How to make your own tofu at home
I got really into making my own tofu this year. It started with my purchase of a soy milk machine, a relatively common small appliance in China, Korea, etc. I only wanted to make my own soy milk, but eventually i realized that soy milk is basically the only ingredient in tofu, so why not try it? This process does require some specialized equipment, but I want to stress that it's NOT difficult!
This recipe uses roughly 7oz of soybeans and will yield you a block of tofu that is roughly 7oz in weight, depending on how much water you strain out of it.
- EITHER: A soymilk machine, or a decent blender (See Note 1)
- Large mixing bowls
- A large stock pot, dutch oven, etc
- At least 1 cheesecloth AND nut milk bag
- Fine mesh strainer (metal, with a handle) -- at least 7" diameter but bigger is better
- A tofu press (See Note 2)
- Instant read thermometer
- Silicone spatula
- Raw soybeans, about 1 cup, soaked overnight (see Note 3)
- Nigari, also known as magnesium chloride (See note 4)
Step 1: Preparing soy milk
- If you are able to buy fresh soy milk that has no preservatives added (the only ingredients should be soy milk, water, and a coagulant which may not even be listed) you can skip this step and just use that if you want to. Most soy milk you can buy at the store in most places will not be suitable for making tofu due to additives intended to thicken and prevent separation.
Using a SoyaJoy G5
- Measure 2 batches of beans using the provided measuring cup and soak them overnight in separate bowls.
- Drain the soaked beans and rinse, discarding the soaking water.
- Add water to the SoyaJoy up to the lower water mark. Add the first batch of beans.
- Press the soaked beans button on the top of the machine and let it rip.
- Once the machine is finished, strain the pulp from the soy milk and repeat for the second batch. (See Note 5 on straining soy milk) Put all the soy milk in your stock pot to await the next step.
Using a blender
- Please note that I have not tested this and I recommend looking up instructions on making soy milk with a blender elsewhere online, they are readily available as having a blender is a lot more common in the west than having a soymilk machine.
- Soak 1 cup of beans overnight. If you have to blend in batches, you may want to split them up into 2 1/2 cup portions. The total amount of soymilk we are looking for is 3 liters, 1/2cup of soybeans per 1.5 liters of water.
- Drain and rinse the beans, discarding soaking water.
- Blend the beans with water until they are completely pulverised and there are no large chunks of bean left in the mixture.
- Strain the bean pulp out of the blended mixture (See Note 5 on straining the soy milk)
- Put all the soy milk in your stock pot and heat it until boiling. Simmer on low for 20 minutes. If it's heated too high it may get foamy and overflow the pot. There are many commercial food-safe defoamers for this process that are widely used in the tofu and soymilk making industry. However using a soymilk machine completely negates the need for them because it does the boiling step for you in an enclosed pot.
Step 2: Coagulation
- You should have 3 liters of soy milk in your stock pot.
- Make the nigari mixture: Dissolve 1 teaspoon of powdered nigari in 1 cup of hot water (or follow the directions on the nigari you have). (See note 6 on nigari)
- Heat the soymilk. Use the instant read thermometer to check the temperature. You want it to get up to about 190 Fahrenheit before turning off the heat -- it should be steaming but not boiling. I strongly recommend using a thermometer for this, as i've found a significant difference between 180f and 190f.
- A thin film may form on top of the soymilk as it's heating. This is fine and will just get incorporated into your bean curds. DO NOT STIR -- you DON'T want the soymilk to be moving when you add the nigari mixture.
- Once the soymilk has hit 190, turn off the heat. Add the nigari mixture by pouring it over the surface of the soymilk in a thin stream, trying to drizzle some across all areas of the soymilk. You want to spread it evenly throughout the mixture without stirring up the soymilk, which might prevent it from separating sufficiently.
- You should be able to see the bean curd begin to separate from the whey almost immediately. Allow the mixture to "cure" for at least ten minutes to half an hour with the lid off. After this time has passed, give it a stir to see how the curds are doing -- you should be able to tell that they have entirely separated from the whey. If there are some areas where the soymilk has not coagulated, try again with more nigari.
Step 3: Straining and pressing the bean curd
- Put your large mesh strainer over a large bowl. You want the bowl to be big enough that the whey will not touch the bottom of the strainer (I use the bowl from my instant pot for this purpose as my mixing bowls aren't big enough). Place a damp cheesecloth over the strainer and make sure that it's relatively well-centered and smooth in the bowl of the strainer with minimal folds. This will go directly into your tofu press so it will save you some headache to have it nice and even at this step.
- Pour the bean curd/whey mixture through the strainer until it's full. You may need to do this in batches.
- To strain the whey from the curds, use your silicone spatula to stir the bean curd mixture, scraping the bottom and the sides continually to allow water to move through the layers. Lift the mesh strainer up by the handle to drain more water out. You can also lift the cheesecloth itself by the corners and gently squeeze the water out with a silicone heat-proof glove, but I recommend avoiding this if possible because the more gently you strain, the less curd will wind up in the whey.
- Repeat pouring and straining until all the bean curd/whey mixture has been poured into the strainer. Continue to lift the strainer and scrape the bottom and sides with the spatula until the amount of water coming out lessens.
- Carefully lift the cheesecloth full of curds from the strainer by gathering its four corners together into a bundle. Squeeze VERY gently until the water dripping from it (while not squeezing) slows from a stream to a drip. You want to remove as much water as possible before putting it in your press, but you don't want to let it sit and cool because it will solidify as it does.
- Place the cheesecloth bundle of curds in your tofu press. Use the spatula to press the bottom and corners of the cheesecloth into the edges of the press to give you lots of space at the bottom. Scrape as much curd as possible from the sides of the cloth into the mass of curds -- if you don't, they'll stick. Carefully layer the longest edge of the cheesecloth over the top of the curd mass -- it should cover it completely. Use the silicone spatula to press the edges down so that only one layer of cloth is touching the bean curd. Layer the other edges on top as flat as possible. Press the bean curd according to the specifications of your tofu press. Drain as needed.
- Allow the tofu to continue pressing for at least a couple hours if you want a very soft tofu and up to 24 hours or more for a firm block.
- Note 1: My soymilk machine is a SoyaJoy G5 from Salinx, which I highly recommend. As of this writing it can be purchased relatively cheaply at open box prices from their website (~$100). I have not tested any other soymilk machines for this but I'm sure they all work fine. A soymilk machine will typically take soaked soybeans, grind them as fine as possible, and heat the mixture to boiling to cook it. If you don't have a soymilk machine, you will need to cook your soymilk after straining in order to break down the chemicals in the beans that can make you VERY sick.
- Note 2: The tofu press that I use is one that I purchased from Salinx, the same company that makes the SoyaJoy G5. It's a very simple low-tech one -- a wooden box with a piece of wood for the base and another for the top, that is set in a glass baking tray with high sides to collect the water that drains out of the bottom. I'm going to be testing a "higher tech" model soon, but when buying a tofu press please keep in mind that MOST of the tofu presses you'll find on eg amazon are not intended for making fresh tofu. They are usually intended to be used with extra-firm tofu blocks that need to have excess water pressed out of them prior to frying. Some of these will likely also work with fresh tofu but certainly not all of them so I recommend reading reviews.
- Note 3: Soybeans should be soaked until they split in half easily without too much pressure and the inside of the soybean is completely white, with no yellow marks or divots. If you split it open and see a divot, the bean is not fully soaked through and needs more soaking. I follow the instructions provided with the SoyaJoy G5 to make the soymilk for this tofu, which requires 2 batches of 1.5L each, so I use the measuring cup provided with the machine (which is about 1/2 cup) and soak the beans as 2 batches in 2 bowls. Another thing to consider when soaking the beans is ambient temperature -- in my experience, they soak much more slowly when it's cold in the room.
- Note 4: Nigari is a substance extracted from sea water that causes the soy milk solids to separate from the whey, or coagulate. Many recipes will tell you to use lemon juice or epsom salts or what have you that are more readily available in western markets, but proper nigari is not hard to find and more likely to be food safe than epsom salts. There are a number of other tofu coagulants, such as gypsum and GDL, but I'm not sure of ratios for them and haven't experimented with them yet!
- Note 5: Straining soy milk: I use a fine mesh metal strainer with a cheesecloth in it and a nut milk bag on top of that. I believe all 3 of these are necessary if you don't want to wind up with a lot of pulp in your drink (and even doing it this way, i still do wind up with some). The cheesecloth and nut milk bag will be a lot easier to work with if they're damp. Additionally, some of the things you will need to strain for this recipe may be hot (soymilk from the soymilk machine and the bean curd/whey mixture). I use a silicone heat-resistant glove for these times.
- Note 6: The nigari that i use has directions as follows: dissolve 1 teaspoon of powdered nigari in 1 cup of hot water. Pour 3/4ths of the mixture over the top of the soy milk, trying to cover all areas evenly. If there are any areas left that do not separate, add the remaining 1/4th cup. I don't do it this way. I use a HEAPING teaspoon in 1 cup of hot water, and I just use all of the water mixture. From what I can tell, the only problem with using too much nigari is that it may impart a bitter flavor to the tofu, but I have not found this to be the case at all.
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