What to look for and how to cook healthy tofu, edamame, miso and more soyfoods.
Long popular in the East, soyfoods have only recently found a home in Western kitchens. Yet beyond tofu, many people are still at a loss about what to do with the versatile bean. Soy foods are chock full of nutrients, are a great source of plant-based protein and unlike many other high protein foods, are low in saturated fat. All these soyfoods can be found in supermarkets, natural-foods stores or Asian groceries.
Use the primer below to learn more about healthy soyfoods.
What It Is: Fresh soybeans (also called "sweet beans"), picked in their fuzzy pods just before they reach full maturity, look like bright green lima beans. Their flavor is sweet and mild, with a touch of "beaniness."
What to Do with It: In Japan, edamame are often boiled in salty water still in their pods and served as bar food (the pods are inedible, but it’s fun to pop them open between sips of beer). On these shores, you’re most likely to find frozen, partially cooked edamame, either in pods or shelled—but fresh ones might turn up at farmers’ markets. Use them in bean salads, toss into stir-fries or soups.
What It Is: Miso is fermented soybean paste made by inoculating a mixture of soybeans, salt and grains (usually barley or rice) with koji, a beneficial mold. Aged for up to 3 years, miso is undeniably salty, but a little goes a long way.
What to Do with It: 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.
What It Is: Mature soybeans that have been dried, hulled and split can be ground into flour. The texture is denser than wheat flour and it has a pronounced flavor some describe as "beany."
What to Do with It: Soy flour makes a good protein-rich substitute for wheat flour in recipes, but because it contains no gluten, replace no more than one-quarter of the total flour called for. 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.
What It Is: Extracted from pressed, cooked and ground soybeans, soymilk has come a long way since researchers deciphered how to eliminate its beany flavor a few decades ago.
What to Do with It: Use like cow’s milk—though no matter what the label advertises, the flavor and color will be different.