Making tofu at home

After making soya bean milk at home, with okara and yuba as by-products, the next logical thing to try was making tofu. It was so easy and gave me a great sense of satisfaction (^_^). I refered to the ‘bible’ of tofu by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi.

For the coagulant, I used nigari, purchased from a health food store (Nature’s Glory). This is the coagulant usually used in Japan comprising mostly magnesium sulphate and is made by evaporating sea water. Shurtleff advises that ‘calcium sulfate, a fine white powder, is sometimes mislabelled in the West and sold as nigari. The latter usually has a coarse, granular or crystalline texture, natural nigari is beige and refined nigari is white.’

Aside from nigari, Epsom salts/magnesium sulphate (a popular antidote for food intolerance reactions!), gypsum/calcium sulphate, lemon or lime juice or vinegar can also be used as coagulants. The coagulant used for Chinese tofu is gypsum/calcium sulphate. Glucono delta-lactone (GDL) is a naturally occurring organic acid that is used to produce ‘silken’ tofu. Read more in my earlier post on coagulants for tofu.

The choice of coagulant affects the texture and taste of the tofu, as does the amount used. For firmer tofu, use nigari; softer tofu, use calcium sulphate. The amount of pressure used when pressing the tofu and the length of time it’s pressed also influences how soft or firm it is.

For a quantity of soya bean milk using 1 1/2 cups soya beans + 16 cups water, Shurtleff suggests:
* for subtly sweet, nigari tofu: 2 tsp natural nigari (magnesium chloride) or refined nigari (calcium chloride)
* for mild, soft tofu: 2 tsp Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate) or gypsum (calcium sulphate)
* for subtly tart or sour tofu: 4 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice or 3 Tbs apple cider vinegar.

Here’s what I did:

To use nigari, dissolve 1 tsp nigari in 1 cup water. Reduce quantities as appropriate.
For every 4 cups soya bean milk, use 1/2 cup nigari solution.

1) Start by making soya bean milk. See the detailed instructions at Just Hungry.
2) After boiling the milk for 5 mins, remove from heat and leave to cool for another five minutes.
3) Slowly add coagulant and stir gently. Watch the curds form.

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4) Leave for 10 mins and allow curds to settle in the bottom.
5) Prepare tofu-mould. Ideally, use a square/rectangular box with holes. If not, you can improvise with a colander but you will end up with an unevenly-shaped piece of tofu (see photo below). Next time, I will try using one of those plastic boxes for storing ready-made tofu from Daiso, or by Lock & Lock, which have an inner container or even non-tofu specific Daiso plastic containers with inner strainers.
6) Place a piece of muslin cloth into the colander/mould.
7) Gently scoop the curds into the muslin cloth. Squeeze out whey liquid.
8) Fold the cloth over the top of the curds.
9) Place a plate or something flat on top of the curds, and weight it down. I used an unopened 1kg bag of rice and balanced a heavy tin can on top.
10) Leave to set. The firmness of the tofu depends on how long it is left to set and how heavily it is weighted down. I left mine for about 3hrs and ended up with the firm consistency of taukwa, which can be easily fried.

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This small slab (about 12cm or 5 inches across) was made from 2 cups of soya bean milk.

What to do with the whey liquid? If you’ve added the correct amount of coagulant, the whey will be amber-coloured and taste sweetish. Too little coagulant and the whey will be cloudy from bits of loose curds; too much coagulant and the whey will taste bitter.

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Don’t throw away the whey as it’s full of B vitamin nutrients, protein (9% of the protein originally found in the dry soya beans) and natural sugars. You can add it to soup, use in cooking in place of other liquids, or even use it as a biodegradable soap! According to Shurtleff, traditional tofu shops in Japan use the whey to wash their equipment at the end of the day because the soy lecithin in whey cuts through fats. Whey can also be used as a facial wash or shampoo (how’s that for homemade, environmentally-friendly, chemical-free toiletries ?), washing and polishing wooden floors or woodwork to give a natural, seasoned look, as well as a plant nutrient.

Please check out Just Hungry’s detailed tofu-making instructions complete with step-by-step photos (she’s got a real tofu press!).
The comprehensive Wikipedia entry on tofu.
Read about the history of tofu in China here.

Don’t forget to check out my postscript to this entry, with many more links, including how to make your own tofu mould/press from a used milk carton!

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6 Responses

  1. This is on my “to-do” list. Apparently, it’s been on the list for a long time because I recently bought some nigari only to find some in the cupboard that I bought months ago! Your post makes it sound easy enough to make. Thanks.

  2. Being a vegan I taught myself to make a variety of soymilk especially hemp soymilk. I also make the best tasting vegan tofu in the world from a variety of fruits juices organic wines and sodas. I make tofu sherbet and tofu popsicles. It’s never boring or tasteless. Asians have followed the same recipe for thousands of years. No one has experimented other ways to make tofu like I have. The most important part of the tofu is the whey. It’s a tofu sin not to drink the tofu whey. It’s nutritious and tasty. But tofu makers disregard it as waste. The whey let you know the coagulating process is completed or not. I learned that nigari or other bitter minerals did not complete the tofu making process like fruit juices and aloe vera. My whey help you digest the oil in tofu and keep your muscles healthy and strong. It also balances your electrolyte and oxygenates your cells. The protein vitamins and minerals from the tofu curds end up in the whey. I use it as probiotic dietary supplement. It is a perfect food for anoxia individuals and cancer patients. The cow industry came along and added cows’ whey to soybeans and called it a health drinks? What a joke. It’s a vegan sin to keep fresh tofu in water. It removes the nutritious whey and nutrients. I eat my tofu right after it’s made. I also make the yuba skin to from rice soymilk to wrap my tofu meals in. Everyone should know how to make soymilk and vegan tofu it’s easy and fun. It does not taste like commercial soymilk or tofu.

  3. Dear Hafeesah,
    Thank you for the information, sounds like you have some very special recipes. Do you have a blog with instructions how to make all those interesting types of tofu? I’m sure it would be very informative for anyone wanting to make their own tofu.

  4. Dear hafeesah,
    have you tried to make tofu directly from hemp seeds?
    I would truly love a reciept as I am slightly alergic to soya but I can eat hemp seeds

  5. do you know how to make egg tofu?

  6. Dear Reta,
    I’m sorry, I don’t know about egg tofu. Maybe you can check the Shurtleff book, which you can read on Google Books via the link provided in my main posting.

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