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How do I Make Tofu?

Mandi R. Hall
Mandi R. Hall

Tofu, used as an ingredient for a snack or an entrée, can be either store-bought or homemade. This dish is also known as bean curd, whether prepared fresh or purchased pre-processed. There are a variety of methods people use to make tofu at home. Prepared with soybeans, water, and coagulants — and occasionally seasonings — tofu is fairly quick and straightforward to make. During the process, once the soymilk begins to curdle, the curds are retained and pressed into separate molds.

Many people make tofu at home because it can be cheaper than buying meat or purchasing tofu. Bulk soy beans can be found at many large supermarkets, though they can almost always be found at ethnic, vegetarian, or specialty grocers. These will need to be pulverized, so make sure to have a processor or smasher on hand.

Use a food processor to pulverize soybeans.
Use a food processor to pulverize soybeans.

Calcium sulfate may be used as the coagulant when it’s time to make tofu at home. It will likely be a white powder. This product is also marketed as gypsum. There may be various grades of calcium sulfate available, so make sure to purchase a type that is safe to ingest. Magnesium chloride, or nigari, may also be used.

Start by making soy milk, many recipes for which can be found online. The soy milk should be brought to a temperature of approximately 75 degrees C (167 degrees F). The coagulant is added to warm water to dissolve. This mixture is then added to the soy milk in order to begin to make tofu.

This mixture will begin to thicken and separate. Curds will be separated from a thinner, more liquid-like mixture. The curds are pressed into molds and strained. This is the tofu.

A plate of tofu.
A plate of tofu.

Tofu is a staple in many Asian cuisines. Historically from China, many of the region’s inhabitants still make tofu at home. It has become more popular in America since the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Though many people in Asia make tofu at home, Americans are more likely to purchase it from the store or at a restaurant. Homemade tofu is becoming more popular, though, with the emerging trends of vegetarian and vegan dieting.


Tofu is a popular element of a vegetarian diet. It can be high in calcium depending on what kind of coagulant is used to make tofu. It is also low in fat and calories. There is also quite a bit of iron in most tofu, making it an excellent choice for those with iron deficiencies and conditions such as anemia.

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Discussion Comments


You know, I've heard of bean curd before, and I actually know how to make tofu, but I never realized the two were the exact same thing. I guess it makes sense, because tofu is made from the curd of soy milk.

Anyway, making tofu at home is actually not that difficult. It doesn't take a lot of ingredients or a lot of time. I would recommend that anyone who likes tofu at least try making it at home once!


@Pharoah - I can see why you feel that way about making tofu at home. I know that not everyone likes to cook, and not everyone has the time to make everything at home. However, I think there are a lot of benefits to making your own tofu at home.

For one thing, you can tailor recipes for tofu to meet your needs. You can season it exactly how you want it while you're making it, instead of later on while you're cooking.

Also, if you make tofu at home, you're going to know exactly what you put it in. There won't be any preservatives, unlike in some store bought tofu.


@ankara - That's neat that store bought soy milk will work for this as well. I think it would save a lot of time to start with pre-made soy milk rather than make your own. On the other hand, I imagine people who are really into making stuff from scratch would prefer to make their own soy milk anyway.

I personally don't think I'll be making tofu at home anytime soon. I'm pretty happy with the tofu I can get from the store. I also don't make recipes with tofu all that often, so I don't think it would be worth it for me to take the time to make it from scratch.


@turkay1, @burcinc-- Actually, you can use vinegar or lemon juice to curdle the soymilk. It's not usually preferred in Asian recipes because the coagulant does affect the flavor of the tofu somewhat. So it might be a good idea to try different coagulants the first couple of times you make tofu and see if you like one better than the others.

I hope you guys are not throwing out the liquid left behind after straining the tofu. That's whey and is very nutritious with vitamin B and also protein. So do not throw it out! Use it when making stew or soup for added flavor and texture.

Store bought soymilk works well but if you have time, making the soymilk at home is even better. You can use a soymilk maker or just soak soybeans and then put it in the food processor with some water. I think this is much healthier and satisfying.


@turkay1-- No, you cannot use vinegar or yogurt. Soymilk is not normal milk, so that won't work. I've never seen tofu recipes that call for anything other than magnesium chloride.

I use nigari or lushui as a coagulant. Nigari is the Japanese name and lushui is the Chinese name for magnesium chloride. You can buy this in small packets at the Asian and international groceries. It looks like pure white flakes.

You need to melt some of the nigari in water and add it to the soymilk when it's hot. When you make paneer, I think you let the milk boil all the way. But don't do that when making tofu. Make sure the soymilk is hot but not boiling when you add the nigari. And then let it boil and curdle and then strain as usual.

I'm sure your method of straining will work too, but you can get a tofu mold as well. It's a small, deep rectangular mold with holes in it to strain the water from the tofu. I like using the mold because you get the most perfect tofu cubes with it. I also like adding spices and other flavorings into the tofu while pouring it in the mold. It's fun and it always comes out delicious.


Making tofu sounds a lot like making paneer (Indian cheese). The only difference is that milk is used instead of soymilk and yogurt or vinegar is used as the coagulant. Then the curdled milk is poured into a really thin strainer (I use a clean pillow case) and is put under something heavy to take shape.

Since I've made paneer at home many times with success, I'm sure I can make tofu too! I don't know where to get calcium sulfate or magnesium chloride though. Is it possible to use yogurt or vinegar to curdle the soymilk?

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      Use a food processor to pulverize soybeans.
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