12 Must-Try Japanese Soybean Products - Tofu, Natto, Edamame, and More!

Soybeans are an essential part of the Japanese dietーboth traditionally and in modern times. While often viewed as a vegetarian alternative or health product in the West, Japan has perfected the art of soybean cooking to produce a wide range of delicious and unique dishes suiting all palates, from classics like tofu and natto to lesser-known delicacies such as yuba and abura-age. In this article, we’ll introduce you to 12 Japanese soybean products to fill your Japan to-eat list with plenty of soy goodness!

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1. Natto

Masafumi Iwai/Flickr

Natto is a kind of fermented soybean product made by adding natto-kin, a kind of yeast. It is known as one of Japan’s most unique foods. It comes along with a strong pungent smell and is a common breakfast served together with steamed white rice in Japan.

2. Yuba

hiro kobashi/Flickr

Yuba, also known as bean curd skin, is made by boiling the soya milk, skimming the curds and drying them. You can easily get yuba in the supermarket.

3. Kinako


Kinako is roasted soybean flour that has a sweet taste and powdery texture. It's a common ingredient and topping for Japanese deserts such as mochi and wagashi. 


4. Okara


Okara  is a pulp consisting of the insoluble parts of the soybean which remains after pureed soybeans are filtered in the production of soy milk and tofu. It is generally white or yellowish in color.


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5. To-nyu


To-nyu is soybean milk.

6. Tofu


Tofu is made by solidifying soya milk with a coagulating agent called nigari.

7. Yakidofu

Yaki Dofu is a Japanese term for firm tofu that has been lightly grilled or broiled on both sides, so that both sides are slightly browned. The grilling also evaporates some water, helping to firm it up the tofu even more. It used to be made by putting pieces of tofu on skewers and grilling it over a fire. Now it is done under grills or broilers.


8. Koyadofu


Koyadofu is a type of dried tofu. It is freeze-dried and usually can be kept longer.

9. Atsu-age

Atsuage is thick triangular pieces of deep fried tofu. The outside will be crisp and golden; the inside will be "raw" (soft and white). Atsuage can be served on its own with a sauce of soy sauce and grated ginger, or you can chop it up into pieces and use as an ingredient in Japanese dishes such as stir fries, or you can simmer whole pieces of it in a dashi stock.


10. Abura-age


Abura-age is deep fried tofu, where almost none of the soft white tofu remains. It’s also called tofu skin or tofu pocket sometimes. When the tofu is deep fried, an air pocket is formed inside which can be stuffed, as in inarizushi or eggs in treasure bags. Besides stuffing it, you can use aburaage sliced up and put into soups or stir-fries, gently cooked whole in a broth as in kitsune udon, and more.


11. Ganmodoki


This is a dumpling-like dish, made from frying tofu with yama-imo (yam) and other minced vegetables.

12. Edamame


Edamame are young soybeans, usually still in the pod. Because the beans are young and green when they are picked, edamame soybeans are soft and edible, not hard and dry like the mature soybeans which are used to make soy milk and tofu.


The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

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