Beyond Tofu: Four Tasty, Vegan Alternatives to Soy
It’s really easy to fall into the soy trap when you’re eating vegan. There are soy substitutes for everything: meat, milk, ice cream, even cheese! Before you know it, there’s a little bit (or a lot!) of soy in every meal. While small amounts of soy probably aren’t a problem, a diet too rich in soy products is linked to a long list of health concerns. Soy farming is also responsible for deforestation in large areas of the Amazon.
Luckily, vegans don’t have to rely on soy as a dietary staple! There are lots of delicious, soy-free options to fill your plate.
You can replace the tofu in a lot of recipes with an equal amount of seitan. Rather than a bean curd, seitan is a dough made from vital wheat gluten and seasoning. It’s delicious in soups, salads, stir fries, and even in sandwiches! Seitan has a chewier texture than tofu, which means it doesn’t need pressing or freezing before you cook with it!
It can be a little pricey to purchase seitan at the store, but it’s actually really easy to make at home. All you need is a box of vital wheat gluten, which most grocery stores stock in the flour aisle. Here’s a basic recipe for home made seitan. Once you get the hang of making it, you can mix up the spices to suit all sorts of different dishes! For a little seitan inspiration, check out Vegan Dad’s Seitan Roast with Wild Rice and Chestnut Stuffing.
Tofu or tempeh are often at the center of vegan cooking, but beans can totally fill in as protein superstars! Whether you’re looking for a tasty sandwich filling, dip, or a little more protein for your meal, beans are pretty much ideal. Combine your beans with a whole grain or some nuts, and you’ve got a whole protein that’s just as nutritious as any meat you could put on your plate!
If you want to keep it simple, beans and rice or quinoa make a quick, delicious, filling meal. You can go more elaborate, too, and make a bean “meat” loaf, like the recipes in Jennifer McCann’s Magical Loaf Studio! The Loaf Studio is a great meal-planning tool, and the results are always stellar. Just plug in items you have on hand for each of the categories, and you’re ready to make a super-tasty main dish with no soy in sight!
Next: How to make creamy vegan ice cream and cheese without soy
Nuts and Seeds
Soy milk is another vegan staple that’s really simple to replace. Almond milk is available almost as readily as soy milk in supermarkets. Not only does almond milk match soy milk in consistency and availability, it doesn’t have that beany aftertaste that can be off-putting to a lot of folks. It’s easy to whip up some home-made milk from almonds, cashews, or even sunflower seeds! Here’s a great recipe for cashew milk from Elena’s Pantry to get you started.
Milk isn’t the only area where nuts can replace soy options. There are non-dairy ice creams available made from almonds, and you can even find nut cheeses out there! The latter is a little harder to come by, but it’s another area where it’s not too hard to make your own.
Talk about decadent! Like almond milk, coconut milk works 1:1 in place of soy milk in recipes. A word of caution: coconut milk will definitely give foods a distinct coconut flavor. So Delicious makes cartons of coconut-based milk that are lower in fat and are a bit more mellow-tasting, but definitely make sure a hint of coconut will go with the dish before making this substitution.
The area where coconut milk really excels is in ice cream and yogurt! There are pre-made varieties of both available at most health food stores, or, like many of these other alternatives, you can make it at home. You just need a yogurt or ice cream maker. Coconut milk ice cream is incredibly rich and creamy – even the most die-hard omnivore won’t complain!
Image Credt: satoru_kikuchi on Flickr.