Oh boy, no soy
May 24, 2021 11:14 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for resources on cooking/eating without soy. It's a multi-parter:

- Websites/resources for cooking without soy.
- Websites/resources on learning to manage multiple food restrictions (meat, dairy, tomatoes, and now also soy)
- Restaurants in the Boston area that are soy allergy friendly
- Managing group meals where one person has all these restrictions and the others do not. And some of the others feel frustrated by the diet limitations. Please note, the person with restrictions is not a cook and will not be for the immediate future. And the cook(s) prefer to make only one meal, possibly with some limited options.

Thank you.
posted by papergirl to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I am also allergic to soy. I can't speak much to the other restrictions in your list, so this answer is focused on the soy part, which sounds like the newest.

You may already know this, but the current guidelines for soy allergen labeling in the U.S. do not include soybean oil or soy lecithin (both of which I react to); this means that you can't entirely rely on the allergen statement on foods. The logic of this is that soybean oil and soy lecithin don't have soy protein and are less allergic than the protein (or something like that). So figuring out if the person needs to avoid just soy protein (labeled) or all soy (potentially unlabeled) can be beneficial.

Some websites that I found early in the soy-free journey:
link 1
link 2

Some brands and other specific food notes:
- Most (if not all) of the Theo chocolate is soy-free.
- Bobo's snack bars are soy-free.
- The clif bar nut butter bars are soy-free, but the regular line of clif bars are not.
- Peanut butter often has soybean oil in the "may contain one of the following oils" list; Trader Joe's sells the cheapest peanut-only (or peanut- and salt-only) options.
- Field Roast is a brand of vegan sausage that has soy-free options.
- Bread often has soybean oil.
- Salad dressing is hard. Primal Kitchen dressings are expensive but soy-free. The bbq ranch and the cilantro lime are the best. Note that the bbq ranch doesn't taste like either bbq or ranch but it is good in its own right.
- The whole foods 360 brand mayo doesn't have soy and is the best mayo option I've found.

When I discovered the soy allergy, I was vegetarian. Then my doctor wanted me on a lower-carb diet. The combination of no soy, no meat, low carb was too much - I ended up with nothing to eat when I rarely went out (think salad with no dressing). Because the soy and the carbs weren't optional for me, I had to give up the other restriction of vegetarian.

It sounds like you're looking for vegan and soy free. If you're not avoiding nuts, cashew-based sauce options on pasta might be a good option. Other options that have worked for multiple dietary restrictions are taco bar and build-your-own pizza.

Good luck. This one is hard.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 12:09 PM on May 24, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Managing group meals where... the cook(s) prefer to make only one meal, possibly with some limited options.

For the cooks: accept that you will not be making one big impressive dish layered with complex flavors that everyone can rave about like a lasagna or a stew. Have a conversation with the person about what basic cooking brands/ingredients are safe for them--what fats do they cook with, for instance. Think about highlighting some ingredient everyone can eat, and pick a simple preparation (e.g., roast chicken if the person with restrictions can eat poultry, grilled shrimp if the person can eat shellfish) or recipe with a limited number of allergy-safe ingredients (e.g., deviled eggs made with soy-free or homemade mayo, falafel fried in a safe oil, this shockingly good boiled kale). The shorter the ingredient list, the easier to keep the dish allergen-free. Lean on roasted or grilled veggies for sides and easy starches like steamed rice or roasted potatoes. When adding extra options, make those the allergen-filled dishes--don't treat the allergy-friendly dishes as "extra work" or you'll get resentful. Instead, plan a meal everyone can eat and, if you want, set out a dish of chopped tomatoes, butter, cheese, etc. people can add to their plate according to their own dietary needs and preferences.

A couple other random tips: If the person can have coconut aminos, they're a good substitute for soy sauce in marinades and dipping sauces. Homemade mayo is stupid easy to make with an immersion blender. An electric skillet makes pan-frying easy. Latkes with homemade applesauce can be a whole, delicious meal (sour cream on the side for folks who can have dairy).
posted by theotherdurassister at 12:40 PM on May 24, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Keep in mind that most "vegetable oil" in the US is soybean oil, unless it's specifically labeled as corn oil or another source. So restaurants might not even realize they use soybean oil. As someone else above said, oil may or may not be a concern for you...
posted by never.was.and.never.will.be. at 12:44 PM on May 24, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Paleo diets tend to avoid soy and most dairy, sometimes nightshades like tomatoes as well, so I would start there for cooking ideas. Nom Nom Paleo has some recipes that look pretty good.

I frequently cook with soy sauce and coconut aminos are the best soy-free substitute I have found. Flavor varies a lot between brands (some are quite sour, others are saltier or sweeter) so you may need to try a few to find the one you like best. My personal recommendation: Coconut Secret plus some added sea salt. Thai fish sauce is also a good source of salty+umami flavors.

I've done a lot of cooking over the years for people with dietary restrictions, including some similar to yours, while eating an unrestricted diet myself. My general approach is that all diners should be able to eat a complete meal (so not making vegans subsist on plain steamed carrots alone, say) but some dishes may not be accessible to everyone. In practice that can mean making the main dish diet-friendly but some side dishes not, serving diet-unfriendly sauces and seasonings on the side, or cooking one portion of a dish separately for the restricted diner before cooking the rest.
posted by 4rtemis at 12:52 PM on May 24, 2021 [3 favorites]

If they are skipping soy because of tyramine, liquid aminos is not a good substitute.
posted by Oyéah at 1:59 PM on May 24, 2021

Best answer: I have a soy sensitivity myself. When I do Whole 30, my gut is very happy. The Whole 30 meal plan does not allow soy or dairy. There are scads of sites and Instagram accounts with Whole 30 recipes, so you can start with those and filter out the ones that include tomatoes and meat.

Because you're talking about avoiding meat and dairy, you could also dive into vegan recipes and cookbooks, and skip the recipes with soy and tomatoes.

For the group meal situation, it sounds like it's necessary to meet in the middle: Have a conversation with the primary cook, share some Whole 30 and vegan recipes. And ask the cook to supplement those recipes with an optional meat/dairy/tomato serving that's easily separated. For example, Ottolenghi has tons of vegetarian and vegan recipes that could be paired with an optional serving of simple roast chicken or meatballs or whatever meat is preferred.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 2:28 PM on May 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Soy gives me migraines, and I basically cried tears of joy when I found Ocean's Halo. They have seaweed-based sauces and dressing that seriously taste so real, it's crazy. I found them at Whole Foods and also Rite Aid. I use the low-sodium soy sauce all the time, cooks just like regular low-sodium soy sauce, great for marinades and such. The teriyaki sauce is also great. They also have soy-free vegan fish sauce, which could help you bridge your group's food needs.
posted by radioamy at 3:55 PM on May 24, 2021

Best answer: While I don't have Boston-specific restaurants that I can recommend, Indian cuisine and Ethiopian cuisine both have recipes that will fit with this set of restrictions. I make a red lentil coconut curry that I know would work.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 4:34 PM on May 24, 2021

Best answer: I was allergic to soy sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, seaweed, hard fermented cheeses like parmesan and everything else with natural glutamine content for many years. The good news is that I figured out a way to deal with it so everyone could eat my food and enjoy it without even noticing the lack of those popular favorites. The bad news is that this was before the internet, so I can't point to any websites. I found a lot of inspiration in Mediterranean cookbooks, specially Italian and Middle Eastern/North African ones. There are also many recipes from South Asia, Afghanistan and Iran that will work well. In all these cuisines, herbs and spices play a big role as providers of flavor.

Perhaps cookbooks are still a good idea, I feel they are better for inspiration than websites. And there are so many great cookbooks that could be helpful for your challenges. Look for Claudia Roden, and Madhur Jaffrey, for Italian cooking maybe begin with the classic Silver Spoon rather than Marcella Hazan, because they have more vegetable foods that are not filled with tomatoes or dairy products. These are the classics, there are plenty of younger folks, like Ottolenghi or Priya Krishna or Rachel Roddy.

Are eggs possible? Because I think it will be a bit difficult (though not impossible) to be fully vegan without soy products, and there are so many delicious meals with eggs, not only all the variations of omelettes, but also pop-overs, pancakes and crepes and galettes which can be filled with both sweet and savory things. Though one might be able to use aquafaba for those, I haven't tried.

If eggs are off limits, again, the cuisines from Morocco in the West to India in the East have lots of great recipes with legumes. For me, it is good to remember that fresh peas and green beans are legumes too, I don't know why, but I forget that, though I love eating them.

Mushrooms, and specially dried mushrooms can give a bit of the flavor one misses from soy sauce. I always have a bag of dried mushrooms in the pantry.

For family meals, these cuisines also provide a good solution, by putting several different options on the table -- for everyone -- not as separate meals. They don't all have to be made from scratch. Pickles and other preserves are good flavor supplements. A can of butter beans drained and served with a marinade of parsley, garlic, oil and lemon juice is a treat.

BTW, after 20 years I grew out of my allergy. But I still use the same recipes I found to work around it a lot of the time, and my family still asks for them. I hated it at the beginning, but now I see it as a blessing in disguise. I would never have learnt to cook if I hadn't had to deal with the allergy.
posted by mumimor at 5:40 PM on May 24, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I'm allergic to soy and I do feel your pain trying to wrangle this. It's tedious allergy. Here's what I've discovered:
- Restaurants: Legal Seafood (they are very good with avoiding cross-contamination, lots of options for different tastes)
- Soy sauce substitutes: Coconut aminos, fish sauce, oyster sauce (read the ingredients--some contain soy), Worcestershire sauce (add sugar, onion & garlic powder to achieve soy sauce taste, add ginger and sugar to get teriyaki flavor)
- Recipes, cooking: Look for paleo diets, anti-inflammatory diets (check out autoimmune wellness, for instance)
- Watch out for: Anything that says "marinade" on the menu (99% of the time it's soy oil), any fried or breaded foods you don't prepare yourself (flours often contain soy to boost protein), store-bought breads and breadcrumbs (most contain soy flour or soy oil), snacks, power bars, and granolas (most snack foods contain soy flour, lecithin, or soy oil)
- Managing group cooking: Italian food (northern Italian, vegan cheeses and mushrooms can help you out here), roasts/fish and sides.

And here's a random final thing to watch out for: body lotions and hair conditioners. You will be surprised by how many of these products contain hidden soy.

Feel free to memail me for more tips if you want, esp. cooking w/out soy, I've been doing it a long time. My rule of thumb is that I don't avoid entire cuisines I just adapt individual recipes to be soy-less (or whateverless, since I have a zillion food allergies).
posted by skye.dancer at 6:25 PM on May 24, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I eat with almost exactly these restrictions entirely for myself, so I feel the pain of this! (I do eat a smidge of dairy, but oat milk has helped cut that way back.) Most of my good tips have already been shared, especially re: hidden soy flour and oil in a shocking amount of pre-packaged baked goods. Although, a lot of packaged snack foods that used soybean oil ten years ago have now switched to palm, so it pays to pay attention. A few other ideas:

- In a fast frozen food pinch, I really love Quorn products, which are made from mycoprotein. (I especially like the nuggets and patties.)

- Generally your stand-out sources of protein for home cooking are going to be beans and legumes: chickpeas, green and brown and red lentils, alllllll your beans. Indian recipes are a great place to start, and generally speaking you can sub in canola oil for ghee in most cases and you’ll be okay. Seconding all the Mediterranean recs (falafel!), although while Italian has great bean, veggie, & pasta dishes, it might be tough without tomatoes AND dairy; but going with top-shelf ingredients and dressing simply with a great olive oil and salt/pepper/red pepper flakes/fresh herbs? Delicious! Oh, and don’t be afraid to throw a handful of cooked lentils or chickpeas into a salad to bulk it up, same as you would with a chicken breast or something.

- The other major soy-free veggie protein is seitan. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to find pre-made without soy sauce, but it is also easy to make at home. I started with the very basic recipe in Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, then branched out from there. (My personal recipe is gluten + nutritional yeast + spices + oil.) I also make it in bite-sized portions in an Instant Pot, which takes about 20 minutes total.

- I also eat a lot of veggie grain bowls, with protein and chew provided by chickpeas, farro, quinoa, etc. These can be dressed with sauces that are easy to make with your restrictions at home, if difficult to buy pre-bottled, like a tahini-ginger, or peanut, or olive oil & balsamic, etc. And other grain-based food formats also work well with these restrictions: serving veggies + protein + sauce over rice, or polenta, or in a tortilla or pita, etc.

- If you have a blender or a food processor, making your own oat milk is trivially easy: soak your oats 15 minutes, add some water (adjusted to your texture preference), blend, strain through a fine sieve. Done! You can add a little salt or sugar or other flavoring, if you want, but I like it plain. I never liked pre-bottled, but made my own as a quarantine grocery hack and was shocked by how simple and good it was.

Good luck! It can be really hard to find this balance, but now that I’ve adjusted I really don’t feel the pinch when cooking at home at all. (Seriously, get to know your beans, legumes, and high-protein grains!)
posted by CtrlAltDelete at 8:56 PM on May 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

I don't know if you still check up on this thread, but inspired by your question, I tried out making vegan savory crêpes with aquafaba, and it worked brilliantly. I found some recipes online, but ended up just replacing the aquafaba from one tin of chickpeas for one egg in my usual recipe, using half seltzer and half oat milk for liquid. Crêpe batter always improves with resting for 30 minutes.
I filled them with a mushroom and spinach filling in a creamy gravy made with oat "cream"*, and baked them in the oven for five minutes at 200 C.
Vegan crêpes are a bit more fragile than normal crêpes, and you don't want to fiddle a lot with them. Don't turn them over before the edges begin to brown. Make them on an 8" or 10" pan, larger than that they will break when you turn them.
My four testers were hungry omnivores and they were all delighted. We had a big side salad. Go for colorful crispness, to contrast with the beige comfort of the crêpes.
When I do it again, which I will because it was a huge succes, I'll make the crêpes in advance. Crêpes keep well in both freezer and fridge, and they really shouldn't be a weeknight project. We ended up eating at 9PM.

*Make a vegan stock out of whatever you have. Re-hydrate 50 grams of porcini mushrooms and save the water used for rehydration. Finely chop two shallots and fry them gently in vegan butter, when they are translucent, add 250 grams of chopped mixed fresh mushrooms and cook till all the moisture has evaporated. Add a crushed clove of garlic. Now add 200 grams of fresh spinach and let it wilt into the mushroom mix. Finely chop the rehydrated mushrooms and add them to the mix.
Meanwhile, make a velouté with 500 ml stock and the mushroom water, based on vegan butter and flour, plus 100 ml oat "cream". Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. When the velouté is creamy and has no hint of flour taste, add it to the mushroom-spinach mix. Reduce gently, you want a quite thick texture, and re-season to taste, before filling the crêpes.
posted by mumimor at 1:02 PM on June 14, 2021

Bread is such a problem. Most easily findable bread options in the US have soy in them, even the supposedly baked-in-the-store options at Safeway, e.g. Get used to reading the labels. (Cereal, too. Dunno why).

I don't know if Dave's Killer Bread gets out east as far as Boston yet, but it's my go-to for sandwich, bagel, burger bun options. Oh, and hey, if you're in Boston you can go to Clover! I miss Clover. (Many of their options do have soy but they have always been accommodating when I make sure to get something without.)
posted by nat at 5:17 PM on June 16, 2021

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