How to Make Your Own Tofu and Soy Milk
Tofu has an image problem. While it's lauded for being healthy and more environmentally friendly than meat, it tends to lack in the flavor department. And if that's not enough, it's also derided for being "too processed." After all, how on earth do you get that white jiggly stuff from a bean?
The first issue can be easily solved with a flavorful sauce. And to the second, perhaps the best way to open your mind to the world of tofu is to make it yourself. Making homemade tofu is a fun project that can result in several meals. Not only that, but the byproducts of tofu-making, okara and whey, are nutritious and can be eaten as well.
So, give it a try! You may be pleasantly surprised. The following recipe makes about 3 servings of tofu, as well as 5 cups of okara and 2 quarts of whey. Or, it can make 2 1/2 quarts of soy milk and 5 cups of okara.
- 1 lb. Dried Organic Soybeans (not edamame)
- 1 1/2 tsp Epsom salt, nigari, or gypsum
- Fine-mesh strainer
- 2 Large pots
- 1 Small pot
- Food processor
- Weights (such as full cans or bottles)
- Small plate
FIrst, soak the soybeans overnight in plenty of water. They'll expand a lot.
The next day, grind up the beans in the food processor, along with enough water to cover them, until you get a thick paste. Pour this paste into the first pot, and add about 3 quarts of water.
Bring the contents of the pot to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes. It will froth and bubble a lot, so watch carefully and turn the heat down if it looks like it's going to overflow. When the mush is done cooking, it will look like a grainy liquid.
Now, get your fine-meshed strainer, and put it over your second pot. Pour or ladle the grainy liquid into the strainer, and press it against the mesh with a spatula. A white liquid will pour out into the pot, and you'll be left with white, fluffy grains. These grains are "okara," and they're rich in fiber, minerals, and protein. Put them aside to use later.
Meanwhile, see that liquid? That's fresh soy milk! You can add fruit to it to make a smoothie, or pour it into cereal, or any other use for soy milk you enjoy.
But to make the soy milk into tofu, keep going. Put the heat under the new pot on its lowest setting, and let it warm. If you have a kitchen thermometer, try to warm it to 180 F, but if not, just keep it warm without boiling.
Now, fill the small pot with a cup of water, and bring it to a boil. Take a half-cup of the hot water, and dissolve the epsom salt, nigari, or gypsum in it. Pour half of this into the warm soy milk, and give one gentle stir.
Wait 10 minutes, and then go back and look at the soy milk. It should be forming curds, separating from a clear amber liquid (the whey). If it isn't doing this, then add the rest of the dissolved epsom salt and wait some more.
After another 10 minutes, the curds should be big and thick. Line the colander with cheesecloth, and pour all of the curds and whey into it. The whey will pour through. Tofu whey is full of protein, so you can save it and use it later.
You should now have a colander full of curds. Wrap the curds in the cheesecloth and twist the top to make a little tofu-baggie. Then, keeping it in the colander, put a small plate on top and stack weights on it. This will press the tofu and make it firm.
Let the tofu press for 3 hours.
When it's done, unwrap it, and voila! Your tofu is done! This homemade tofu will be circular, not rectangular like store-bought tofu, but it will taste the same, and can be used in all the same ways.
None of the byproducts should be wasted. The whey can be added to soup broth for extra protein, or to smoothies or baked goods, like you would use soy milk. The okara can be cooked into pasta sauce, mixed with wheat gluten to make veggie balls and veggie burgers, or put into baked goods for extra fiber. A whole slew of okara recipies can be found at The Okara Project, but a personal favorite is okara falafel.
-Rachael Monosson is an editorial intern for Sierra and a recent graduate of Stanford University, where she studied Earth Systems. She lives in San Mateo.
--Image credit iStockphoto/Cameramannz