Coagulants for homemade tofu

I’ve made soya bean milk at home quite a few times (as mentioned here and here) and written about how one could make soya sauce at home too. Today’s Sunday Times food question column by Chris Tan addresses the issue of making soya bean curd/tofu at home.

The basic process involves setting soya bean milk into a solid form by using a coagulating agent. Chris Tan explains the differences between the types of coagulants, which also helps us to understand the different ingredients used in commercial tofu.

The three main types of coagulants are:

1) Calcium sulphate, a.k.a. gypsum. As this is also one of the ingredients in plaster of paris, the Chinese word is shi2 gao1 石膏, which can also refer to a plaster cast for a broken bone, so don’t be surprised if you see poorly-translated Chinese language cookbooks calling for ‘plaster of paris’. This coagulant is used in Chinese-style tofu, and produces a more soft, moist texture. Available from Chinese provision or medicine shops.

2 ) Nigari. A extract of seawater containing a high proportion of magnesium chloride. Used in Japanese-style tofu, and explains why some Japanese tofu-makers use seawater. A smoother,  subtly sweeter effect is created by using nigari. Powdered or liquid form available at Japanese supermarkets and health food stores such as Nature’s Glory.

3) Glucono delta-lactone (GDL). An organic compound developed a few decades ago, and makes a delicate, pudding-like tofu. Instant tofu kits from Japanese supermarkets use GDL, alongside packets of soya bean milk powder to which you add water. Many years ago, when I visited an aunt who lives in Britain, she made a soya bean curd dessert 豆花 for me using one of these kits; as I remember, the texture was very smooth.

Each type of coagulant produces different textures and subtle flavours, and commercial tofu manufacturers often mix up blends of coagulants. You’ll need to experiment and see which you prefer. Food intolerance sufferers might find they are more sensitive to certain types of coagulants as compared to others.

Read about my experimental attempt at homemade tofu and further information on coagulants:
Making tofu at home
Making tofu at home P.S.
Another word on tofu coagulants

9 Responses

  1. My Korean wife tells me that she has used epsom salts as a coagulant. I’ve found it listed as well on other websites. Don’t know the nutritional pros and cons, or relative price.

  2. Dear Jim,

    Thanks for your information. epsom salts are magnesium sulphate, which I suspect functions in a similar way to calcium sulphate mentioned above.

    If anyone is interested in epsom salts, my posting about it:

  3. How the heck can I try different coagulants to see which ones l like, if I can’t *find* GDL? I’ve been searching online, and the store you link to is in Singapore, and doesn’t sell through mail, that i can tell. I am most interested in soft silken tofu, and this coagulant. Any help, or leads, or suppliers? Thanks.

  4. Would be great if any readers here can help with international mail order suppliers. Sorry I can’t help you with that, VJ! Hope you find the GDL.

  5. i am also want to know where i can buy GDL in singapore….
    anybody can help?? wanna try make some beancurd..
    but seems very difficult to find GDL..

    anyway any altenative name for GDL ?? perhaps in chinnese or other language ??


  6. Hi Ping,
    GDL is easily available at Phoon Huat in Singapore. I believe the Chinese name is 葡萄糖内脂.
    Best wishes.

  7. I emailed you once, asking for directions on making silken tofu. (per your directions to another interested poster.) Never heard back. I just assumed the site was dead and the author gone. Silken tofu is my favorite, and I still am very interested in making it. (most directions look like regular tofu directions.) So – how can I get the directions/recipe for silken tofu? Thanks.

  8. Dear VJ,

    Perhaps you didn’t notice, in June 2008, I posted notes from my experiment with silken tofu on this blog:

    Best wishes.

  9. Thank you; I’ll check it out. I think I have seen it, skipped it over because of the tea, and missed that it might work for silken tofu without tea.

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