Everything you need to know about okara - and what you can do with it
If you have ever made soy milk or tofu, then you know that the process leaves behind a pulp made up of all the insoluble parts that are left over after pureed soybeans have been filtered.
That white or yellow substance, a byproduct of tofu and soy milk, is known as okara. It’s also called soy pulp or tofu dregs.
But okara is a fantastic byproduct that can be used in many recipes. It’s actually included in many traditional Japanese, Korean and Chinese recipes. Okara has seen an increase in popularity in western nations since the 20th century as it has become more widely used in vegetarian recipes.
A little background on okara
When it’s produced in huge quantities, okara is used as both animal feed. Most of the okara produced around the world actually ends up being used as feed for hogs and dairy cows.
It’s also widely used as a natural fertilizer or compost because it contains a good amount of nitrogen.
When compared to its use as feed and fertilizer, the amount of okara that is used for human consumption is relatively small.
It is very popular in some countries, though. In Japan, for example, okara is sold at nearly every supermarket. Some of the foods that most commonly use okara are also sold in stores there.
It’s a healthy ingredient
Spend some time browsing for recipes and more information about its uses, you may read that some consider okara a miracle food. Okara has earned that high amount of praise because it’s low in fat and high in calcium, protein and dietary fiber.
Like many other plants that are high in fiber, okara contains both soluble and insoluble fiber. Because of its very high amount of fiber, okara is actually much more nutritious than both soy milk and tofu.
Okara is an ingredient, though. It’s not served on its own. However, it can be added to dishes to add nutrition or included in baking recipes for the same reasons. For example, if a recipe needs to be gluten-free, then okara can replace flour.
Okara is a useful and versatile ingredient
Okara’s presence in many food recipes is not rare, though. As mentioned above, it has been used by the people of Japan, Korea and China and other countries for a very long time.
In Japan, okara can often be found in unohana, which is a side dish that includes okara, soy sauce, mirin, sliced carrots, burdock root and shiitake mushrooms. It can also be used to make tempeh through a fermentation process.
Many people, including in the United States, will also encounter okara in certain vegetarian burger recipes.
But okara is used as an ingredient and not a standalone food option because its flavor - by itself - is very bland. It does have a good texture, though.
Okara can be used to make or boost protein in other products. It can be used to make soy flour for a gluten-free baking option. This does require adding some sort of a thickener, as suggested by MyRecipes, such as xanthan gum, leaveners like baking soda or baking powder as wella s cornstarch, arrowroot or potato starch.
MyRecipes also recommends adding okara in any of your favorite stir fry recipes that would normally call for tofu, chicken or beef as protein. Just go ahead and replace a cup of okara for each pound of protein originally needed in the recipe.
As if that’s not enough to convince you of okara’s versatility, it can also be used in baked goods as a replacement for eggs. All you have to do is add one tablespoon or wet okara to two tablespoons or water and let the mixture sit for about five minutes. That’ll give you the equivalent of one egg.
Preserve okara to increase shelf life
Okara has to be used or preserved quickly because of its shelf life. Okara lasts about as long as soy milk or tofu, so you don’t have a whole lot of time before you need to find some way to preserve it if you don’t intend to use it in recipes right away.
One easy way to preserve okara and extend its shelf life is to freeze it. Another way is to dry it out and use it as a powder. To do this, according to Japanese food blog Just Hungry, spread out the fresh okara on a baking sheet and dry in the oven at a low temperature. Turn the okara every 15 to 20 minutes. Dry okara may be lumpy, so Just Hungry recommends placing it in a food processor to give it a fine texture. From there, place it into airtight plastic bags.
Once you want to use the okara again, all you have to do is simmer it in water or milk until its smooth and soft. Drain out extra moisture in a fine mesh or sieve.
Ready to try okara?
We know all about okara here at Laura® Soybeans. One of the questions we get a lot here is what to do with it after you have made soy milk at home.
If that’s a question you have asked, then we have the perfect walkthrough video and blog post on how to make your own okara flour to get you started on introducing this healthy ingredient to your meals.
But your okara options don’t end there. After trying your hand at flour, we also have a tasty recipe for okara apricot muffins that you can use the flour to make!
After that, we have this tremendously delicious, savory recipe for spinach okara burgers.
Stock up on soybeans
To use okara in your recipes, though, you will likely need to shop for some soybeans - and use them to make your own soy milk or tofu from the comfort of your kitchen. Don’t worry! Laura® Soybeans are perfect for making both.
Plus, whenever you shop our soybeans, you can be assured you will receive the best-tasting soybeans that are 100% natural and healthy protein, non-GMO and vegan-endorsed.