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I've started making tofu recently, and the one thing that bothers me is how much okara I end up throwing away. Since I'm not drinking the soy milk, and just turning it into tofu immediately, what's the problem with just leave the okara? I assume the tofu will be less flavorful, but it's not exactly strongly flavored to begin with. Will it mess up the coagulation process?

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Might you like to edit your question to also ask "what can I do with the okara if I can't leave it in the tofu"? It seems like you're interested in that as well. (Or I suppose you could ask separately.) –  Jefromi Sep 25 '13 at 20:39
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up vote 8 down vote accepted

The okara has some unextracted protein and sugar but it also has a large quantity of fiber. That fiber will prevent the protein from properly coagulating. If you leave in all the okara you get soybean porridge.

I imagine you could leave in a portion of the okara and you would get a fragile but hearty tofu. The problem with this is that, with most tofu recipes, the beans are not cooked long enough for the okara to be palatable. With all that sugar it would also give rise to much more flatulence.

You don't have to throw the okara out. There are many recipes that make use of the okara for its fiber. It is pretty straight forward to use it in baked goods. Toasting it gives it more interesting flavor.

If you want to look into tofu-like products that use the entire bean you could research tempeh. The whole beans are fermented so you get a meaty product with all the nutrition of the whole soy bean.

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For those of us who don't know, okara is the the pulp left over after you extract the milk from pureed soybeans: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Okara_%28food%29 –  Wayfaring Stranger Sep 24 '13 at 13:46
    
It looked like tempeh is a lot of work, since you need to hold the temperature content perfectly for a long time :\ –  Brendan Long Sep 25 '13 at 0:17
    
@Brendan- It is fermented so I agree it looks trickier than tofu but not worse than yogurt. It's on my list of things I want to try doing. –  Sobachatina Sep 25 '13 at 14:08
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If you include the actual beans in the curds, it'll be edible, but it won't really be tofu.

(Edited to add: There are a couple of Japanese companies that produce a product called "Tofu with okara", but based on my reading of this article plus the help of awkward machine translation, it appears to be using okara treated with an enzyme in order to reduce the amount of waste product. Probably not the sort of thing you'll be able to replicate at home, but worth noting that you aren't the only one with this concern; okara consumption, and use in animal feed, has been declining in proportion to the level of consumption of tofu itself in Japan.)

Instead of throwing it away, why not use the okara in other dishes instead? I like to mix them with vegetables and seasoning (soy sauce, mirin, salt, or western seasonings if preferred) and deep fry them as "croquettes", which I serve with a tonkatsu sauce or similar. I've also made an okara burger from time to time.

I've also mixed them with some mushrooms, onions, carrots, celery and some vaguely Italian seasonings, deep fried them, then served them in tomato sauce. In my experience, they tasted nice the first day but didn't hold up as leftovers.

Okara can also be simmered with carrots, green vegetables, and perhaps some hijiki along with mirin, soy sauce and sugar and used as a side dish.

You can bake the okara at a low temperature in an oven to dry it out a bit, then use it in things like cookies. (May only appeal to Japanese sensibilities but they were popular in Japan for a few years).

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+1 Nice suggestions. –  Sobachatina Sep 25 '13 at 14:09
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