Vegetarian + Vegan Issues

Published on August 4th, 2011 | by Becky Striepe


Eating Vegan: A Soy-Free Resource Guide

eating veganFresh, homemade tofu

We’ve touched on the soy dilemma here before. In fact, we published a two-part series on the debate about soy and some vegan soy alternatives. Since it’s been a while, though, I thought it might be a good idea to dive into the soy issue once again.

There’s a perception that, aside from salads, vegans basically live on soy products. While this can be true, it by no means has to be. It can be a bit tricky to cut soy out of your diet, or even to cut back on soy, but that’s almost as true for omnivores as it is for vegans.

Sussing Out the Hidden Soy

Setting aside fake meat and dairy products, there are hidden soy ingredients in many foods. Here are just a few, and these aren’t ingredients that you’d only find in products aimed at vegans. Most processed foods contain hidden soy, and it can go by many names. Not all of the ingredients below are soy-derived 100% of the time, but they often are:

  • Gum arabic
  • Bulking agent
  • Carob
  • Emulsifier
  • Guar gum
  • Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP)
  • Lecithin
  • Miso
  • MSG
  • Protein
  • Protein extender
  • Stabilizer
  • Starch
  • Textured vegetable protein (TVP)
  • Thickener
  • Vegetable broth
  • Vegetable gum
  • Vegetable starch
  • Natural flavoring

If you’re looking to totally cut soy out of your diet, whether it’s vegan or not, you’d need to contact the companies about ingredients like these to find out if they’re made from soy. But what about the soy foods that vegans eat more frequently, like tofu, soy milk, and tempeh? Don’t fret! It’s not that hard to eat a vegan diet while avoiding these things! Check it.

Soy-Free Resource Guide

Here are some common foods that are mainly soy or often contain a lot of soy and some soy-free alternatives to replace them.

  • Tofu – Instead of tofu in stir fries and other dishes, try using mushrooms or seitan (derived from vital wheat gluten). For protein, you can add beans or nuts to your diet to instead of tofu. In baking, this can get a bit trickier. Some vegan baked goods call for silken tofu, and it’s not always easy to replace. Sometimes, apple sauce will do the trick, but you’re best off looking for soy free recipes.
  • Margarine –  For cooking, good old olive oil is a great soy-free replacement for margarine. There are some vegan margarines that are soy-free now, too. Earth Balance makes a good one.
  • Soy Milk – There are lots of vegan milks that are soy-free! Try almond milk, rice milk, coconut milk, or hemp milk, just for starters!
  • Tempeh – Tempeh is a trickier one to replace. If you’re going for a faux meat situation, you can use seitan. If a recipe calls for mashing up tempeh, try replacing with cooked beans instead. Garbanzo beans are pretty close to tempeh’s texture, when you mash them up.
  • Veggie Burgers –  Many vegan veggie burgers use soy protein, but you can also find ones made from straight up beans and veggies. Can’t find one without soy ingredients at the store? You can make your own veggie burger at home!
  • Mayo – If you like vegan mayo on sandwiches and in potato salad, check out Follow Your Heart’s soy free Veganaise! Not all varieties of Veganaise are soy free, but there is one version that is. It tastes just as good as the original.

For the most part, the key to kicking the soy is to eat fewer processed foods and make more foods from scratch. That might sound like it’s scary and time-consuming, but I don’t think it has to be at all! If you can work some weekend cooking into your schedule, you can fill the fridge and freezer with quick, easy meals that you can reheat or remix and eat all week long.

Is there a soy product that I missed in this list? Let me know in the comments! Let’s make this list as comprehensive as possible!

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by fotoosvanrobin

Keep up with the latest sustainable food news by signing up for our free newsletter. CLICK HERE to sign up!

Tags: , , , , ,

About the Author

My name is Becky Striepe (rhymes with “sleepy”), and I am a crafts and food writer from Atlanta, Georgia with a passion for making our planet a healthier, happier, and more compassionate place to live. My mission is to make vegan food and crafts accessible to everyone!. If you like my work, you can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .

Comments are closed.

Back to Top ↑
  • Support our Site!

  • Advertisement

  • Let’s Connect!

  • Advertisement

  • Popular Posts & Pages

    Whether you are looking to completely give up animal products or just want to try eating vegan some of the time, we want to support you! Below, you’ll find articles answering some common questions about vegan cooking and nutrition. If you don’t see your question answered below, please get in touch with us! We are happy to investigate for you!

    Find out what's in season now, plus get plenty of recipe inspiration to help you make the most of every season's beautiful, local fare.

    I love infographics. When I came across this one about what, how, and when to plant vegetables, I thought I’d share. Keep reading after the pic for a few of my own lessons learned.

    Top Sustainable Food Jobs of the Week.

    Looking for an all vegan grocery store? Even if you’re not lucky enough to have one in your town, there are lots of online options for vegan grocery shopping.

  • Advertisement

  • Search the IM Network

  • The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by, and do not necessarily represent the views of Sustainable Enterprises Media, Inc., its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.