Zero-waste Tofu

Zero-waste Tofu
Zero-waste Tofu

If we had a dollar for each time a person mentioned how expensive and inaccessible plant based products are, we’d end up with an enormous amount of savings to actually fund those allegations. 

And while most people are busy waiting for markets to catch up to the demand for plant-based food, we decided to challenge that skepticism by buying some soybeans in bulk and trying our hands at making homemade Tofu from scratch. It’s definitely a time taking process, but completely doable. Maybe save 2 hours on a Sunday for this.

It did leave us awestruck and quite embarrassed at how easily low waste products can be sourced from inside our homes if we just take the time to achieve it. Learning this skill is the ultimate zero-waste plant-based alternative to Plastic packaged Paneer or Tofu. 

Take two hours out of a long free weekend to achieve this in a two-step process: Soybeans > Soy Milk > Tofu. 

And don’t forget to find large vessels and a clean muslin cloth, there’s a lot of boiling and sieving that’s about to happen. 


  • Soy beans (package free) 1 cup 
  • One medium sized Lemon 
  • Water 2-3 litres 
  • Wooden spoon 
  • Thin muslin cloth for sieving 


Soybean to soy milk

Soak your cup of Soy beans overnight. 

We started off with rubbing the soaked beans in water. Just hold and crush them in your hands. It is usually said we should remove the peels, they tend to float to the top. But you can consider this as an optional step & skip this to save time and directly get to blending the soaked soybeans into a paste.

While blending the soybeans, add some water for ease of blending and ensure there’s no bean chunks left. Then add some more and blend so its juice-like consistency.

Take it out in a large vessel. Pour some more water into the paste and stir it till it has that milk-like consistency as that makes it easier to sieve. It won’t be  easy to squeeze out soymilk if the Soybean paste is too thick. 

After this diluted soybean juice is ready, transfer it into a large vessel through a strainer vessel with holes & a layer of muslin cloth to get the soy pulp out (also called Okara). You can make use of vegetable strainers which we all have in our homes. 

To perform the above mentioned step, place the clean sterile muslin cloth on the strainer after having positioned it on top of the large vessel. Pour the liquid into the vessel through this cloth and assemble all the ends to give it a nice twist. Time to Squeeze really tight! Keep twisting this till all the liquid is strained out. Use something heavy to place on top and squeeze more if you need help. 

Our soy milk is now strained and ready for the next step!

Soy milk to Tofu

The pulp that remains from squeezing out soy milk can be used in cooking. It has high protein content and can be mixed with wheat flour to prep okara paranthas. Told you it’s a zero waste recipe! 

Coming back to our soy milk- after the filtration process, add 1.5 liters water to the milk to increase volume. Transfer into a large vessel and bring it to a boil until it rises. As soon as the milk rises, switch off the heat immediately (Just like how we do it with cow’s milk when boiled). 

You may encounter the usual milk-like froth while performing these steps. Remove the froth with a spoon whenever you encounter it. 

After you switch off the heat, we recommend waiting for 2-3 minutes to arrive at the perfect temperature for the next step.

Curdling the soymilk

While waiting in these 2-3 minutes, you can prepare a glass of citric coagulant which is basically a 1:1 lemon: water mixture. This coagulant is the agent to help curdle the soymilk into Tofu. (If you’ve made paneer before, you’ll know the next step)

After having waited for those 2-3 minutes for soymilk, pour half of this lemon-water ratio into the warm milk and stir it in a very slow circular motion with the help of a wooden spoon. Wooden spoon & slow motion being KEY here. DO NOT use a metal spoon or ladle. 

Stop the liquid from the whirlpool motion by holding the spoon still and once the liquid holds still, add the remaining coagulant. Move the wooden spoon in a random motion but WAY SLOWER than the previous time. Almost like you don’t want to disturb the curds too much, but just need to spread the acidic juice to every corner of the vessel. This will ensure that the lemon-water has spread evenly. 

The soy milk should immediately curdle but in case it doesn’t, add a little more lemon as it may need more acid. 

You can now take a break for 10-15 minutes after you cover the vessel with a lid and allow the soy curds to settle in. After having done that, we can go through the same sieving process again with a large vessel, strainer and muslin cloth. This time you’re sieving out liquid from curds to get the final TOFU!

To perform that, pour soy curds into the cloth slowly while being careful of spillage as the liquid will still be hot. 

Your curds would have now collected in the cloth which can be shaped by flattening the cloth into a rectangle or by pressing it into a ball. Shape the cloth while it’s still kept on the strainer plate. 

The next step requires placing a vessel on top to press out excessive liquid. You can add some books on top and leave it for sometime to help the vessel put enough pressure on the curds to form into a tofu mass. Put manual pressure for sometime, then add heavy weights. Get a break for another hour or so while your heavy books & gravity does the rest of the squeezing. 

Remove it from the cloth carefully and place it in the freezer immediately. Icy temperature helps in keeping it firm. Take your tofu out after a few hours and let it defrost. Your homemade Tofu is ready to be used in any recipe of your choice! 


  1. How long can you store it in the freezer? 

Use up your tofu in 3-4 days. Just like Paneer. You may be able to use it a week later too, but fresher is better. It will start yellowing from the sides when it’s not fresh or heading towards getting too old to eat. Cut out those corners and compost it in such a scenario.

2. How long do we have to keep it to press out excessive liquid?

In the first step while squeezing out milk: squeeze for as long as you can until the okara inside begins to look dehydrated or brittle. 

In the second step while pressing for Tofu: Squeeze out manually and then using weights. Leave it for an hour or so until the tofu mass inside looks fairly dry and dehydrated. 

3. Why do we have to remove the soybean peels after soaking overnight? 

If you plan on using the okara later in cooking, peeled soybeans will give a smoother texture of okara. But it’s not really necessary. The peel itself is harmless to consume as well. It’s just a texture thing for people who may be concerned about that. Personally we skip the step as it is very time consuming. 

4. Can I use this SoyMilk as an alternative to dairy recipes? 

NO. This homemade soymilk will taste very very bad! Directly make TOFU from this. Soymilk in store is sweetened or flavoured to remove bitterness. Even homemade soymilk needs to be boiled for a very long time to remove that horrible taste. If you want to use soymilk for any other recipe, try store bought soy milk. 

5. This looks very time consuming. How can I do this faster? 

Buy soymilk from the store and make Tofu directly from the readymade soymilk. This hack is not zero waste, unfortunately, as you will generate tetra packs as waste which is something you can avoid if you make from scratch from the beans. But it is a lesser evil as you can save your tetra packs for recycling. So rinse those tetra packs, flatten them and collect them over time. Click here to find out waste management tips. 

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