Do You Know What This Is? Okara

Okara Crumble Blueberry Muffins

By Anisa Kazemi
June 4, 2016
Food & Drink

Ever stood in a Japanese supermarket aisle for what feels like forever, staring at a strange-looking vegetable or illegible packet of mystery goo?

In our brand-new "Do you know what this is?" recipe series, we’ll be putting the spotlight on different Japanese ingredients, sharing information, cooking tips and beautiful, nutritious recipes from Savvy’s gorgeous superfoodie and all-round eating expert, Anisa.

First up: okara.

Okara or soy pulp is much more than it sounds. The leftover “stuff” from producing soy products, it’s either sold for very cheap (anywhere from just ¥60 – ¥150 a bag), given away for free (even by supermarkets) or simply thrown out. But believe it or not, okara is what brought me to Japan.

I’m serious. Okara has completely transformed my life.

Okara, this miracle food that’s low in fat and high in calcium, protein and dietary fiber is sold at almost all Japanese supermarkets in the tofu isle. It is usually white or yellowish in color though you can also find greyish okara, a by-product of black soybean tofu.

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Okara is the leftover pulp from soybeans after they are filtered to make soy milk and tofu.

Unlike its siblings, soymilk and tofu, okara isn’t consumed on its own. In Japanese cuisine, it is commonly used to prepare unohana 卯の花, a popular and traditional savory side dish made by combining okara, vegetables such as carrots, burdock, negi (leek or green onion) and shiitake mushrooms, shoyu (soy sauce), mirin (Japanese rice wine) and sometimes konnyaku (elephant yam). Like okara, ready-made unohana is also available at most Japanese stores; generally found in the takeout food isles.

Crumble okara muffins bento

These crumbly baked goodies make the perfect base for a healthy lunch.

In addition to savory dishes like unohana, okara can be utilized as a versatile nutritious and diet-friendly addition to baked goods. In gluten-free recipes, okara can entirely replace flour, giving baked goods a wonderfully moist feel. And in vegan baking, it is a convenient egg substitute. Even in a recipe containing gluten, egg and/or dairy, simply adding 1/4-1/2 cup of okara to your cake or muffin batter is an easy way to up your good-health brownie points.

My personal favorite way to use okara is to make okara crumble. It is unbelievably easy, so wonderful and so good for you!

I have chosen to flavor this okara recipe with blueberry seeing as blueberries are one of Japan’s most nutritious summer fruits. This is because the anthocyanin pigments found in these tiny blues are actually quite powerful, helping boost skin elasticity and protecting against UV damage too.

In addition, blueberries boast a high count of both Vitamins C and E which you already know are good for you. In saying that, if you’re not a blues fan, you can always substitute another berry or fruit. Fresh summer raspberries or general dried fruit are a good choice.

Happy, healthy scoffing!

Okara Crumble Blueberry Muffins

Makes 4 muffins (vegan and refined sugar-free)
Crumble muffins closeup
For the muffins

150g whole-wheat flour (easily found at most Japanese supermarkets)
2 tbsp almond powder
2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of sea salt
Pinch of cinnamon
150g soft tofu
3 tbsp pure maple syrup
2 tbsp olive oil
Handful of fresh or thawed blueberries

For the okara crumble

3 tbsp okara
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
3 tbsp almond powder
2 tbsp whole-wheat flour
1 tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 180C (I baked mine in a miniature toaster-oven).

Place all muffin ingredients (except blueberries) in a blender or food-processor and blend until combined. Do not over mix. Batter should become like fluff.

Spoon the batter evenly into a greased silicon muffin-tray.

Gently push down 4-5 blueberries atop each muffin.

Place all crumble ingredients in a small bowl and combine using a fork. When ingredients take on a crumble-like texture, sprinkle each muffin evenly with the crumbly goodness.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

To further brown the crumble, raise the oven temperature in the last minute or two but watch like a hawk as you don’t want it to burn.

Let cool before removing from the tray.

These are beautiful with a mug of kocha (black tea).