Homemade Tofu (and Soy Milk)

homemade soy milk, tofu and okara

Like many of the people who took my poll earlier this week on Instagram, you may be surprised to learn how easily you can make delicious tofu from scratch.

IG survey with over 2000 respondents

However, like many of the recipes I cook today, preparing tofu does require some planning ahead. If you want tofu for dinner, you’ll need to soak your soybeans in advance—the night before or very early in the morning.

To make tofu, you first make soy milk. So if you prefer, you can make the milk—and a bit extra to drink—a day or two in advance of making the tofu. This gets most of the prep out of the way. Once you have made the milk, you can finish making the tofu fairly quickly.

Only three ingredients

Delicious homemade tofu requires only soybeans, a coagulant and water.

Think ahead of what you’ll do with the SHOCKINGLY LARGE amount of okara (soybean pulp) that homemade tofu renders. This is the only thing I find difficult to deal with when making tofu. I’ve added okara to soup—it makes a nice thickener—and I’ve made really delicious biscotti with it (I’ll post that recipe very soon). You can use it like you would pulp from nut and seed milks.

When you see the large amount of okara left over from making tofu, I think it makes you respect the food more. So many resources go into producing what we eat. That awareness makes you want to cook with care and not waste a single morsel.

And now for the recipe.

Homemade Soy Milk and Tofu

Ingredients

  • 2 cups non-GMO, organic soybeans
  • 1 ½ teaspoons nigari powder
  • water
soybeans and nigari for making tofu
Soybeans and nigari

Directions

First, make soy milk

1. Soak soybeans overnight.

soaked soybeans for making tofu
Soaked soybeans ready to blend

2. Drain, rinse and place beans in a blender with just enough fresh water to cover. Purée in two batches.

processing soaked soybeans to make soy milk and tofu
Purée the beans in two (or more) batches

3. Add the puréed beans to a large pot. 

puréed soybeans and water for making soy milk and tofu
Use a large pot to make soy milk as it will foam up a lot

4. Stir in 8 cups of fresh water.

simmering the puréed soybeans and water in a large stock pot
Keep an eye on this as you simmer it so it doesn’t boil over

5. Heat the mixture to a simmer and stir often until it becomes foamy, about 15 minutes.

homemade soy milk cooking in a large pot
Frothy milk in the making

6. Line a sieve with a thin cloth or nut milk bag and place over another large pot. Strain out the milk. Squeeze out as much as possible from the cloth or nut milk bag. If you’d like to reserve some milk, remove it before moving on to the next step.

straining homemade soy milk
After straining out the soy milk, you’ll have a pile of okara

Now, make the tofu

7. Heat the milk to 180° Fahrenheit. While the milk heats, dissolve the nigari in 1/2 cup water. If you reserved quite a bit of milk from this, adjust the amount of nigari accordingly. 

heating soy milk to make tofu
Heat the milk to make tofu
dissolving the coagulant nigari in water to make tofu
Dissolve the nigari in water and add to the hot soy milk

8. When the milk has reached 180° Fahrenheit, pour in the dissolved nigari and stir gently. Curds will begin to form.

tofu curds in soy milk
Curds have formed after 10 minutes

9. After the curds have formed—about 10 minutes—strain them out. If you have a tofu press, set that up in the kitchen sink, pour the curds into it and form your block of tofu. If you do not have a tofu press, place a colander in the kitchen sink. Line the colander with a thin cloth or nut milk bag. Pour the curds in. Squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Fold the cloth over the curds, place a plate on top and a weight (I use a jug of water) on that to press out more water.

straining tofu curds in the kitchen sink for homemade tofu
Strain curds in a cloth-lined colander set in the sink if you don’t have a tofu mold
straining tofu curds in the kitchen sink for homemade tofu
Place weight over a plate over the tofu to drain it

10. Let the tofu drain for about 20 minutes and then either cook it or store it in the refrigerator in a container of water.

one pound of homemade tofu on a scale
Two cups of soybeans rendered a little over a pound of tofu
homemade soy milk, tofu and okara
Homemade soy milk, tofu and okara
Biscotti made with okara or soybean pulp
Biscotti made with okara (soybean pulp)

Homemade Soy Milk and Tofu

Ingredients

  • 2 cups non-GMO, organic soybeans
  • 1 ½ teaspoons nigari powder
  • water

Directions

1. Soak soybeans overnight.

2. Drain, rinse and place beans in a blender with just enough fresh water to cover. Purée in two batches.

3. Add the puréed beans to a large pot. 

4. Stir in 8 cups of fresh water.

5. Heat the mixture to a simmer and stir often until it becomes foamy, about 15 minutes.

6. Line a sieve with a thin cloth or nut milk bag and place over another large pot. Strain out the milk. Squeeze out as much as possible from the cloth or nut milk bag. If you’d like to reserve some milk, remove it before moving on to the next step.

7. Heat the milk to 180° Fahrenheit. While the milk heats, dissolve the nigari in 1/2 cup water. If you reserved quite a bit of milk from this, adjust the amount of nigari accordingly.

8. When the milk has reached 180° Fahrenheit, pour in the dissolved nigari and stir gently. Curds will begin to form.

9. After the curds have formed—about 10 minutes—strain them out. If you have a tofu press, set that up in the kitchen sink, pour the curds into it and form your block of tofu. If you do not have a tofu press, place a colander in the kitchen sink. Line the colander with a thin cloth or nut milk bag. Pour the curds in. Squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Fold the cloth over the curds, place a plate on top and a weight (I use a jug of water) on that to press out more water.

10. Let the tofu drain for about 20 minutes and then either cook it or store it in the refrigerator in a container of water.

20 Replies to “Homemade Tofu (and Soy Milk)”

  1. Hi Anne-Marie, thanks again for breaking this down to a really easy recipe, once again.
    I have two questions: I tried to make soy milk last autumn. The workshop leader told us it needed to simmer for 2 hours. So when I tried at home, it was really sweaty, hard work! Plus the kitchen smelled awful. Worst was the taste, however. In the workshop, milk and tofy tasted neutral, like in the shops. My milk (organic, local beans from zero-waste shop) tasted – incredibly disgusting: bitter, beany, like nothing I ever tasted. Had to discard it after all the work. Broke my heart. Any idea why the result was so bad? I was totally discouraged to try again. I love soy milk, but hate tetra packs …

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Corinna,

      The first time we made soy milk it also tasted disgusting. I’m not sure what went wrong. It was a long time ago. I think cooking it for two hours may be part of the problem. Also I have read that the beans can affect the taste. They should be as fresh as possible. We have several bulk stores near us but the super busy one has the highest turnover and so the freshest food. If you try again, you might want to make a very small batch and see how that goes. Also, I would sweeten the milk a little bit (with a couple of dates, maybe a touch of vanilla) if you’re drinking it. I’m going to bake with the small amount of soy I set aside from this.

      Good luck!
      ~ Anne Marie

  2. PS re. Okara: you can soak it again and get another, weaker batch of soy milk out of it. Then freeze for anything you would use tofu shreds for (bolognese, stews).

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thanks for the ideas Corinna. I need lots of them for all my okara 🙂

  3. “So many resources go into producing what we eat. That awareness makes you want to cook with care and not waste a single morsel. ” I 100% agree with this. As I read these words, I couldn’t help but think of the pulp that is left behind when I make nut milk or the astounding amount of whey left over while making cheese! Would it be OK with you if I featured the above quote in an upcoming blog post? Of course, I would credit you with it and would link back to your blog.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Sophie,
      I think the same thing when I make ricotta. SO much whey! The tofu is very much like that. More okara than tofu. But it is useful stuff. Yes, you can quote me 🙂 Thank you!
      ~ Anne Marie

    2. I never understood why I should filter the nutmilk or oatmilk in the first place, if it is only used for muesli. I blend and pour it over, no nutmilk bag required. If I eat my muesli with oats and nuts anyway, why discard and dry what I might as well use directly … just my thoughts. Obviously different for coffee 😉

      1. I agree with you.! If I’m using it in a smoothie or oatmeal, then I’ll definitely be using the pulp. The thing is, I also like it as just plain milk, so I usually filter it anyways and either keep the pulp in the fridge to use elsewhere, or stick it in the freezer and when I have a big enough stash take the time to thaw and dehydrate it to turn it into almond meal.

  4. Something else to my list of what I want to try making myself, though I’m curently struggling with my first sourdough starter!

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Tofu is fun to make and very simple. A starter is a bigger commitment! I struggled with my first one and composted it but I look back and realize it was probably fine. I wasn’t patient with it. Poor Heloise 🙁 I hope you can get yours going.
      ~ Anne Marie

  5. This is fascinating, thanks for writing it up. I’ve been reading your blog avidly for a while now, and you’ve inspired me to do more of the stuff I was already doing, and taking it further. Next stop for me will be scrap apple vinegar. Might even try tofu one day… Never say never. Anyway, thanks again for a really great blog.

  6. are you starting with dried or fresh soybeans?

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Sophie,
      I started with dry soybeans that I bought in bulk.
      ~ Anne Marie

  7. Holly Simpson says: Reply

    The Homemade Vegan Pantry has some great uses for okara unfish sticks, & “crab” cakes!

  8. thank you for posting this, i am going to give it a try! i know you are local to me… would you mind sharing your favorite bulk stores on this side of the bay? rainbow is nice but not always realistic for me ( i am in el sobrante).

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Erin,
      My pleasure 🙂 Thanks for checking it out. What about Berkeley Bowl? It’s still a bit of a trip for you but closer than Rainbow.
      ~ Anne Marie

  9. Is the liquid that drains out once the curds have formed usable in any way (whey?)? Would it be similar to buttermilk, say? Or does the epsom salts / nigari make it taste inedible?

  10. I don’t eat soy, but your Tofu post reminds me of this beautiful series of blog posts about Hari Kuyo, which is a Japanese tradition of disposing of broken pins and needles into a cake of Tofu, in a kind of memorial service and Thank You to good tools. Apparently this occurs on February 8th of every year. Enjoy: http://plays-with-needles.blogspot.com/2013/02/happy-harikuyo.html

  11. I didn’t know making tofu was this simple! I should definitely give it a shot. Our family has a soymilk machine I use regularly, and I usually just make savory pancakes with the pulp. It’s similar to Korean jeon or a frittata. It’s easy to adjust the recipe to accommodate for the wetness/dryness of the batter.

    Thanks for the recipe!

  12. […] saw this over at The Zero-Waste Chef last week in a post about making tofu.  The words just stood out to me and I wanted to share them […]

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