Making Tofu

by on October 1, 2008
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Happy World Vegetarian Day!

I never thought tofu had a flavor until a few years ago when I first made my own. Up until then, I thought of it as a blank slate, something to suck up the flavors of whatever it was cooked with. But the first time I made my own tofu I discovered that though it also has a mild taste, it’s somehow creamier, richer, and better-tasting than packaged tofu.Fresh Homemade Tofu

Making tofu is really not as difficult as you might think, especially if you use a soymilk maker to make the soymilk first. The soymilk machine heats the milk to just the right temperature; from there you need only to mix in a coagulant, which causes the soymilk to curdle, and pour the curds into a cheesecloth-lined container that has holes punched in it to allow the whey to drain off. You can even make tofu in a strainer or colander, if you’re not a stickler about having a rectangular block of tofu.

With food prices so high, I’ve been trying to save money anywhere I can, and making my own soymilk and tofu make a big difference in my weekly grocery bill. I buy organic soybeans for $1.19 a pound at my local natural food store. From that pound of beans, I can make six 1.5-liter batches of soymilk or three 8-ounce batches of tofu. That’s the equivalent of 9 of those aseptic boxes of soymilk for $1.19! Besides the obvious savings, making my own soymilk and tofu reduces waste and is better for the environment because there are no packages to throw away. I keep my homemade soymilk in reusable glass pitchers similar to these; my homemade tofu gets used so quickly that there’s no need to store it in anything other than the press I use to make it.

I’d like to show you the steps I go through when making tofu, but this isn’t really a recipe. If you’d like more info about the process–particularly for making tofu without a soymilk machine–there are lots of websites that give you more of the nitty gritty details. Check the end of this post for a couple of links.

SoyQuick Soymilk Maker

I begin by making soymilk with twice the usual amount of soybeans and the minimal amount of water. The night before, I start the soybeans soaking in enough water to cover by a couple of inches. In the morning, I drain and rinse the beans well. If I’m making soymilk, I often remove the beans’ skins by rubbing them between my fingers in a pan of water, but I skip this step if I’m making tofu.

In the new filterless SoyQuick, the beans and water go straight into the bottom of the machine together. I add water to the lower line and then put in the beans and press the “Soymilk” button. The machine grinds the soybeans while cooking them.

Straining the Soymilk

Once the machine beeps and the soymilk is ready, I pour the soymilk through the strainer into the transfer jug (both included with the machine). The okara (soy pulp) collects in the strainer, and I set it aside to use later. If I were making soymilk, I could either stop here or strain the soymilk one more time through cheesecloth as I’m transferring it into the glass container I store it in.

But since I’m making tofu, I add a packet of coagulant to the soymilk in the transfer jug and cover the top with a plate to rest for about 20 minutes. I used the SoyQuick brand coagulant (magnesium chloride), but you can also buy nigari and gypsum to use as coagulants.

Curds and Whey

After about 20 minutes I check to see that the soymilk has coagulated and separated into curds and whey. I pour it back through the strainer, which I set over a bowl to catch the whey. (I use the whey to water my plants; it contains nutrients that are beneficial to them.)

Curds into the Tofu Press

Once the curds are all in the strainer, I pour them into the cheesecloth-lined tofu press, which I’ve set in a colander inside a bowl.

Covering with Cheesecloth

When the curds are all in the cheesecloth, I fold up all sides of the cloth, making a neat package.

Pressing the Tofu

I put the cover onto the tofu press and gently press down to remove the remaining whey. To make it extra firm, I put a weight, such as a large can of tomatoes, on top of the press and leave it for about 15 minutes. When it’s finished pressing, I leave the tofu in the press and put it into the refrigerator.

Fresh Homemade Tofu

After a couple of hours in the refrigerator, I unwrap the tofu and it is ready to use. If I don’t plan to use it that same day, I put it into a container and cover it with water to keep up to three days. But fresh tofu tastes best that same day, so I rarely store it overnight.

Freshly made tofu has such a great taste that I like to prepare it in simple ways with few ingredients to hide its taste. In my next post I’ll show you what I did with this batch of tofu.


Some Questions I’ve Been Asked about Homemade Soymilk and Tofu:

I only like Silk brand soymilk. Does homemade soymilk taste like Silk?

In a word, no. Homemade soymilk doesn’t really taste like any of the brands you buy in the store, and it can take a little getting used to. Some people describe its taste as “beany.” But there are a few things you can do to lessen the beany taste.

Okay, so what can you do to get rid of the beany taste?

For one, remove the bean skins. That’s not as hard as it sounds, although it does make soymilk making a little more tedious. After the soybeans have soaked for at least 8 hours, drain and rinse them, put them in a large bowl, and fill the bowl with water. Rub the beans between your fingers to remove the skins. When the skins float away from the beans, scoop them up and discard them.

You can also add grains to your soymilk to lessen the beany taste. I’ve only used oatmeal, but other people include rice and other grains. Personally, I add 3 tablespoons of rolled oats (regular Quaker oatmeal) to the machine along with the soybeans; it makes the milk thicker and less likely to separate (but don’t add it if you’re making tofu).

Finally, I find that adding sweetener and salt make the milk taste a lot more like packaged soymilk. For vanilla soymilk, I add 2 to 3 tablespoons of agave nectar and 1/4 teaspoon of salt after the final straining. (To make vanilla soymilk, I break up two vanilla beans and add them along with the soybeans; unfortunately, this creates vanilla okara, which means I have to make cookies. Oh, well!)

If you make soymilk at home, aren’t you missing out on the vitamins and minerals that are added to the packaged products?

I figure it this way: Those nutrients are just supplements that someone else has added. I think my family and I are better off drinking freshly made soymilk, without thickeners and preservatives, and taking our own supplements, such as calcium and vitamin B-12. I’m actually happier buying vitamins and minerals in pill form because I can get them from a source that I trust to be vegan.

For more information, particularly about making tofu without a soymilk maker, check out How to Make Tofu on the Just Hungry blog and Making Homemade Tofu on Bryanna Clark Grogan’s website.
[Note about comments: All comments were lost when the website was moved in 2010.]

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 melodie earls July 8, 2010 at 12:14 pm

i want to win because i want to save money by making my own tofu. sounds like fun.this product sounds easy to do.and i’m in to easy.

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2 Meredith M July 25, 2010 at 5:05 pm

I want to win because making homemade thugs is always much more fun! I’d make flavored soymilks for desserts and tofu. Have u seen those tofu pressers? think those are also neat and imagine other uses for it.

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3 Douglas Davidson August 13, 2010 at 9:59 am

It’s time for a complete (re)evolution in consciousness as the price of food skyrockets. Lets help feed America/Canada and bring these folks to the realization the benefits of eating soy products (not just in your wallet). For example; the 2 to 1 ratio of soy protein versus animal protein, prevention of breast cancer, not to mention saving inumerable amounts of water that would otherwise be fed to cattle etc. The list goes on and on, to many to mention here. Really looking forward to promoting this on a grand scale once I learn the fundamentals of making it. Thanks for your great recipes and the no how.
Blessings,

Douglas

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4 Ilana B. August 17, 2010 at 3:25 pm

I use to make my own tofu back in my Hippie days and now that I am in my 60s I have discovered that I am returning to the good habits I acquired back then and I feel so much better. Wining this would really be a blessing. Is the contest all over?

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5 Rae Ann August 17, 2010 at 3:35 pm

I really want one of these machines! Do you know how many calories an 8 oz serving is? Is it possible to make a light sot milk like Silk Soy? Also, have you ever made your own soy yogurt? What machine do you use?

Thanks, Rae Ann

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6 Dolores Inocencio September 21, 2010 at 12:50 pm

I would like to win this soy milk maker. I have been making soy milk over the stove top and it is a lot of work. I would also like to try making home made tofu and this machine will come in handy.

Dolores

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7 Erika Tsugawa April 2, 2011 at 11:48 pm

Hi, Thank you for your detailed explanation! I just got this SoyQuick machine and made my first batch today. I used two and a half cups (the SoyQuick small cup) soaked beans and water up to the “max” line and it tasted a little watery (kind of like skim milk) so I’m looking for ways of making it creamier. Your suggestions are great (adding oats) but I was wondering if that affects the okara? I like to cook with that. Also, you said you use double the usual amount of soybeans. Does that mean 2 cups dried (I think the SoyQuick instructions said 1 cup of dried beans, using their measuring cup)? And do you use that double amount only when making tofu or for drinking too? Thank you so much!

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8 Alexandra May 16, 2011 at 4:19 pm

Susan, I would be interested in any insights into making soymilk with reduced fat. Thanks, and always have time to read your blog; A.

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9 SusanV May 16, 2011 at 4:49 pm

I have a theory that the only way to make lower-fat soymilk is to water it down. Big manufacturers may have a way to separate the fat from the protein, but i wouldn’t know how to do that at home. So the best I can offer is to make it and then add more water to taste.

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10 caterina September 1, 2011 at 1:55 pm

Has anyone tried to make smoked tofu? Either from home-made tofu or from store-bought?

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11 dhnorton@yahoo.com December 26, 2011 at 7:35 pm

I’ve tried to make tofu with help from the other sites a few times with bad results. After reading this post I am going to try it with a different coagulant. I have a soy milk maker but a different brand – how much soy milk do you use and how much coagulant?

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12 Janet June 30, 2012 at 7:46 pm

Hi Susan

Where did you get your tofu press?

Your directions are MUCH simpler than what I’ve read elsewhere.

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13 Susan Voisin June 30, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Janet, it came with my soy milk maker, and it’s very easy to use.

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14 Janet June 30, 2012 at 9:41 pm

Thanks, I just ordered the mold and the Nigari from Soyajoy (the company who made my soy milk maker).

BTW, I ordered a Vitamix last week, using your code. Thanks for all the delicious recipes! :-)

Janet

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15 Susan Voisin June 30, 2012 at 9:55 pm

Thanks so much! I hope you love your VitaMix!

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16 Janet July 9, 2012 at 9:43 pm

Susan

Do you dissolve the coagulant in 1 C hot water first, or just sprinkle it directly on the soy milk?

~janet

17 Susan Voisin July 9, 2012 at 10:00 pm

Janet, the coagulant I used went straight into the soymilk.

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18 Diana October 1, 2012 at 9:53 pm

I’ve been drinking homemade soymilk before soy milk came to the markets here in North America. It’s quite popular in Hong Kong way back in the 70′s. I remember my parents soaked the soy beans overnight before they blended it in a blender. Straining the beans were fun for us kids back then. It was a real family thing. We cooked the soy milk and added the sugar afterwards. Indeed, Susan, it does tastes beany which is why companies now filtered it so that this taste is lessened. Thanks, Susan for reminding me of my childhood days of fun!

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19 Michaela July 30, 2013 at 10:37 pm

Thanks for this tutorial Susan–very helpful! I have a Vitamix and am deciding whether to buy a soymilk maker. What’s your experience with which one is quicker/easier and is there any difference in the final product with the two methods?

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20 ajnemajrje August 2, 2013 at 4:01 pm

This might be a weird question but, can you use this machine to make almond milk or can you only use soy beans in the machine?

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21 Lori November 14, 2013 at 8:56 pm

Do you ever use sprouted soybeans?

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22 Susan Voisin November 14, 2013 at 9:00 pm

No, I haven’t ever tried that, Lori.

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