Hidden Sources of Soy

Okay, it’s time to try to collect a list of the hidden soy in restaurants. There are so many items that you wouldn’t even expect to contain soy. We tend to rattle off this list when we visit a restaurant for the first time — especially when a restaurant says “We don’t use soy”. Which loosely translates to “we don’t offer soybeans on the menu, and we’ve never really looked at our labels”.

  • Margarine – not only is margarine just a lump of hydrogenated soybean oil, it’s also considered “butter” by most restaurant employees. This one is the most time consuming because you have to make sure that it’s really, really, butter when they say “butter”. We’ve had many occasions where a restaurant that says they use butter ends up actually using margarine, because, well, it’s yellow and looks like butter.
  • Mayonnaise – Since soy-free mayonnaise is almost impossible to find, if they use mayo, they’re using soy.
  • Salad Dressings  – almost all salad dressings contain soybean oil, you’re only hope is a homemade vinegar and oil.
  • Vegetable Oil – pretty much a code word for soybean oil. Go ahead, look at every bottle of vegetable oil at your grocery store. Most of them will simply be 100% soybean oil, and the ones that aren’t 100% will still have soybean in them.
  • Fried Foods – almost all restaurants fry in soybean oil (and don’t list it as soy) if the frying oil isn’t soy, you still need to check the breading, as a lot of breading (onion rings, cheese sticks, fried chicken) have soy in the breading mixture.
  • Sauces and Dips – most of these contain mayo as one of the ingredients (see above!)
  • Chocolate – the classic cocoa butter has been replaced by the much cheaper soy lecithin. Even the really expensive chocolate uses some soy lecithin.
  • Bread – unlike your home baked recipes, pretty much every commercial loaf of bread has soybean oil in it (with the exception of Carrabba’s home made bread — and they actually make their own butter, too)
  • Citrus Drinks – Mountain Dew, Orange Faygo, Country Time Lemonade, pretty much any  citrus flavored drink is going to have brominated vegetable oil in it to keep the citrus flavor from separating and floating to the top. And since pretty much all “vegetable oil” is soybean oil, mark those off your list.
  • Processed cheese – almost all real cheese is soy-free, but any time you have a processed cheese, you run the risk of soy. Amazingly, Kraft Singles are soy-free.
  • Soybean Oil – What?!?!? Soybean oil is made out of soy?



I'm trying to track allergen information for every restaurant that we eat at. With my son's soy allergy, each time we eat at a restaurant, it can take up to 30 minutes to figure out what he can eat. Especially since most restaurants don't accurately represent their usage of soy.

We're tracking what soy free (including soybean oil free) foods our son can eat at all restaurants we go to. If you've got a soy allergy in your family and have any information you can share, please contact us.

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