Well, my husband and I have just returned from a week at the beach (where internet access was next to nonexistent) and I’m feeling rejuvenated enough to finally get around to writing up that tofu tutorial I promised yonks ago. OK, really I made a tofu dish for dinner tonight that I’d like to write up and figured I’d better tell you how to make tofu before I tell you how to use it. Not that you can’t use store-bought tofu for my recipe, which I suspect 99% of the world will do, but if you are enterprising enough to make your own tofu via my method, your reward will be tofu firm enough to stir-fry! Regular tofu, even extra-firm, often falls apart in the wok, and one of the great things about making your own is you can out-firm the so-called extra-firm. (I’ll stop abusing hyphens now.)

You’ll need two special items before making tofu: a coagulant and a tofu press. Making tofu is apparently similar to making cheese: basically you curdle soy milk, then press the curds to remove the extra liquid. Easy-to-obtain coagulants include epsom salts and lemon juice. I’m not sure of the amounts off-hand because I’ve never tried either, but I can look it up for anyone who is interested because I have a book on making tofu. (I can’t look it up right now because I am settled in a very comfortable chair, with a glass of wine and a cat.) Traditionally, either nigari (sea water minerals) or gypsum (calcium sulfate) is used. Nigari and gypsum can be ordered from several online sources, including soy milk maker manufacturers. I order mine from GEM Cultures. You have to go through the archaic process of printing an order form, writing a check (or sending a money order), and mailing both in to them (although they plan to set up online ordering and Paypal acceptance at some point), however, I have always received my orders within a week and I definitely recommend them.

I have used both nigari and calcium sulfate, and although the latter has the benefit of adding nutritional calcium to the tofu, I prefer nigari, which seems to make a firmer tofu. I will therefore give instructions for using nigari in this tutorial, however, if you have any questions about other coagulants, ask away.

As for the tofu press, they are somewhat frustratingly difficult to find in the U.S., but you have options. When I first starting make tofu, I took two identical loaf pans and drilled holes in the bottom of one of them. I then nested the other into the holey one and placed the weights into it. This was actually a nice sturdy press, but I was unhappy that I was unable to drill drainage holes into the sides, and it makes about two pounds of tofu, which is more than I really need most weeks. Most soy milk maker manufacturers sell plastic tofu presses and kits like this one. These are cheap and easy to find, but I refused to go that route both because I dislike plastic and because I use such heavy weights I was afraid a plastic press would break. I doubt any plastic press is a quality product, but you may decide to go that route. I have drooled over the beautiful stainless steel press in Maki’s tofu tutorial (required reading, by the way) but until I make it to Japan, it’s out of my reach. After hours of fruitless internet searching, I ended up buying what was probably the last wooden tofu press they will ever sell at Soko Hardware in San Francisco’s Japantown when I was last out there: the owner, who had carried it back from Japan in her personal luggage, told me it’s simply not cost-efficient to stock them because there’s no demand. I paid an outrageous price for that reason. Months later, though, I came across this wooden press, which looks really nice, although it’s probably about the size of my loaf pans and may make more tofu than I personally need at a time…unless I make a rather flat block. If there is any interest, I can devote a later post to tofu presses, because I am very interested in them, but in the interest of moving this post along, let me conclude by saying if you can’t find a press and don’t want to make one, you can use a colander or strainer if you don’t mind oddly-shaped tofu. Basically you need any contraption from which liquid can drain.

As I mentioned in my post on making soy milk, the first step in making tofu is to make soy milk. You can use commercial soy milk to make tofu, although I find the idea strange. If you decide to go the commercial route, buy unsweetened soy milk and warm it up to about 170 degrees Fahrenheit before adding the coagulant. If you make the soy milk yourself, the temperature should be just about perfect after straining. The recipe I provided for 2 quarts of soy milk makes about 12-16 ounces of tofu. For this amount, dissolve three teaspoons of nigari into two cups of lukewarm water, then pour this mixture into the soy milk. I pour it in a spiral motion from a measuring cup into the large bowl or pot that contains the soy milk, then stir once, slowly, with a wooden spoon. You don’t want to disturb the soy milk much after adding the coagulant, so I try to evenly disperse it as I pour it, instead of doing a lot of stirring. Cover the bowl or pot and let it sit for about 20 minutes. It should end up looking like this, large curds amongst a yellowish liquid, or whey:

While the soy milk is coagulating, prepare your press. I set mine in the sink so the liquid can drain that way, although since the whey has other uses, most instructions I’ve seen have recommended you set it in some sort of pan that will allow you to collect the whey. Line the press with a piece of clean fabric – I use muslin, just as I used for my okara bag in the soy milk post – that is large enough to fold over the top of the press. I find it easiest to wet the fabric before lining the press with it. When the soy milk is fully coagulated, ladle it into the lined press:

As you can see in this picture, I use a wok skimmer to do the ladling:

Here is the press with all of the curds in it:

Wrap the fabric up around the curds:

Put the lid on the press, or if you are using two loaf pans, place the non-holey one on top of the curds:

Add weights to the top (or in the second loaf pan):

Atop the can, I usually place a cast iron skillet and then my molcajete, both of which weigh a ton, although here I’ve just used a heavy iron pot (into which I stuffed a tea towel to prevent the can from scratching the surface of my good pot). For a firm tofu, just load it up with as much weight as you can.

Allow the tofu to sit under the weights for half an hour or longer, the remove the weights. You should have reduced the volume of the tofu by about half:

Unmold the tofu. Here is my press with the outer sides removed:

And here it is completely unmolded:

Then I trim the edges up:

It’s usually a little lopsided because I didn’t evenly distribute the weights, but I don’t get too worked up about that.

To store, immerse in water inside an aptly-sized container and keep in the refrigerator for up to a week, changing the water daily.

Honestly, I rarely remember to change the water every day and it’s fine. You’ll know if it’s spoiled if it smells off, but I generally make it on Saturday or Sunday and use it sometime before Friday. If I haven’t used it by then, I stick it in the freezer. Freezing it changes the texture (it becomes chewier), but this is actually called for in some recipes. It’s particularly lovely served the same day, however.

I realize the tofu-making process isn’t for everyone, and that the length of this post makes it seem like a very involved process, but it actually takes little longer than an hour to make tofu from start to finish (if you have soaked the soy beans) and once you’ve done it once or twice, it doesn’t seem nearly as intensive. I do suspect, however, that I have bored most of you with this post. I seem to have bored Brachtune:


  1. Sarah Said,

    May 26, 2008 @ 1:34 am

    So do you think the process and trouble of finding a press and what not is worth it? I bet it saves money though.

  2. renae Said,

    May 26, 2008 @ 2:06 am

    It definitely saves money, and I enjoy it and find it worth it. I would try to improvise a press and make it a couple of times to find out if it’s something you can really see yourself doing on a regular basis before going through the trouble of finding a real press. Other than using a colander (and ending up with a round blob instead of a nice block), I have even seen people recommend punching holes in one of the plastic tubs commercial tofu comes in, then fitting a second tub into it over the curds, although I’m not sure how much weight you could pile on top of that arrangement. The loaf pan contraption I made actually worked really well. You could scout out a couple of matching pans (that nest into each other) at a thrift store to make a press that way. I used a hammer and nail to punch holes into the pan; I just didn’t like the way this left little spiky edges around the holes that snagged the cloth. The tofu book I have has detailed instructions on making presses too; if you are interested I could do another post on some of those ideas.

  3. Sarah Said,

    May 26, 2008 @ 1:17 pm

    A colander is a good idea, though I agree a block makes sense not just for prettiness, but also for storage.
    I agree I am not sure how much weight one of those commercial tubs can hold. They are pretty flimsy.
    I might go out and find some loaf pans, because I really want to try it out. One less expense at the store.
    And of course, Id be delighted to have a post on those ideas. Im not bored! Though my dog has sprawled out bored that I stopped petting her. 😉

  4. meg Said,

    March 19, 2009 @ 4:16 pm

    In one of your other posts, I believe the tempeh one, you mentioned that you use had used chiffon in place of the muslin and that it worked well. Are you still doing that/is that still working out or did you switch back? And do you use it for everything now (tempeh/soy milk/tofu)? Thanks!

  5. renae Said,

    March 19, 2009 @ 5:23 pm

    Hi Meg,

    I do still use chiffon for straining soy milk, whether I’m just making soy milk or going all the way and making tofu. It flows through chiffon so fast and the chiffon is easy to clean. Sometimes I line the tofu press with muslin, though, because for some reason the tofu seems to just turn out better, though the difference is really negligible. One thing that is NOT easy with chiffon is finishing the edges…it’s fraying all over the place.

    You don’t need to strain anything through cloth for tempeh; I just drain the soybeans using a colander.

  6. Georgina Said,

    April 14, 2009 @ 3:36 pm

    I don’t find this boring at all! I have searched the United Kingdom looking for a decent tofu press and also New York when there on holiday with no luck. The two things I have found are the plastic ones that you mentioned ( I bought one of these on line and so far find it very unsatisfactory … maybe I am doing something wrong?) and I also purchased a wooden sushi rice press and drilled holes into it but that has also proved unsatisfactory.
    I now have a fabulous “soyquick” soy milk maker but not a decent “press” to be found. I too have dribbled over the lovely japanese stainless steel ones and would LOVE one!!
    Personally I could talk tofu for hours,so far I have made limp,not drained enough blocks and definitely need practice and advice!!

    P.S Brachtune is gorgeous!! One of my cats is crawling over my keyboard as I type …. I I I think they are interested in tofu too!!

  7. renae Said,

    April 14, 2009 @ 4:22 pm


    Unfortunately it looks like Echowood, which has a nice-looking wooden press, won’t ship outside the US, but there’s information on international orders on the Soyajoy website and they have a wooden press. I have never ordered from them, but as far as I know, it’s the only place to find a non-plastic press.

    You could also try the nested loaf pans idea, which did work pretty well for me until I got my wooden press. The only problem is I was afraid to drill holes in the sides of the pan because I thought the rough edges of the resulting holes would catch on the cloth when I lined it. However, you can probably file the hole down pretty smoothly. I’ve actually been thinking about trying this approach because I’m even hard on my wooden press, which I think is glued (not screwed) together.

    Whichever you try, good luck! And thanks – Brachtune is awfully pretty and she’s always getting in the way of my keyboard when I’m typing as well.

  8. Janet Said,

    June 20, 2009 @ 1:02 pm

    I ordered my Soymilk maker from Soyajoy with great success. When I first got the soymilk maker (about 2 years ago) I tried making tofu from some instructions I found online using epsom salts and a couple of plastic containers I drilled holes in. It was a disasater! Now that I’m serious (and I found this site!) I ordered the wooden press from Soyajoy. You can get the Nigari there as well. I do live in the states but they are very quick and I’ve had no complaints with them. We’ll see how the tofu comes out this time!

  9. maka Said,

    June 26, 2009 @ 4:15 pm

    I am excited!!!! My hubby is an excellant woodworker and he going to make me a press! I will let you know how it turns out. Oh, I will order nigari but I am impatient to mke tofu NOW! If I use epsom salt, how much do I use? Hope to hear from you soon! Love love love your site 😉

  10. renae Said,

    June 28, 2009 @ 11:12 pm

    Hi Janet, let me know how your tofu goes! I’ve never tried Epsom salts, but I do think you’ll have much better luck with nigari and a sturdier press.

    Maka, I’ve never used Epsom salts for making tofu – I’ve heard it isn’t that great, and from sources other than just Janet above – but I think you use an amount comparable to nigari. If you’re serious enough about making tofu that you’re having your husband build you a press as you indicated in another comment, I’d recommend you buy some nigari even if you have to order it online. From experience I can tell you it makes the best tofu.

  11. Maka Said,

    June 30, 2009 @ 8:03 am

    Thank you so much for answering my post! I will take your suggestion and find nigari or ordering it online. A Trader Joes is near. I am lucky the Rockville, MD area is a meca full of vegan/vegetarian stores! Thanks again and I will let you know how it turns out!

  12. Anno Said,

    October 16, 2009 @ 5:40 pm

    Hi firstly thanks for the instructions. I have a couple of questions:

    1. Is the above instruction using powder/flake nigari? If so do you know the equivalent measures and method if using the concentrated liquid nigari?

    2. When you state 2 quarts what’s that in cc/litre?

    Thank you

  13. hannah Said,

    December 11, 2009 @ 12:22 pm

    be my best friend, you lovely crafty girl.

  14. linda k Said,

    April 4, 2010 @ 1:23 pm

    Renae, thank you so much for your blog! My last batch of tofu came out perfectly. Anno wanted to know how much liquid nigari to use. I used 3 teaspoons for 12 ounces of soybeans. So, for a full recipe, I’d use 4 teaspoons. I just add it right into the warm soy milk. I like to use my old meat thermometer to make sure it’s at the right temperature.

  15. Audrey Said,

    July 1, 2011 @ 2:23 pm

    Although I have had the metal press on my list for a long time, I bought the wooden and plastic ones. I’ve seen some larger ones on youtube in plastic and wood that I think we could make at home for larger or very large batches too. That picture of your cat yawning is so funny!

  16. Terence Said,

    March 3, 2012 @ 1:05 am

    If you don’t mind spending a little extra, ALL CLAD make a beautiful flat bottom steamer insert with perfect amount of holes for tofu making. I place tofu in steamer fitted on top of matching pot. It has handles on side so you can buy just insert then set into something it fits over. Then I use lid that is flat for pot that is next size smaller. Place over tofu then add weights on top. 2 soup cans work well they stick up just enough to set heavy pan on. Tofu comes out round but excellent. You cut it up anyway!

  17. Solange Said,

    April 2, 2013 @ 6:06 pm

    I found this web site in a blog. It’s a beautiful tofu mold stainless steel.

  18. crew Said,

    June 3, 2015 @ 12:41 am

    Are there advantages of a wooden mold and a metal mold? I feel wood is more natural and traditional, but should I get a stainless steel one instead?

  19. renae Said,

    June 3, 2015 @ 2:46 am

    Hi Crew,

    I used a wooden mold for a while (the one shown in this post), but I found it wasn’t very sturdy and after a while started to fall apart. Granted, I use very heavy weights to press my tofu and the press I had was fairly delicate. A sturdier mold may have held up better. I ended up making my own metal press:, but you can find beautiful (though expensive!) stainless steel ones. Personally I’d recommend the stainless steel if you are going to make tofu often or if you like a very firm tofu and plan to use a lot of weight during pressing.

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