Firm Tofu from Scratch

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Today natural-food stores have begun to sell nigari, the coagulating agent used in making fresh tofu. So it is now possible for many cooks to make their own tofu from scratch. The process of making tofu is very simple, but requires a bit of patience. Homemade tofu has a sweet soybean aroma and flavor that is not often found in commercial versions. Try making your own! Superior tofu is made with three important ingredients: superior-quality soybeans, which contain less fat than the beans raised to produce oil; clean spring water; and natural nigari, rather than a chemical coagulating agent. You can find these materials at natural-food stores.

About14 ounces firm tofu


Total Timea day or more

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Recipe Coursecold appetizer, main course, side dish

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, halal, healthy, kosher, lactose-free, peanut free, tree nut free, vegan, vegetarian

Equipmentfood processor

Five Ingredients or LessYes

Mealdinner, lunch

Taste and Texturecreamy, light, umami


  • 7 ounces (about 1 1/3 cups) dried soybeans
  • 2 teaspoons nigari (coagulant)


  1. Soak the soybeans in 4½ cups water (preferably spring water) for 8 hours in warm weather, or 20 hours in winter.

  2. Dissolve the nigari in 6 tablespoons lukewarm spring water.

  3. In a food processor, grind the soybeans with their soaking water for 2 minutes or until the beans are ground fine. In a large pot, bring 5 cups spring water to a boil. Add the ground soybeans to the pot, and bring the mixture almost to a boil over medium heat, stirring continuously with a wooden spatula. Immediately before the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low. Cook the beans for 8 minutes, stirring.

  4. Strain the hot mixture through a strainer lined with finely woven cotton cloth. You may wish to wear clean rubber gloves for protection from the heat. Reserve the very nutritious pulp, called okara, for other preparations, but remember that you must use the pulp the same day, because it does not keep. Transfer the soy milk to the pot, and cook the soy milk over low heat, stirring continuously with the wooden spatula. When the temperature registers between 150 to 155 degrees F, remove the pot from the heat.

  5. Add half of the nigari mixture to the soy milk, stirring with the spatula in a whirlpool pattern. Add the remaining nigari mixture, and this time stir gently, making a figure eight. Soon you will notice that the soy milk is beginning to coagulate. Cover the pot, and let it stand for 15 minutes.

  6. Line a colander with a tightly woven cotton cloth, and set the colander over a bowl that can support it. With a soup ladle, gently transfer the coagulated soy milk to the cloth-lined colander. Fold the cloth over the top of the coagulated soy milk, and place a weight of about 1½ pounds on top. Let the tofu stand for 15 minutes. This process removes excess water and makes the tofu firm.

  7. Place a large bowl in the sink, and fill it with cold water. Remove the weight from the tofu, unfold the cotton cloth, and gently transfer the tofu to the cold water. Gently run cold water from the tap into the bowl for 15 minutes, without letting the water hit the tofu directly.

  8. Serve the tofu immediately as hiya-yakko, or store it in fresh cold water in the refrigerator.


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