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Crispy BBQ Soy Curls

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These BBQ soy curls are baked or air fried to achieve a crispy texture on the outside. They’re chewy on the inside and so flavorful. The soy curls perfect for serving on a bun, in tacos or bowls, or as part of a barbecue spread. Plus, they’re easy to make—you can use homemade or store-bought barbecue sauce!

BBQ soy curls are nestled next to a small bowl of coleslaw on an oval serving platter.

Here I am again, with another simple vegan protein.

I know I’ve shared a number of these lately, along with other staple foods and basics.

But oh, how I love a soy curl.

Soy curls have become one of my go-to vegan proteins, right up there with tofu, tempeh, seitan, and beans. I now have a quintet of favorite proteins in place of a quartet.

Soy curls are nutritious, versatile, and wholesome. They’re less expensive than many store-bought vegan chick’n options. And, since you can season and flavor them yourself, they’ll give you endless opportunities to get creative.

This recipe is not creative, really. On the contrary, it’s a simple, vegan spin on a classic summer cookout staple, BBQ chicken.

But classics stand the test of time for a reason, right? I make these soy curls often, and if I like and use them as much as I do, there’s a chance that one of you will, too.

What are soy curls?

First things first: what the heck are soy curls?

That’s actually an easy question to answer: soy curls are actually soy beans. They’re non-GMO soy beans that are soaked, stirred, cooked, and dehydrated at low temperatures.

The product that results is light and dry.

A bowl has been filled with soy curls. The bowl rests on a white surface.

When you soak soy curls in boiling water or broth, they plump up considerably. At this point, they can be drained of liquid and pressed a little to remove the extra moisture.

Prepared this way, soy curls have a texture that’s sort of similar to chicken in its chewiness. The color is similar to that of white chicken meat, too.

Rehydrated soy curls can be seasoned further or added to chili, soup, tacos, burritos, salads, and more. They become a vegan “chick’n” that’s made from a single ingredient, inexpensive, and nutrient dense.

I really only started cooking with soy curls regularly after I wrote Power Plates, so sadly, there aren’t any soy curl recipes in that book. But I’m happy to say that The Vegan Week features a few soy curl recipes. Creating them has only solidified my love of this versatile protein.

Soy curls nutrition

Soy curls boast the same nutrition benefits as other soy foods do—namely, plentiful plant protein. A serving of soy curls has 11 grams of protein, which is a solid contribution to any plant-based meal.

Protein needs are highly individual—they vary according to age, activity level, health demands, and other factors. But I encourage most of my nutrition clients to aim for at least 15-20 grams per meal. 11 grams will take you a good part of the way.

Soy curls provide about 10% of the recommended daily allowance of iron for premenopausal women and 25% of the recommended daily allowance of iron for men of all ages and postmenopausal women.

On top of this, soy curls are rich in fiber—6 grams, or about 20% of the RDA per serving. This is good news for digestive regularity, and high-fiber foods usually help people to feel satisfied after meals.

Where to buy soy curls

I buy soy curls directly from their maker, Butler Foods. Butler Foods is an independent, family-owned business in Oregon, and the company is responsible for the goodness that is the soy curl.

Shipping from the Butler site does cost some money, but soy curls are themselves very economical (about 50 cents per serving of protein). I order 6 bags at a time and store them in my pantry. I like to support the company.

You can also purchase soy curls on Amazon, and you can find them at some health food stores and grocers that specialize in vegan products.

Soy curls are being coated with red sauce in a mixing bowl.

How to make crispy BBQ soy curls

BBQ soy curls aren’t a new food for me. I’ve always enjoyed the taste of soy curls when they’re coated in BBQ sauce.

What makes this recipe a little new for me is the texture of these soy curls. Whereas in the past I would simply rehydrate soy curls in hot broth or water, squeeze them out, then coat them in BBQ sauce before eating, I now take the extra step of baking or air frying them.

A lined baking sheet has been covered in a plant-based protein.

Baking the soy curls results in crispy, browning edges. The centers of the soy curls remain chewy, but I think the soy curls are even more chick’n-like, thanks to the time they spend drying out in the oven.

Now that I’ve gotten used to preparing marinated soy curls this way, it’ll be hard for me not to go the extra step of baking or air-frying. It really does make a difference!

From start to finish, making the BBQ soy curls is so simple. You’ll rehydrate them, squeeze them to remove moisture, then coat them in BBQ sauce.

After this, you’ll bake or air fry them. The soy curls will need about 25 minutes in the oven or 10-12 minutes in an air fryer. (Air frying time may vary depending on the air fryer—this is the one I use at home.)

That’s it! From that point, you can choose to enjoy them as part of any meal that calls for a BBQ-themed vegan protein. On a burger bun with a tangy slaw is one good idea.

Two things to note about the recipe: first, you’ll be using a half bag of soy curls (120g, rather than a whole, 8-oz/225g bag). That’s about 4 servings. If you like, you can use the whole bag and double the recipe.

Also, when I prepare soy curls simply, I usually rehydrate them in broth for flavor and seasoning. In this recipe, the BBQ sauce provides both of those things, so I use hot water to rehydrate the soy curls.

Do I need to use homemade BBQ sauce?

No, you don’t. I include in this recipe a simple, minimalist homemade BBQ sauce. But you’ll have the option to use 3/4 cup of your favorite store-bought BBQ sauce instead.

If you like, or if you prefer to an option that’s sweetened with whole foods, you can try using my date BBQ sauce in this recipe.

Storing crispy BBQ soy curls

The soy curls can be stored in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to five days or frozen for up to six weeks.

Unfortunately, they’ll lose some of those pleasantly crispy edges during storage. But you can re-crisp the BBQ soy curls by spreading them on a baking sheet in a single layer and reheating in a 350F oven for 10-15 minutes.

You can also pop them into the air fryer and air fry them for 3-5 minutes at 400F.

More vegan soy curl recipes

I don’t always turn cooked soy curls into a “recipe,” per se.

A lot of the time I just rehydrate them in hot, chick’n style vegan broth, then use them the same way I might have used cut chicken breast pieces before I became vegan: in salads, sandwiches, or wraps.

But if you’re eager to experiment with soy curl recipes, here’s a few of my favorites from this blog:

  • Creamy vegan chick’n rice skillet supper
  • Soy curl cacciatore
  • BBQ soy curl and cabbage apple slaw sandwiches
  • Vegan chick’n enchilada breakfast casserole
  • Hearty vegan chik’n bean chili (a reader fave and personal fave!)
A vegan protein is being served on a small, oval platter with coleslaw.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups Butler Foods soy curls (120g; this is half of an 8-ounce / 225g package
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Bragg Liquid Aminos or tamari
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup or brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons ketchup (100g)

Instructions

  • Preheat your oven to 400F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  • Place the soy curls in a large mixing bowl. Place the water in a pot and bring it to a boil. Pour the hot water over the soy curls and cover the bowl. Allow the soy curls to hydrate for 10 minutes, then drain in a colander. Once drained, use the bottom of a bowl to press down on the soy curls, helping to wring out the excess moisture.
  • Return the soy curls to the bowl. Add the remaining ingredients or 3/4 cup date-sweetened barbecue sauce or store-bought barbecue sauce of choice. Use your hands to coat the soy curls well in the sauce. 
  • Transfer the soy curls to the baking sheet and arrange them in a single layer. Roast the soy curls for 25 minutes, or until they're browning and becoming crispy. Gently flip the pieces on the sheet once halfway through baking.
  • Alternatively, you can air fry the soy curls at 400 for 10-12 minutes, shaking or stirring them once halfway through cooking.
A zoomed in image of soy curls that are coated in BBQ sauce.

I’m already envisioning a summer full of these BBQ soy curls. They’ll end up on buns or toast, in bowls with rice or cornbread, maybe in quesadillas or tacos. Perhaps I’ll even throw together some kind of casserole that features them.

No matter what, they’ll be easy, satisfying, and nutritious.

Hope you’ll find a couple of uses for them, too. Enjoy!

xo

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