If you’ve ever looked up recipes for making your own tofu, you might have encountered a long list of specialized equipment and unfamiliar words, like “coagulant” (clotting agent). But tofu is a wonderfully nutritious and versatile vegan food that you truly can make in your own kitchen with only three ingredients and a little bit of patience. While the process may seem intimidating at first, using many items you already have at home makes it one you will no longer wince at. Here is a rundown on what you need and some advice to help demystify the process:
- Ingredients: Organic/non-GMO soybeans, water, coagulant
- Equipment: large bowl for soaking and transferring, food processor or high-powered blender, large stock pot, straining device, container for shaping final product
- Process: soak, pulverize, cook, strain, coagulate, strain
- Making your own soy milk.
The store-bought stuff, which is not fresh and often contains other ingredients, probably won’t give you the right result. One exception, which can cut down on your processing time, is if you can find freshly made soy milk at your local Asian food store. The downside to this shortcut, however, is that it likely won’t be organic (see next tip). And as an added bonus to homemade soy milk, you end up with a byproduct, okara (soybean pulp or fiber), which can be used in other plant-based recipes.
- Use organic soy beans.
A recent Reader’s Digest article cites numerous potential adverse health affects that may be caused by GMOs, “such as cancer, infertility, and severe allergies.” Avoid the potential for GMOs (and pesticides!) in your food by opting for organic. By purchasing your own beans, you know exactly what you’re getting in your food, whereas manufactures of food products, such as packaged tofu, are not required by the FDA to include GMO information on nutrition labels.
- You probably have a coagulant at home already.
The coagulant, the ingredient that makes the soy curds form, can be a number of things, including the traditional Japanese nigari, gypsum powder, or more common household ingredients like fresh lemon juice, Epsom salts, or apple cider vinegar. The particular ratio of coagulant to water is different for each, and results in firmness may vary depending on which coagulant you use.
- If you don’t have cheesecloth, you might have something else that will work.
Cheesecloth is just what it sounds like–a cloth designed for making cheese. Since making tofu uses the same process, but with soy milk instead of dairy milk, cheesecloth is often recommended for straining. But it is a kitchen specialty item that you might not have at home and might not want to purchase. Alternatives to cheesecloth include a fine-mesh strainer or any cloth material with a low thread count, such as a cheap cloth napkin, cheap pillowcase or bed sheet, muslin, or a bandana (any alternative you use should be clean enough to eat off of–because you will!) Coffee filters are also a good alternative, but unless you’re making a very small batch, they probably aren’t large enough for this project.
- A tofu box or press is helpful but not necessary.
During the final stage of tofu-making, the soy curds are separated from the liquid and formed into a solid mass. This process is eased by the use of a tofu box or press, both of which are available online, but you can also use a flat-bottomed colander or a plastic, aluminum, or cardboard container (think of the container you take home from the hot/cold bar at Whole Foods–and repurpose it!) and poke holes in the bottom for the liquid to drain out. As a press, you can place a plate or other flat dish on top of the tofu, and then place something heavy on top of that–a filled jar, a few canned goods, etc.
Once you have your lovely homemade block (or asymmetrical mass; we’re not judging) of tofu, you can use it to make Tandoori Tofu, Lentil Crusted Tofu, or any of these delectable recipes! Enjoy the fresh flavor and the peace of mind in knowing exactly what’s on your plate.
Image source: How to Make the Perfect Baked Tofu