Bhurji To Usal, 8 Soybean-Based Dishes From Across India
Image Credit: Soya chunks masala. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Soybeans have long been a part of Asian diets, but their popularity is growing in India as well. As one of the most nutritious plant proteins, soy offers a delicious way to add variety to your meals while supporting your health and wellness. Whether you're looking to reduce animal products, manage chronic conditions, or simply explore new flavours, soy-based dishes can easily become a tasty part of your regular cooking repertoire.

Soybeans are one of the only vegetarian sources that provide all nine essential amino acids required by the human body. This makes soy an excellent alternative protein for vegetarians and vegans. Soy is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fibre, vitamins, and minerals. Regular consumption may help reduce cholesterol levels, manage blood sugar, support bone health, and even lower cancer risk. For those with diabetes, soy can aid blood sugar control as its protein and fibre help you feel full for longer.

Soybean Masala

Soybean masala is a staple dish across Indian homes with different states adapting it to local flavour. The typical North Indian version is made by dry roasting soybeans until fragrant. The roasted beans are then ground into a coarse powder. Onion, garlic, ginger and green chillies are fried in oil along with spices like coriander, cumin, turmeric and red chilli. The soybean powder is added and roasted further, cooking out the raw bean flavour. A splash of water is added to form a thick, gravy-like masala. It is often eaten with rice or roti for its rich protein and flavour.


Tungrymbai is a traditional fermented soy food of Meghalaya made by the Khasi and Jaiñtia people. Soybeans are boiled and then placed in a bamboo basket lined with Phrynium pubinerve leaves. Hot charcoal is placed on top and the basket is fermented for 3-4 days. The fermented beans are then crushed to a paste consistency and fried with ingredients like mustard oil, onion-ginger-garlic paste, black sesame seed paste and pork to produce this distinctive soybean delicacy.

Soya bhurji

Soya bhurji is popularly enjoyed as a side dish during any time of the day or meal depending on the preparation. To make it, soya chunks are boiled until soft and then broken up into small pieces. Readymade granules are also available in the market; you can opt for that. The granules are stir-fried with spices like cumin, coriander, chilli powder and turmeric. Onions, tomatoes and green peppers are often added to the mixture which is cooked until all the ingredients are well combined. Soya bhurji is a high-protein vegetarian option that is versatile and affordable. It can be eaten with paratha or even poha.

Soybean Bhutte ka Kees

Soybean Bhutte ka Kees is a delightful dish hailing from Madhya Pradesh, Central India. Boiled soybeans blend harmoniously with grated corn, creating a creamy and textured concoction. Seasoned with spices and a touch of milk, this dish offers a burst of flavours that celebrate the monsoon season. The fusion of soybeans and corn showcases the state's culinary innovation, making it a comforting and nourishing treat for all.


Kinema is a traditional fermented soybean food of the Limbu people from Nepal largely enjoyed by the people in Sikkim. It is made by soaking, boiling and cracking soybeans then allowing them to naturally ferment for 1-3 days in a bamboo basket lined with fern leaves. During fermentation, bacteria transform the beans into a slimy yet nutritious paste with a strong aroma. Kinema develops a distinctive flavour and texture through this ancient fermentation process.

Meal Maker Kulambu

Meal Maker Kulambu is a traditional South Indian fermented soybean curry from Tamil Nadu, with similar variations found across other South Indian states as well. This traditional dish showcases "Meal Maker," soybean chunks that soak up the rich spices and tangy tamarind gravy. Boiled soybean chunks are simmered with a medley of vegetables, creating a hearty and nutritious curry. Aromatic spices and coconut milk elevate the taste, making Meal Maker Kulambu a delightful and satisfying addition to your South Indian meal repertoire.

Soybean Usal

From the heart of Maharashtra comes Soybean Usal, a traditional dish where boiled soybeans are infused with local spices and grated coconut. Sautéed to perfection, this protein-rich preparation captures the essence of Maharashtrian cuisine. A medley of textures and flavours, Soybean Usal is often relished with pav (bread) or steamed rice, offering a wholesome and delicious taste of the region's culinary heritage.

Soybean Sana Thongba

Soybean Sana Thongba is a traditional fermented soy food of Manipur, India. It starts with whole soybeans that are soaked and boiled. The beans are packed into bamboo baskets and fermented naturally at room temperature for 3-5 days. During this time, lactic acid bacteria transform the beans into a soft, creamy paste with a tangy yet earthy flavour. Soybean Sana Thongba is commonly eaten as a condiment, adding protein and probiotics to local dishes. Its fermentation process passes flavours through generations.

With its versatility across cuisines and culinary applications, soybeans are easy to incorporate regularly into balanced Indian-inspired meals. A few ideas to get you started include a soybean sambar or dal served with rice and vegetables one night, a soy paneer tikka appetizer followed by a soy-enhanced curry another evening, and soy yoghurt or ice cream for a sweet finish on weekends. Start exploring soy's potential in your kitchen today for a boost of plant-based protein, nutrients and exciting new flavours.