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Fail - Homemade Tofu


A few months ago there was an article in Food and Wine about making your own tofu. It seemed like a fairly easy process, that reminded me a bit of making ricotta which I have done on many occasions. I decided to tackle the recipe. I like doing adventurous things in the kitchen, enjoy making things from scratch, consider myself a pretty advanced cook, and Food and Wine made it seem so easy. The recipe takes a few days, so first I grabbed the soy beans and got them soaking, then started doing some more research on the process. This was the first sign that things might not be as easy as implied.

I started with double the beans because when I have made recipes similar to this one in the past, I tend to end up with less final product than I set out to make. In this case, double the beans ended up giving me only ΒΌ of the recipes yield of soy milk. In other words, the article said to use 8 oz of beans to get 4 cups of soy milk. I used 16 oz of beans and got only 1 single cup of milk! 

I had to blend the beans in a few batches. Here is one place where I think I went wrong. I believe my beans weren't blended enough, but my blender smelled like burning so I stopped. They were still VERY blended, but I think you need a super power blender to do this job properly.


Next step is to boil your bean mixture for 15 minutes. This is an interesting step because the mix is really thick and was threatening to boil over the whole time. After this you strain the solids and are left with soy milk.

This is the secret ingredient that makes soy milk coagulate. It is called nigari or bittern and can only be found in Japanese specialty stores or online. The recipe called for this in flake form, but I could only find it in this liquid form.  The super helpful worker at Japan Village Mart in Brookline assured me this was the right stuff and walked me through a bit of the recipe, but the packaging was in all Japanese and there was no way to make heads or tails of how much to add.  This I think is where the biggest fail came.

To make tofu, your milk needs to be a certain percentage of soy content. My milk tasted really strong of soy, so I was pretty sure it had a high content and we were ready for coagulation. I heated it to the appropriate temp and added it to my nigari, but nothing happened.

As with all failures, this was for sure a learning experience for me, but I was pretty disappointed that it didn't work out! Especially since this was the second fail for me in as many weeks. I blame the kitchen because I was half way moved out already. I have since left the doomed kitchen, never to return! Come back tomorrow to see the dish I was planning on using the homemade tofu in.


Impressive that you even attempted this! Ricotta seems much easier, from what I've experience :)

The blended soy beans kinda look like hummus... Was the tofu ("tofu") not edible at all? Maybe just use it in miso soup or something. Also, I agree, Food & Wine (and other food magazines) make things seem so easy when sometimes it's really not!

I am not sure whether you followed the Food and Wine recipe or the recipe on the nigari package, is it possible that you have mixed up the amounts because the measurement systems are different? For example, 1 "Japanese" cup is 200mL as opposed to 1 US cup, which is approximately 240mL.

I always love reading your entries and would love to hear more on your tofu adventures. If you're interested, I work as a Japanese translator, so I can translate the package for you.

Maybe you should make your own nigari just to make sure it's correct?

Very ambitious sir.

This is a pretty good guide. Evidently the magnesium chloride is present in Epsom salts, and he says you can also just use lemon juice, but I dunno bout that. Impressive to take on the task. Lets see a new post soon about Tofu Redemption!

I checked out the instructables link and after adding the paste of 3 cups' worth dried beans to the pot it calls for 12 cups of water. Seems that would be your missing step! Explains the low yield and odd boily-over tofu debacle.

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