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How To/ Tips & Hints

How to Make Your Own Tofu

How to Make Your Own Tofu

How to Make Your Own Tofu
Do you ever think about how different foods came to be? Who discovered that we can eat potatoes? How did someone come up with the idea to grind wheat into flour and make bread with it? I’m always asking myself these questions and I also spend a lot of time wondering how foods are made too. Like tofu! How do you make tofu?

I always knew tofu was made from curdled soybeans, but how do you curdle soybeans? And how did someone decide that this was a thing that could be done?! There are a lot of tofu making kits for sale out there, but I decided to forego the kits and try to do it myself. A little bit of Googling turned up pages and pages of tofu making tutorials, but I decided to go with one on NPR’s Kitchen Window. Making my own tofu! It seemed doable! My tutorial is slightly adapted from that one, based on my own tofu making experience.

SoybeansMake Your Own Tofu

The tofu making process starts with dried soybeans—1 1/2 cups, to be exact. I bought mine in the bulk section at Whole Foods.

Whenever I use soy in a recipe, it’s inevitable that I get a comment or email complaining about it because “soy is GMO.” Well no, not all soy is GMO. The tofu I buy is GMO-free, and the soybeans I used in this recipe are organic and GMO-free too. So if you’re concerned about GMOs, please don’t think you can’t make or eat tofu!

Soaking Soybeans

The soybeans are soaked in 4 1/2 cups of water for at least 8 hours or overnight.

Soybean Slurry

After the soaking, you transfer the beans and soaking water to a food processor or high-powered blender (I used my Vitamix). Process the mixture until the beans are ground and the liquid is smooth.

Heating Soybean Slurry

Now you’ve got your soybean slurry all ready to go. Good! Bring 5 cups of water to a boil in a large pot or Dutch oven and stir in the soybean mixture. Reduce the heat to medium and stir constantly. When the mixture is simmering, almost coming to a boil, reduce the heat to low and continue to cook (and stir!) until a layer of foam forms—about 8 minutes.

Okara

Now you need to separate the ground up beans from the soymilk. The original tutorial calls for a cheesecloth here, but I found a nut milk bag to be much easier to work with. Put your nut milk bag in a large bowl and pour the contents of the Dutch oven into it. Carefully lift the bag out of the bowl and let the liquid strain out. I used a wooden spoon to press out as much liquid as I could. Discard the ground soybeans or save them for another use. (This soybean pulp is called okara and there are recipes out there that call for it! I’ll be honest, I discarded mine, mostly because I didn’t have time to make another recipe.)

Heating Soymilk

Give your Dutch oven a quick rinse, then pour the soymilk back into it. Heat the soymilk over low heat, stirring frequently. While that’s heating, stir together 1 cup of water with 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice. This is your coagulant! It’s what makes the soymilk curdle. (Side note: See why I never take photos in my kitchen? It’s dark! And impossible to photograph in!)

Coagulated Soymilk

Once the temperature of the soymilk is between 150°F and 155°F, remove it from the heat. I have a digital thermometer that decided to malfunction at this moment (thanks, digital thermometer!), so I had to guess. My tofu still worked out in the end, so if you don’t have a thermometer, don’t panic. I knew that if the soymilk was boiling, it would be way above 150°F. I figured that if it was simmering, it would also be too hot. So my soymilk was not quite simmering, but still too hot to touch.

At this point, add half of the coagulant to the Dutch oven and stir with a spatula 6 times, in a circular pattern. After 6 stirs, stop the spatula in its tracks, holding it upright in the pot until the soymilk stops moving. Pour in the rest of the coagulant and gently stir in a figure-eight pattern until small curds start to form. Cover the pot and let it sit for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, it will look like this—there will be a layer of water on top, with curds on the bottom.

Soy Curds

Curds! Rinse out your large bowl and nut milk bag because you’re going to use them again.

Straining Tofu

Put the bag in the bowl and then use a slotted spoon to transfer the curds from the Dutch oven to the bag. Once all the curds are in the bag, squeeze as much liquid out as you can.

Tofu in Tofu Press

At this point, I transferred the tofu to my handy tofu press. If you don’t have a tofu press, you can keep the tofu in the nut milk bag (or wrapped in a cheesecloth) and put a plate on top of it, then something heavy (like cans of soup) on top of the plate to press the liquid out. Press the tofu like this for 15 minutes. Drain out the excess water and refrigerate for an hour.

Homemade Tofu

Tofu! Homemade tofu is more firm than silken tofu, but softer than the firm tofu I usually buy. It crumbles more easily, but I think the taste is better than the kind you buy at the store. That said, I’m not going to be making all my tofu from now on. This is one of those I-want-to-know-how-it’s-made-and-now-I-do projects, like when I made sandwich bread. You can use your homemade tofu right away or immerse it in cold water and store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Tofu Recipes

Now that you know how to make your own tofu, what are you going to do with it? Here are some ideas from my blog. (And yes, you can use store-bought tofu in them too!)

Tofu Recipes
1. Crispy Tofu Sandwiches with Ginger Peanut Sauce
2. Coconut-Lime Tofu Soup
3. Thai Tofu & Noodle Salad
4. Freezer-Friendly Greens & Tofu Scramble Wraps
5. Orange Cardamom Chocolate Mousse
6. Thai Red Curry with Asparagus and Tofu
7. Baked Barbecue Tofu
8. Vegan Dark Chocolate Pomegranate Mousse

Disclosure: The links to Amazon in this post are affiliate links. If you were to make a purchase from them, I’d receive a small percentage of the sale price. This helps support Oh My Veggies!

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88 Comments

  • Reply
    Martina
    July 23, 2013 at 9:16 am

    I’ll admit I’ve often wondered about how tofu is made – same way I wonder about how those meat-substitutes are made but I’ve never even tried making them myself, I’m very impressed!

    I’m loving the look of that BBQ tofu recipe I’ll think I’ll be making that for dinner tonight.

    Martina

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 24, 2013 at 8:56 pm

      You probably don’t want to know how some of the meat substitutes are made. 😉 BBQ tofu is one of my favorite ways to serve tofu–everything tastes good in BBQ sauce!

  • Reply
    Jennie @themessybakerblog
    July 23, 2013 at 9:24 am

    Homemade tofu looks so much better than the store-bought version. I need to make this so I can make #5 and #8. I a sweetaholic!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 24, 2013 at 8:54 pm

      I made tofu mousse this week! It is crazy how good it tastes–you would never, ever think it’s made with tofu.

  • Reply
    Averie @ Averie Cooks
    July 23, 2013 at 9:26 am

    You are amazing!!!!! WOW! I just posted tofu last week w/ my tofu pressing tips, etc. but you have my little recipe blown out of the water…b/c you make your own! Kiersten – amazing!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 24, 2013 at 8:54 pm

      I love that you tell people to press their tofu, because I always say the same thing. So many restaurants serve soggy, water-logged tofu and then people think they don’t like it!

  • Reply
    dixya| food, pleasure, and health
    July 23, 2013 at 10:01 am

    im always curious about those things too. I tried making paneer once and it was a rewarding process 🙂

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 24, 2013 at 8:52 pm

      I’m going to have to try to make paneer next! 🙂

  • Reply
    Daniela @ FoodrecipesHQ
    July 23, 2013 at 10:17 am

    Oh that little tofu press! Very handy. I’ll try your recipe first without it. Once I’ll start being confident with homemade tofu I’ll make my life easier with it. Great pics, by the way!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 24, 2013 at 8:51 pm

      Thanks! I was so frustrated with the photos–I am not good at multitasking, so process shots are hard for me. I start concentrating on the food and forgetting that I need to take photos too. 😉

  • Reply
    Archana
    July 23, 2013 at 10:53 am

    Impressive – since its a long drawn out process. This is very similar to making Indian Paneer but with milk. You curdle the milk by boiling it and adding distilled white vinegar and then follow the same steps as tofu to press out the liquid. Its so great when you know exactly what went into your food.

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 24, 2013 at 8:47 pm

      I’ve heard of people who make their own paneer before, but had no idea the process was so similar. Maybe I will tackle that one next!

  • Reply
    Meg @ Beard and Bonnet
    July 23, 2013 at 11:15 am

    Love this tutorial!! I recently purchased a tempeh starter kit and a big batch of soybeans from Whole Foods bulk bin for a similar project I have in the works for B&B. I love knowing how things are made, and just like one of my kids, if I make it I am more likely to eat it. Tofu and tempeh have always slightly freaked me out, although I do use them from time to time to bulk up my vegetarian recipes. Thanks for sharing this, because I honestly have been a little intimidated by the whole tofu/tempeh process and needed a swift kick in the butt to get going on my project!!!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 24, 2013 at 8:46 pm

      Okay, tofu was doable, but tempeh completely scares me. You are going to have to blog about that one for sure! Maybe it will convince me to give it a try. 🙂

  • Reply
    Suzanne @ hello, veggy!!
    July 23, 2013 at 11:16 am

    Interesting! I had no idea that is how tofu is made! It must be good peace of mind to know you’re not dealing with any weird production/GM when you make your own!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 24, 2013 at 8:45 pm

      Luckily the brand of tofu I usually buy is non-GMO, but you’re right, it’s still nice to know exactly what’s going into it! 🙂

  • Reply
    Alexis @ Hummusapien
    July 23, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    This is SO interesting. I would never think of making my own tofu but now I’m inspired! Those crispy tofu sandwiches look right up my alley, too!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 24, 2013 at 8:41 pm

      Those sandwiches are one of my favorite recipes. They sold my brother-in-law on tofu, which is no small feat. 🙂

  • Reply
    Caitlin
    July 23, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    i wonder where foods come from all the time, too! and seriously, after reading the how-to on tofu- who discovered this?? it’s crazy what people will go through to new ways to prepare food.

    i think i would LOVE to make my own tofu. i never buy it because of all the funky additives. i’ve never seen tofu with the ingredients organic tofu, lemon juice, water. if i did, i’d definitely pick it up in a second!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 24, 2013 at 8:40 pm

      I know! Who thought to grind up soybeans, cook them, strain them, cook the milk, and curdle it? It hurts my brain to think about it. Mind! Is! Blown!

  • Reply
    Sonnet
    July 23, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    This has got to be the COOLEST tutorial ever! I have always wondered how tofu is made, but I never thought to try it myself. I’ll definitely be sharing this with folks! 🙂

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 24, 2013 at 8:38 pm

      Thank you! You should totally give it a try! 😀 It’s so much easier than I thought it would be.

  • Reply
    Erika
    July 23, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    You made your own tofu?? AMAZING!! That was one of those things that for some reason I just thought would never be possible to make at home. Good to know that it can be done! Looks like a lot of work, but I’d be super interested to try the end result!

    By the way, I tried your chocolate chia pudding and it was AMAZING. I made it again for an icebox cake and am just so happy to have it in my recipe repertoire! 🙂

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 24, 2013 at 8:34 pm

      Yay, I’m so glad you liked it! Someone left me a nasty comment on that recipe last week and I was all bummed out because I have it for breakfast all the time and love the heck out of it. 😉

  • Reply
    Hannah @ CleanEatingVeggieGirl
    July 23, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    Is it bad that I had no idea that I can actually make my own tofu?? Haha, silly me! 😉 Thanks so much for sharing. This is seriously cool.

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 24, 2013 at 8:32 pm

      You know, I don’t think it would have occurred to me either had I not started seeing tofu making kits all over the place!

  • Reply
    Erica {Coffee & Quinoa}
    July 23, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    Yes! I wonder those things all the time. Our ancestors who made the first bread, beer, and tofu were much more creative than I will ever be! I guess necessity breeds invention. You are brave to give tofu-making a go!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 24, 2013 at 8:31 pm

      Yay, I’m glad I’m not the only one! 😀

  • Reply
    McKel Hill, MS, RD, LDN | Nutrition Stripped
    July 23, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    Great tutorial! Had to share this one with the twitter community 😉

  • Reply
    Emma
    July 23, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    Wow, very impressed you made your own tofu. I actually watched a youtube vid a while ago on making fresh tofu and thought it was pretty cool…still not sure it’s something I’ll be doing…I’ll definitely try some of your tofu recipes you linked though. They all sound delish.

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 24, 2013 at 8:29 pm

      It’s one of those things that’s good to do once so you can at least say you did it and impress everyone you know. 🙂

  • Reply
    Natalie
    July 23, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    This would be a great to do with my children, I too love knowing how things are made. Thank you 🙂

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 24, 2013 at 8:25 pm

      Yes, I think kids would love this! Especially kids who love tofu, if such a thing exists. 🙂

  • Reply
    [email protected] Frosted Vegan
    July 23, 2013 at 9:27 pm

    I love making my own ingredients, so I throughly appreciate this!

  • Reply
    Shirley
    July 23, 2013 at 11:52 pm

    This is so cool! I’ll be honest — I’m totally lazy and busy and won’t make it, but I really got a kick out of seeing how it was done. It reminds me of making cheese, like ricotta (which I’ve bought fresh and also have never made). I have, however, watched Joe make butter once.
    And I really like how tofu is labeled non-GMO these days. Especially when I want my sister to get off my case for eating it. 🙂

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 24, 2013 at 8:23 pm

      Oh man, I get a lot of hostility about using tofu. I don’t know where the misconception that all soy = GMO came from, but I really wish it would go away. :/ I’m definitely too lazy to make my own tofu on a regular basis, but I love doing projects like this once in a while. It’s satisfying!

  • Reply
    Connie
    July 24, 2013 at 6:57 am

    good for you. It is suuuccchhh a process. I’ve made soymilk before… and never again.

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 24, 2013 at 8:21 pm

      I was thinking about making soymilk next, actually. 🙂 Usually I make either cashew or coconut milk for myself because they are crazy easy.

  • Reply
    [email protected]'s Recipes
    July 24, 2013 at 7:44 am

    I like to make my own tofu too. I hope you didn’t dump the okara after making tofu … they are great adding to veggie patty or to the bread. I usually oven roast them until dry and golden, then grind them into powder…wow..they smell so nutty and good.

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 24, 2013 at 8:20 pm

      I did throw out the okara! I feel really bad about it too–ha! I had so many other recipes to make that I didn’t want to add another to the list. But next time, I’m definitely going to save it. 🙂

  • Reply
    Julia
    July 24, 2013 at 11:53 am

    I am so impressed! I’ve never known anyone to make their own tofu and I bet it turns out so much better than store-bought! I never would have thought to make tofu at home until reading this post, so I’m in a very pleasant shock. All your tofu recipes look amazing too!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 24, 2013 at 8:18 pm

      It really is better than store-bought–even more than I expected!

  • Reply
    Grace @ FoodFitnessFreshAir
    July 24, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    I’ve always thought about making my own tofu. But then wonder if it’s worth the effort. I’ve been told though that homemade tofu tastes significantly better. Perhaps this would be a good Sunday afternoon project!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 24, 2013 at 8:15 pm

      I thought it tasted better, but maybe not so much that I’m going to switch to making it myself all the time. 🙂 It was definitely a fun project though!

  • Reply
    JulieD
    July 24, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    I have always wanted to try to make my own!! My mom used to order some from a family nearby who made it at their house and sold it. Sooo much better than store bought! It’s on my cooking bucket list!!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 24, 2013 at 8:07 pm

      You should do it! It’s not anything I’d do on a regular basis, but it was really fun and the tofu was so good!

  • Reply
    Kare @ Kitchen Treaty
    July 24, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    You made your own tofu. I like you even more now. I also like you more because you fully admit that you won’t always make it yourself from now on. 😉 You’re awesome.

    I love that tofu press. I feel kind of stupid because I always just use stacks of plates and tons of paper towels and didn’t even consider there might be such a product out there. Brilliant, brilliant.

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 24, 2013 at 9:51 pm

      If I had an infinite amount of time, I would totally make my own tofu. Always. And YOU NEED THAT TOFU PRESS! It took me about 2 years to finally buy it because I thought it was so over-priced, but I’m pretty sure we’ve saved that much and more in paper towels since buying it. And bonus, you can use it to make your own tofu. 🙂

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