Soy foods aren’t just for vegetarians anymore. With so many options, from edamame to tempeh, and plenty of health benefits to including soy in your diet, there’s every reason to enjoy them.
According to a 2005 study by the U.S. Soybean Board, 30 percent of Americans consume soyfoods or beverages at least once a month. Tofu is an economical, low-fat and cholesterol-free protein source. And consuming 25 grams of soy protein a day (about 1 1/4 cups of tofu or edamame or 3 1/2 cups soymilk) may help reduce risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels.
There are several soy-based options beyond tofu. Try tempeh—a soybean loaf with a heartier texture than tofu. Soymilk works deliciously in breakfast smoothies or nondairy “milkshakes.” Add edamame (fresh soybeans) to salads and stir-fries. Roasted soy nuts can be used in trail mix or eaten on their own as a crunchy snack. Or use soy sauce and miso to flavor food with the dark, earthy flavors so familiar in Asian cuisine.
What you get: This versatile bean is best known for delivering a healthy amount of protein, and any form of the bean—be it edamame, tofu, tempeh, soy nuts or ground soy isolates used to make soy burgers—is an excellent plant source of high-quality protein. In addition, soy delivers fiber, some iron and the phytoestrogens daidizein and genistein, which are thought to have a wide range of health benefits for heart health and menopausal symptoms.
•Edamame are fresh soybeans that look like bright green lima beans. Their flavor is sweet and mild, with a touch of “beaniness.” Edamame are found in the natural-foods freezer section of large supermarkets and natural-foods stores, sold both in and out of the “pods.” One 10-ounce bag contains about 2 cups of shelled beans. Look for fresh ones at farmers’ markets or natural-foods stores.
• Miso is fermented soybean paste made by inoculating a mixture of soybeans, salt and grains (usually barley or rice) with koji, a beneficial mold. Akamiso (red miso), made from barley or rice and soybeans, is salty and tangy, and the most commonly used miso in Japan. Use in marinades for meat and oily fish, and in long-simmered dishes. Shiromiso (sweet or white miso), made with soy and rice, is yellow and milder in flavor; use for soup, salad dressings and sauces for fish or chicken. Look for it in the natural-foods section of most supermarkets and in Asian markets.
• Soy flour is made from mature soybeans that have been dried, hulled, split and ground into flour. The texture is denser than wheat flour and it has a pronounced flavor some describe as “beany.” It is available in both full-fat and defatted varieties. Look for soy flour in natural-foods stores.
• Soy nuts are mature soybeans that have been soaked then roasted, either in oil or using a dry-roasting process. Crunchy, with a texture like crumbly peanuts, they’re often creatively flavored.
• Soy sauce is a dark fermented liquid made from soybeans. It can be found in the Asian section of most supermarkets, in natural-foods stores or Asian grocery stores.
• Soymilk is a dairy-free milk made from pressed, cooked and ground soybeans. It can be found in natural-foods stores and in most supermarkets in the dairy case or on shelves in aseptic packaging.
• Tempeh is a chewy, nutty, fermented soybean loaf. Find it (plain or with added grains) near refrigerated tofu in natural-foods stores and many large supermarkets.
• Tofu is “soybean curd” made by heating soymilk and a curdling agent in a process similar to dairy cheesemaking. The longer the pressing, the firmer and denser the tofu. Silken tofu is delicate and custardlike, perfect for pureeing and using in dressings, smoothies, sauces or floating in delicate soups. Extra-firm tofu is ideal for stir-fries, sautés and grilling, while the soft variety makes a good substitute for ricotta in Italian dishes or for eggs in quiches. Firm tofu is a good all-purpose choice. Tofu is available at natural-foods stores and most large supermarkets. Look for water-packed tofu in the produce section and aseptic-packaged tofu with other Asian ingredients.
• Fresh and cooked edamame should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer.
• Miso keeps for months in the refrigerator.
• Full-fat soy flour can go rancid quickly; keep it in the refrigerator for up to 6 months or in the freezer for up to 1 year. Defatted soy flour can be kept unrefrigerated.
• Store soy nuts in the refrigerator for up to 3 months after opening.
• Soy sauce should be refrigerated after opening.
• Unopened aseptically-packaged soymilk can be stored at room temperature for several months. Refrigerated soymilk should be stored in the refrigerator. Opened soymilk should be stored in the refrigerator and should stay fresh for 5 days.
• Store tempeh wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator for up to 5 days after opening.
• Tofu will last 5 to 7 days after opening. Store in a loosely sealed container of water in the refrigerator, changing the water daily. You can also freeze tofu for up to 5 months. (Don’t be surprised if the frozen tofu turns a light shade of caramel and has a slightly chewier texture.)
The United States is the world’s largest producer of soybeans.
This stuffed pizza is filled with crumbled tofu, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, cheese and fresh basil. It’s easy to make stuffed pizza at home. Just roll the crust thin, spread filling over half and fold closed. To use fresh spinach, cook 10 ounces until just wilted; finely chop and squeeze dry. Serve with: Marinara sauce for dipping and mixed green salad.
We give succotash—traditionally a Southern dish made with corn, lima beans and peppers—an update using edamame instead of limas and turn it into a main dish by adding shrimp. To get it on the table even faster, purchase peeled, deveined shrimp from the fish counter instead of doing it yourself. Make it a meal: All you need is a warm piece of cornbread to go with this complete meal.
A riff on the Egyptian classic ful medames, a highly seasoned fava bean mash, this version is made with easier-to-find edamame. Edamame (fresh green soybeans) have been shown to lower LDL cholesterol. They can be found shelled in the freezer section of well-stocked supermarkets. This stew is great served with couscous, bulgur or warm whole-wheat pita bread to soak up the sauce.
Instead of having a greasy, battered coating, the tofu “steaks” in our revamped Parmigiana are breaded and lightly pan-fried in just a small amount of oil then topped with part-skim mozzarella, fresh basil and your favorite marinara sauce. This Italian classic will please even those who are tofu-phobic.
Versatile miso (fermented soybean paste) keeps for months in the refrigerator and adds instant flavor to soups, sauces, dips, marinades and salad dressings. In general, the lighter the miso, the milder and sweeter its flavor. Light miso is the key to the wonderful flavor of this salmon.
If you've never had roasted tofu before, here's a great way to start. Toss tofu and asparagus in a tangy orange- and basil-scented sauce, made rich and savory with miso. Serve with brown rice or couscous and an orange-and-fennel salad.
To celebrate spring's fresh strawberries, our Test Kitchen jazzed up old-fashioned tapioca pudding. Grinding the tapioca in a blender makes the texture creamier, maple syrup adds seasonal sweetness and whipping cream gives these airy parfaits a luxurious finish.