For many vegan brands, soy is a go-to ingredient. It’s protein-packed, nutritious, and most importantly, versatile. Depending on how they are processed, soybeans can take many shapes and textures, allowing them to form the basis of plant-based meats, as well as dairy-free cheeses and milks. But while soy presents a great alternative to animal products for many—including those who may suffer with a dairy allergy or lactose intolerance—it is, of course, not suitable for those with soy allergies.
But good news: if you’re a vegan who wants or needs to follow a diet without soy, or you know someone who is soy-free, there are plenty of suitable products out there. To help you find them, we’ve gathered some of the best soy-free vegan meat, milk, and cheese products on the market, as well as easy-to-follow vegan soy-free recipes.
What is soy?
Soybeans, often simply referred to as just “soy,” are a type of legume. While the beans are native to Southeast Asia, they are now cultivated all over the world—but predominantly in South America. Soy farming has been linked with deforestation, however, most soy crops (around 80 percent) are grown for farm animal feed, not human consumption.
There are several different types of soybeans. Green soybeans (also referred to as edamame) are a popular snack or appetizer, often served in Japanese restaurants. Yellow soybeans are usually used to make things like milk, tofu, and tempeh, as well as texture vegetable protein (a vegan meat alternative).
There are also black soybeans, and these are used in many traditional Asian recipes, like Kongjaban in Korea or Kuromame in Japan.
Soy allergies can occur at any age, but they are more common in infants and children than adults. Like any food allergy, reactions can vary in severity, with symptoms ranging from skin redness to full anaphylaxis. But, according to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), soy allergies are usually mild.
FARE also notes that of the 32 million people in the US who have food allergies, approximately 1.9 million are related to soy. In contrast, more than 8 million people are allergic to shellfish and more than 6 million…