.
Place lentil mixture (¼ of amount made) on the bottom of the bowl.
Place piece of cooked sablefish on top of the mixture.
Generously top (50 millilitres) with truffle butter sauce.
Place one beautiful coral tuile and few micro cilantro sprigs.

April Hemmes

Try whipping up April's Kale and Cabbage with Crunchy Ramen Noodles recipe, which she loves to make for her family after a long, hard-working day on the farm.

Kale and Cabbage with Crunchy Ramen Noodles

Meagan Kaiser

Try Meagan&rsquos Beef Salad with Ginger Soy Dressing recipe! On the weekends, you can find her whipping up this crowd-favorite.

Beef Salad with Ginger Soy Dressings

Nancy Kavazanjian

Try Nancy's Spinach and Feta Brunch Bake, which is a take on her aunt's classic recipe. She recommends serving it either as an appetizer or for brunch with a side garden salad.

Spinach and Feta Brunch Bake

Annie Dee

Try cooking up Annie&rsquos famous Farmhouse Pecan Pie recipe, which, like her farm, is a piece of heaven.


  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 6 cloves)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger (a 1- to 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled)
  • 1 tablespoon minced lemongrass (a 4-inch piece of lemongrass about 1/4 inch wide)
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 2 tablespoons s fresh lime juice
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 5 thighs)
  • 6 metal or wooden skewers
  • vegetable or canola oil
  • butter lettuce or cooked rice to serve
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 5 1-inch chunks fresh pineapple
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon chili garlic paste
  • 1 shallot (chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • chopped peanuts
  • chopped green onions
  • chopped fresh cilantro
  • chopped fresh basil
  • chopped fresh mint
  • minced red onion

In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the garlic, ginger, lemongrass, fish sauce, soy sauce, lime zest, and lime juice. Cut the chicken thighs into strips and add them to the bag. Massage the chicken to make sure it is well coated. Place the bag in the refrigerator and marinate the chicken for 30 to 60 minutes, turning the chicken every 15 minutes. If you are using wooden skewers, put them in water to soak for 30 minutes.

While the chicken marinates, make the peanut sauce. In a food processor, combine the peanut butter, pineapple, soy sauce, water, fish sauce, hoisin sauce, shallot, ginger, chili garlic paste, lime zest, and lime juice. Pulse until combined and smooth.

Once the chicken finishes marinating, preheat the grill to 450 degrees. Then thread the chicken onto the skewers. Rub the grill grates with vegetable or canola oil.

Grill the chicken skewers until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees, about 4 to 5 minutes per side.

Serve the skewers over lettuce or rice and top with the chopped peanuts, green onions, cilantro, basil, mint, red onions, and peanut sauce.

Difference between each type of soy sauce

Here’s the main difference between each of them:

Light soy sauce (7.2% sodium) – adds salt to a dish but doesn’t stain noodles a deep mahogany colour nor does it add much “soy flavour”

Dark soy sauce (9.3% sodium) – must more intense in flavour and saltiness, noodles become a lovely dark colour

All purpose soy sauce (7% sodium) – pretty much light sauce but slightly more soy flavour. It won’t stain noodles with colour.

Sodium percentages is the salt % in each type of soy sauce, and is an indication only as they differ between brands. The main takeaway here is that dark soy is saltier than light and all purpose.

Soy Sauce Trivia! Though dark soy sauce has more salt it in that light soy sauce, light soy sauce tastes saltier. This is because dark soy sauce has a much stronger soy flavour which overpowers the salty flavour.

What this means – many recipes call for a combination of dark soy sauce and light sauce to get the right balance of flavour, colour and saltiness. If you only use dark soy sauce, the sauce flavour is way too strong. If you just use light soy sauce, the sauce will be salty, but not very flavourful. So I use dark soy sauce to colour sauces/noodles and for flavour, then top up the saltiness using light soy sauce which adds saltiness, a little bit of flavour, and not much colour.

Mixed Tofu in Soy Sauce

  • Preparation: 60 min
  • Cook: 20 min
  • Clean up: 5 min


Prepare The Sauce

  • In a small mixing bowl, add the oyster sauce, sesame oil, dark soy sauce, light soy sauce and water. Mix well to combine and set aside.

Pan-Fry The Tofu

In a pan on medium heat, heat 2 tbsp cooking oil.

Add the firm tofu and fry until it turns golden brown.

Remove and set aside on a paper towel to drain excess oil.

To the pan, add the Japanese tofu and fry on low heat until it turns golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside.

Szechuan Spicy Chicken (La Zi Ji Ding)

Apple and Pear Pork Rib Soup

Put It All Together

Pour out the oil from the pan. Then add 2 tbsp of new cooking oil and the sliced ginger. Fry until the ginger turns light brown.

Add the garlic and fry until fragrant.

Add the chopped spring onions, green peas and stir for about a minute.

Add the sauce mixture prepared earlier and bring to a simmer.

Once it simmers, add the firm tofu, Japanese tofu, tofu puffs, bean curd skin and stir.

Cook for about 2 – 3 mins in order for the tofu to absorb the sauce. Add a little more water if you require.

To the pan, add the onions, spring onions, and red chili. Stir lightly to combine.

Nutrition and Benefits

Tofu is an excellent source of protein for vegetarians and vegans, with more than 10 grams per half-cup serving and a variety of other essential nutrients.   It's also low in fat and calories, although accompanying sauces can significantly alter the nutritional profile of a dish containing tofu.

What's in Fermented Soy?

Non-fermented soy includes a number of substances, including:


Like many vegetables, soy contains substances that can block or reduce the production of thyroid hormones, thus affecting other hormonal balances.

Phytic Acid

This anti-nutrient binds with minerals in your body and removes them. An over-consumption of foods with phytic acids can cause a depletion of essential minerals.

Oxalic Acids

A high concentration of oxalates can produce inflammation, resulting in discomfort, and can prevent the absorption of calcium, an essential nutrient.

Enzyme Inhibitors

These substances block the ability of the body's natural enzymes to break down food into nutrients that can be assimilated.

Over-consumption of any type of food containing these substances can cause nutritional imbalances. However, the fermentation process breaks down enzyme inhibitors, produces phytase which neutralizes phytic acid, and decreases the goitrogenic properties of soy. Because of these changes, most traditional Asian soy recipes involve fermentation.

Furthermore, when fermented, soy is generally consumed in smaller amounts. The reduction in the intake of soy further minimizes the effects of the anti-nutrients while still providing the protein and flavor benefits of soybeans.

What are soy curls?

First up, let&rsquos talk about what soy curls ARE. Luckily, this is a rather easy explanation.

Soy curls are exactly what they sound like: curls of SOY. They have just ONE ingredient in them: &ldquotextured whole soy beans&rdquo. Super simple and I love them for that.

The texture and look is weirdly similar to pieces of beef or cooked chicken although they are softer and a bit chewier. They&rsquore easy to cook with and work well to absorb different flavors making them very versatile.

One of the other things that is great about soy curls is that they are stored at room temperature and will last in your pantry for quite a while (mine had an expiration date about 6 months after the date that I bought them). SO, if you can get your hands on them, I suggest picking up a few packs and keeping them on hand for easy dinners!