How to Make Tofu
Tofu is a plant-based powerhouse. It’s low in calories and packed with protein, calcium, iron and other essential minerals. With a mild and delicate taste, it’s a perfect blank canvas to absorb the flavours of sauces, marinades and spices, and it comes in a variety of textures that suit everything from cakes to curries.
Thought to have originated over 2000 years ago in China, it’s used widely across East and Southeast Asian cuisine, and can be baked, boiled, steamed and fried in a huge variety of both sweet and savoury dishes.
Making your own is simple, great value and gives you a fresh flavour that’s hard to find in pre-packaged tofu. So why not give it a try?
Find the ideal texture of your tofu
When you’re making the tofu, you control the texture: from soft and delicate to firm and solid. It all depends on how much coagulant you use, and how much you press it. Here’s a simple guide to deciding on your desired tofu type before you get started.
This is not pressed, with textures ranging from firm custard to soft jelly. Use it as a dairy alternative for puddings and sauces, as a substitute for eggs, or enjoyed on it’s own.
Regular and firm tofu
This holds its shape well once it’s been pressed, so it’s good for recipes like stir fries whilst also being soft enough for dishes such as scrambled or mashed tofu.
Extra firm tofu
The firmest of all tofu, which means it can be sliced and cooked without losing its shape. Its solid texture makes it ideal for pan-frying and grilling.
How to make tofu from scratch
There are two main ways to make tofu – one with a coagulant, and one with simple lemon juice – but the method is the same. First, you’ll need the gather together the following
- A large bowl
- A colander
- A food processor or blender
- A large pan
- A fine-mesh sieve
- Wooden spoon
- Skimmer spoon (or slotted spoon)
- Cheesecloth or muslin cloths
- Tofu press, or any dish that can shape the block plus a plate and heavy weight
- A bowl or tray to catch the excess water
- 500g dry soy beans (also known as soya beans)
- 2-3 litres of water
- 1 tbsp gypsum or nigari mixed with 125ml water OR 75ml / 6 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Make the soy milk
- Soak your soy beans in a large bowl of water for at least six hours, ideally overnight
- Drain the beans in a colander and rinse
- Add them to a food processor or blender and blitz them for a few seconds
- Add enough water to cover the beans and blend until smooth and creamy
- Pour the mixture into a large pan with approximately 1.5 litres of cold water. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick to the pan.
- Line a sieve with a large piece of muslin or cheesecloth, put it over a large bowl, then pour your mixture through. You’ll be left with bean pulp in the muslin, called okara – you can use this in a host of recipes including veggie burgers, bread, cookies and muffins. Allow it to cool, then give the muslin a final squeeze to get as much liquid out as you can: this is your soy milk.
- Return the soy milk to your pan and heat it to just below boiling point, when it’s steaming but not quite bubbling. Remove from the heat.
Add the coagulant
- Add your coagulant gradually, stirring for a minute or two each time
- When you see curds starting to form, stop and let your pan stand for about 15 minutes
- If your mixture hasn’t coagulated it will be milky looking, instead of clear and yellowish. If this happens, add a little more coagulant or try gently heating it again, before turning off the heat and covering it for a few more minutes.
Form your tofu
- Prepare a sieve lined with a large muslin over a bowl. Scoop the curds out of the pan with a skimming spoon and transfer them into the sieve, or pour the mixture through directly.
- Twist the top of the muslin to squeeze out more liquid. Then untwist it and rewrap the curds tightly. Keep them in the muslin, mould into a loaf shape, transfer to a container or tofu press, or simply keep them in the sieve.
- Place a heavy object (like a chopping board, plate or tray with tins or books on it) to press it down evenly, or press it in a tofu press.
- Your tofu will be firm in around 20 minutes – if you want softer tofu check it after five minutes and every few minutes after that until you have the consistency that you want. You can serve it right away, but it might be a little crumbly. If you need to cut it into cubes or slices, pop it in the fridge for an hour or so first.