Have you seen recipes that call for soy curls and thought, "What the heck are soy curls?" Well, you're not alone! There's a reason this unique meat substitute remains mysterious to most of us, even though they've been around for decades.
This article will hopefully answer all of your questions, like where to buy soy curls, how they're made, and how to store and use them. Plus, I've rounded up 19 fantastic vegan soy curl recipes that prove soy curls are the versatile, 1-ingredient meat replacement you need in your plant-based kitchen.
What are soy curls?
Soy curls are a unique and healthy, 1-ingredient meat substitute made by family-owned, Oregon-based company Butler Foods.
Unfortunately, Butler soy curls aren't widely distributed to grocery stores, but don't let unfamiliarity keep you from trying this amazing vegan meat replacement!
Soy curls are made from just one ingredient, whole, non-GMO soybeans. This makes them unique in the world of meat replacements, since most soy-based meats are made from isolated parts of the bean (as well as a lot of additives, usually).
The whole soybeans are slowly cooked, then textured and processed by special extruder that shapes them into strands (I like to picture a Willy Wonka-type environment for vegan meat).
The soybean strips are then dehydrated and packaged, giving them an extended shelf life.
Where to Buy Soy Curls
The best way to buy soy curls is by ordering online. You can order directly from the Butler Foods website. They are sold in 8-ounce packages, and for soy curl super fans, there's even a 12 pound bulk package (pictured below)!
Soy curls are also available on Amazon in a variety of package sizes (the 6-pack is usually the best deal).
According to the Butler Foods website, soy curls are available in the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean.
Even here in the U.S., locating soy curls can seem tricky because they're not distributed to grocery stores. Your local co-op or health food store might carry them, but there's no guarantee.
How to Store Soy Curls
Store dry soy curls in a cool place, ideally the refrigerator or freezer. If stored in the pantry, soy curls will last up to 6 months. The packages are printed with a "best by" date.
Since soy curls are a natural product that doesn't contain preservatives (other than being dried) they will eventually go rancid. According to the Butler Foods website, keeping soy curls cold is the best way to store them.
Similar to other cooked foods, after rehydrating and preparing soy curls, the leftovers will keep for up to 5 days in the refrigerator. Prepared soy curls can also be frozen.
Soy Curls vs TVP
Soy curls and textured vegetable protein (TVP) seem very similar at first glance. Both are dried and made from soybeans. The main difference is in the way the two products are made.
Soy curls are made from whole soybeans which means they contain all of the fiber, protein, and nutrients of the bean. TVP, on the other hand, is made from defatted soybeans, which is really just a more attractive way to explain that it is the byproduct of soybean oil production.
While less fat might sound like a good thing, and sometimes it is, soybeans are rich in healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, the type of fat we want in our vegan diets.
From a health perspective, soy curls are considered a "whole food" and are less processed than TVP.
Soy curls and TVP also differ in shape and size. If you were to grind up soy curls and add them to a recipe, visually and texturally they will seem similar to TVP.
What do soy curls taste like?
Dry soy curls straight from the bag are pretty much flavorless. So think of soy curls like you would tofu or tempeh, a blank slate for flavor.
Depending on how you plan to use them, you can begin building flavor right from the start when rehydrating the soy curls.
Since soy curls are dehydrated, they're basically a sponge ready to soak up your favorite seasonings and spices.
Instead of rehydrating soy curls in water as stated on the package, you may want to use a rich vegetable broth or mushroom broth.
You can also simply add a few dashes of salt and seasonings to the water. Keep in mind that for some recipes you won't need to rehydrate the soy curls. More on this below.
Tip: Always out of vegetable broth when you need it? Try this Homemade Vegan Chicken Broth Powder. Use it to rehydrate soy curls for maximum flavor!
How to Use Butler Soy Curls
Since soy curls are dried they are great at soaking up flavors. When rehydrated, soy curls have a striated appearance and chewiness similar to chicken. This similarity makes them incredibly useful in a variety of dishes.
Soy curls are great for quick dinners because unlike tofu, there's no pressing involved. Simply rehydrate the soy curls in water or broth for about 10 minutes, then squeeze out the excess liquid and add them to a saute or stir fry.
Sometimes you may not need to rehydrate soy curls before using them in a recipe. For example, in this bacon bits recipe a minimal amount of liquid is added so the soy curls get nice and crispy.
And in this lentil curry, the soy curls go into the pot dry and soak up all the delicious coconut curry flavor during cooking.
You can also chop or pulse rehydrated soy curls in a food processor for a ground meat texture. The taco meat recipe below is a perfect example of how much soy curls can resemble ground meat in both mouthfeel and appearance.
Soy curls can also be added to a pot or pressure cooker while cooking grains, like in this millet recipe, and added whole or chopped to chili, stews, and soups.
Are soy curls healthy?
Yes, soy curls are considered a healthy, whole-food source of many important nutrients. It's also important to note, Butler Foods sources its non-GMO soybeans from a family farm that does not use chemical pesticides.
Soy Curls Nutrition
One serving of soy curls contains:
- 120 calories
- 11 grams protein
- 8 grams carbohydrate
- 6 grams fiber
- Omega-3 fats
- No trans fats or preservatives
Ready to start cooking? Check out these 19 tasty soy curl recipes!
1. Soy Curl Taco Meat
This vegan taco meat is one of our all-time favorite soy curl recipes. Generously seasoned and sautéed with onion and jalapeño, the soy curls are then pulsed in the food processor to create the best vegan taco meat. It's also perfect for nachos, salads and grain bowls.
2. BBQ Soy Curls (Instant Pot, Slow Cooker)
Talk about easy, all you need are 3 ingredients and a few minutes of prep time to make slow-cooker barbecue with soy curls.
3. Instant Pot Red Lentil Curry
This popular recipe is so easy to prepare and absolutely FULL of flavor. Soy curls (or TVP) make this vegan curry extra thick and satisfying.
4. Soy Curl Chicken Strips
How great do these look? Tender Vegan Chicken strips from soy curls are easy to make in the air fryer or oven for a healthy snack, lunch, or dinner. Pair with your favorite dipping sauce and dig in.
5. Soy Curl Ground "Beef"
Made with healthy, whole-food ingredients, this oil-free, gluten-free beef substitute is perfect for everything from stuffed peppers to spaghetti!
6. Vegan Fried Chicken and Biscuits
Check out this unique use of soy curls. Jackie combines ground soy curls with seasonings and vital wheat gluten to make a delicious soy curl seitan! This meal of vegan chicken and biscuits is one that’ll comfort you and stick to your bones! Hearty, flavorful, and perfect for weekend brunch.
7. Soy Curl Pot Pie With Sweet Potato
This whole-food plant-based (WFPB) pot pie is filled with colorful sweet potato and kale and made extra satisfying with meaty soy curls. Paired with this easy and healthy pie crust, you'll especially love this comforting pot pie in fall and winter months.
8. Soy Curl Bacon Bits
One day I thought, "Hmmm, I wonder what would happen if I didn't fully rehydrate soy curls and instead infused them with salty and smoky bacon flavor before baking in the oven?" Friends, the result was even more irresistible than I could have hoped! These vegan bacon bits are way too good to be so healthy.
9. Vegan Bacon Pancakes
Speaking of bacon... after you whip up a batch of those bacon bits above, set some aside for the next morning, and make these sweet and salty Vegan Bacon Pancakes.
10. Vegan Pulled Pork
This soy curls recipe creates a wonderfully textured, chewy bite thanks to the air fryer. Toss the pulled "pork" in barbecue sauce, and serve as a main course or on a sandwich.
11. Vegan White Chili
This creamy vegan white chili can be made on the stovetop or in an Instant Pot. It's a great alternative to to traditional-style chili and a really satisfying, protein-packed dinner thanks to white beans and soy curls. Great for meal prep!
12. Vegan Orange Chicken With Soy Curls
Did you know soy curls make excellent vegan orange chicken? This recipe pairs perfectly with noodles or rice and will have your taste buds doing a happy dance.
13. Texas 3-Bean Vegan Chili
Hearty, filling and chock-full of beans, peppers and spices, this Texas 3-Bean Chili is a real crowd pleaser. It's easy to make, oil-free, and gets extra texture from diced soy curls.
14. Buffalo Soy Curls Salad
This flavor-packed salad combines buffalo soy curls with lettuce, carrots, celery, onion, and avocado and is topped with a creamy vegan ranch dressing. The soy curls can be air fried, pan fried, or baked.
15. Vegan Clam Strips
Soy curl clam strips are crispy, chewy, and oh-so-delicious! Seasoned with Old Bay and cayenne and served with a side of extra dilly tartar sauce.
16. Instant Pot Millet With Soy Curls
If you like easy, dump-and-start Instant Pot recipes, you'll love this creamy millet with vegetables and soy curls. It's a healthy, full meal that's ready in no time!
17. Vegan Hamburger Helper
Soy curls stand in for beef in this classic American dish. Perfectly seasoned homemade cheesy sauce and pasta make this hamburger helper a recipe the whole family will love!
18. Vegan Mongolian Beef With Soy Curls
If you've never had Mongolian beef, vegan or otherwise, and you are a fan of garlicky, gingery, sweet, sticky sauces, then this is definitely one to try!
19. Air Fryer Soy Curls
Whether air fried or baked in the oven, you'll love the smoky, savory flavor and chewy meat-like texture of this recipe. Enjoy the soy curls as an entree or snack on it like soy curl jerky!
Isn't it incredible how versatile soy curls are? Their meaty texture and neutral flavor are perfect for so many vegan recipes.
Have other questions about Butler soy curls?
Let us know in the comments below, and if you try any of these amazing soy curl recipes be sure to let us know!
Great looking recipes for Soy Curls. Looking forward to trying them. I have just started using Soy Curls. I am a backpacker and make my own meals rather than buying the expensive pre-packaged ones. Since these are already cooked in the processing, would pouring hot water over the meal for a 15 min soak, be enough at camp? TIA Kay
That's a great question, Kay! Technically, pouring boiling liquid over the dry soy curls should be fine from a food safety perspective, but the texture will be a bit squishy and obviously not ideal. But since you'll be backpacking you may not care about that! You'll also want to add flavor with spices or sauce.
I ordered soy curls direct from Butler. Not only is the 12 lb box an incredible deal, they even threw in some freebies for me! Thanks for introducing me to a great product! Looking forward to trying many of the recipes.
I have been using soy curls for about a year now. They are so convenient. I use them for many different dishes. Especially convenient for chicken salad sandwiches.
I just read through the 18 recipes for soy curls. So many great recipes. My printer is warm from all the activity!