Little known to the general public, okara would benefit from being put in the spotlight, as it is nutritionally and culinaryly interesting. A powdery residue from the manufacture of plant-based milks, it is also a fantastic anti-waste ingredient. What does okara contain? What are its nutritional benefits? How to use it in cooking? The answers from Raphaël Gruman, dietitian and nutritionist in Paris.
Although it is still confidential in Europe, it is possible that okara will become a flagship product of vegetarian food and slimming diets in the near future. Used for centuries in Japanese cuisine, okara is originally the residue from home-made soy milk. Little by little, with the proliferation of plant-based milks (plant-based drinks), it expanded to include all residues of milk from cereals, legumes or oleaginous fruits. It is therefore made up of the pulp of soy, rice, spelled, oats, almonds or even nuts, depending on the ingredient used. Its nutritional composition is very interesting, especially for vegetarians and vegans, and its texture makes it valuable for replacing several ingredients in many recipes. Last but not least, it is used in cosmetics and shampoo for its protective and repairing effect on the hair fiber. Focus on okara and its thousand benefits!
What is okara?
Far from being a recent ingredient, okara is a Japanese word which initially referred to the residue from the manufacturing of soy milk and tofu. It is the Japanese translation of “soy pulp” and also exists under the name biji in Korean. Okara is one of the traditional ingredients of Japanese, Korean and Chinese gastronomy, but it has only been used since the last century in Western cuisine, mainly for making vegetarian dishes.
With the great rise of plant-based milks – rice, oats, spelt, hazelnut, almond, etc. – the term okara today designates all the residues from the manufacturing of these different milks produced in an artisanal way. The nutritional value of okara therefore varies depending on the ingredients used in the production of milk, which can be nuts and oilseeds (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts), cereals (rice, spelt) or even legumes ( soy, lentils). Okara can be in the form of slightly moist pulp or dry powder if it has been previously dried.
It is not a food as such, but an ingredient, which can be used in the making of many preparations (cakes, pancakes), replacing flour for example. Okara results from the preparation of homemade vegetable milks or tofu, but it can also be found in organic stores, in the form of dehydrated powder or tender, moist granules.
What is the nutritional value of okara?
The nutritional value of okara is different depending on whether it is the residue of soy, rice or almond milk. The composition of traditional Okara with soy pulp varies between 20% and 47.3% protein and 9.3% and 22.3% fat depending on its degree of humidity. “Overall, okara, whatever the ingredient it is made of, contains almost essentially proteins and fibers, since the carbohydrates and the majority of lipids are found in vegetable milk. summarizes Raphael Gruman, dietician-nutritionist. And that’s what makes it a very valuable ingredient for anyone watching their weight!
The health benefits of okara
The health benefits of okara lie in its high content of dietary fiber on the one hand, and protein on the other. A diet rich in fiber directly contributes to the prevention of a large number of pathologies (colon cancer, diabetes, cholesterol, cardiovascular diseases, etc.) and is associated with lower early mortality and better life expectancy. Fiber is also essential for the proper functioning of intestinal transit, because it increases the volume of stools and facilitates their progression through the small intestine. “Finally, fiber makes it easier to feel full, and therefore makes it possible to reduce the quantities of food absorbed and better control your appetite. They are therefore very useful within a weight loss diet. reminds the dietician.
Proteins, for their part, are also valuable for people watching their weight, because they help fight against muscle wasting often associated with a weight loss diet, and they help, like fiber, to quickly cause satiety.
For vegetarians and vegans, proteins are also valuable in meeting protein needs.
How to use okara?
Okara can be used in many recipes, as a substitute for several ingredients.
- When dried and dehydrated, it readily replaces part of the flour in a recipe for cakes, biscuits, crepes or pancakes, to reduce the carbohydrate intake and provide more creaminess.
- It can also replace breadcrumbs or oilseed powder, and even an egg, if mixed with a little water.
- Last advantage of okara in cooking: it can be used to reduce the quantity of butter or oil for lighter and healthier dessert recipes.
There are many recipes for chocolate and okara cake, in which the latter completely replaces the fat.
But okara also lends itself easily to savory recipes, such as vegetable pancakes, vegetarian meatballs, herb cakes or even to add creaminess to a vegetable soup.
In short, okara is a real slimming and vegan culinary aid! Do not hesitate to favor organic products.
Is okara gluten free?
Okara is almost always gluten-free, since it contains no wheat, barley or rye. The only reservation concerns oat okara, since this cereal is not devoid of it. “But the gluten contained in oats is different from that of wheat, and overall much better tolerated. reassures the nutritionist.
People sensitive to gluten generally tolerate it well, but those truly allergic to gluten (celiac disease) should avoid oat okara and prefer those made from soy, rice or oilseeds.
The cosmetic virtues of okara for hair
In addition to its culinary use, okara is an ingredient widely used in cosmetics, and in particular in hair products, in the form of balm, shampoo, mask, detangling treatment or even lightening treatment. Okara extract, derived from soybean pulp, has a structure very close to keratin, the protein that makes up hair. It would thus have the power to restructure and repair the hair fiber in depth, so that it regains flexibility and comfort.
Because of these protective benefits, Okara-based hair products are particularly recommended for bleached blonde hair, the fiber of which has been deeply attacked, in order to restore shine to the blonde.