Food & Drink

How To Make Homemade Tofu, Because Yes, You Can

It's a lot like making cheese.
10/28/2014 10:44am ET | Updated December 6, 2017

Tofu is one of those foods that seems daunting to make at home, but is actually easier than you might expect and well worth the effort. People have been making tofu for thousands of years. It originated in China more than 2,000 years ago. The fact that soy bean curd, of all appealing-sounding foods, made it all the way from ancient China to Chipotle's Tofu Sofritas means there's something seriously special about this health food. So we think it's high time we all learned how to make it from scratch.

Making tofu is actually kind of similar to making cheese! Stay with us here. It involves curdling "milk" -- soy milk, that is. The first step is soaking dried soybeans overnight and mixing the beans with water to produce your own soy milk. Next, you add salt, enzymes or acid to curdle the soybean liquid. Then you press the liquid to remove the liquid whey, and you're left with curds. Doesn't sound so bad, right?

Here's a more detailed list of steps from a video by America's Test Kitchen.

Soak soybeans over night.

After draining and rinsing the soaked soybeans, blend them with water to make soy milk.

According to America's test kitchen, commercial soy milk won't work properly because of all the additives, so it is best to make your own.

Heat the fresh soy milk by bringing it to a boil first and then letting it simmer for about 10 minutes.

This makes the beans easier to digest and gives them a fuller flavor.

Strain the soy milk through cheese cloth and collect the solid remnants in the cloth, squeezing out as much milk as possible.

Bring the clean soy milk to a boil, remove it from the heat and add a coagulant -- either a salt or acid -- to curdle it.

Your coagulant is a substance that will curdle the soy milk. You can use acid, like lemon juice or vinegar, or salt. Nigari, which is magnesium chloride, is popular in Japan, and calcium chloride is popular in North America. Curdling the soy milk produces two by products: curds and liquid whey. Adding the coagulant slowly, in stages, makes for fluffier curds.

Let the mixture sit for about 20 minutes.

This gives the curds ample time to form.

Collect the curds with a slotted spoon and transfer them to a container to drain and mold into shape.

The container should have a few holes in the bottom so that the tofu can drain.

Use a weight to gently press liquid from the tofu.

For firmer tofu, you can let the block rest for up to 50 minutes, and for softer tofu, closer to 20 minutes.

The final step is firming up the tofu in a dish of cold water.

Set the block in cold water for about 10 minutes for a nice, firm texture. Now you can slice and use it however you want!

For more homemade tofu recipes, check out these ones from Martha Stewart, NPR or Food & Wine.

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Tofu Cooking Methods