Vegetarian + Vegan Fresh, homemade tofu

Published on August 4th, 2011 | by Becky Striepe

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Eating Vegan: A Soy-Free Resource Guide

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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


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About the Author

Hi there! I'm Becky Striepe, a green crafter and vegan foodie living in Atlanta, Georgia with my husband and two cats. My mission is to make eco-friendly crafts and vegan food accessible to anyone who wants to give them a go. If you like my work, you can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .



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