Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Homemade Tofu and Okara

Homemade Tofu

This recipe is much simpler than one might think when making tofu. Tofu is relatively inexpensive to buy in any modern grocery store and you might not think that learning how to make your own tofu is cost effective. I make organic tofu from the soy beans I pick up at the local health-food store for about $2.00 a bag and I make 5 full blocks of tofu. Where as, one block of store-bought organic tofu was about $1.76 the last time I bought one.

Personally, I prefer the organic soybeans over the regular ones. Organic beans taste much better. There is also the whole issue of GMO vs. non-GMO as all non-organic soybeans are now genetically modified. I personally go for non-GMO whenever I can, but it really comes down to taste. If you want your tofu to taste better than the tofu you can buy at the local grocery store, go with organic beans.

The equipment is important for this recipe. I use an 8 quart multi-cooker pot (the kind you use for spaghetti) with a strainer, a bowl large enough to hold about 6 quarts, a wooden long-handled spoon or long cooking chopsticks, 1 large cotton flour-sack style towel (I found mine at Wal-Mart), A blender, and a tofu press. Now if you don't have a tofu press (they are sometimes available at oriental markets) you can take an old tofu container and poke holes in it and line it with a second towel cut down to about 3-4 times the size of the container. You want enough fabric hanging over the sides to be able to cover the top of the container when pressing the excess moisture out of the block.

Note: Any equipment you use will have a small effect on the flavor of the tofu. Pre-wash the towels before using them for making tofu. Use only oil that will not add flavor, such as sunflower or a lite cooking oil when making this recipe.

1. Wash the dried beans well and soak them overnight, making sure to remove any hard debris or damaged beans. 1 cup of dried beans will make one block of tofu. I generally soak two cups of dried beans so that I can make two batches at a time. I also wash them in hot tap water to give them a good head start and put them out to soak in hot water overnight. I want the softest beans I can possibly get so that I can pull all the goodness out the next day. (That doesn't mean keep the water hot all night, however.)

2. Time to grind your beans. For one batch, I take 3 cup of soaked beans (1 cup dried beans makes 3 cups of soaked beans) and 3 cup of water and blend it in the blender until it is as smooth as possible. This will look a little frothy and that is what you want. I prefer to do this early in the morning and put them in an air tight container; placing it in the refrigerator until I have time to work on it later in the afternoon. I also seem to get better tasting and firmer blocks when I do this. However, it is traditional for the Japanese farm-wife to do this all before the rest of the family woke up in the morning, so it's really up to you.

3. Bring 4 quarts of hot tap water to a boil. Add about 2 Tablespoons of cooking oil to the pot. The oil is to help prevent the mixture from boiling over as it is quite foamy.

4. Have your wooden spoon ready and pour in the ground tofu/ water mixture into the boiling water. Make sure to turn the heat down to medium high (about 6 on my stove). Stir constantly and cook for 15 minutes. Bring it to a boil at the current temperature and make sure to keep an eye on it as it will boil over quickly while it still has foam on the surface of the mixture. A good tip is to keep the oven vent on high and remove it from the heat if it gets too close to the top and stir until it settles down; placing it back you your heat source when it does.

5. Once it reaches boiling, cook it for an additional 10 minutes or until all the foam has cooked down into the liquid. You do not need to stir it constantly in this step once it has passed the danger of over-boiling. Below are two images of different foam levels. The one on the left is about 15-minutes into the cooking process and the one on the right is ready for separation as it has almost no foam left.

6. Cover your large bowl with the towel and slowly poor step 5. into the lined bowl.

7. You have now separated the soybean milk (tonyu) from the soybean mash (okara). You can skip the first 6 steps if you are trying this with store-bought unflavored soy milk. Wring out the mash to get out all the excess liquid by twisting the towel. Be careful, this is very hot. I use the cleaned off chopsticks that I cook with to hold the towel while I twist the ends. Make sure that no mash gets into your milk as this will make for lumpy tofu. You can save the mash (okara) and use it in the recipe below. There are also recipes online for breads and vegan burgers using okara.

8. Place the soy milk in the cleaned pot and reheat it back to almost boiling. In a separate bowl or measuring cup, mix together 1 1/2 cups of very hot water and one rounded tablespoon of Epsom salt and blend until the salt has dissolved. Nigari is traditionally used and I only found it recently at the oriental market, but Epsom salt is the same thing (Magnesium Chloride) and it is easier to find. The picture on the right is showing you (the spoon is right above the bag of salt) how much of a rounded tablespoon I use. The more salt you add, the firmer the tofu. This recipe can be firm to extra firm, depending on the quality of the soybeans. If you want silken tofu, add less than what you see here.

9. Add half of the water/salt mixture to the soy milk and stir until it starts to separate. Set the temperature to medium-low and cover while you wait a couple of minutes before adding the second half of the water/salt mixture to the soy milk. It will take about 5 minutes from the first addition til the tofu is completely separated. If it isn't separating, add more water/salt mixture and wait a few minutes. The picture on the right was taken 30-seconds after I added the first half of the water/salt mixture.

10. Once the mixture is coagulated (it will look much like cheese if you've ever seen it made), take a large slotted spoon and spoon it evenly into your lined container or tofu press. Wrap the ends of your lining over top the tofu and press out the excess liquid using a weight (I use the pan I put the okara in or a bowl filled with water); allowing it to set for 5 minutes.

11. Gently remove the cloth wrapped tofu from the container and immerse it in cold water. Gently remove the cloth and allow it to float in the water, making sure that it is completely immersed in the water. That's it. You are done. Make sure to change your water at least every other day and keep a lid or cover the container with plastic wrap until you are ready to use.

Breakfast Sweetened Okara

2 batches worth of okara from above recipe
1 tsp of salt
6 tablespoons of either honey, maple syrup or brown rice syrup

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray the sides and bottom of your pan with cooking spray. Place the okara in the pan and sprinkle with salt and pour over the sweetener of choice (I like maple syrup or brown rice syrup). Mix well with a fork until the salt and syrup are evenly distributed.

Place in the oven for 20 minutes and stir. Continue this process until it is golden brown and much drier than it's original form. I usually bake it for 1 1/2 hours depending on how well I squeeze the soy milk out of it in the above recipe. Okara holds a lot of moisture, so be aware of the hot steam as you stir. Allow it to cool before putting it into a container. I place it in either the refrigerator or freezer, depending on how soon I'm going to use it. Okara is as perishable as tofu and should be treated as such.

I like to eat one cup of okara with raisins and or chocolate chips with hemp milk. It is filling enough for a small breakfast or snack. Follow this link if you are interested in it's nutritional value. It is great if you need a boost in Iron, Calcium, or fiber and it tastes good too.


  1. So if I use store bought soy milk, would I still heat it up before placing it in the bowl or not? Also would a couple layers of cheese cloth work for the flour cloth?

    This does look easy. I'll have to give it a try.

  2. If you plan on using soy milk instead of starting with the whole bean, I would heat it up as directed in step 8 before adding the Epsom salt. The first 7 steps makes a little over 4 quarts of soy milk, so you would have to adjust your Epsom salt amount accordingly.

    As far as cheese cloth, I tried that when I first started and the holes are just too big, not to mention you get a lot of okara between the layers. The flour-sack style towel is really a thin tea towel. If you can find one without any design that would be the best option.

  3. Ok thanks. I'll have to save my tofu boxes and try this next week. I'll have to find me a towel too. I might have that works. Thanks for posting this and with pics, that really helps.

  4. Wow this is really cool. Thank you for sharing this on Real Food Weekly. Don't forget to link back the that post.