Meet the soy bean and witness its amazing transformations

Whoa! Who knew you could do so much with such a humble bean? From soy bean to milk, tofu, yuba, and okara. Then, from these base foods, your options are endless.

That’s why I’m doing this roundup, so I can track it all in one place. Hopefully you find it useful, too. Here are a few of my favorite recipes for soymilk, tofu, and their resulting okara biscotti, cookies and crabcakes.  (See the end of the post for a note on health and soy. Spoiler: Soy is HEALTHY.)

Some people were hoarding chicks during COVID-19, but I wrangled soy beans instead

It’s time to hoard soy beans

Many of us are making bread and/or buying baby chicks and toilet paper, but my COVID weakness was fear of tofu loss. Initially the shelves were empty of the humble curd, and it wasn’t just here in Philly, thus *heightening the fear of shortage*. Thus began desperate Googles like “how to make tofu” and making at least ten batches of soy milk and tofu. The first batch would leave one thinking a soy bean massacre took place. After that, I was able to keep myself and the kitchen clean.

The process creates a lot of okara, the part of the bean not used for tofu or soy milk, so I’ve included my favorite recipes to use that up. It’s easy, but something I’d do only once per week. (Wayyy too much okara.)


What I love about this recipe from Mary’s Test Kitchen is you don’t really need anything special beyond the soy bean: How cool is that? You just need a jelly or nut bag to strain the milk.

Soy milk: ready to drink

Basically, the steps:

  1. Soak 1-2 cups beans for 8 hours or overnight
  2. Rinse beans; cover in new water and remove some of the skins
  3. Blend in batches for a minute or so with a total of 5 cups water : 1 cup dry soy beans
  4. Strain the bean mixture through jelly bag into a pot
  5. Boil, then reduce to simmer for 15-20 minutes. Some people remove all the foam, others don’t. I have been skimming it from the top, but want to find out more about what can be done with it (aguafaba 2.0?)

Here is what I’ve learned from the process and will continue to experiment with:

  • I read that soaking the beans *too long* (over 8 hours) reduces the flavor of the milk. Since I always soak for 1-2 days, I’m going to try soaking for less time
  • You don’t need to remove ALL the bean skins/hulls. Some say they lend a beanier taste. I haven’t noticed a difference from my first batch, when I painstakingly (meditatively?) squeezed each and every skin from each and every bean to when (now) I simply cover them in water and knead the beans in my hands till the skins float to the top. Removing the skins is a slowing down process for this fast firecracker that can be meditative.
  • Some recipes call for you to strain the blended  PRIOR to cooking (like this one), and others  AFTER cooking.  The pros to straining before: It’s less hot to handle when straining. The pros to straining after: The author reported a more full “beanier” taste. I didn’t like the taste, so I’m sticking with before for now.
  • The beans must be blended enough to provide flavor — my weak Ninja Bullet does the job, but it takes 1 minute to 1.5 minutes to get the right texture. Smaller batches helps. Also, a plate under the Ninja is key to catch water that leaks out!
  • I don’t stir the milk the entire time; every few minutes only.
  • Two cups of raw soy beans makes enough for one tofu sufficient to make 4 portions of tofu scramble and about 2 cups soy milk.
Strain the blended beans into a pitcher or pot

Reserve the stuff in the jelly bag — okara — for your other recipes.

Okara (Photo by Cook Pad)


When you don’t stir the pot — literally and figuratively — you will reap the reward of the Yuba (I don’t know what this reward feels like figuratively, but I’m hoping tasty). This delicious product is sold in Asian markets, and most closely resembles a fried egg when cooked in olive oil, or fish skin. It’s thin, and crispy deliciousness when fried.

Yuba: Not a beauty right out of the gate. But neither is egg!
Yuba I made for a holiday roast in 2015, pictured as the peppered “skin” inside the outer puff pastry layer. The plant-meat it surrounds is a cylindrical “ham” that I’ve found at multiple Asian markets in Durham, New York City, Seattle, and Philly.
Cheers! Like revenge, best served cold.
S – M – L

I also want to try this delicious looking condensed milk recipe.

Tofu Time

The tofu is also simple: Just your soy milk, plus lemon juice. I also used Mary’s recipe for tofu. Some people use a tofu mold/press, but I just used a colander, cheesecloth, and bowls weighted with water.

I used the original soy milk recipe that the same author posted, calling for soaking of the beans. The newer recipe (where you boil the beans first instead of soak) didn’t seem to work as well (thinner milk & less tofu yield).

After making this a number of times, I realized it wasn’t quite as particular process with the stirring and waiting as I thought. To simplify:

  • I scoop out the soy milk I want to reserve (about 2 cups) from my recipe. Then I simply keep the rest of the soy milk I just made on the stove. Usually it’s a bit warmer than 180 degrees.
  • I turn that off, then pour in 1/2 of the lemon mixture and stir for 15 seconds. After that, I add the rest, gently stir for another 10 seconds, and see it working right away (curdling). I cover and let it rest about 15 minutes.
  • I ladle out the curds into the cheesecloth. It seems to keep the curds in better form.

The tofu will take any shape you give it. I dubs thee a plate:

I rinse the cheesecloth after each batch and reuse so I don’t have to keep buying. COVID times!
Now I dubs thee the State of Oklahoma


What can’t you do with Okara?

Don’t answer that. But it’s probably easier to answer than what you CAN do. So many things. Here are just a few recipes. (People also make fish loaves and burgers, but the recipes I tried didn’t work out. That’s diplomatic. They were horrible.) Got a favorite? Let me know in the comments!


These biscotti are delicious the first day. The second day, you’ll need to reheat them in the oven to get them back to their toasty glory. See the recipe for Okara Brown Sugar Biscotti from the Zero Waste Chef. Note: For the second bake, I cooked for at least twice as long to get them to the desired level of crunch.

Photo from the Zero Waste Chef

I also added almond extract to mine, and the second time I made them, toasted almonds. Delicioso!

Funfetti cookies

Something about funfetti makes anything look appetizing. These cookies are very much like a sugar cookie but with a little more “body” and maybe “attitude.”

I took a basic sugar cookie recipe and replaced 1/4 cup of earth balance butter with 1 cup okara, and used aguafaba for an egg. So, they are very legume positive. ++++++ These cookies are so good you won’t even care that they will also make you regular. The rough recipe is:

  • Cream 1/4 cup earth balance w/ 1/2 cup sugar (yeah not healthy, its a spectrum, right?) And 1 t almond extract and 1/4 cup aquafaba (in these I used the whip cream recipe, it is on the googles – but just the juice is ok)
  • Beat in 1 cup of all purpose flour + 2 t baking powder and 1 t salt; stir in other heaping 1/2 cup flour + 1 cup okara; add your funfetti (I mostly only had blue — a sign of the times)
  • Chill for 30 (the dough and you).
  • Bake for 10-12 mins at 375. Pictured above is about 3/4 a batch.

These were delicious and held up the next two days, too (as long as they lasted).

Crab Cakes by Fat Free Vegan

Crab cakes!

These are delicious with some homemade tartar or cocktail sauce. Just don’t skip the oatmeal part! I did the second time and they fell apart completely. The first time, I used cooked bulgar and it worked well.

Recipe on Fat Free Vegan.


SOY IS SO good for You: Extra Credit

Still on the fence about soy? Due to lobbying and misinformation campaigns by pro-dairy/meat groups such as the cultish Weston Price Foundation (think Trump and Fox News for animal products) the public (at least in the past decade) became luke-warm toward soy. It was the perfect campaign strategy, really, to make soy go on the defensive by attacking the food (with false information) just as Dr. Evil himself advised the Energy sector to do a few years back. (Dr. Evil also heads several groups that have attacked plant-based meats –among other advancements– for decades.)

To learn more soy, see this peer-reviewed research here from Dr. Mark Messina, or watch his informative video here. Takeaway? From the abstract:

“Soy protein also directly lowers circulating LDL-cholesterol levels and may also modestly lower blood pressure…The most distinctive aspect of the soybean is its high isoflavone content. Isoflavones are proposed as having a number of health benefits although not surprisingly, the degree to which the evidence supports these claims varies. For example, there is solid evidence in support of isoflavones alleviating hot flashes and improving arterial health in menopausal women whereas the evidence that they reduce risk of breast and prostate cancer, not surprisingly, is more preliminary. Concerns that the estrogen-like properties of isoflavones produce untoward effects in some subpopulations, such as postmenopausal women, are not supported by the clinical and epidemiologic research. Evidence indicates soyfoods can be safely consumed by all individuals except those who are allergic to soy protein…

And on the point about environmental destruction, just as a bonus:

“85% of the world’s soybean crop is used as animal feed. The way to prevent soy over-farming is by eating it directly in the form of vegan soy foods rather than cycling it through animals before consumption.”

If any doubts about the use of plant protein over its animal counterpart, check also this recent Bill Maher episode (mask-tip to Ruth!)

Bon Soyage!