A vegetarian's best friend, soy is a versatile little bean that packs a powerful punch. High in protein and rich in calcium, iron, B-6 vitamins and folate, soy plays well with fruits, veggies and grains. Add these soy essentials into your vegetarian repertoire and you won't even miss the meat!
A vegan-friendly alternative to cow's milks, soy milk comes in many flavors — plain, vanilla, chocolate and even "no added sugar." Look for fortified versions, which are supplemented with B-12 and extra calcium. Try a glass plain or as a coffee creamer, add it to your morning cereal or use it as a base for a fresh fruit smoothie.
Tofu — a.k.a. coagulated soy milk — can be creamy and soft, chewy and firm or even extra firm. Cooked or uncooked, tofu has a neutral flavor that goes well with robust spices, sauces and marinades. Add firm cubed pieces to stir fries, soups and salads, and puree softer tofu for dressings, puddings or smoothies. Always drain water-packed tofu before using — line a cutting board with paper towels, arrange your tofu on it and place a bowl on top for about 15 minutes.
Made from lightly fermented whole beans pressed into cakes, tempeh has more protein, fiber and vitamins than tofu and sports a meatier flavor and firmer texture. Try it marinated and sautéed in stir fries, crumbled into pasta sauces, chilis or taco filling, or ground up in "meat" loaf (try using a cheese grater). Look for the vacuum-packed cakes in your market's refrigerated section, and toss them in the freezer for long-term keeping.
Yellow, green or black, whole soybeans come dried or canned and add nice texture to salads and soups. Soy nuts — whole beans that are roasted and salted or spiced — are a pleasing, peanut-like snack. Edamame — softer, green soybean pods that are boiled in salt water — is also a satisfying snack or starter.
You might have to look a little harder to find it (check a natural foods market or online), but soy flour adds a nutty, protein kick to baked goods. Try substituting a tablespoon or two per each cup of traditional baking flour in pizza dough, muffins, sweet breads and more. Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer, and it'll stay fresh for a year.