Let us introduce you to the pleasures of silky, nutty, totally delicious homemade tofu. Sure, it’s much easier to pick some up from the store, but you won’t get to be privy of the delightfully smooth textures and nuanced flavors of the DIY stuff. Lucky for you, the team at ChefSteps and Andrea Nguyen created a visual aid to help with your tofu-making adventures. After you’ve studied the video below thoroughly, get started on making your own tofu!
Killer Tofu, With Andrea Nguyen
1 medium-sized block; 12 hours (if making soy milk), about 1 hour active for tofu
- 8 cups (2 liters) fresh soy milk, at room temperature—try this recipe
- 1 1/2 teaspoons packed, refined nigari crystals, or gypsum or Epsom salts, or 2 teaspoons liquid nigari
- 1/2 cup filtered water, or spring water
- Wooden spatula
- Fine-mesh sieve
- Tofu mold
- Muslin cloth
- Soup cans or other weights
- In a medium-sized pot, heat the soy milk, uncovered, on medium-high until it reaches a gentle simmer. Cook the mixture for five minutes, stirring frequently with your wooden spatula. Use a strainer to remove solids or any skin that forms on the surface. NOTE: Choose a pot with a well-fitting lid; you’ll need it later.
- Combine the nigari crystals, gypsum, or other coagulant with filtered or spring water, and stir with a spoon to dissolve.
- Put a tofu mold (or, in a pinch, a small colander) on top of a rimmed baking sheet (or in the sink), and arrange the liner cloth inside, letting its edges drape over the sides of the mold. Get your things ready nearby: your pot lid, a cover for your mold, a ladle, a fine-mesh strainer, and a bowl.
- When the soy milk is hot, after about five minutes, turn off the heat and let the milk sit for 2–3 minutes. PRO TIP: Use your wooden spatula to trace a “Z” through the milk to help cool it down a little and prevent a skin from forming.
- Now it’s time to add the coagulant in three phases. Vigorously move the spatula in a “Z” pattern six to eight times to get things moving—this will help you distribute the coagulant throughout the milk. Pour in a third of the dissolved coagulant, continuing to stir. Stop the spatula in the center of the pot and hold it there, upright, to slow down the activity in the milk. Once the soy milk stops moving, gently lift the spatula out. NOTE: Stirring in this pattern and at this speed will create nice curds and a better texture.
- Using your spoon, sprinkle another third of the coagulant mixture into the soy milk. Cover the pot and wait for three minutes.
- Sprinkle the remaining coagulant onto the surface of the soy milk. Gently move the wooden spatula back and forth across the topmost half-inch (1.25 cm) layer of the soy milk for about 20 seconds. If there is milky liquid at the edge of your mixture, give that area extra stirring attention. The soy milk should be curdling now. You’ll feel the curds coagulating as you move the spatula around. They’ll start to resemble cumulus clouds, with the pale yellow whey beginning to separate. Cover the pot again and wait for three minutes if using nigari (six minutes if using gypsum or Epsom salts). Uncover the pot and check your mixture. If some of the liquid still looks milky, gently stir the surface for about 20 seconds to complete the curdling. Now you’ll see curds (white chunks) in pale yellow whey (liquid), with no milkiness.
- You will end up with a pot of white curds and pale yellow whey; think fresh ricotta or cottage cheese. Make sure that your mold is lined with cloth and close by. You will also need a bowl. Remove some of the whey from the pot to make it easier to ladle out curds. The goal is to remove as much whey as possible. You want the curds to feel firm against the strainer. Ladle some of the whey into the mold to moisten the liner cloth. Now ladle the curds into the mold. Try to be as gentle as possible to preserve the curds’ structure and texture. Neatly fold the liner cloth over to cover the curds, and put the top of the mold in place.
- Weigh down the tofu to compress the mixture. The amount of weight and the pressing time will depend on the curd size and tofu texture you want, as well as the size and shape of your mold. Use food cans or a small bowl filled with water as weights. Halfway through, make sure the weight is evenly distributed so you don’t end up with lopsided tofu. Below are some guidelines for using a 3-inch-deep (7.5 cm) wooden mold with an opening measuring 4 in by 5 3/4 in (10 cm by 15 cm).
- Texture: Medium, Weight: 1 pound, Time: 15 minutes
- Texture: Medium-firm, Weight: 1 1/2 to 2 pounds, Time: 15 minutes
- Texture: Firm, Weight: 3 pounds, Time: 20 minutes
- The just-pressed tofu will be very delicate, so it will need time to cool and firm up. Before removing the tofu from its mold, partially fill a bowl with cold water. The type of mold you use will dictate how to remove the cloth-wrapped tofu: Wooden tofu molds have removable bottoms, which makes removal easy. If you used a plastic tofu mold, you must slowly invert the wrapped tofu into the water. If you molded the tofu in a colander, submerge it in the water to loosen, then remove the tofu and cloth. Once the tofu and cloth are free of the mold, unwrap the tofu. If your tofu was made in one large piece and seems sturdy, cut it into two or three pieces. Submerge it in the water for about five minutes to firm up. To remove the tofu from the water, simply slide a small plate or large spatula underneath and lift it up. Place the tofu on a plate, and if using within eight hours, cover and keep in a cool spot. You can use this tofu once it is cool, but you may want to give it two hours to rest and develop its full umami flavor. If you are not using the tofu soon, refrigerate, covered in water, in an airtight container. Change the water every other day. The tofu will last for about a week.
ChefSteps comprises a team of award-winning chefs, filmmakers, scientists, designers and engineers focused on revolutionizing the way people cook by inspiring creativity and encouraging expertise in the kitchen. You can also get access to all of ChefSteps’ Premium content — including paid classes and dozens of recipes available only to Premium members for a onetime fee of $39. Classes include Sous Vide: Beyond the Basics, Fluid Gels, French Macarons and more!