Once again, welcome to the Vegan Kitchen Simplified series! Today I’d like to share a few tips for switching to a soy free vegan diet. While soy remains a polarizing subject among healthy eating specialists, you’ll see that cutting it out of your plant-based diet is not very complicated if you choose to do so.
I personally don’t have anything against soy as long as it’s organic and non-GMO, but I often find it hard to convince my non-vegan friends that eating soy is not at all a requirement of a vegan diet. I might make tofu or tempeh a few times a month, but if all soy products mysteriously disappeared tomorrow, I know for sure that my husband and I would definitely not starve to death.
Every now and then a new study appears in the press that either proclaims soy harmless for our health or puts it on a black list again. While scientists are unlikely to reach a final verdict anytime soon, we can make a decision for ourselves through doing our own research of the existing evidence. Here’s a very informative report by Jack Norris, RD, that examines soy consumption and its effect on disease formation.
If you decided to go soy-free for any reason (allergic reaction/sensitivity, or ‘just to be safe’), read on – and go prove to all of those omnivores that a soy-free vegan is not an oxymoron!
How to Switch to a Soy Free Vegan Diet: Useful Food Substitutions
Here’s my list of tips that can help you turn just about any vegan recipe into a soy-free one.
1. Firm/extra firm tofu —> beans or hemp tofu. In stir-fry or soup recipes that call for firm or extra firm tofu, you can almost always replace it with beans. The choice of beans is up to you, but I find chickpeas the most versatile for most recipes.
Another choice – hemp tofu! I’ve heard that it’s available in some stores, but personally I haven’t tried it yet. By the way, I found this homemade hemp tofu recipe if you’d like to experiment!
2. Silken tofu —> vegan yogurt. Silken tofu is used in lots of dessert recipes – custards, pies, muffins, etc. As a rule, it can be replaced with some type of yogurt (coconut or almond) plus an additional binding ingredient like agar-agar for pie filling, or plus ground flaxseed mixed with water in cake/muffin batter. You’ll need to play around to figure out the exact proportions.
3. Soy miso paste —> chickpea miso. Miso paste is one of the very few plant-based ingredients that are almost impossible to replace in a recipe that calls for it without compromising the flavor. Thankfully, there’s such thing as chickpea miso! Some people actually prefer it to the soy version.
4. Soy milk —> other types of non-dairy milk. Hello Captain Obvious! This one goes without saying, but I still had to mention it here. Almond milk seems to be the most popular plant-based milk: I recently asked Vegan Runner Eats Facebook page fans about their favorite milk, and almond milk was mentioned the most.
5. TVP/TSP/Soy curls —> quinoa and other grains. Textured vegetable/soy protein and soy curls are used in a number of vegan recipes (vegan chili, tacos, sloppy joes, etc.). To recreate their ‘meaty’ texture, you can almost always use quinoa, or some hearty grain like barley, kamut, etc. It might not always be ‘spot-on’, but it’s better than nothing.
6. Soy yogurt —> coconut or almond yogurt. If you have access to Whole Foods or another well-stocked vegan-friendly grocery store, making a switch should be effortless. If you don’t but still want to eat plant-based yogurt regularly, you can try making it yourself.
I’ve heard good things about Euro-Cuisine Yogurt Maker. Chances are, this will be the first new kitchen gadget I’ll buy once we settle in Washington state (we’re currently in transition!). You’ll definitely hear about my yogurt-making experience once that happens!
7. Soy sauce —> coconut aminos. I’ve tried these Raw Organic Aminos by Coconut Secret, and they worked really well. In fact, I might have liked them more than the regular soy sauce – the latter often tastes a little burnt to me. Okay, maybe I have weird taste buds.
8. Soy-based mayonnaise —> soy-free mayonnaise. Out of all commercial vegan mayo brands, Vegenaise stands out the most. Most varieties have soy in them, but luckily they also make a soy-free version, which is the one we buy (we’re not soy-free, but both Rob and I like its flavor). Just Mayo by Hampton Creek is also soy-free.
Also, you’re always welcome to experiment with making your own homemade mayo – check out Pinterest for inspiration.
9. Check labels on pre-packaged vegan-friendly foods. A lot of store-bought vegan burgers, loaves, etc. have soy in them, even though sometimes it’s a mystery why it had to be added. Heck, we all know that lots of non-vegan foods often have soy in them – hot dogs, anyone?
Rule of thumb: if you have a food allergy or sensitivity, you’re better off staying away from as much pre-packaged processed foods as you can. Processed vegan food is not necessarily a healthier choice than the non-vegan stuff.
To wrap up this post, let me remind you about the abundance of existing vegan recipes that don’t call for any soy products to begin with! Feel free to browse through my recipes on this blog – a lot of them are soy-free – or check out what Pinterest and the world wide web have to offer! (Gee, I mention Pinterest so often that you’ll soon start thinking that they pay me for it! They don’t 🙁 )
Also, take a look at other posts in the Vegan Kitchen Simplified series here.
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