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Homemade Tofu

June 15, 2011

I’ve long suspected that there was a better tofu out there. Nasoya and the various lookalikes in plastic cartons with perfectly crisp corners have always left me a bit cold. A local tofu made in Jamaica Plain and sold at Harvest and Whole Foods is much better. But homemade tofu is in an altogether different league. Tofu definitely goes onto the list of things I will be making, not buying, from now on.

The biggest difference between commercial and homemade tofu is the texture. Commercial tofu is unnaturally springy. It has always seemed to me like a food created in the 1950s for astronauts and TV dinners. Homemade tofu, on the other hand, actually feels like organic matter. The taste is better, too, but eating something that actually has the mouthfeel of food is the big win for homemade tofu.

The basic equation for tofu is soy beans + water – fiber – water. This is amazing to me, and some day I will figure out how this equation balances. The first three parts of that equation happen when you make soy milk: You puree soy beans with water, heat them up, and then strain out the fiber (called okara) to get soy milk. Ideally, you’ll make tofu right after you make soy milk, since your soy milk will still be hot when you strain it. I personally have not had success using commercial soy milk to make tofu, but I’ve also changed my approach in a few ways (all reflected below) since I tried last.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 8 cups soy milk
  • 1 tbsp epsom salt (other coagulants will work, too)
  • Cheesecloth
  • A sieve or colander (optional)
  • An old plastic tofu container with holes punched in the bottom and sides

And here’s what you’ll do:

  • Heat the soy milk to 180 degrees F
  • As the soy milk heats, dissolve your epsom salt in a 1/4 cup of boiling water; keep the water hot while you wait for the milk to reach 180, but don’t let all the water evaporate.
  • Add the water/epsom salt solution and give the milk one gentle stir.
  • Turn the heat off, cover the pot, and let sit for 10 minutes.
  • Give one more gentle stir. At this point you should see that the solids and liquids (“curds” and “whey”) have separated, just as in cheese making.
  • Either line your sieve or colander with cheesecloth or use a large rubber band to secure cheesecloth over a pitcher or large bowl. Place this contraption in the sink.
  • Ladle the curds into the cheesecloth and let the liquids drain down the sink.
  • When the liquid has all drained away, pick up the corners of the cheese cloth and place into your plastic tofu container, draping the ends of the cheesecloth off the side of the tofu.
  • Put a dish on top of the tofu and place weight on top of the dish. Let sit for 45 minutes.
  • Unwrap and enjoy.

This made enough tofu for dinner for two, but it’s definitely a recipe worth doubling.

So what did we do with the tofu? The tofu’s ultimate fate is pictured above. Yes, that’s tofu, not chicken! And no, I didn’t have to work hard to get it to look like that. I sliced the tofu, slathered each side with mustard, rolled it in mustard seeds, and sauteed each side for 1-2 minutes in vegetable oil. Around the tofu are sweet potato rounds and kale sauteed with garlic and fresh grated ginger. A fantastic dish due to both great tofu and great tofu treatment. You can find the full recipe on Food52.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 15, 2011 12:37 pm

    Wow, I am inspired by you taking on tofu! We have a local tofu maker here in Milwaukee, so no need for us to fuss. But this would have been a great experiment during my year of inconvenience. I may have to try it for the fun of it.

  2. June 15, 2011 8:25 pm

    Glad to hear it! I would definitely recommend trying. It was lots of fun, kind of a chemistry experiment with edible results.

    I’m feeling bad about one thing, though: I should have made the mustard from scratch! Next time.

  3. mysending permalink
    July 8, 2011 8:58 pm

    I came across your comment to the Kitchn and I’m very excited to try this! Thanks!

  4. September 12, 2011 12:26 am

    Yum, looks great! Tofu is on my list of things to try making too

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