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-- Making Tofu and Soy Milk at Home --

Revised and links updated, 2 February 2002

Tofu recipe with notes
Quality and Safety Tips
Soy Milk for Drinking- Blanching method
Soy milk- Simple Traditional Method new Feb 2002
History of Tofu
Soy Milk Machine
Soy milk/ tofu links and source

Hi Ellen!
Do you have any info on making tofu from soy beans? Maybe it's too difficult or time consuming since no books are readily available on it. Do you know about it or can you recommend a book? Also, I might want to get one of the Soy Milk machines -- though this is probably easy to do without the machine. Do you have a recipe for making it without the machine?
Thinking of you and wishing you ALL THE BEST.

Hi, Lily,

What a good set of questions.

Tofu and soymilk background

A really good book on tofu is the William Shurtlieff "Book of Tofu" which comes up in second hand book stores and on eBay from time to time. It is available in a large 9 x 12 paperback book as well as the small paperback size. The large size is much easier to read and cook from and is worth looking for. In 2003, it has been reissued as a great double issue. A short explanation is available in the Farm cookbook, they have a wonderful soy dairy at the Farm outside Knoxville which both feeds their community and makes money.

Tofu is basically as fragile as a dairy product and requires clean, careful handling. In Japan tofu is preferably used the day it is made or the next day, or else it is deep-fried, frozen, or dried. It can keep a week in the refrigerator if you change the soaking water every day. Home-based/ artisan tofu making is a way people are earning money now.

Tofu made at home is cheap compared to storebought; I have been hoping someone in the community would begin making it, because then much more would get eaten. Basically one 12 oz package is the same protein as 3-4 eggs, so 8 people should use 4 packages per meal. When you have to buy it, usually only one or two gets used! It takes twice as long the first time you try it, but you will get quicker and your home made tofu will taste great once you get used to making it.

I demo'd making soymilk from scratch on one visit (Rudy's birthday cake had some in it) and could certainly do it again when I am here in April. Making soy milk is CHEAP- about 1/5 the price of store bought. One pound soybeans is soaked, ground, and cooked to make more than 3 quarts. You have to add about 1/2-3/4 teaspoon of salt and a "glub" -about 2 tablespoons- of maple syrup to each quart to get it to taste good for drinking. You can cook with it plain. In a vegan household, it is good to grind in one B-12 tablet and beat in some supplementary calcium lactate for each half gallon.

The soy mik maker machine really does make it easier because without it you have to grind hot/boiling water and soaked soybeans together by hand to make a mild flavored milk. You need a really good glass or stainless steel container blender to do this by hand. When we practiced with the soy milk machine, we did find that you should use the minimum level of water for the machine. Also, for a richer product for drinking, you can double process: run once, leave the milk in the container, empty the bean basket and put in fresh beans, then run it again, using the milk instead of water for the liquid. A soymilk machine is often on ebay, but be sure you read up on info before you make a selection. For soymilk machine info, and a great online sale price, see the Soyajoy folks. This machine, now improved to be even easier to clean, is still the best value for the money and recommended by me and Intsoy.

Tofu supplies and preparation

Have you ever made cottage cheese? Making tofu from soy milk is a lot like making cottage cheese from regular milk. The most tender and nutritious is made using food or pharmaceutical grade calcium sulfate to set or coagulate it. This is a natural mined product also called gypsum or "terra alba"- for info on food grade gypsum see Diamond Gypsum company. You can order this at a drug store, find it at a Chinese grocery store, or it is available from the contact at the bottom of the page. Firmer textures are made by pressing out more liquid, NOT by adding extra coagulant. My friend Enrique in Argentina, a new artisan tofu maker, points out that CaSO4 is a milky suspension, and that the coagulant must be stirred while it is being added, for otherwise a white muddy deposit will be found at the bottom of the cup, once the liquid has been added, one spoonful at a time. Nigari, or traditional sea water-based coagulant is available, but much lower in calcium. Magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts) also makes a soft tofu, and even vinegar, lemon or lime juice have been used.

Top quality soybeans are important, and flavor and yield of milk do vary with different beans. Preferred are the larger, low oil varieties such as Vinces. I stick with non-GMO soybeans; you can order "Laura", a wonderful variety for soy milk, online from Fairview Farms.

Quality Pointers for Soymilk

Important safety and quality points if you are making soy milk from scratch:
-not burning yourself or the milk (keep stirring in one direction while on heat)
-not letting it overflow while bringing it to a boil, it foams up to double in size Use a pan at least twice the volume of your raw milk and brush the top 1" rim of the pot with cooking oil or Pam to prevent boil over..
-keeping the milk as concentrated as possible so you can dilute it to taste at the end. For tofu making, you will be using 1/2 to a cup of hot water to dissolve the coagulant, so try to use no more than 5-6 c when preparing the milk, and 1/2 -1 cup water for the final rinse of the okara pulp.
-preheating the beans and blender: preheat the blender (metal or glass canister only) by warming first with the hottest tap water, then blending 2 cups of boiling water for approximately 1 minute to warm the container. Pour boiling water over the beans if they have been refrigerated or frozen before use, so they do not cool down the blending water.
-using soft, drinkable water- hard water reduces extraction of nutrients from the beans
-cooking the soy milk- or any soybean food- thoroughly to deactivate enzymes in soy that INTERFERE with you absorbing proteins
-adding the coagulant in parts by pouring onto the soymilk and cutting it in with a paddle or spatula, NOT by beating or whipping it. NOT moving the pot once the coagulant has been added until the soy curd separates from the clear whey.
-washing cheesecloth before and between tofu making sessions in HOT water, preferable with bleach, and not with underwear. Dry in the sun if possible.
-remembering bacteria and other microorganisms can cause food spoilage and food-borne illness in soy products the same as milk products. You will want to cook the soymilk long and hot enough to destroy the organisms that cause illness and to preserve the soymilk from spoilage. For stove-cooked soymilk, a good rule of thumb is to simmer the soymilk (with stirring) for 20 minutes and then cover. If made in the morning the soymilk will be safe to use all day if kept covered and clean, even if there is no refrigeration available. If you cover and chill it right away and store it in clean containers in the coldest part of your refrigerator, refrigerated soymilk can be kept for about 10 days under refrigeration.

The strong flavor or bitterness that sometimes occurs in soy milk is what the folks at INTSOY, University of Illinois, refer to as "beany flavor". The traditional way to make soymilk in Hong Kong and China involves soaking soybeans in water, and then grinding soybeans with water. This process is an efficient way to transfer a lot of the nutritious components from the dry soybean into the liquid soymilk. However, during the grinding a beany flavor develops. The grinding in cold water allows a natural soybean enzyme to come into contact with the soybean lipid (oil) and in the presence of water and oxygen this beany flavor develops.

INTSOY has developed a process to produce soymilk that does not have the beany flavor. The important step is that the dry soybeans are dropped into rapidly boiling water and cooked for a long enough time to destroy the enzyme. So yes, it is possible to produce a soymilk that is not bitter.

Smoothness of soymilk is usually related to the amount of fiber in the soymilk. Soybeans contain about 10% fiber. Removal of some of the fiber results in smoother soymilk. If the soybeans are dehulled prior to grinding or processing, the resulting soymilk will be smoother.

Tofu recipe

Forward from Karl E. Weingartner ( This guy is like the national expert on small scale soy food production, see Intsoy.

Fri, 21 Nov 1997 18:51:15 -0500 (EST). Ellen's notes are in italics.

400 g whole soybeans (2 3/4 to 3 cups) that's 13 ounces
15 g calcium sulfate (approximately 3 tablespoons) that's half an ounce

Notice this Intsoy method is a simple method that makes a beany milk great for tofu, pretty strong-flavored for drinking. For drinking, try the blanching method that follows.

1. Clean whole soybeans by removing dirt and damaged soybeans.
2. Soak 400 g of cleaned dry whole soybeans in 5 times top quality water by weight overnight or at least 8 hours at room temperature. That's 2 1/2 quarts water, and you should soak in the refrigerator if it is very hot outside.
3. Drain and rinse with cold water(weight of the soaked beans is about 800 g). You can freeze the beans at this point. You can start here with thawed frozen soaked soybeans; thaw overnight in the refrigerator or pour hot water over them so they are warm before you blend, or they will chill the boiling water so you lose the effect you are aiming for!
4. Grind the soaked soybeans into slurry in a glass-topped or stainless steel blender in 3000 g (that's about 3 quarts and a cup- do it in batches in a home blender) soft water for 3 minutes at high speed.
5. Filter through 4 layers of cheesecloth to remove fibrous materials/ pulp (raw okara). Collect the liquid portion.Set aside the okara. Be sure to cook this okara before using it in recipes.
6. Simmer the soymilk for 10 minutes (Ellen says bring to a boil that can't be stirred away, turn down just below the boil and count 7-8 minutes exactly, stirring vigorously in one direction. Weigh out 3000 grams 7. Cool the cooked soymilk to 80 degrees C/ 180 degrees F. Monitor the temperature of soymilk closely with a thermometer.
8. Add the preheated coagulant solution (15 g or one half ounce)calcium sulfate in each 100 ml (scant half cup) boiled water to the soymilk with agitation. (Ellen's note: Cut in 3/4 of the coagulant. Cut gently but persistently in one direction, do not whip or beat. As soon as the curd begins to firm, immediately STOP stirring and cover. Allow the curd to set without disturbing for 10 minutes. If there are any milky patches, shake up the coagulant again and stir in a little more coagulant this way: sprinkle the rest of the solidifier in and poke the top gently and let it sit again for a few minutes. Make sure to stir coagulating tofu gently so as not to break up the curds. It ends up soft white clumps in a yellow whey. If the coagulant is poured in too fast or beaten, the curd breaks apart and won't clump well. Too slowly and it starts coagulating early, creating hard blocks.
*In general, the amount of coagulant is 0.25 to 0.5% of cooked soymilk by weight. Ellen's note: If you don't have calcium coagulant, try to get it, but if you can't, to prepare your solidifier, combine 1 cup warm water with one of the following: 2 tsp. Epsom salts, 2 tsp. nigari, 1/4 cup vinegar or 1/4 cup lemon juice. They take about twice as much volume and need about twice as long as the calcium sulfate.
9. Break/cut the curd evenly into cubes. Transfer coagulated dispersion into a tofu mold lined with layers of cheese cloth. (Note: Cheesecloth should be long enough to fold over the top of the filled block. You can rinse and reuse the cheesecloth you used for straining out the okara. You can make a tofu mold from any plastic container with holes punched in it, up to the size of a loaf of bread for a large block. I use the smaller of two nesting plastic containers as my tofu mold. I rest it over the larger one on chopsticks, to catch the whey (a great cleaner and skin care product- lecithin and natural detergents). Spoon and tofu mold should be freshly dishwasher clean and not contaminated for best results. No fabric softener on the cheesecloth.
10. Fold cloth over curds, cover with a lid that fits inside the mold, weighted with a rinsed 2 pound can of food,and press for at least 15 minutes- or use more weight or press longer for a very firm tofu. After the whey has run off and the mass is pretty solid, I press for 20 minutes or longer under 3-5 pounds of weight, then I empty the larger container of whey, wash it and use it to store the tofu under water! .
11. Remove tofu lid, unfold the cloth and remove from the tofu mold. Cut tofu into pieces and soak covered in cold water 5 minutes before handling, to firm it.
12. Hold the tofu covered in cold water in the refrigerator and change soaking water daily.
13. In the East, tofu is eaten within two days or dried or frozen. Your homemade tofu will keep from 3 up to 7 days depending on your technique and the temperature of your refrigerator.

Karl E. Weingartner
International Soybean Program (INTSOY)
Department of Food Science & Human Nutrition
Phone: (217) 333-6422
University of Illinois, 169 EASB Fax: (217) 333-5838
1101W. Peabody Dr., Urbana, IL 61801, USA

Tofu or Soy-milk at home from powders

You do not have to use whole soybeans as the starting material. Tofu can be made using full fat soy flour. The technology involved is similar. The basic technique is similar. 2 cups full fat soy flour and 6 cups boiling water, blend and cook briefly, strain the soymilk using cheese cloth or some filtering material, bring back to a boil and remove from heat. Coagulate with calcium coagulant above or 3 tablespoons white vinegar or lemon juice, warm/reheat for just 30 seconds. Form (press), cut, and cool. Although soy flour can be used, you may get a better tasting milk if your starting material is either whole soybeans or dehulled soybeans. I have not yet tried to make soymilk using Kinako (Japanese soymilk powder). It may produce a pleasant taking milk. However, the flour may not stay in solution and you may have to stir it vigorously and then drink it soon after stirring.

Preparation of Soymilk at Home for Drinking -alternate recipe- uses blanching with baking soda, which reduces the B vitamin content, makes 6 cups

1 cup whole soaked soybeans, that were cleaned and soaked overnight
14 cups of boiling water, 1 quart at a time
2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 teaspoon at a time
1-2 oz sugar, rice syrup or maple syrup(60 g) (sugar added varies according to taste*)
3/4-1 teaspoon salt

1. Use clean good quality soybeans that are free from dirt. Remove cracked, damaged and discolored soybeans.
2. Bring 4 cups water to a vigorous boil and add 1 tsp. baking soda.
3. Drop 1 cup soaked soybeans directly into the rapidly boiling water and blanch for 5 minutes.
4. Drain and rinse with hot water (if available).
5. Drop the rinsed soybeans directly into a fresh 4 cups vigorously boiling water containing 1 tsp. baking soda and blanch for 5 minutes.
6. Drain and rinse with hot water (if available).
7. Grind the blanched soybeans with 4-6 cups very hot water (near boiling) for 3 minutes using a blender set at high speed. The lid MUST be held on or the cover will blow off, spewing hot soymilk everywhere.
8. You will probably need two batches. Filter the raw soymilk by pouring it through several layers of cheese cloth. After the soy slurry in the cheese cloth has cooled to a safe temperature to avoid burning your hands, rinse raw okara with 1/2 cup boiled water and hand squeeze the cheese cloth to extract as much of the remaining soymilk as possible. Set aside the raw okara or freeze for other recipes.
9. In a pot at least twice the volume of your soymilk, add salt and sweetener. Simmer (cook near boil) for 20 minutes. Bring soy milk to a boil over high heat, stirring the bottom of the pot frequently, this can take 15 minutes. Then turn heat down and simmer for about 7 minutes. Stir occasionally.
9a. Or, for scorch prevention you can heat soy milk uncovered for 30 minutes in a double boiler, stirring occassionally to prevent a film on top from forming. Add water to replace any water lost during boiling. Note, You can also remove the skin carefully in sheets and dry it draped over chopsticks all over you kitchen. This is Yuba, which is used in Chinese cooking to make wonderful mock meats, wraps and casings.
Serve soy milk hot or cold. Cover and refrigerate remainder, for up to 10 days, or consume by the end of the day if you do not have refrigeration.

* Flavors may be added according to preference.

Soy Yogurt new July 2001

This is a great use for homemade soymilk, easier than dairy yogurt, I have posted Soy Yogurt Making with recipe suggestions.

Many soy cultures (natto, miso, tempeh, etc.) are available from: G.E.M. Cultures
30301 Sherwood Road
Fort Bragg, CA 95437 USA
(707) 964-2922


Okara, the leftover soy fiber, has about half the protein of tofu, plenty of fiber and a good bit of water. It can be mixed into baked goods, veggie patties and bean loaves in modest amounts, repalcing some of the wet ingredients. Raw okara is easiest to use and most digestible after it has been steamed (45-60 minutes) or after it has been dried out some in the oven. IT MUST be cooked before eating. Raw okara will disturb the rising of yeasted breads, cooked does not. Some of my sample okara recipes are posted.

Simple traditional soymilk boiled on the okara
If you are NOT going to use the boiling water blender methods, this simple method produces a fairly strong flavored soy milk.
Soak the soybeans overnight.
You will need 1 cup soaked soybeans for each 3 cups drinkable water.
Let the soaked beans stand in boiling water until you drain them and put them into the blender.
Put one cup of soybeans and 2 1/2 cups of water in the blender, blend thoroughly. The finer the pulp, the higher the yield. Put in the pot. Repeat until you use all your beans. Use a big pot, the pot should be less than half full.
When the pot begins to boil it will FOAM FAST. Turn the heat off or add 1/2-1 cup cold water and stir. When the bubbles are stirred out, turn the heat back on. Repeat until it no longer bubbles up (traditional Japanese directions say, 3 times) this usually takes me 20 plus minutes from when it first boils. If you do not wait until it no longer bubbles up it will taste very bad and bitter.
Then boil another 10 minutes. It will not bubble up anymore.
Strain through cheesecloth into a clean container, press the cooked okara, the pour the remaining boiling water through it, stir, and press once more. You can use the cooked okara without precooking it.
Flavor soy milk to taste and refrigerate.

Pressure cooker soy milk Note from a reader: "I have used the following soy-milk recipe. It requires a pressure cooker, and unfortunately, my experience has been that occasionally, the bean pulp with clog the cooker, and blow the top. It is an unbelievably quick and easy way to make soy milk nonetheless.
Chop soaked beans in a blender. Use about 4X as much water.
Load the pressure cooker Ellen says: rinse cooker and lid with cold water before adding puree, oil the top two inches of the inside pan rim and NEVER fill cooker more than 1/3 full when making bean dishes. Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable/ soy oil on top of the slurry to further reduce the likelihood of clogging.
Pressure cook for just about 15 minutes. Ellen says: DO NOT leave the kitchen! Once the jiggler begins moving, watch it continuously. If it stops jiggling- this is the sign the vent has clogged- turn off the heat immdiately, cool immediately with icewater or cold running wayter in the sink, and open the pot to continue cooking by regular stove top method. Never reseal a pressure cooked recipe that has blocked once.
When cool, strain through cheese cloth, or some other clean cloth or filter paper.
Add your salt and flavorings to taste. Refrigerate covered.

Here are additional soy internet resources:
Tofu making with the Soyajoy soy milk maker, they also carry tofu coagulant. They also explain how to store and use tofu whey as the coagulant for the next batch, which saves money and is a traditional Japanese method for making family style tofu.
Need inspiration for tofu cooking? A visually beautiful tofu recipe site
Pictures and hints for home cooking soy here. Scroll down.
Intsoy, the Granddaddy of all soy info sources. faqs, recipes, archives, equipment for home or business; you name it, they know about it.
Soy controversies: only fermented and precipitated soy products are traditional foods in the Orient. There are controversies about excessive use of soy, especially for children.
Home page with links to soy allergy faqs and links to other soy info.
A traditional tofu making method and a nice site from the Celtic Salt and Grain folks.Doesn't keep quite as long as Intsoy tofu. Commercial small scale tofu making with great pictures.