Soybean Recipes: Increase Your Protein Content and Quality

Dr. John Hal Johnson, a food scientist at Brigham Young University, experiments with different soybean recipes to increase both the protein content and protein quality.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
March/April 1978

Dr. John Hal Johnson pours the batter for high-quality protein rich soy waffles into a waffle iron.

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There's no disputing the fact that the soybean has a lot going for it! [1] It contains 35 to 40 percent protein (as opposed to only 20 percent in hamburger), [2] it's an extremely inexpensive and plentiful source of protein and other nutrients and [3] it can form the basis for a seemingly limitless variety of delicious soybean recipes, ranging from soup — through appetizers, salads and desserts — to nuts (have you ever tasted roasted soybeans?).

Dr. John Hal Johnson, a food scientist at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, has been aware of these soybean benefits for a long time. And he's spent the last nine years researching new uses for the Asian legume. During that time, he's come up with recipes for such foods as a sandwich spread, a creamy dip, a crunchy granola, a kind of cheese and a brownie-like dessert ... all composed chiefly of soybeans.

Unless you're already a soybean aficionado, Dr. Johnson says, the taste of these dishes may surprise you. (They're darned good!) The professor's official tasters — his own children, other youngsters in the neighborhood and students in his classes — all agree.

And the fact that soybeans are so nourishing just enhances their value. "They have a much higher protein content than other beans," explains the Utah food expert. "They're also 20 percent oil, and that oil can be used for cooking and to make salad dressing and margarine. Furthermore — after the oil has been pressed from the beans — the meal which remains can be ground into a flour which is 50 percent protein."

One tablespoon of that defatted flour, Dr. Johnson adds — when combined with four tablespoons of corn flour — will increase the protein content of the corn product by 150 percent. The protein quality of the mixture will also be better than that of the corn flour alone. And if 1/2 cup of the soy flour is added to the wheat dough in a loaf of bread, the baked loaf's protein content can be increased by 50 percent.

The cost of soybean protein is another point in the beans' favor. For example, a whole pound of pure soy protein (two pounds of 50 percent protein flour) costs only 50 cents; whereas, a pound of pure hamburger protein (the meat costs about 70 cents a pound and contains only 20 percent protein) runs $3.50.

Other sources of high-quality protein, such as milk and eggs, are also relatively expensive when compared to the beans. In fact, even pinto and navy beans cost more and provide less protein than do soybeans.

Dr. Johnson — like many other scientists — believes that soybeans can be the answer to the world's food shortage. The legumes can be grown all over the world and can be combined with less nutritious grains (such as corn, wheat, rye and rice) to produce a great many palatable foods.

Among the professor's test creations is a snack food called "snoiks," which comes out of an extruder looking like cheese puffs but containing twice the protein (and none of the less healthful ingredients) of ordinary "junk foods." Snoiks — which hold great possibilities for dieters because of their low fat and carbohydrate content — are made of a combination of soy and corn flours and can be flavored in a variety of ways. Dr. Johnson hopes they'll eventually be distributed through vending machines in all parts of the nation.

John Hal Johnson offers novices the following tips on soybean use:

[1] Dried soybeans can be soaked and cooked whole like pinto beans. (But — because their protein content is so high — they take longer to cook.)

[2] The dried beans can also be ground in a flour mill, in a two-stage process: first coarse, then fine. (Because of their high fat content, soybeans will plug up a grinder if you try to pulverize them too fine the first time through.)

[3] When you use ground soy flour in a recipe, mix it first with boiling water to prevent it from developing a "painty" taste. (Don't add extra water to the recipe, just boil whatever liquid the recipe calls for.)

[4] As an alternative to soy flour, you can make soy milk. Soak 1/3 cup dried beans, covered, for at least three hours (or — better yet — overnight). Then add enough water to bring the total volume up to two cups and cook the beans for 15 minutes, adding one teaspoon of oil to reduce foaming. Preheat a blender with hot tap water, add the steaming soybeans, and blend them at high speed for three minutes. (Soy milk will keep about the same length of time as cow's milk.)

[5] You can add soy flour or soy milk to all kinds of recipes ... just make sure not to use more than 10 percent soy flour in any flour mixture. (The results would be nutritious, but almost inedible.)

For those who have never yet cooked with soybeans, Dr. Johnson recommends the following recipes.

Soy Waffles Recipe


1 cup medium-thick soy milk 
1 cup cold water 
1 tsp salt 
2 tbsp oil 
1/4 cup cornmeal 
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour 
1 1/2 tsp baking powder 


Pour the soy milk into a mixing bowl and place the bowl in cold water or in the refrigerator. When the soy milk is cool, stir the additional ingredients into the bowl. (Soy waffles should be cooked until they're fairly dry because of the water-holding tendency of the dough.) As a variation, try using 1 1/2 cups of flour and a teaspoon of cinnamon, and omitting the cornmeal.

Yields two 12-inch square waffles 

Corn Soy Squares Recipe


1 cup hot, thick soy milk 
1/8 pound butter or margarine or 1/4 cup cooking oil
1 cup turbinado sugar or 3/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla
Optional Ingredients:
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 to 1/3 cup raisins, chopped dates, or chocolate chips
2/3 tbsp cocoa or carob powder
1/3 cup chopped nuts


While the soy milk is still in the blender, add the margarine or oil, sugar or honey and salt. Blend together, pour out and let cool. Then add the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and vanilla. Stir in 1 or more of the optional ingredients, and pour into a layer cake pan. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-25 minutes. Cool and cut into squares. This dough may also be used as a layer for a cake, frosted as a cake or — by omitting the baking powder — baked into a "bar" texture.

Yields 1 cake pan 

Cheasbeans Recipe


Soak dried soybeans in water for 3 hours, boil them for 20 minutes, drain, and salt lightly. The beans can be eaten like salted peanuts and will keep for 2 to 3 days if covered and put in the refrigerator. They can also be added to a rice or pasta casserole.

Soy-Enriched Meatloaf Recipe


1/3 cup soy flour
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup water
1/2 pound hamburger


Mix the flours and water together until smooth, then add the mixture to the hamburger. (You may use even more of the batter mixture if you wish.) Add seasoning and other additional ingredients according to your own favorite meatloaf recipe.

Soy Pudding Recipe


1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
3 tbsp turbinado sugar or honey
2 tbsp soy flour
1 cup cold water
1 tbsp butter or margarine (optional)


Thoroughly mix the ingredients in a saucepan, then heat the pudding — stirring it all the while — over a medium flame until it thickens. Cinnamon or other "sweet" spices may be added to taste.

Soy Dip Recipe


1 cup thick soy milk
1 cup salad oil
1 tbsp vinegar
1 tsp salt


Slowly mix the ingredients together in a blender or with an electric mixer. Add whatever flavoring you choose — onion, blue cheese, tomato paste, etc. — during this blending.

Rice-Soy Bean Casserole Recipe


2 cups cooked rice
1 cup soaked and cooked soybeans
3/4 cup diced celery
1/4 cup minced onion
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can chicken broth or 1 can tuna
1/2 tsp salt


Combine the ingredients in a casserole dish and bake the hearty meal in a moderate oven until it's thoroughly heated through and through. Serve garnished with parsley.

Cake Mixes Recipe


1 cup of medium-thick soy milk may be substituted for 2 eggs and one-fourth cup water in a cake batter. Additional flour or cornstarch (about 2 tablespoons, perhaps) should be added as needed to control the batter's consistency.

Soy-Enriched Bread Recipe


1 package dry yeast 
3/4 cup warm water 
1 cup medium-thick soy milk 
1 tbsp shortening 
1 tbsp turbinado sugar 
1 1/2 tsp salt 
4 cups whole wheat flour 


Rehydrate the yeast in the water for 10 minutes. Add all other ingredients but the flour and mix together well. Then add 2 cups of the flour and stir it in until the mixture is smooth. Add the remaining 2 cups of flour, and knead until the dough is elastic.

Let the sponge rest at a temperature of about 86 degrees Fahrenheit until it has doubled in bulk. Then knead it some more, and form the dough into a loaf. Once again, let the dough double in size, then place it in a bread pan and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 40-45 minutes.

If you prefer to use your own bread recipe, simply substitute one-fourth cup of soy flour for one-fourth cup of other flour.

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