Adventures in Fauxfu: Finding a soy-free tofu option
Are you a soy-free vegan on a keto diet? Are you frustrated with the lack of protein options that aren’t seitan or mock meats? Have you been searching for a soy-free tofu and haven’t really found one that actually tastes decent? Well, you’ve come to the right place!
I’m gluten-free by necessity and soy has really started bothering my stomach again, so I decided to try and find a soy-free tofu option. I had purchased a hemp tofu at Whole Foods, but honestly… it left a LOT to be desired. Neither the taste nor the texture was what I was looking for. The macros were great, but you can only mumble, “it’s good for you, just eat it” through so many meals before you start looking for a better option.
I found this recipe for hemp tofu from 2012 and decided to mod it for other seeds and using a different coagulant, as I couldn’t find nigari in any of the stores near me, and I figured you guys might not be able to find it easily either. So, strap in and let’s go for a wild fauxfu ride!
Quick note – you will need a tofu press for this. If you have a Japanese grocery store near you, I’ve heard you can find them for $3-4 USD. I don’t, so I ordered this one off of Amazon for around $7 USD. There are fancier ones out there that don’t require you to weigh them down, but I wasn’t ready for that kind of commitment…
Substitution Disclaimer – the recipe/formula is below, but information on the specific ingredients and how to sub them is further down the post. I didn’t want to force you guys to scroll forever (FOR-EV-ER) to get to the actual recipe but also wanted to provide more information on how to customize this for your own needs/whatever ingredients you have available. It’s also just nice for the information. 🙂
DIY Soy-Free Tofu Recipe: Method 1 – With a Coagulant
Ingredients (see below for substitutions)
- 1 cup (120g) hulled, raw pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds
- 2 cups (240ml) filtered water
- 1 tsp nigari or 1 tsp magnesium salts or 1 tablespoon lemon juice, dissolved in 1/2 cup (120ml) filtered water
Step 1: Blend the 2 cups of water and the 1 cup of pumpkin seeds in a high-powered blender until totally smooth. This was about 1 full minute on 6-7 for my blender.
Step 2: Heat the pumpkin seed milk (seed milk just sounds weird, but we’re using it) in a small-to-medium saucepan on medium heat until it comes to a gentle boil. You may notice some curdling already at this point.
Step 3: Stir in the water with the coagulant and continue to boil for another minute until curds form. This will look kind of gross.
Step 4: Remove the mixture from the heat and let cool for a few minutes. While the mixture is cooling, line your tofu press with cheesecloth, making sure to leave a healthy amount of extra cloth on all sides.
Step 5: Place the tofu press into a bowl/your sink or over a rimmed baking tray so that any liquid that drains doesn’t just spill all over your counter and scoop the curd mixture into the cheesecloth that is inside the bowl (see image below for how this is set up).
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Step 6: Most recipes at this point recommend that you twist the extra cheesecloth up so that it forms a nice little package and start squeezing out all the extra water, but it’s super hot (we just boiled it!), so I usually let this sit and drain on its own for about 10 minutes. After it’s cooled a little more, then you can squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
Step 7: Place the squeezed-out curd ball (yum) into the tofu press and adjust the cheesecloth so that the curd fills the entire bottom of the press, and the cloth is still covering the top. Place the cover onto the press, and weight down using some cans or jars. Let this sit for about 30-45 minutes, to press out any remaining liquid.
Step 8: Remove the pressed tofu from the mold and place in a dish with tall sides. Either cover this with cold/iced water for 10 minutes or chill in the refrigerator for about a half hour to set up the curds before using!
For a nice series of animated GIFs explaining the procedure, check out this HuffPo article.
DIY Soy-Free Tofu Recipe: Method 2 – With a Binder
Ingredients (see below for substitutions)
- 1 cup (120g) pumpkin seeds
- 2 tbsp (20g) chia seeds OR 1-2 tsp of glucomannan powder
- 2 cups (240ml) filtered water
- OPTIONAL – 1 tsp nigari or 1 tsp magnesium salts or 1 tablespoon lemon juice, dissolved in 1/2 cup (120ml) filtered water
Follow the steps above for Method 1, but blend in the chia seeds or another binder in the first step with the pumpkin seeds and water. Everything beyond that is the same. If you decide to use a binder and no coagulant, simply skip Step 3.
DIY Soy-free Tofu Nutrition Info:
One recipe makes 4 servings of tofu. Per serving, the nutrition info is as follows (per the USDA food composition database listings for the ingredients)-
Method 1 – Just Pumpkin Seeds: 163 calories | 13.9g fat | 2.3g net carbs | 8.5g protein
Method 2 – Pumpkin & Chia Seeds: 187 calories | 15.4g fat | 2.7g net carbs | 9.3g protein
If you use different ingredients, your nutrition information will change accordingly.
Homemade Vegan Keto Soy-free Tofu Ingredient Substitutions
If you don’t want to use the ingredients I used above, there are definitely substitutions. Before I list those out, let’s just take a quick look at these ingredients:
- Pumpkin or Sunflower seeds
- chia seeds OR glucomannan powder OR xanthan/guar gum
- lemon juice or nigari or magnesium salts (basically, a tofu coagulant)
I just want to explain a bit of why each ingredient is used so that if you need to make substitutions or change things, you’ll be better equipped to do so!
Pumpkin or Sunflower Seeds
I chose these seeds for their texture, protein content, price and availability. They’re also allergen-free. You could use nuts/seeds/legumes with similar nutritional value as well. Peanuts work great and almonds and hazelnuts work pretty okay (the nuts are harder to blend usually, and have less protein). Although with all of those, you have the skin to contend with…
I have only used raw nuts/legumes/seeds for this. I don’t know how it would turn out with ones that had been roasted.
While it’s tempting to use store-bought nut or seed milks for this, most contain emulsifiers, binders and other ingredients that may interfere with the process, and might not turn out as you hope!
Chia Seeds/Glucomannan Powder/Xanthan or Guar Gum
You may have figured it out already, but these ingredients can all function as a binder. While traditional tofu does not include this, I found through about a solid week of experimentation (I made so much fauxfu) that the soy-free tofu holds together and cuts/cooks much better using one of these ingredients.
Chia seeds are my favorite, as they also bring some omega-3 fatty acids to the table. They do always leave some little specks though and will yield a bit of a strange texture.
Glucomannan powder is basically konjac starch and is the primary ingredient in shirataki “miracle” noodles. This coagulant gives a nicer finished appearance than chia seeds and helps to make the tofu a bit firmer and “bouncier” (the technical term, of course). Xanthan gum and guar gum can be used in place of the glucomannan powder, though as they can be digestive irritants, I tend not to recommend them.
The more glucomannan powder or gum you use, the firmer the tofu will be. You can also use both the chia seeds and the glucomannan powder for an extra firm tofu that also has some added omega-3s. 🙂
Nigari/Lemon Juice/Magnesium Salts/Other Coagulants
If you search for DIY tofu recipes online, you’ll find a lot of different options for a coagulant. A coagulant is basically the thing that makes the proteins in the seed liquid bind together to form curds to press into tofu. If you’re using a binder, a coagulant is less important (you can even skip that step if you want), but does still help curds to form. If you don’t use a binder, you definitely should use a coagulant!
Nigari is the most traditional option, but is all more difficult to find, unless you happen to have a Japanese grocery store near you. You can use epsom salts (magnesium salts/magnesium sulfate) in place of nigari and it works pretty much the same. You can easily find magesium salts/epsom salts in drugstores (or Wal-mart, or Target).
Lemon juice is another option. I like using lemon juice, as it’s widely available and more likely to be in your pantry already. It does add a bit of a tang to the fauxfu, but nothing super noticeable.
Notes on Using Homemade Soy-Free Tofu
- This DIY soy-free tofu isn’t quite as durable as traditional tofu and tends to be a little more crumbly, though this is improved with the addition of a binder.
- The binder you use will alter the taste a bit, so keep that in mind.
- You could make FLAVORED tofu (mind blown) by adding seasonings or spices to the blender in step 1. My favorite is about 3-4 tbsp of hot sauce.
- This recipe is easily doubled, but you will also need to increase the pressing time to around 60 minutes to account for the extra liquid.d
I hope this was helpful! If you end up making your own vegan soy-free tofu, I would LOVE to hear about it! I’d also love to hear about any tips or tricks you’ve found along the way. 🙂