Making tofu from scratch is a fun project and the result is DELICIOUS. Store-bought tofu here in the US often lack of flavor, once you’ve tasted homemade tofu, there’s no going back!
Here’s a quick rundown on how tofu is made. The first few steps is the same as making soy milk, the main difference is that coagulant is added then the curd is pressed into a block of tofu. If you’ve ever made block cheese, this is almost exactly the same!
- Soak the beans
- Blend the beans with water
- Strain the blended beans
- Boil the raw soymilk
- Slightly cool the soymilk
- Add coagulant
- Press into tofu
Soy Milk & Proportion
Personally, I would recommend making your own from scratch. I find the soymilk found in the store here tastes weird. Making your own soymilk also gives you more control over the texture of the tofu. If you’re lucky to have a large Asian market nearby that sells fresh soymilk without additives, you can try skipping a few steps and use store-bought soy milk for the recipe!
My bean to water proportion is 1:7 for making tofu. 2 Cups of dried beans to 14 cups of water. This makes a really creamy and thick soymilk.
What is nigari? Nigari（苦汁、滷汁） is Japanese for “Bittern”, a kind of salt, often used as a coagulant for tofu. It is called “鹽滷” YánLǔ in Mandarin. Nigari is the salt solution formed when table salt precipitates from seawater or brines. Bitterns contain magnesium, calcium, and potassium ions as well as chloride, sulfate, iodide, and other ions.
Nigari adds a slight bitterness to the tofu, so getting the right amount is important. I use 3g of nigari per 1L of soymilk. Dissolving the nigari with 10 times of water first to help it mix with soymilk better.
Tofu made with nigari is creamy, slightly grainy. People often call this the “traditional” style. The coagulant you use makes a difference in tofu texture. Tofu made with gypsum is silkier than nigari.
You can purchase Nigari on Amazon! (Affiliate link, Chew makes a small commission if you purchase through this link. It supports the running of this website!)
Other coagulants that can be used to make tofu: Vinegar, gypsum, vinegar + eggshell mixture are all common ways to help curd up the soymilk. The amount of coagulant may vary when using different kinds.
What makes a good tofu press? A box with a way to press down and drainage will do. I personally like ones made out of wood. I find that it adds a little flavor to the tofu and it feels classy. Knotty Woodpecker had custom-made a tofu press for me with dimensions I requested to make the perfect tofu for this recipe. You can get the Tofu Press handmade by Knotty Woodpecker in my shop.
Tofu made with nigari is creamy, slightly grainy. People often call this the “traditional” style. The coagulant you use makes a difference in tofu texture. Silky tofu is often made with gypsum instead of nigari.
The firmness of the tofu depends on a few variants:
- Soybean to water ratio
- More beans to water make a firmer tofu
- The weight added to the top
- The heavier the weight, the firmer the tofu (at the same amount of press time)
- The amount of time tofu is pressed
- The longer you press the tofu, the firmer it gets! Be aware that if the press time is too short, tofu may not form into a perfect block. You can always wrap it up again and put the weight back while it’s warm if you find your tofu crumbly(or eat it as is!).
This recipe makes medium-firm tofu, play around till you find the perfect texture for you!
How to Make Nigari Tofu
- Large Pot
- Nut Milk Bag
- Muslin Cloth/Cheese Cloth
- Tofu Press
- 2 C Dried Soy Beans
- 14 C Water
- ½ TBsp Nigari About 6g
- ¼ C Warm Water About 60g to dissolve nigari
- Clean the soybean. Soak the beans with 7 times the water overnight or for at least 3 hours until the beans are fully hydrated and plump.
- Blend the beans and water together using a blender to make a "smoothie". I used a Vitamix and blended them for 2mins. You might need to do this in batches.
- Strain and squeeze out the soy milk with a nut milk bag. Set the bean dregs aside for other use. This recipe should make a little more than ½ gallon of soymilk.
- In a large pot, boil the soymilk on medium high, stirring frequently when it's close to boil. It will foam up to 3 or 4 times the size before it actually boils. Lower the temperature when it does that, and keep stirring so the bottom doesn't burn. Let the temperature reach 212°F.
- Skim the foam off the top.
- Cool the soymilk to about 175°F (plus or minus 8°F is fine).
- In a large bowl or pot, dissolve ½TBsp(6g) of nigari in ¼C(60cc) of warm water.
- Remove the film/skin that forms on top of the soymilk from the protein cooling down. (You can eat this as a side dish, known as "Yuba". Read more about it here.)
- Measure ½ gallon (about 2L) of warm soymilk, pour it from a high spot into the nigari mixture to mix them thoroughly. You can also add the nigari mixture to the soymilk and mix with a spoon but I find the pour method the best way to make sure the mixture is even.
- Let the soymilk curdle and set for 15minutes.
- Break the soymilk curd into slightly smaller chunks, pour into the muslin or cheese cloth-lined tofu press. (Wet the cloth before lining the tofu press to prevent the tofu from sticking) Fold the extra fabric over the top of the tofu. I usually do this part over the sink, and leave the tofu being pressed in the sink so I don't have to worry about water drainage.
- Add the top press to the box, and weigh it down with something heavy. Making sure the weight is evenly distributed. I used a tupperware filled with water then added another pot to the top to create enough weight. The total weight was about 6lbs, but you can adjust and experiment!
- Leave the tofu in the press for about 30 minutes.
- Check for doneness and texture after 30 minutes- leave it pressed for longer if a firmer tofu is preferred.
- Fresh homemade tofu is delicious with simple and minimal prep. Drizzle with high quality soy sauce, roasted sesame oil, green onion and enjoy!