We all know tofu as a standard ingredient in Asian vegetarian cuisine. And you may also remember that it is made from soybeans. That's where it stopped for me, until recently. Until I heard from a colleague that he made tofu himself, and that it was not difficult at all. Aha…! Reason enough to try to make homemade tofu from soy beans myself. And indeed, it is not hard to make at all. And it is also a very cheap alternative to meat! Later in this article you will read everything you always wanted to know about tofu and okara, the leftover pulp from the soy beans.
How to make homemade tofu from soy beans?
As mentioned in the beginning, homemade tofu from soy beans is really not difficult to make yourself. You only need three ingredients: soy beans, water and some vinegar (or alternative) to start the curdling process. You will be supported by a blender and two pieces of cheese cloth, or towels.
The cold preparations to make homemade tofu from soy beans
Your first task will start the day before. As you have to soak the soy beans for quite some time, 6 hours at least. So you may soak them in water the evening before already. Be sure to use enough water, as they will swell quite a lot. Expect your soy beans to increase two to three times in volume.
After soaking them you will first grind the soaked soy beans in a blender. For this, transfer them into the blender and add one liter of water. You can reuse the soaking water for this. Then we grind the beans until we have a homogeneous, foamy white liquid: unfiltered raw soy milk.
Next we have to separate the pulp, okara, and the soy milk. To do this, we pour the mixture through a clean cloth. The okara, or pulp, will remain in the cloth. If you have a cheese cloth, this is perfect. Otherwise you may use a clean towel for this purpose. We collect the soy milk in a large jar. Once the soy milk has run through, we wring out the cloth well.
Then we also pour a second liter of water through the cloth. This is to separate even more proteins from the pulp. Stir well with a spoon in the pulp as it is filtering through. At the end, squeeze as much moisture as possible from the remaining pulp. By itself, that remaining okara is high in fiber with little flavor. But you can also use them in other dishes if you want. We will explain that later on in detail. But first we continue to making tofu.
The warm steps to make homemade tofu from soy beans
So, our current status is that we have raw, uncooked soy milk. Thus next we have to cook the soy milk for about five minutes. You just need to be careful that the soy milk doesn't boil over. So bring it to a boil slowly, and stir regularly. Otherwise, just like with milk, a membrane may form that suddenly rises up quickly, boils over and messes up your kitchen. Not funny...
By the way, if you want to use a shortcut for making tofu, you can enter here by using soy milk. That saves time and the cold preparations. But is less fun in my opinion.
the penultimate step is then where the magic happens. We are going to separate the soy milk into a watery substance, the whey, and tofu curdles. First of all, take your simmering soy milk from the heat and let it cool down a bit. Then we stir in a few tablespoons of vinegar. And you will see, that all of a sudden, you soy milk will split up into a watery substance and tofu curdles. For me, this is really magic!
Have a bit of patience if this doesn't happen immediately. Maybe you will have to add another spoon of vinegar. Or put your soy milk back on the heat if it is cooling down too fast.
There are several alternatives to vinegar to start this magic curdling process. The first one is to use lemon juice. However in my experience you will need more than two tablespoons of it. Another option that is used a lot is gypsum powder. But I have no experience with that yet.
And finally separate the tofu and the whey
Now in the last step we have to separate the tofu and the whey. Once again we will do this using a cheese cloth or a towel. And again we wring it out well to squeeze as much water as possible out of the tofu mass.
If you have a tofu press, you can transfer the tofu mass into it and squeeze out the remaining water. Another option is to leave them in the cloth and put weights on them. Gravity then does its job. Ten minutes is enough for soft tofu. For a firm tofu you can let the weights do their job for up to an hour.
Finally, it is best to place the tofu in cold water for an hour to recover from all the excitement. If you want to store it for a longer time, it is also advisable to store it submerged in cold water. Like Mozzarella basically.
How to eat tofu?
So, now we have tofu. But then the next question is what to do with it? How to make a tasty recipe with it? In many Asian recipes you can replace the meat with tofu. However make sure that you season the tofu well. For example with soy sauce. You may find some inspiration in the following recipes:
- Chowmein (replace the chicken in the recipe with tofu marinated in soy sauce).
- Spaghetti with tofu and shiitake.
But what exactly are soy beans?
Everyone has heard of soybeans. And we've probably also heard of soy sauce. But have you ever seen them? Most likely not. As they are not common on sale in traditional supermarkets. Your best chances are in an Asian store or in a specialized store with healthy bio products. So let us do a Quiz: what color do soy beans have? Answers in the comments.
Nevertheless, there is a good chance that you regularly eat soy products. They are processed in many other food products. And surely you have heard of soy milk, tofu, soy oil or soy sauce. They are all made from this mysterious bean that you have never seen.
Soybeans are indeed legumes. Originally from China, they have been a staple of Asian cuisine for centuries. That is why you will find soybeans and other soy products at the Asian store, or in the section with Asian products. A soybean you may be familiar with is the Edamame bean. This is actually an unripe soybean in the pod, and is often eaten as a snack.
The soybean is very healthy. It contains a lot of protein, which is why it is also often used as a meat substitute. In addition, it contains a lot of fiber and minerals such as calcium and magnesium.
You may want to read the following articles to learn more about this mysterious beans:
- Soy beans (Wikipedia).
- Soybean (Brittanica).
- What to know about soy (Medical News Today).
- Soy beans 101: nutrition facts and health effects (Healthline).
- What are soy beans used for? (United Soybean).
What is okara, the pulp of the soy bean?
As you have noticed, we have a side product after making the tofu: okara, the pulp of the soy beans. But what is it? And what can you do with it? We will have a detailed look at this now.
So Okara is the pulp, the leftover fibers of the soybean. But not just form the soybean. The word is also used to describe other residual fibers, such as those from almonds when you make almond milk. And just like the pods of the soybean, it is often used in animal feed. And also processed as a fertiliser. But in these cases we are always talking about the usage for industrially produced okara. But what can you do with your homemade leftovers?
Well, it is also perfectly suitable for human consumption. You can use it in recipes! Yes! You don't need to throw it away. Now I have to admit, I am not at this stage yet myself. So I cannot give you any personnel recommendations. But here are the results of some research on the www:
- Easy okara recipes (Soy eats).
- How to make patty from the soy bean pulp (Woonheng).
- Delicious okara hummus recipe (the conscientious eater).
- Simmered soy pulp & vegetables (just one cookbook).
- Okara, a by-product with superpowers (Utopia).
If you speak Dutch, you can find the Dutch version of this recipe on gerechtenweb.blog.