Soy curls are a type of meat alternative that have a texture and mouth feel very similar to chicken. They were invented in Oregon around the year 2000 by Butler Foods LLC based in Grand Ronde, Oregon. At a time when faux meat options keep expanding in variety, popularity, and price, soy curls remain one of the most affordable plant-based protein options available.


Made from dehydrated strips of soy protein, the manufacturing process begins by slow-cooking whole, non-GMO soy beans until they're soft. The beans are then processed by a machine that breaks them into strands. Finally, the processed strands are slowly dried at a low temperature and packaged. Containing no additives, the finished product is 100% soy beans and suitable for vegans and omnivores alike.


Cover the desired amount of soy curls with nearly-boiling water and allow to soak for ten minutes. After soaking, drain in colander and press out excess water with the back of a large spoon (or with your hands after cooling).

One of the most remarkable things about soy curls is their versatility. They have virtually no flavor on their own, and can be seasoned to taste like almost anything when reconstituted. Instead of using plain hot water, chicken-flavored broth will make them taste like chicken and beef-flavored broth will make them taste like beef (though somewhat less convincingly so than chicken). Any kind of marinade can be used to infuse them with flavor, as they are basically like a dry sponge and will soak up any fluid until fully rehydrated. A word of caution though regarding salt: go easy. Most marinades are formulated for meat and are loaded with salt, so take that into consideration to prevent your soy curls from tasting like brine.

Upon opening a new bag, you will find the product in an assortment of sizes and shapes, ranging from a full bag-length strip to small crumbs. If your preparation requires small pieces (like for shredded chicken, for instance), you can break the dry soy curls up as desired prior to rehydrating. This is far easier than trying to break or cut them up after the cooking process.

Once hydrated, soy curls can be prepared in a wide variety of ways. They can be baked, grilled, roasted, fried, or added to salads, soups, stews, and casseroles. You can barbecue them and add them to sandwiches, or serve them almost any way that's possible to serve the meat they're standing in for.


When dehydrated, soy curls have a theoretically indefinite shelf life, but it's best to use them within six months of purchase. The reason being that dehydrated foods are highly susceptible to airborne moisture, and the factory packaging isn't vacuum sealed. Over a long period of time, the dry product can become "polluted" from humid environments and whatever particles of matter that are transmitted via the humidity, like greasy cooking smells, smoke, or other unpleasant-tasting things. This isn't specific to soy curls — most dehydrated food embodies this quality when stored for a sufficiently long time, and explains why many ready-to-eat dehydrated foods like jerky are sold vacuum-packed.

Rehydrated soy curls can be stored safely for up to four days when refrigerated. They can also be frozen for later use, and the likelihood of freezer burn can be reduced by squeezing as much air out of the freezer bag as possible when sealing.

Personal notes

I've cooked with and enjoyed soy curls for decades. Their strongest use case is a stand-in for chicken, and when seasoned properly they're astonishingly similar to actual chicken both in texture and taste, pretty much any way you want to prepare them. They even look like the real thing! As meat substitutes go, they are dirt cheap and a standard 8 ounce bag will produce about a pound of uncooked protein. At the time of this writing, they are comparable in price per pound to actual pre-cut chicken breast.


File under: "I can't believe it's not noded!", "Yet another writeup about soy"