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Give your dosa a protein boost with soya chunks

Dosa, poha and upma can be fortified with soya granules or flakes, improving their protein content while still retaining the satisfaction of comfort food

(Left) Protein bomb salad; and soya masala dosa.
(Left) Protein bomb salad; and soya masala dosa. (Nandita Iyer)

A Google search on nutrition information of soya chunks will lead to several websites claiming that soya chunks have more protein than chicken. As per the nutrition label on packs of soya chunks, 100g has 52g of protein. Most end up comparing this number with 100g of cooked chicken breast, which has 31g of protein. Comparing nutritional labels of a raw ingredient with a cooked food is a rookie mistake, and yet you will find nearly every “expert verified” article having this glaring error. Despite not outclassing chicken in protein, soya chunks are a valuable protein source for vegans, vegetarians, and those seeking meat alternatives a few times a week.

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While soya chunks are a processed food when compared to soy beans, the processing makes it easier to eat on a regular basis, digest and assimilate.

Soya chunks are made by extracting edible oil from soybeans, leaving defatted soy flour rich in protein. This flour is mixed with water, formed through a cooking and shaping machine into meat-like textures, and sun-dried for extended shelf life.

As the flour is already cooked while processing, all we need to do is to rehydrate the chunks in hot water, making them expand to nearly three times the size and turning them into flavour sponges.

Depending on the size and shape of the TVP (textured vegetable protein), it can be used in a variety of dishes. Glorify upma, poha, idlis and dosas all you like but they are seriously lacking in the protein department. Enter, TVP. Fifty per cent of poha or upma can be fortified with soya granules or flakes, improving their protein content while still giving you the satisfaction of comfort food.

Boiled, squeezed and coarsely crushed soya chunks can be added to dosa/uthappam/idli batter to fortify it. Add soya chunks to pulao or any other rice dish and have it with yogurt to turn a simple rice-based dish into a protein bomb. Over 10 years ago, even before the protein awareness picked up, I have blogged about TVP-enriched popular dishes like pav bhaji, which is essentially carbohydrates (potatoes and other vegetables) and more carbs (pav). Up to 75% of the mashed potatoes in pav bhaji can be subbed with cooked soya granules and you can hardly tell the difference. You can even use this mix along with potatoes in your pani-puri filling. After all, we could all do with some protein love in the dishes we eat on an everyday basis. If modifying the dishes is too much of a trouble, then boiled soy chunks can be had as is with salt, pepper, lemon juice and a touch of olive oil along with any meal. Today I am adding these to my mixed veggie salad to make it much more filling and so I can hit my protein goals for the day.

So back to the much searched query on Google—what is the protein content of cooked soya chunks? 100g of cooked soya chunks contain 17-20g of protein. Much lower than chicken but much higher than 100g of cooked dal/lentils or chickpeas, which have around 9g of protein.

Serves 2
(Over 20g protein per serving)

50g soya chunks (small size, dry)
2 European cucumbers
50g green cabbage
50g red cabbage
1 medium carrot
1 small onion
50g feta cheese

For the dressing
100g Greek yogurt
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp honey
1 clove garlic, grated
2 tsp whole grain mustard (optional)
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
Half tsp salt
Half tsp crushed black pepper


Boil lightly salted water in a pan. Add the soya chunks and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Drain using a colander and squeeze the soya dry. Keep aside.

Thinly slice the cucumber and cabbages. Place in a bowl, add half teaspoon of salt and mix well. Cover and keep aside for 10 minutes. Squeeze all the water from the cabbage-cucumber mix and discard the excess water. Add the veggies to a big bowl. Julienne or coarsely grate the carrot. Slice the onion thinly. Mix along with the other veggies in the bowl. Add the cooled soya chunks to this. Mix well and keep aside.

In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients for the dressing to prepare a creamy dressing. Toss the salad in the dressing just before serving. This salad makes a complete meal by itself. Have it with a slice of toasted sourdough bread or fill into a tortilla and make it a wrap.

Serves 2-4

For the masala
50g soya granules
Half tsp salt
1 tbsp coconut oil
Half tsp black mustard seeds
2 green chillies, sliced
Half tsp grated ginger
1 tsp each urad dal and chana dal
2 medium-sized onions, thinly sliced
Half tsp red chilli powder
Pinch of turmeric powder
2 tbsp coriander leaves, chopped
Juice of half a lemon

For the dosa
2 cups dosa batter
Chutney podi, as needed


Rehydrate the soya granules in salted boiling water for 2 minutes. Pass through a sieve and press out all the water.

Heat oil, saute mustard seeds, green chillies, grated ginger, urad dal, chana dal until the dals turn golden brown. Add sliced onions with a pinch of salt. Saute on a low flame until the onion has softened. Mix in the red chilli powder and turmeric powder. Add soya granules, coriander leaves and lemon juice. Cook on a low flame for 2-3 minutes.

Use as a stuffing in masala dosa along with podi or as is.

Double Tested is a fortnightly column on vegetarian cooking, highlighting a single ingredient prepared two ways. Nandita Iyer’s latest book is The Great Indian Thali—Seasonal Vegetarian Wholesomeness (Roli Books). She posts @saffrontrail on Twitter and Instagram.

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