“Traditional” soy foods are developed from whole soybeans, the edible seed of the soybean plant. They are high in protein and contain beneficial phytochemicals, such as isoflavones. Whole soybeans can be cooked and used in sauces, stews, and soups. Whole soybeans that have been soaked can be roasted for snacks.
Green Vegetable Soybeans (Edamame)
These large soybeans are a special bean variety and are harvested when the beans are still green and sweet tasting. Green soybeans can be purchased in the pod or as shelled green beans. They can be served as a snack or a main vegetable dish after boiling in slightly salted water for 15-20 minutes. They are high in protein and fiber and contain no cholesterol.
Miso is a rich, salty condiment that characterizes the essence of Japanese cooking. The Japanese make miso soup and use it to flavor sauces, dressings, marinades, and pâtés. A smooth paste, miso is made from soybeans and a grain such as rice, plus salt and a mold culture, and then aged in cedar vats for one to three years. Miso comes in many different colors, textures and grades.
Natto is made of fermented, cooked whole soybeans. Because the fermentation process breaks down the beans’ complex proteins, natto is more easily digested than whole soybeans. It has a sticky, viscous coating with a cheesy texture. Natto is traditionally served as a topping for rice, in miso soups, and is used with vegetables.
Okara is a pulp fiber by-product of soymilk or tofu. It has less protein than whole soybeans, but is a nutritional powerhouse, containing soluble and non-soluble fiber, protein, calcium and other minerals. Okara tastes similar to coconut and can be baked or added as fiber to granola and cookies. The traditional Japanese way of eating okara is to flavor it by stir-frying with dark sesame oil and soy sauce, then mix it together with vegetables or put it into a soup.
Soybeans soaked, ground fine, and strained produce a fluid called soymilk. Soy milk is a good source of protein, thiamine, iron, phosphorous, copper, potassium and magnesium. It contains little sodium. Some brands are fortified with important vitamins and minerals such as calcium, Vitamin D, and Vitamin B-12. Soy milk also is low in saturated fat and is cholesterol-free.
Roasted soynuts are whole soybeans that have been soaked in water and then baked until browned. High in protein and isoflavones, soynuts are similar in texture and flavor to peanuts. Soy nuts are primarily used as a snack item but their crunchy texture and nutty flavor also make an interesting addition to salads and grain dishes.
Soyoil & Products
Soyoil is the natural oil extracted from whole soybeans. It is the most widely used oil in the U.S., accounting for more than 75 percent of our total vegetable fats and oils intake. Oil sold in the grocery store under the generic name “vegetable oil” is usually 100 percent soyoil or a blend of soyoil and other oils. Read the label to make certain you’re buying soybean oil.
Soyoil is cholesterol-free and high in polyunsaturated fat. Soyoil also is used to make margarine and shortening.
Soy sauce is a dark brown liquid made from soybeans that has undergone a fermentation process. Soy sauces have a salty taste, but are lower in sodium than traditional table salt. Specific types of soy sauce are shoyu, tamari, and teriyaki. Shoyu is a blend of soybeans and wheat. Tamari is made only from soybeans and is a by-product of making miso. Teriyaki sauce can be thicker than other types of soy sauce and includes other ingredients such as sugar, vinegar, and spices.
Soy sprouts (also called soybean sprouts), are an excellent source of nutrition, packed with protein and vitamin C. They can be sprouted in the same manner as other beans and seeds. Soy sprouts must be cooked quickly at low heat so they don’t get mushy. They can also be used raw in salads or soups, or in stir-fried, sautéed, or baked dishes.
Tempeh is a made by a natural culturing and controlled fermentation process that binds soybeans into a cake form. It is sometimes mixed with another grain such as rice or millet. The fermentation process and its retention of the whole bean give tempe a higher content of protein, dietary fiber and vitamins compared to tofu, as well as firmer texture and stronger flavor. Tempeh can be marinated and grilled and added to soups, casseroles, and chili.
Tofu, also known as soybean curd, is a soft cheese-like food made by curdling fresh hot soymilk with a coagulant. Tofu is a bland product that easily absorbs the flavors of other ingredients with which it is cooked. Tofu is rich in both high-quality protein and B vitamins and low in sodium. Firm tofu is dense and solid and can be cubed and served in soups, stir fried, or grilled. Firm tofu is higher in protein, fat, and calcium than other forms of tofu. Soft tofu is good for recipes that call for blended tofu. Silken tofu is a creamy product and can be used as a replacement for sour cream in many dip recipes.
Yuba (also known as Tau-kee)
Yuba, also known as Tau-kee, is a brittle soy wafer made by lifting and drying the thin layer formed on the surface of cooling hot soymilk. It has a high-protein content and is commonly sold fresh, half-dried, and dried. There are various names used for the soy wafer depending on the “thinness”.