Sep 2
2009

How to make tofu—no fancy equipment required.

in Eggs & Tofu, Japanese, Recipes By Region, Recipes by Type

In the U.S., tofu tends to be viewed as a health food. Living in Japan really changed my views on tofu, as it is a staple food item there. When you go into a supermarket in Japan, there’s an entire tofu section (like the cheese section in our American supermarkets), filled with different varieties and brands of tofu. Some of the varieties are equivalent to the mass-produced tofu you can find here in your local supermarket, but then there are also the artisanal varieties. Taking your first taste of one of these varieties is akin to tasting your first homegrown tomato. My first thought was, “What? This is tofu?” It’s hard to really even compare the two! The great thing is, you don’t have to travel to Japan to taste artisanal tofu–you can make your own at home, and you don’t even need to go out and buy any fancy equipment. If you end up liking your homemade tofu and want to make it again, the one piece of equipment you might consider purchasing is a tofu press so that your tofu ends up in a block shape. But even that is not really a large investment as several Internet sources provide options that cost less than $20!

One of the keys to making good tofu is using quality ingredients. I’ve found that the cheapest (and yummiest) dried soybeans are from my local organic market where I can buy them in bulk (as opposed to small packages of beans).

For water, spring water yields the smoothest and most pleasant flavor. Even if you only use spring water in the second half of the process, this will still make a difference in flavor.

How to make tofu in your kitchen (aka, no fancy equipment/ingredients required).

Ingredients needed:

- 1 1/3 cups dried soybeans

- Coagulant: You have several choices in this department:

1) 2 tsp. liquid nigari or

2) 2 1/4 tsp. granular or powdered nigari or

3) 2 tsp. Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) or

4) 4 Tbsp. lemon juice (freshly squeezed) or

5) 3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

Although traditional tofu is made with nigari (a concentrated solution of various salts remaining after the crystallization of salt from seawater), tofu can be made with one of the other ingredients listed above (see, I told you that you didn’t need any fancy ingredients).

The coagulant you choose will effect the taste and firmness slightly, but it will still be tofu, and it will still be yummy! After you’ve tried one coagulant, you may want to try another and see if you prefer one over the other or if you even care.

Okay, now let’s get started on the actual process of making our own tofu. First we need to make soy milk:

1. Soak the dried soybeans in 4 1/2 cups water for at least 8 hours (you’ll need to soak them longer if it’s cold). I usually soak mine overnight or up to 24 hours if it’s chilly out.

2. Grind the soybeans in batches with their soaking water in a food processor/blender until the beans are ground fine.

3. In a large pot, bring 5 cups of water to a boil and then add the ground soybeans.

4. Over medium heat, bring the mixture almost to a boil stirring continuously with a wooden spoon to prevent sticking. Right before it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cook the beans for an additional 8 minutes, stirring (it will foam up A LOT during this process. If the foam gets to high, just flick a few drops of cold water over the top. That should cause the foam level to fall back down.

5. Strain the hot mixture through a colander lined with a finely woven cotton cloth that is sitting over a bowl or pot. You want to catch the liquid–that liquid is your soy milk which you’ll be using now to make your tofu.

6. Carefully gather up the sides of your cloth and twist it closed (you may want to wear gloves to protect your hands from the heat). Using a jar or potato masher, press sack against colander, squeezing out as much soy milk as possible. You will be surprised at how much you will be able to squeeze out!

7. The pulp left in the cloth is called okara and is very nutritious (I’ll be giving you some ideas on how to use it later in the week).

Okay, now to make the actual tofu:

8. In a cup, mix together your chosen coagulant with 1 cup water and stir until dissolved.

9. Quickly rinse out the cooking pot and put it back on the stove. Transfer the soy milk to the pot, and cook it over low heat, stirring continuously with a wooden spatula. When the the soy milk is between 150 to 155 degrees Fahrenheit, remove the pot from the heat.

10. Add half of the coagulant mixture to the soy milk, stirring with a spatula in a whirlpool pattern. After stirring vigorously 5 or 6 times, bring spoon to a halt upright in the soy milk and wait until all turbulence ceases. Then add the remaining coagulant mixture, and this time stir gently in a figure eight pattern. When you notice that the soy milk is beginning to coagulate, cover the pot and let it sit for 15 minutes.

11. Line a colander with a clean tightly woven cotton cloth and set the colander over a bowl that can support it, or in the kitchen sink. With a soup ladle, gently transfer the coagulated soy milk into the cloth-lined colander (or tofu press if you’re using one).

12. Fold the cloth over the top of the coagulated soy milk, and place a weight of about 1 1/2 pounds on top and let stand for about 15 minutes (I use a very scientific weight system of canned goods). I like to place something between the tofu and the weight (like a plate) so that the weight is evenly distributed and gives better shaped tofu. This pressing process is to press out excess water and make the tofu firm.

13. Place a large bowl in the sink and fill it with cold water. Remove the weight from the tofu, unfold the cloth, and gently transfer the tofu into the bowl of cold water. Gently run cold water from the tap into the bowl for 15 minutes, without letting the water hit the tofu directly.

14. Serve the tofu immediately or store it in fresh cold water in the refrigerator.

If you made your tofu in a colander, you will end up with some odd shaped pieces,

but once you chop it up, no one will know, and it will still be just as delicious!

Still not convinced that you want to put in the time and effort to make tofu? Tomorrow I’ll be sharing a method for making quick tofu that takes less than an hour from start to finish.

Tofu Making Resources:

- Recipe: My recipe is a result of trial and error and these three wonderful books: The Book of Tofu, The Tofu Book: the New American Cuisine, and The Japanese Kitchen.

- Tofu press and coagulants: Amazon.com carries a small press as well as nigari, but the same press can be bought through the Soy Milk Maker wholesale Website for almost a quarter of the cost. They also sell a larger wooden press, as well as several coagulants. This is where I’ve been buying my supplies, and they’ve been wonderful to work with so far. These items are also often available at Asian markets, so check those if any are nearby before ordering anything online!

{ 84 comments… read them below or add one }

Peggy Bourjaily September 2, 2009 at 11:57 am

Seriously, I am emailing this post to everyone I know who loves tofu. You are starting a tofu-making revolution!

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Jenn September 2, 2009 at 1:17 pm

That's pretty neat!! That is really easy to make. I've got to try this next time. No need to buy at the store.

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Mary September 2, 2009 at 2:07 pm

I am really impressed. My problem with this, or cheese making for that matter, is having it on hand and ready to go when I need it. I suspect you are a better planner than I. Anyway, I love your recipe and hope you are having a wonderful day.

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Bob September 2, 2009 at 2:10 pm

Well, I may not want to eat it but I do enjoy seeing how it's made. :D

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Simply Life September 2, 2009 at 2:18 pm

Wow, I've never actually seen a recipe for making tofu! Impressive!

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Andreas September 2, 2009 at 2:23 pm

I only know tofu from the complimentary miso soup at sushi lunches and wasn't impressed at all. :) Must try making my own sometime. I'm lloking forward to your next installments of tofu week.

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Cucinista September 2, 2009 at 2:50 pm

Thank you! I have always wanted to make tofu. Your post was really informative and detailed and I think I'm brave enough to try it out now. Do you ever use commercial soy milks or always make your own?

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Fuji Mama September 2, 2009 at 3:23 pm

Cucinista– I'll be covering some info on using commercial soy milks tomorrow! I do prefer to make my own however, as the flavor and texture is different.

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Anonymous September 2, 2009 at 4:57 pm

I just booked this post for future reference. It would be so cool if your page showed up as the first or second site for a Google search on "how to make tofu."!

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mamakd September 2, 2009 at 8:33 pm

I just bought some tofu yesterday…now I can try to make my own! Woohoo! I am sooo excited to see the super quick recipe!

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Jen September 2, 2009 at 8:35 pm

You simply amaze me!
♥ Jen

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Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction September 2, 2009 at 9:00 pm

I've never really been a huge tofu fan, but reading this makes me want to give it another try! Love all of the step-by-step pictures!

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Jen September 2, 2009 at 9:25 pm

Wow – this looks SOOO awesome. My mom used to make soymilk when I was growing up, but never tofu! Is it hard to find Calcium sulfate? Man, now I really want to try to make some, especially if it tastes better than store bought!

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Bert | UPrinting.com September 2, 2009 at 9:35 pm

Fresh tofu that has been processed in someway, That taste was delightful and easy to prepare.

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Claudia September 3, 2009 at 10:38 am

Amazing, and it looks so easy. Thank you so much for this tutorial. I love tofu and they just don't exist here in Norway.

Once I find the coagulant I will try to make it… I will look for it in Asian stores tomorrow!

Thanks,

C.

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Liz - Meal Makeover Mom September 3, 2009 at 1:47 pm

Wow. What a fascinating post. I'm so lazy … I just buy the pre-made stuff! This week, I tried Nasoya's Silken Style Chocolate Creations and with it, made a fabulous chocolate cheesecake. My boys loved it even though they knew it was made with tofu. When I post it, I'll share the link with you.

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Jen September 3, 2009 at 11:02 pm

LFM: I can't pinpoint exactly what it is about your blog, but you have once again inspired me to want to try to make something from scratch!!! i just don't understand it…this is REALLY unlike me. having so much fun on your site – thanks!

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Elin September 4, 2009 at 12:29 am

Hi LFM,
I am impressed but may I ask what coagulant you used for making this tofu?

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Gareth September 4, 2009 at 8:25 am

This is great! I was very impressed with your vegetarian entry for the BLT Challenge, and now I just have to try making tofu. Thanks for demonstrating that making tofu is as simple as making ricotta.

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Chowhound September 5, 2009 at 9:54 am

Wow! This is super cool! I love tofu but I've never tasted the homemade version. Your recipe is very detailed and well-written it will be hard for kitchen dummies like me to mess it up. Now I just need to guts to actually try making it ;-).

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Fuji Mama September 5, 2009 at 3:16 pm

Gareth– Thank you! Seriously, tofu is dead easy…the hardest part is pressing all of the soy milk out of the soybean pulp, and that is not a matter of skill, just muscle.

Chowhound– No guts required! Seriously, tofu making is SO easy! After you do it the first time you'll say, "Wait! That was it?"

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veron September 6, 2009 at 6:35 pm

Great tutorial! Tofu, like marshmallow is one food item I thought you only bought from the store :).

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LollyChops September 8, 2009 at 1:14 pm

This does not look too complicated! I hope to give it a shot one day!

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Louise | Brochure Printing September 18, 2009 at 6:19 pm

Tofu is so delicious!
I wouldn't mind just drinking the soya milk though. I love soybean-based products, I actually grew up drinking soya milk. :)

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Her Tale In Time October 27, 2009 at 1:49 am

mmmm i miss fresh tofu. my mom used to make it every year when she harvests the soybeans. she would make a ton of it! it's such a long process but SO good. thanks for bring up good memories!

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Rebeccah Kaufmann February 24, 2010 at 1:21 pm

Thanks for a great tofu recipe–I currently live in the Palestinian territories and can’t find tofu anywhere here. Since I don’t eat meat or eggs, I decided to make my own and found your blog. I tried your recipe for the first time ever yesterday, and it turned out great. Such a wonderfully simple recipe.

However, the tofu came out a little crumbly and fell apart. I’m not sure whether I didn’t press it long enough (or hard enough?), or if it has to do with the coagulant (I used lemon juice), but either way, it didn’t really matter. I just crumbled it up some more, drizzled a little Palestinian olive oil (it’s unbelievable good) and sprinkled some salt on it, and voilà: my very own vegan ricotta. Tastes great with bread.

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Michelle March 16, 2010 at 9:46 am

OH my goodness! I had no idea how yogart was made. It’s almost like cheesemaking. I use kefir in my baking which is so easy to make and keeping making it over and over too. Kefir in baked goods is the best!

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Maria March 16, 2010 at 9:50 am

This is the neatest post ever:) We make our own bread, yogurt, sauces, etc. so why not tofu? Love it!

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Cookin' Canuck March 16, 2010 at 9:51 am

This looks so much better than the store-bought tofu!

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Sarah April 1, 2010 at 9:55 am

I used your recipe today to make soy milk. It was ridiculously easy! I’m very happy with the results. The flavor tastes nearly identical to the kind I get at Thanh Son Tofu in Falls Church, VA. I made one plain and one slightly sweetened with brown sugar. I don’t like the “Western” brands of soy (like Silk) and it’s hard to make time to trek out to Falls Church for fresh soy milk. I’m very happy with the results.

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Neville Jacobsohn April 19, 2010 at 7:17 am

Congrats well presented, clear and precise please keep me informed
Thanks

Neville Jacobsohn

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Winola May 7, 2010 at 3:02 am

I am vegetarian and trying to get healthy home made food. So making tofu has been in my mind for some time. But your site has given me the best and easy and simple way. thanks so much. Keep me informed of other home made food.
Love it

Winola Gininda

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Elvia June 7, 2010 at 7:12 am

I’m so happy I found this recipe. I was in search of a similar recipe I used when I made tofu more than 30yrs ago. This will definitely have me in the kitchen and sharing this recipe. My friends of today don’t believe I made it that long ago but now I can demonstrate. I’m glad I found your site.

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JD UK October 13, 2010 at 9:33 am

I’m off to make some right now. Beans already soaked overnight ’cause I started making my first S.milk last weekend and and the 2nd lot Monday this week, just used the last of that in my drinking choc – so smooth – yuuuuum!

Catch yu later – got tofu to make.

P.S. Would like to make smoked tofu once mastered plain tofu – love it

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Lu October 17, 2010 at 10:27 am

My beans are soaking right now! I had them on hand because bought them in bulk, like you. I have some leftover from kong guksu (Korean soymilk soup w/ noodles). I have a very important question, however~! :) Do you take the skins off the beans before grinding them? I can’t tell from the picture. I feel almost certain you would have said so if that were the case, but I need to make sure.

Thanks! Gorgeous blog, btw.

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Nostalgic Tofu Maker January 16, 2011 at 6:28 pm

34 years ago, I used to make tofu for 100+ fellow students. While cleaning out a cupboard, ran across an old tofu kit and obscure instructions from the 70s. Your wonderfully clear instructions and step-by-step photos not only resulted in sweet warm tofu but sweet warm memories too! Thank you.

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Emilie February 1, 2011 at 10:53 am

Rachel, this makes the most delightful tofu I’ve ever tasted. I used the 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice and the final tofu is lemon scented and perfectly white. The texture is fantastic. It holds together perfectly and it has a slight dryish crumblyness to it. When my husband came home he was so impressed I’d made tofu. I cut him a chunk and while he savored it’s lovely texture and scent of lemon he said mmmmm. A second chunk was sitting on a little lid and I ground a little salt on it and drizzled lemon juice, Braggs and olive oil on it. I handed it to him and when he put that in his mouth he said, oh ahhhgh I love you.

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Where's the okara recipe? February 1, 2011 at 10:56 am

The soy pulp left over looks yummy so I tried putting the okara in the oven and drying it at 200 degrees with some salt and sesame oil for flavor. I wonder what I’m going to do with it now.

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lindsy March 27, 2011 at 11:23 am

the soymilk turned out great, the tofu did not. I used about 5 lbs of pressure and left it to press for about 45 minutes and it was still so soft and crumbly. Also not sure what the reasoning is for wasting so much water by letting the tap run over the bowl for 15 minutes- it just served to make the tofu even more crumbly. Disappointing. :( I’ll try again, but will use a different recipe. Thanks for the soymilk instructions though.

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Fuji Mama (Rachael) March 27, 2011 at 11:54 am

Lindsy– I’m sorry you had problems with your tofu. Making tofu can be a bit like making bread sometimes. There are so many things that factor into the finish product, that one factor being out of place can result in an imperfect batch. I assure you that the recipe works. It’s one that I’ve used myself over 100 times, and has been tested by multiple recipe testers.

You asked about the reasoning behind letting the water run over the pressed tofu at the end? You can skip this step, if you’d like, and soak it for 20 minutes in cool water, then change the water. I learned this particular technique from a chef in Tokyo who makes artisan tofu, and use it when I can, as I find it helps the chilling/settling process of the tofu, and helps give a subtler flavor to the finished tofu. This process should not affect the texture. If the water is being gently run along the edge of the container the tofu is in, this should only keep the water in the container constantly fresh, without a whole lot of “current” in the container.

As far as your texture problem, this can be caused by several things. Soybeans that are older can greatly affect the consistency of finished tofu. If too much coagulant is added, or added too quickly, this can cause the curds to form too quickly, thus resulting in a crumbly texture. If curds are stirred or ladled too roughly, this can also result in a crumbly texture. Another factor that can affect texture is if the soymilk is allowed to cool too much before the coagulant was added. And finally, the choice of coagulant will affect the flavor and texture of the finished product as well.

Good luck! I hope you have better results with your next batch or with a different recipe!

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tofu cook April 26, 2011 at 9:03 am

Fantastic guide fro making tofu. It makes me want to finally try and make tofu right now :)
I have one question: how much tofu do you get from 500 grams of soy? I can’t find that information.

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Anna May 9, 2011 at 10:00 pm

If I end up getting a reasonable-tasting tofu out of this, I will love you forever! I’ve grown up eating tofu and LOVED it, but gave it up because there were too many additives to the store-bought ones. Thanks for sharing!

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Stephanie, The Recipe Renovator May 26, 2011 at 5:12 pm

Success! Thanks so much. Next time I will try flavoring it… and also want to try making it with another type of bean for a friend who is allergic to soybeans. Thanks again!

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raprima May 30, 2011 at 5:52 pm

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Nathalie ( @spacedlaw ) July 17, 2011 at 11:39 am

Could I use this to make silken tofu?

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Erin August 18, 2011 at 8:53 am

Wow. I would’ve never dreamed I could make tofu at home.

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Amy November 12, 2011 at 12:30 pm

THANK YOU!

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Amy November 12, 2011 at 12:32 pm

THANK YOU! I’ve made soymilk quite often, but didn’t attempt tofu until I read your excellent explanation. The best part is now I know what I can do with all the apple cider vinegar I made from crabapples this year!

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Sheela November 23, 2011 at 8:36 am

THANK YOU. I’ve tried numerous recipes that didn’t coagulate. I think there was an assumption the water to bean ratio to make soy milk was a given. This one worked for me!!! THANX

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Cthuliz March 6, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Excellent post! I just tried to make tofu using a WikiHow recipe, and didn’t realize how /awful/ the recipe was until I tried to make tofu with it. You’ll be glad to know that I read yours thoroughly and it seems great! I love that you’ve included clear pictures for most of the steps. I’ll start soaking my soybeans tomorrow.

One thing I noticed is that there’s a slight typo in step 9: “When the /of the/ soy milk is between 150 to 155 degrees Fahrenheit, remove the pot from the heat.” As a fellow blogger, I appreciate when people point out minor mistakes in my posts. Hope you don’t mind, too.

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Neny Lily Lao March 11, 2012 at 9:43 am

To buy a ready-made tofu is convenient;if in rush. But to make your own, we can compare the taste from a commercial and a home made. I wish that I can make this satisfyingly.

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