Want to make silken tofu from scratch? You may be surprised to learn the process is relatively easy. Since silken tofu is impossible to find without plastic packaging, making your own will reduce your household’s waste. The taste is also far superior. It’s light with subtle beany and mineral flavour. In my opinion, it’s a delicacy! Enjoy it with maple syrup and fruit for dessert or soy sauce, chilli oil and green onions for my favourite savoury option.
Silken tofu can also become the base of many fabulous vegan staples, from vegan mayo to Ceasar dressing to creme fraiche and numerous desserts.
Why tofu from scratch?
Homemade tofu, both silken and firm, is a fraction of the cost and very customizable. It also helps you reduce your plastic waste.
To make firm, medium or even unpressed tofu like a ricotta style, check out my Tofu Recipe From Scratch recipe.
Tofu starts with soaking soybeans, and I prefer to use organic, non-GMO. Soybeans are so inexpensive that even the highest quality beans will still cost very little compared to other protein sources. If you aren’t sure where to find beans, an excellent place to start is your Asian grocer. Soybeans are also available in bulk at many zero-waste shops; ensure you don’t get roasted beans meant for snacking. My beans are sourced from yupik.com (not sponsored).
To make tofu, you’ll need a coagulant. There are three common coagulants that I know of:
- Magnesium chloride (nigari)
- Calcium chloride
- Lemon juice
My preference is for the first, magnesium chloride, as it tends to give the most consistent results. Magnesium Chloride is the ingredient in Japanese nigari which is probably the most common coagulant. You can often find magnesium chloride in powder form in your health food store which you can then dilute in water.
Traditional Japanese Nigari is hard to find in North America. I recently purchased the Vancouver Island Nigari, which is pricey but provides consistent results.
Calcium chloride is great if you need more calcium in your diet. I find it’s a little harder to find, especially in small qualities. If you want to use this one, check out specialty beer and wine making websites.
Lemon juice is the easiest to find but gives the least consistent results. It’s always worth trying if you feel like experimenting. Check out Mary’s Test Kitchen’s video where she tests making silken tofu with lemon juice.
Decadent Homemade Silken Tofu From Scratch
- 1 Large pot
- 2 – 3 heat safe containers / bowls / remekins to be used to mould your tofu
- 1 nut bag or muslin bag
- 1 cup soy beans
- 7 cups water
- 3 tsps nigari (tofu coagulant) *see notes for more details
- Soak the soybeans in a large bowl and cover with a generous amount of cold water. Let soak for around 12 hours or until the beans have swelled up into an oblong shape rather than round.
- Drain the beans in a colander, rinse and pick out any dark or discoloured beans.
- Blend the soaked beans with water. Note: You may need to do this in three to four batches to accommodate your blender's size.
- Blend on high until the mixture forms a slurry. It should be milky and smooth with a fine grain left behind. Note: If you over blend, your milk will be too sludge-like, but if you under blend, the milk will run too thin.
- Pour the soy milk slurry through a nut bag or muslin cloth-lined colander. Squeeze the bag to pour out every last drop. The remains are called okara and can be used as the base for many great recipes. See attached image for an example of what the okara should look like. This can help guide the amount of blending time you'll need.
- Pour strained soymilk into a large pot over medium-low heat and simmer for around 10 minutes or until skin begins to form on top. Caution: It's essential to watch the pot and stir constantly because it boils over quickly and bottom is also at high risk of burning.
- Remove the milk from heat and pour over a strainer into your heat-safe containers. Leave at least half an inch or more of head space at the top of the containers. I recommend pouring the milk in one cup at a time to track how much milk had been added. You'll have about 6 cups of soy milk. If divided equally among 3 containers, each will render 2 cups of silken tofu. You may also reserve some of the soy milk for immediate consumption.
- Once the milk has cooled, a skin may have formed on the top; gently remove it. Mix in 1/2 teaspoon of nigari for each cup of milk. If your container holds two cups of milk, add 1 tsp, 3 cups add 1 1/2 tsps. Mix it in VERY gently. The milk may start curling a little, so you don't want to agitate it, or it will become grainy and not silk-like.
Set the tofu in one of two ways:
Steam method (works best for smaller containers)
- Place 1 inch of water in a saucepan with a steamer basket and bring to a boil.
- Add soy milk filled containers to the steamer and cover; reduce heat to medium-low and let cook for 10 to 20 minutes minutes. Cooking time will vary depending on the size and material of your dishes. **Suggested cook times for different volumes and containers are in the recipe notes
- To check if it's ready, very gently rub the back of a spoon along the top to see if it holds together as a solid piece.
- Carefully remove the containers from steamer, and let cool for 15 minutes.
- Flip container over to reveal your beautifully set silken tofu or store in the container until you're ready to consume.
Water bath method (works best for larger containers)
- Boil a few cups of water in a kettle.
- Place the containers filled with soy milk in a large pot that is deep enough to hold them. You may do this in batches. Pour boiling water into the pan so that it reaches the same level as the soy milk mixture. Be careful to not pour water onto soy milk here. Simmer over a gentle medium low heat for 10 to 30 minutes. If you have a thermometer, aim to maintain water temperature at 85°C/185°F.
- Cooking time will vary depending on the size and material of your dishes. **Suggested cook times for different volumes and containers are in the recipe notesTo check if it's ready, very gently rub the back of a spoon along the top to see if it holds together as a solid piece.
- Carefully remove the containers from their water bath and let cool for 15 minutes.
- For glass pyrex or ramekins with two cups of milk, cook time is about 20 minutes.
- For stainless steel containers (like tiffens or dalcini), 1 cup of milk is ready in 10 minutes.
- For metal large bowls mixing bowls with three cups of milk, 30 minutes may be required.