Homemade Tofu

May 1st, 2008  |  Published in All, Around the World, DIY Food Projects, Farming, Gardening, & Food Preservation, Legumes, Most Popular, Veritable Vegetables, Weekend Projects  |  36 Comments

Sauteed Tofu

Homemade Tofu

14 oz. dried soy beans, soaked overnight in water
water
2 t. gypsum (used in beer and wine making — check your local asian market or home-brew store for this ingredient)

Special Equipment: tofu mold (can use milk carton), blender or food processor, cheese cloth, thermometer

Dried Soy Beans
Dried Soy Beans

1) Prepare tofu mold:

Method 1: Rinse a 2 quart milk container. Lay the container on its side, and using scissors or a knife, cut out one side of the container. Reserve the cut side, as you’ll use it to press tofu later. Cut and fold the top/spout and secure with duct tape so that it lays flat and container looks like a mini shoe box, minus the top. Poke holes on at least three sides of the container so that water can drain out of it as you are pressing the tofu. Secure the shape of the container by making a rectangle out of chopsticks, skewers, or some other stick-like things, securing the corners with rubber bands or twist ties. Place the rectangle around the milk carton, and adjust until it’s the right size. Secure the whole thing with duct tape (I swear, making the mold is the hardest part!!!)

Method 2: Buy a proper tofu mold

Method 3: Improvise something!

Tofu mold from milk carton
Tofu Mold from 2 qt milk container, minus securing chopsticks or skewers

2) Drain soaked soy beans. Pour beans into a blender or food processor and add enough water to just cover. Puree until you’ve achieved a smooth consistency. (You may need to do this in batches)

Soaking soy beans
Soaked Soy Beans

Pureeing soy beans
About to Puree Soy Beans

3) Measure the amount of puree that you have and take note of it. Spoon the puree into a large, heavy-bottomed pan, and add an equal amount of water (I used a 5 qt. dutch oven and it was *barely* big enough)

4) Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat so that mixture is at a slow boil, and cook for 30 minutes, stirring often. Skim off and discard any foam that rises to the top.

Soy milk mixture before skimming
Mixture before skimming

Soy milk mixture after skimming
Mixture after skimming

5) Meanwhile, mix the gypsum with a small amount of water in a small cup or bowl until it dissolves. Line a large sieve or colander with a double layer of cheesecloth. Place colander over a large bowl. Pour mixture into colander and allow to drain for 3-4 minutes. The liquid is the soy milk (just like you get from the container!!), and the solids are called okara and are used in various Japanese dishes. Remove strainer with okara and either discard or save for later use.

6) Insert thermometer into soy milk. When the mixture has cooled to 155 degrees, add gypsum mixture. If liquid has cooled beyond this point, place soy milk in a pot and heat until it reaches 155 degrees, remove from heat, then add gypsum. Within 1 or 2 minutes you will see curds starting to form. Allow mixture to stand undisturbed for about 25-30 minutes.

Tofu curds
Tofu Curds

7) Line mold with a double layer of cheesecloth. Pour mixture into mold. Place reserved carton side on top, and gently press with your hands for two or three minutes to drain some of the liquid. Once a good amount of liquid has drained off, squarely place carton side on top of tofu and evenly weight with 5-10 lbs — I used a 5 lb bag of grain plus two cans of food. For medium firm tofu, press for about 15 minutes. For firm tofu, weight for 20-25 minutes or longer. The firmness of your tofu is entirely determined at this stage by the amount you weight it with, and for how long. If you’re unsure, simply remove weights every now and again and press tofu with your finger to check on it. When it has reached the desired consistency, carefully remove tofu from mold and store in a container of water. Use within 3-4 days. Enjoy!

Pressing Tofu
Pressing Tofu

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I can’t say for sure what possessed me to decide to make homemade tofu. Most likely it’s because I’ve heard tofu called both ‘one of the most natural and healthful’ as well as ‘one of the most processed and adulterated’ foods in the vegetarian (or in my case, ethically omnivorous) diet. This dichotomous description made me want to make it from scratch and to see for myself what it actually entails to make the wobbly cream bean curd that I eat at least two or three times a week.

Making tofu from scratch is a fairly involved endeavor, but worth it if you have the urge to know where your food comes from and how it’s made. Summed up, the steps are: 1) find a place that sells soy beans (not that easy! try your local asian market), 2) soak the beans overnight, 3) puree the soaked beans with water, 4) cook the puree, 5) drain the mixture to separate the mixture into soy milk and okara (the solids), 6) add a coagulant and wait, and finally 7) pour into a mold, press, and drain the tofu. It’s possible to start with soy milk and eliminate steps 1 through 5, but for the true ‘Make it From Scratch’ experience, this won’t do.

On of the highlights of making your own tofu is that you can make it as silken or firm as you desire. I like my tofu a wobbly medium — just dense enough that I can cut it into cubes and it will keep its shape, but no more… I think it should jiggle a little bit when I touch it :). Extra firm tofu rarely makes it into my kitchen as I find it far too dry; if that is the only type of tofu a tofu-newbie tries, I can see how she would come away with a bad taste in her mouth — however, a piece of moist, perfectly wobbly medium tofu can be something to write home about.

My favorite way to cook tofu is extremely simple: heat a non-stick skillet over medium high heat, cut tofu into 1 1/2 inch cubes, add to dry pan, and cook for about 4-5 minutes until a nice golden crust develops. Loosen tofu from skillet and flip onto a different side. Cook for 3-4 more minutes until a nice crust develops on this side. Turn tofu one more time onto a different side and cook until it develops a crust. I find that 3 out of 6 sides is a good number, though 2 or 4 or 5 or 6 is fine too — I usually base this on what else I’ve got cooking and whether it’s ready or not!

So, you might be wondering, how does homemade tofu compare to store-bought tofu? Well, homemade tofu is pretty darned good, but is a fair amount of effort. My farmer’s market is lucky enough to have vendors who sell homemade tofu for the very reasonable price of ~$2-3/lb, which is just as good as homemade tofu and far less effort. All-natural organic tofu stacks up pretty well too — not as good as homemade or farmer’s market tofu since it has inevitably been sitting around for longer, but it’s still tasty nonetheless. I have tried quite a few brands and really like Wildwood Organics tofu, as well as Hodo Soy (I think this is only available around the Bay Area — this is the bulk tofu at the Rainbow Grocery if anyone is an SF Rainbow shopper). Lots of Asian groceries carry freshly made tofu for ridiculously cheap prices too — i.e. 6 or 7 blocks for $1 — since they’re selling them fresh, I assume that no other strange additives have gone into the mix. Many tofus have lots of chemical preservatives and additives, and these I avoid like the plague — make sure to check the label before you buy!

Anyways, if you do decide to be adventurous and make tofu at home, I’d love to hear about your experience! Also, what are your favorite recipes or ways to prepare tofu?

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Responses

  1. valereee says:

    May 2nd, 2008at 3:52 am(#)

    Wow, great post! I’d love to make tofu at home. I may have to try this!

  2. magpie says:

    May 2nd, 2008at 7:09 am(#)

    Cool! Looks like a great project and I will definitely be trying it soon.

  3. Hiroko says:

    May 2nd, 2008at 10:39 am(#)

    Ahhh. Don’t cook a very good fresh tofu – the best way to eat it is to cut in squares and top with chopped green scallion and soy sauce. You cook tofu only when it is not fresh anymore.

  4. Jen says:

    May 2nd, 2008at 10:46 am(#)

    Hi Hiroko! That sounds delicious! I never considered eating it without cooking it… next time I make some or get if from the Farmer’s Market I’ll follow your advice!(FYI: both Palo Alto markets plus the Mountain View market have fresh tofu — I haven’t seen it at Menlo Park though)

  5. Maggie says:

    May 2nd, 2008at 5:58 pm(#)

    I love getting fresh tofu when I make a trip to the Asian market and I have a favorite local brand but making your own sounds like fun!

    Here’s my latest favorite way to cook tofu:
    Honey Mustard Glazed Tofu

  6. maybelles mom says:

    May 3rd, 2008at 6:02 am(#)

    Oh, you are so cool. I love that you did this. Reading this, I toyed with doing it, but with Belle, I am not sure I can find the time. I buy mine from Asian stores and we have a local brand that is made in Cleveland and is really good.

  7. Hiroko says:

    May 4th, 2008at 12:51 am(#)

    yes please try! same applies for fish – we cook it only when it is not fresh anymore. ;-)

    seriously, I grew up with a local handmade tofu shop, and any tofu from fridge or ice box is not fresh enough. It has to come from a pool of fresh water. Eating fresh (uncooked) is the best way you can clearly tell the quality… I’ll try your way to make my own, one of nice hot summer days.

  8. Sophie says:

    May 4th, 2008at 11:07 pm(#)

    This looks like it turned out really well! I like it that you found some gypsum to use as the coagulent so that you still get a tofu that’s full of calcium.

    I’m keen to try this out sometime, but you’re right, it does sound a bit time consuming to do on a regular basis if you eat tofu a few times a week.

    I’m very intrigued by Hiroko’s idea of eating it uncooked

  9. Jen says:

    May 5th, 2008at 9:04 am(#)

    Hi Sophie – Thanks for commenting! It’s true that making tofu from scratch is an involved endeavor. I think if you have a soy milk maker that the whole process can be greatly simplified — I think the soy milk even comes out of the machine at the right temperature (155) to add the coagulent, so then the process only takes ~ 15 – 2o minutes… if you eat a lot of tofu, this might be a good option

  10. Chef Erik says:

    May 6th, 2008at 5:45 pm(#)

    That’s so cool! I’m so going to make this. I thought it was a huge process. This looks easy enough for me :)

  11. sugarlaws says:

    May 7th, 2008at 5:40 pm(#)

    i am beyond impressed. are dried soybeans readily available? they definitely don’t have this at our farmer’s market — i want to try it!

  12. Michelle @ What Does Your Body Good? says:

    May 8th, 2008at 12:49 pm(#)

    Awesome! I am going to try this one day. I wonder how this differs from the process used to make the tofu I buy at Trader Joe’s. There’s a locally made brand I also sometimes get at the cop-op and it tastes so much better. Thanks for the info!

  13. candace says:

    May 8th, 2008at 5:01 pm(#)

    I’m intrigued by this and as soon as I get a weekend off of work, I’m going to try it out! My local co-op sells dried soy beans in bulk, but they’re small and wrinkled. Do you know if it makes a difference what kind of soy beans you use? Is it best to stick with those found at an asian market?

  14. SmarterFitter Blog » Blog Archive » Vegetarian Carnival says:

    May 14th, 2008at 2:21 am(#)

    [...] Homemade Tofu by Jen Carlile at Modern Beet. Should you ever want to make your own tofu, Jen shows you every step of this somewhat ambitious process. She makes a good case for the effort: “Making tofu from scratch is a fairly involved endeavor, but worth it if you have the urge to know where your food comes from and how it’s made.” Well said, Jen. I think it’s funny that she used a tin of Chicken Noodle Soup to press the curdled soy into firm tofu. [...]

  15. Shopping In Toronto’s Chinatown : Eat. Drink. Better. says:

    May 31st, 2008at 3:41 pm(#)

    [...] buy gypsum, which is a coagulant used to make tofu. I was inspired by the tofu-making tutorial on Modern Beet, a culinary trick I would love to possess. I have been meaning to try it for weeks, but had a [...]

  16. Veg Head Carnival « Pip’s Plate says:

    June 4th, 2008at 11:01 am(#)

    [...] mostly curious about the homemade tofu at Modern Beet. It doesn’t look too [...]

  17. We Are Never Full says:

    September 6th, 2008at 12:55 pm(#)

    holy jeeze! not much intimidates me from trying to do something new but this one kind of does! i give you credit on this… i’m sure it tasted wonderful.

  18. White On Rice Couple says:

    September 28th, 2008at 3:30 pm(#)

    Great job Jen! If anyone was going to try their hand at making fresh tofu, it would be you! You are so great in the kitchen!

    This brings back memories as a kid, when we didn’t have
    fresh tofu so readily. My mom would force us up on Saturday mornings and help her!

  19. Jan, Copenhagen, Denmark says:

    October 20th, 2008at 1:04 pm(#)

    Ahh, I am in the middle of the process right now making homemade Tofu. It helped me so much to read all of this from all of you, thank you so much, I am anxiously looking forward to the result, yum, yum!

  20. Jen says:

    October 21st, 2008at 7:00 am(#)

    Hi Jan — I’m glad the post is helpful for you! I’m thinking about tackling homemade tempeh soon, which should be fun — keep and eye out for the post!

  21. mike says:

    January 13th, 2009at 8:54 pm(#)

    Very interesting! It had never occurred to me that you could make tofu at home. I just might try it…

  22. Susan says:

    March 4th, 2009at 11:59 am(#)

    Thank you so much for your recepie. I used to make tofu when my kids were small(they are 27 and 24 now with a girlfriend that loves a vegetarian diet. So I wanted to make a special dinner for her with fresh tofu (nothing compares) again thank you for your easy to follow instructions

  23. Jen says:

    March 4th, 2009at 10:16 pm(#)

    Susan — I hope you enjoyed it! I recently moved to Hannover, Germany where tofu (even bad tofu) is hard to find… I might start making this more regularly just to have a supply. If I find any ways to simplify the process, I will update this post

    Thanks again for your comment!

  24. Homemade Tempeh | Modern Beet says:

    June 9th, 2009at 12:24 pm(#)

    [...] the process.  As many of you know, I have a thing for making things from scratch — tofu, jam, pickles, limoncello, gravlax, sauerkraut, and sausage to name a few.  Tempeh had been on my [...]

  25. Louise says:

    August 9th, 2009at 11:35 am(#)

    Brilliant mold idea!!! This will be the perfect size for a week’s worth of tofu.

  26. Gabby says:

    December 5th, 2009at 10:39 pm(#)

    i love your blog! this idea for a tofu press is just perfect.

  27. Orange, Pomelo, Lemon and Ginger Preserves | Modern Beet says:

    January 7th, 2010at 6:57 pm(#)

    [...] normal’ is being settled enough that I feel like embarking on culinary adventures.  Homemade tofu, jelly, pickles, sauerkraut, tempeh, and sausage are the sorts of things I am talking about here [...]

  28. Elizabeth says:

    January 21st, 2010at 10:25 am(#)

    Hi There! A few years ago I bought a soymilk maker and a bunch of beans. I’ve since learned that I prefer the flavor of rice milk and have a ton of beans left to use and wanted to learn to make my own tofu. Thanks so much for posting this great tutorial; I plan to give it a whirl this weekend.

  29. Kylee says:

    August 12th, 2011at 5:17 pm(#)

    I know this question may be silly, but I’ve never made tofu myself before. Is it possible to make it with fresh soybeans? Thank you for posting this how-to. :)

  30. Jen says:

    August 13th, 2011at 7:51 am(#)

    Hi Kylee,
    I would venture to say that *most* people have never made tofu before :) and your question is a good one. I have never made tofu with fresh soybeans (lucky you for having a source!), but I can’t really think of any reasons why it wouldn’t work. I would still soak the beans for perhaps one to two hours to ensure they are pliant enough to go into the food processor, and then follow the rest of the steps as written. I think the key is that the beans are uncooked, rather than dry vs. fresh (e.g. canned cooked soybeans would definitely not work). If you do end up trying it, I’d love to hear how it turns out. Good luck!

    Best,
    Jen

  31. David says:

    August 22nd, 2011at 10:46 pm(#)

    Lemon juice works as a coagulant, too, if you would like to avoid gypsum…

  32. animal says:

    November 17th, 2011at 7:16 am(#)

    No such thing as ethical carnivore. Thanks for the vegan recipe, though.

  33. 2 Tales, 1 conclusion, Part 1 « AfroMartha says:

    February 15th, 2012at 7:49 am(#)

    [...] of about 5 years, I was a vegetarian. I was so deep into my vegetarianism, I even learned to make Tofu from scratch. I also made Seitan (the vegetarian wheat meat) from scratch. I made bread from scratch, by hand. I [...]

  34. Karen Grider says:

    June 17th, 2012at 10:47 am(#)

    Can you use store bought soy milk to save time?

  35. Jen says:

    June 17th, 2012at 7:10 pm(#)

    Hi Karen,
    Unfortunately the times I’ve tried to use store-bought soy milk I have had poor results — it doesn’t curdle/thicken the same way, and I ended up with goopy messes…
    Jen

  36. 2 Tales, 1 conclusion, Part 1 - AfroMartha says:

    January 1st, 2014at 7:36 pm(#)

    […] of about 5 years, I was a vegetarian. I was so deep into my vegetarianism, I even learned to make Tofu from scratch. I also made Seitan (the vegetarian wheat meat) from scratch. I made bread from scratch, by hand. I […]

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