Tofu and soymilk for a boost of protein! A hearty vegan meal perfect for entertaining


Have you ever had vegan cuisine? Some may be reluctant to try it because it lacks flavor or won’t fill you up.
We asked vegan cuisine expert Izumi Shoji to teach us hearty vegan dishes everyone can enjoy.

Soy sauce is a flavor booster in vegan cooking

Today’s recipe features a vegan version of mapo tofu and pizza-inspired flatbread.
It's perfect for a weekend meal with the family or a potluck with friends. “What’s this cheese made of?” your friends may wonder. With a little extra effort, you will discover new flavors.

Izumi Shoji, a vegan cuisine expert, has worked for over 15 years to encourage more people to eat delicious, healthy, and environmentally friendly vegan food.

“Many people still think that because vegan cuisine doesn’t use animal products, the food doesn't taste good. That’s where I bring up soy sauce, which is a flavor booster. The condiment is made from soybeans and wheat, which are plant-based ingredients, fermented with koji mold. It is rich in glutamic acid, one of the most important flavor components, and has a dashi-like flavor. It is the perfect seasoning for vegan cuisine," she says.

Vegan Mapo Tofu

Season with soy sauce before cooking to bring out the flavor

Mapo tofu usually contains minced meat, but this vegan version uses shiitake mushrooms. If you massage the shiitake mushrooms in soy sauce before cooking, the flavor will soak into them for a deeper flavor. The tofu is also seasoned in the same way. Massaging or seasoning in soy sauce in advance will help the soy sauce absorb into the ingredients thoroughly.

Let’s try this recipe!
Vegan Mapo Tofu

Cooking Tips: Massage the shiitake mushrooms in soy sauce

Coarsely chop the shiitake mushrooms for a ground meat-like appearance and texture. Shiitake mushrooms contain glutamic acid, and the addition of soy sauce, which is also rich in glutamic acid, boosts the flavor. If you let the shiitake mushrooms sit for too long, they will release water, so cook immediately. Using lots of shiitake mushrooms will also make the dish hearty and satisfying.


Cooking Tips: Season the tofu with soy sauce 

Tofu is the star ingredient in mapo tofu. Rich in vegetable protein, tofu is a strong ally in vegan cooking. Pour soy sauce over the tofu and let it sit for about 5 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. The flavor of the soy sauce will permeate the tofu. In addition, the salt content in the soy sauce will drain the water in the tofu, eliminating the need to drain the tofu and shortening the cooking time.

Vegan Flatbread with Soymilk Cheese

Make the dough, sauce, and cheese from scratch! A mild and wholesome flavor

Since the dough, sauce, and cheese are homemade, you can savor the wholesome flavor not present in commercial products. The dough contains tofu, and the cheese is made from soymilk, making this dish rich in soy protein. The dough, sauce, and cheese preparation may seem challenging, but it’s easy. Once you combine the three elements, you’ll have a wonderful dish to eat. 

Let’s try this recipe!
Vegan Flatbread with Soymilk Cheese

Cooking Process 1: Prepare the dough

The flatbread dough does not undergo fermentation as it’s made with baking powder. Usually, the dough is kneaded with water, but this recipe uses tofu for flavor and nutrients. Add more water if the dough doesn’t come together.


When the flour is incorporated into the dough and is smooth, as shown in the photo, it is ready. You can take in the tofu protein and enjoy the chewy texture!


Cooking Process 2: Make fresh tomato sauce

The key to the pizza-inspired flatbread is the fresh tomato sauce. Place tomatoes, onions, garlic, cilantro, lemon juice, and hot sauce in a bowl, add soy sauce, and mix well. Tomatoes are high in the same umami compound glutamic acid as soy sauce. Combining two ingredients with high umami content boosts the flavor.


Cooking Process 3: Make soymilk cheese

The cheese is also homemade using soymilk. You may wonder what it’ll taste like. First, heat soymilk in a pot over low. Turn off the heat just before it comes to a boil. Then add lemon juice and stir gently. Little by little, the proteins will separate and become crumbly.


Place the cheese mass in a colander lined with paper towels, let it drain for about an hour, wrap the towel, and gently squeeze out the remaining water. You can use it like cottage cheese and top it over salads or spread it on bread.


Next, we will blend the cheese to make it spreadable over the dough. Put the cheese in a container and add olive oil, soymilk, garlic, and soy sauce. Blend it with a hand blender while keeping an eye on it. Adding olive oil and soymilk makes the texture creamy, so adjust the amount to your preference. Soy sauce and soymilk are derived from soybeans and pair well. Thus, soy sauce's umami flavor and aroma impart to the creamy soymilk cheese.

Izumi Shoji


Shoji is a vegan cuisine expert. She is a member of the Japanese Society for Vegetarian Research and is a Japanese dried foods maestro. She has showcased 100% plant-based vegan cuisine in various media. Her many published books include "Casual Vegan Recipes that Regulate the Body” (by Sekaibunka-sha) and "Vegan Washoku" (by Shufunotomo-sha). She runs "Izumi Shoji Vegetable Cooking Studio," where she collaborates with top chefs from Japan and abroad. She is also active in product development and recipe supervision to spread awareness of vegan cooking. 

More Vegan Recipes

The Kikkoman Cookbook introduces many vegan recipes, including protein-rich recipes that use tofu, soy meat, and mixed beans. We hope you check them out!

  • 20 minutes+
  • 171 kcal
  • 0.8 g
  • 30 minutes
  • 457 kcal
  • 1.0 g
  • 1 minute
  • 138 kcal
  • 0.3 g
Published on Jun 3, 2024  Written by Fumiko Ohashi