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How to Make Tofu From Beans and Vinegar


Kitchen DIY: How to Make Tofu
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This project to learn how to make tofu was done simply because I thought it was neat, and not one that I thought would actually be used a lot, but I recently bought a book called Country Beans and saw how easy it was to make tofu and I thought I would try it.

Basically tofu is a bean curd made by coagulating soy milk and then pressing the resulting curds into soft white blocks.  It’s very similar to making a vinegar based cheese like ricotta.

To do make tofu you only need soymilk, a coagulant, a pot, spoon, sieve, and a way to press out the water.  I used my cheese mold, but you could use a saucer pressing down on the curds in your sieve.

There are three basic types of coagulants; Salts, Acids, and Enzymes.  Enzyme tofu production is beyond my scope as a home chemist so I won’t discuss them.  I have also read that a lot of the medical problems some attribute to tofu stems from the use of enzymes but I am not a doctor, so you should research that yourself.

Salt coagulants

  • Calcium sulfate (gypsum): The traditional and most widely used coagulant to produce Chinese-style tofu. It produces a tofu that is tender but slightly brittle in texture. The coagulant itself has no perceivable taste. Use of this coagulant also makes a tofu that is rich in calcium.
  • Magnesium chloride ( Nigari) salts or calcium chloride (Lushui): These are the coagulants used to make tofu with a smooth and tender texture. In Japan, a white powder called nigari, which consists primarily of magnesium chloride, is produced from seawater after the sodium chloride is removed and the water evaporated.
  • Magnesium Sulfate (Epsom salt), is readily available and cheap, so for the beginner or first time user, this is a great coagulant to use

Acid coagulants

Can affect the taste of the tofu more than salts, and vary in efficacy and texture.  But the two most used are

  • Vinegar (acetic acid)
  • Lemon Juice (citric acid)

The recipe I used called for acid and it said either distilled while vinegar or lemon juice could be used interchangeably.  I used lemon juice.

 Instructions on How to Make tofu:

  • Boil your soymilk.  The country bean book did not give a quantity to use, so I dumped in a full container of organic plain soymilk.  It said stir frequently, and I concur.  I did not stir frequently enough and filled the kitchen with a nice chocolate smell as some of the soymilk scorched.
  • Once it is boiling simmer for 7 minutes. (Stir frequently)
  • Mix 1 ½ cup of hot water with ½ cup of acid.
  • Once the milk has simmered remove from heat and stir in 1/3 of your acid into the milk. Stir very thoroughly.
  • Keep the spoon in the pot and stop stirring.  This sets up eddies in the milk to ensure a good mixing.  When the milk stops moving, remove the spoon and sprinkle the second third of the acid on the top of the milk.
  • Cover the pot and let sit for 20 minutes.
  • Check the milk, the milk should curdle and the liquid should be clear but yellowish.  If the milk has not fully separated ad the last third of the acid, stir, cover and let sit another 3 minutes or so.

You will most likely need all the acid.  The more acid you use the more you will taste it.  By adding it in steps you may reduce the amount you will need to use.  Consequently, resulting in a purer product.

  • Ladle the curds into a sieve lined with cheesecloth.
  • Lift the edges of the cheesecloth and lift the bundle out of the sieve and let place it into your press.
  • The weights and press times will change depending on how firm you want your tofu.  10 minutes with a quart mason jar of water will give softer tofu, double the weight and time for a firmer tofu.  I used a quart jar of honey and 20 minutes and it turned out pretty good.
  • Once it has been pressed place the tofu in a bowl of cold water for everything to set.

Tofu tastes best a few hours after it’s been made.

If you make your tofu in the morning, it will be at its peak at dinner..

If you will store the tofu for more than a day, cover the tofu with water. Since it is preservative free, home-made tofu should not be kept more than a couple of days –

If you intend to eat the tofu on the same day don’t put any water in the container. Put on an airtight lid, and store in the refrigerator until ready to eat.

Alternatively you can freeze your tofu.  If you do that, the water crystals will form holes in your tofu changing its texture to a more meat similar texture.

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