Asia Kitchen: Making soymilk, tofu at home

Photos by Sarah Hodge
Photos by Sarah Hodge

Asia Kitchen: Making soymilk, tofu at home

by Sarah Hodge
Stripes Okinawa

In these strange times, many of us are going back to our kitchens to rediscover long-lost domestic arts like bread baking (if you are lucky enough to find yeast and flour!), experimenting with fermentation, and making our own everyday staples – in my case, I’ve gone back to baking my own yeast bread, making tofu and fermenting my own yogurt and pickles at home.

One of the items that is in weekly rotation in my house is fresh Japanese tofu, but if you don’t have access to Japanese grocery stores, you can make your own fresh soymilk and tofu at home with only two or three ingredients and some basic equipment. In fact, once you’ve tasted homemade tofu and soymilk, you may never go back!

My friends from Raw Rutes ( were kind enough to send a review unit of their Sumo tofu press, which also doubles as a tofu maker. Raw Rutes manufactures a range of tools for harvesting, dehydrating and fermenting foods, including its line of Ninja tofu presses, which are both functional and attractive.

Made in the USA from polished stainless steel, the eye-catching press (weighing in at a hefty 6 pounds) removes up to 35% of the tofu's total weight in water in as little as 15 minutes! The press also doubles as a mold for homemade tofu when lined with cheesecloth.

Homemade tofu requires only three ingredients: dried soybeans, water, and nigari, a seawater extract that causes the soymilk to form curds. Nigari can be purchased in dried form or liquid form and is usually sold concentrated, so you’ll need to mix it with water first before adding to your soymilk. If you don’t have access to nigari, don’t worry – lemon juice will also work!

Here is Raw Rutes’ recipe for homemade organic tofu:

  • 1 ½ cups raw organic soybeans (a 300-gram bag is just the right size)
  • 4 ½ cups filtered water
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons nigari or lemon juice



1. Soak soybeans in 4 ½ cups filtered water overnight.

2. Add soybeans and soaking water to a blender or food processor and blend until you have a foamy “milkshake” (I used the puree setting on my Vitamix).

3. Boil 5 cups of filtered water in a large pot and add the contents of the blender.

4. Bring to a boil and simmer on medium-low for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Line a strainer with cheesecloth and strain this mixture through into a bowl. Push or squeeze out as much liquid out as you can. The resulting liquid is fresh, unsweetened soymilk. The solids are called “okara” in Japanese and can be stir-fried or mixed into baked goods to add moisture and fiber. Okara is low in fat and high in calcium, protein and dietary fiber, and is most commonly used in unohana, a popular and traditional savory side dish made by combining okara and chopped vegetables like carrots, burdock, negi (leek or green onion), shiitake mushrooms, shoyu (soy sauce), and mirin (Japanese rice wine).

Stop at this step if you only want fresh soymilk.

6. Now mix 1-2 tsp of calcium sulfate (gypsum), 1-2 tsp nigari flakes (magnesium chloride), or 1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice in one cup of filtered water and stir to dissolve. 

7. Rinse the cooking pot, pour the soymilk in, and bring the temperature up to right around 150 degrees. Don't boil it!

8. Turn off the heat, and add half of the coagulant mixture you made to the pot. Stir it around eight times in a figure eight motion. Stop stirring and let it settle. Then add the rest of the coagulant, and start gently stirring again eight times. Cover the pot and let it sit for half an hour.

9. After 30 minutes, the whey and curds should have separated. Now the fun part! Line your Tofu Ninja or Sumo Press with two layers of cheesecloth and spoon the curds in!

10. There's going to be a lot of liquid (the 'whey') draining out. (It's best to load your press up in a container with sides or in the sink for easier cleanup). Once the press is loaded up and the drainage slows to a trickle, press it for right around half an hour.

11. Then flip the press over, pop the tofu out and throw it in the fridge for a few hours to firm it up even more. Use it fresh or store it submerged in water in the fridge for up to 5 days.

12. Enjoy!


Featured recipe: Black Pepper Tofu by Mob Kitchen / Ben Lebus from “Mob Kitchen Veggie” cookbook (available from Amazon Japan at

This tongue-tingling black pepper tofu is the perfect vehicle for your homemade tofu!

Cooking Time (includes preparation time): 50 Minutes

Feeds: 4 People


  • 2 x 280g firm tofu (I used one block of homemade tofu)
  • 2 Tablespoons Black Peppercorns (crushed)
  • 2 Tablespoons White Sugar
  • Large Knob Chopped Ginger
  • 2 Garlic Cloves
  • 4 Spring Onions
  • 1 White Onion
  • 5 Tablespoons of Butter
  • 1 Red Chilli
  • 400g of basmati rice or short-grained Japanese rice
  • Cornstarch
  • 5 Tablespoons of Dark Soy Sauce
  • 5 Tablespoons of Light Soy Sauce


  1. Chop tofu into cubes. Pat with paper towels to dry, then coat in cornstarch.
  2. Add some vegetable oil to a wok. Fry the tofu until browned and set aside.
  3. Get your rice on (I used my Zojirushi rice cooker).
  4. Clean wok. Place on heat and add a splash of oil. Add 4 tablespoons of butter followed by the onion, garlic and ginger. Fry until soft.
  5. Add your peppercorns and sugar. Mix together. Once the sugar has dissolved, add your soy sauce. Stir again.
  6. Add 1 chopped red chilli and 3 chopped spring onions. Stir and then re-add your tofu. Mix it in, add 1 more tablespoon of butter, allowing it to melt. Remove from the heat.
  7. Serve the tofu on top of a mound of steaming rice, garnish with chopped spring onion and enjoy!


Author Bio:

A contributing writer to the Japan Times Food page, Sarah Hodge has been a cookbook reviewer and recipe tester for over a decade. Sarah’s blog BundtLust ( features hundreds of reviews for a wide range of international cookbooks.

In addition to taking cooking classes around the world, she is admin of the cooking groups “Let’s Explore Japanese Cooking in Yokosuka” and “Yokosuka Vegetarians and Vegans,” active in a number of other cooking groups on Facebook, and specializes in Japanese vegetarian temple cuisine, shojin ryori, on which she has published a number of articles for BentoYa Cooking and Thanks for the Meal.

You can follow her food and travel adventures on Instagram at @japantravelbug.

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