4 Reasons You Should Make Your Own Tofu

updated May 30, 2019
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(Image credit: Lisa Pepin)

What: Vietnamese tofu
Where: Mo village in southeastern Hanoi, Vietnam
Read the series → Part One and Part Two

Hoang Tra My has eaten tofu every day since she married into a tofu-making family 27 years ago, and she hasn’t gotten sick of it yet. Tofu is a versatile and delicious high-protein food that can be made from just three ingredients. Here are four reasons you should try to make your own tofu at home.

(Image credit: Lisa Pepin)

1. It’s much tastier than store-bought tofu.

If you’ve only ever eaten packaged, refrigerated, or even shelf-stable tofu from your local grocery store, you might expect it to be bland. That’s because preservatives, coagulants, and extra ingredients added for uniform texture can easily drive out the natural, earthy soy flavor, My says. Homemade tofu can be made with just soybeans, water, and table salt when you reuse soy whey as a coagulant. This three-ingredient Vietnamese-style tofu comes out fragrant and nutty-tasting. Even if you do use a natural coagulant, like lemon juice or vinegar, you know exactly what’s in your food.

2. The byproducts of tofu-making are delicious.

The first steps of making tofu include soaking soybeans, grinding them up, and separating the solids from the liquid. The solids left over, called okara, contain about a fifth of the protein from the soybeans, along with fiber from the soybean skins, potassium, calcium, and niacin. Okara can be added to cookies, breads, and even stews; used as a nitrogen-rich compost; or used as animal feed.

That liquid drained out of the okara? That’s soy milk, and homemade soy milk is especially satisfying, comforting, and rich served hot with some sugar mixed in as a morning pick-me-up or a bedtime snack. Soy milk is the base for making tofu, but it’s well worth it to set a little off to the side to drink or put in your morning coffee.

Even the whey that separates out of the tofu curds can be reused in your next batch of tofu. My lets some acidify for use in the next batch every time she makes tofu. If you’re not going to make tofu every day like she does, you can refrigerate soy whey for up to two weeks.

(Image credit: Lisa Pepin)

3. Tofu is a great way to fill out a meal.

Take a tip from Vietnamese cuisine and combine tofu with meat in whatever dish you like to add texture, interest, and volume cheaply. Tofu is nice hot or cold in grain salads, fried in cubes and tossed into a stir-fry, or crumbled and added to burritos. Its nutty flavor complements many other flavors and makes it a very versatile tool in the kitchen.

(Image credit: Lisa Pepin)

4. Making a big batch of something forces you to get creative.

Making tofu is cheap, and one pound of dried soybeans can yield up to 20 small blocks of tofu. By having lots of fresh, homemade Vietnamese tofu at my fingertips, I’ve made up my own recipes for fried tofu with lemongrass and garlic and even a vegetarian version of bun cha, a grilled pork, rice noodle, herb, and dipping sauce street food Hanoi is known for around Vietnam. You can bake it to add to salads, pan-fry it, or go full Viet and make a banh mi. Try something new!

If you can’t make your own tofu, the next cheapest option would be buying it at your local Asian market. I’ve seen blocks of tofu sell for just over $1 at Asian markets in the US that would be closer to $3 or $4 at mainstream grocery chains.

Have you ever made tofu at home?