A detailed guide on how to make tofu at home. You will find tips on making sprouted tofu and how to maximize nutritional benefits of this traditional food. I am also introducing 2 ways to make firm tofu in a video.
There are different kinds of tofu ranging from soft to firm. Firm tofu is more versatile in cooking and the kind I use most often. It also takes a little more work to make. Therefore, this recipe focuses on making firm tofu in particular. I will also explain what you should do differently in order to make a soft tofu instead.
Is Tofu Healthy?
Tofu is a traditional food that has been enjoyed for over two thousand years in Asia. However, whether tofu is good or bad for our health has become a very controversial debate in recent years.
On one hand, tofu is being praised as a protein-rich food that provides a wide range of plant-based vitamins and minerals. On the other hand, some compounds in tofu are being seen as harmful. In fact, many western healing diets, such as paleo, keto, wise tradition diet and so on, forbid the consumption of unfermented soy products.
I do eat tofu occasionally, because I believe in moderation. Besides, there are ways to minimize negative effects of soy and maximize nutritional values by using organic sprouted tofu (more on this in the next section). For this reason, I am sharing an organic sprouted tofu recipe for you to make a healthier tofu at home. I think high quality tofu in reasonable amount can definitely be a part of a healthy diet.
Maximize Nutritional Benefits of Tofu
Understanding the concerns around soybeans is the first step to minimize these effects and maximize nutritional benefits of soybean products. If we eat consciously, we can enjoy the many nutrients tofu offer. Here are some of the concerns about soybeans and my thoughts.
- Soybean is a common GMO crop and widely treated with glyphosate in conventional farming practice. When making tofu at home, we can choose organic soybeans. Organic standard forbids the use of GMO seeds, glyphosate as well as many other chemicals.
- High level of antinutrients such as phytic acids and trypsin inhibitor are present in soybeans. Although soaking and sprouting can’t eliminate as much antinutrients as fermenting, they do reduce the amount of phytic acids, trypsin inhibitor, while making more nutrients available. This is why I highly recommend sprouting the soybeans to make tofu. A study published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology showed significant decrease of phytic acids, trypsin inhibitor, fat, and increase of protein in sprouted tofu compared to un-sprouted tofu.
- Phytoestrogens in soybeans interfere with endocrine functions in human bodies. It can be potentially harmful for men, and increase the risk of breast cancer in women. However, studies I read seem to be either inconclusive or only pointing to a risk at high dose. I feel completely comfortable eating soy products in moderation. It’s also worthy of mention that on the other hand a soy-rich diet can ease the symptoms of menopause in women.
- Phytoestrogens in soybeans may inhibit thyroid functions and cause hypothyroidism. In fact, many foods can increase the the chance of hypothyroidism, soy is not the only one. In addition to eating soy products in moderation, I also believe in eating a variety of foods for balance. That looks like eating more foods supporting healthy thyroid functions, instead of cutting out all the foods that may inhibit it. One food we eat a lot more in Asia than in western countries is sea vegetables, for example in sea laver soup and seaweed salad.
Ingredients for Making Tofu
It takes only 3 simple ingredients: raw soybeans, water and a coagulant.
I use organic raw soybeans. I highly recommend taking the time to sprout the soybeans.
The amount of water used in this recipe doesn’t have to be exact. A little more or less water won’t change the end result. I use 12 cups of water for 1 pound of dry raw soybeans in this recipe. If you are using metric system, you need about 3 litre of water for every 0.5 kg of dry soybeans.
In order to make soy milk curdle, we need to add a coagulant. There are 4 common coagulants for making tofu. They are popular in different regions of Asia, but all get the job done.
- Gypsum (Calcium Sulphate): the most widely used coagulant, also what makes tofu a good source of calcium. Most tofu you buy from the grocery stores are made with gypsum.
- Nigari (Magnesium Chloride)
- Glucono Delta-Lactone
- White Vinegar: the most available coagulant in home kitchens. Lemon juice also has the same effect.
I want to share a recipe using the most available coagulant at home. Using white vinegar is so convenient and effective that there is really no need to buy a special coagulant. I can confirm that my tofu doesn’t taste acidic at all. In the video, my friend Creag made his tofu using gypsum. I listed the amount of both coagulants in the recipe below for you to have 2 methods to choose from.
How Long Should I Soak the Soybeans?
You may have seen other recipes asking for 8 hours of soaking time. Personally I would soak a minimum of 24 hours. This is both to further neutralize anti-nutrients and to thoroughly soften the soybeans so that they can be easily puréed in a blender.
I recommend soaking the soybeans until they begin to germinate. This will take about 2 to 3 days. If you are soaking to sprout the soybeans, remember to change the water a few times during soaking. When you see the sprouts beginning to emerge from the soybeans, they are ready. The sprout tails will not poke through the outer skin of the soybeans right away, but you should be able to tell by looking at the outside of the soybeans.
Tools You Will Need
- Large mixing bowl to soak and sprout the soybeans
- Blender to purée the soybeans
- Nut milk bag or cheesecloth to strain the soybean purée
- Soup pot to boil the soy milk
- Fine mesh skimmer to remove the soy milk foam
- Tofu press to mold and press the tofu
How to Make Firm vs. Soft Tofu
To make a firm tofu, you will need to place a weight on top of the press in order to squeeze out excess water. I used a 3-pound weight resting on the press for 15 minutes. It yielded a fairly firm product. You can control the firmness by altering the amount of weight and the length of pressing time. Test with your fingers during the process to achieve the level of firmness you desire.
To make a soft tofu, you may skip the pressing stage altogether, if you are eating fresh soft tofu immediately. Or you can place a 1-pound weight on the press for 5 minutes to form a block that you can store for longer. You may also want to let the soy milk curdle without disturbance. This will result in larger pieces of curds that don’t need to be pressed together.
Related: More Recipes on Soaking and Sprouting You Will Love
- Sprouted Chickpea and Sweet Potato Hummus in Instant Pot
- How to Grow Sprouts + Health Benefits
- Tahini Lime Dressing + Sprouted Salad
- Stir Fry Bean Sprouts with Minced Pork (Keto, Gluten-Free)
How to Make Tofu (2-Ways, Sprouted)
- Place raw soybeans in a large mixing bowl at least 3 times of the capacity. Submerge the soybeans in plenty of water. Change the water every 12-24 hours and make sure new water covers the soybeans completely. Soak the soybeans for at least 24 hours, and up to 3 days for the soybeans to sprout.
- Drain the soybeans and discard soaking water. Use 10 cups of clean filtered water to purée all the soybeans in a blender. Divide to process in 3 batches.
- Pour the soybean purée into the nut milk bag. Squeeze out as much soy milk as possible. Collect all the soy milk into a large soup pot. Discard the soybean pulp.
- Heat the soy milk in the pot. Soy milk is very easy to boil over, so be sure to remove the lid and turn down the heat before the soy milk reaches the boiling point. After bringing the soy milk to a boil, let it cook for another 3 minutes while stirring with a ladle to prevent any burning at the bottom of the pot.
- Use a fine mesh skimmer to remove all the foams on top of the soy milk.
- Dilute the vinegar (or gypsum) in 2 cups of water. Pour the solution into the hot soy milk. Stir quickly to let the coagulant disperse into the whole pot. Let the soy milk sit for 3 to 5 minutes until bean curds form and the liquid turns clear.
- Line the tofu press with cheesecloth. Place the tofu press on a stand over a bowl to catch extra liquid. Pour tofu curds into the mold and smooth out gently with fingers to fill in all the space. Fold the cheesecloth over to wrap the tofu entirely. Place the tofu press cover on top of the tofu.
- To make firm tofu, place a 3-pound weight on the tofu press for 15 minutes. To make a soft tofu, use a 1-pound weight for 5 minutes. Let the tofu cool down and store in cold water in the fridge. If you are eating the soft tofu directly, you can skip the pressing stage.