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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 (480ml) 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 (480ml) 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. 🙂
17 thoughts on “Adventures in Fauxfu: Finding a soy-free tofu option”
I have not made this yet but I really want to thank you!! This is new territory for me (vegan) & I would not know the first to start with this. I look forward to utilizing your site in the future more often!!
Hi Lucia, thank you so much for the kind words! I hope you find everything helpful! Please feel free to reach out with any questions you have. 🙂
Liz, You are insane- in a good way! I will have to try this as a “science” experiment with my 5 year old so then we can eat the experiment . I have been vegan almost 13 years and have been on and off vegan keto for 2.5 years. I discovered keto when I was pregnant with my daughter and I’m so sad I didn’t find you then. I have been wasting so many ingredients trying to come up with great tasting nutrient dense recipes that are vegan keto I actually came up with quite a few good recipes but not nearly as many as you! You are a machine! I bought your 4 week meal plan a couple months ago and preordered your vegan keto book which came the other day and I am loving it! Thank you so much for your time, energy, humor and organizational skills and that you put into this site and your new book
Hi Sarah, thank you so much for the incredibly kind words! I’m so happy that the recipes are helpful and that you’ve enjoyed the plan and the book so far! I’m also excited that you seem to be as into food experiments as I am! I hope you and your 5 year old enjoy both the experiment and the results!
And I’ve definitely had loads of wasted ingredients and failed recipes as well. It can be so tricky baking without any “real” baking ingredients, as you have discovered as well. I bet you’ve got some really tasty recipes. If you have a blog, I’d love to check it out and share it on my “resources” page. 🙂
Interesting experiment. Curious as to why you didn’t try chickpeas for your non-soy faux meat? that’s the most common non-soy tofu that I have encountered (it comes from Myanmar cuisine). (unless you don’t do chickpeas). Nigari I have found in Australia at the local food preservation/homebrew shop.
Hi, thanks for commenting! I do really like chickpea tofu, but it’s a little higher in carbs. So, my goal was to find a keto-friendly tofu.:)
Great tip on nigari being at home brew shops!
Thanks for the great info! This seems to be one of the only sources for DIY non-soy tofu on the internets. Almost all the others I came upon were for “Burmese Tofu” which isn’t tofu at all – not curdled, just cooked chickpea flour. I made my own soy tofu years ago and I think I used cider vinegar as the coagulant. Didn’t realize I could use epsom salts which I usually have, and I’m going to attempt making other bean tofu’s starting with mung. Nobody else says it can be done with non-soy beans, but this page is giving me the confidence to give it a shot with my limited kitchen time. …I also had the idea to add flavoring ingredients to the “fauxfu” – I had some awesome tofu from the supermarket in Austria that had like garden vegetables, maybe mostly red peppers, and it was delicious. I was like “why the F does nobody do that to tofu in the States?”
Hi Brian, thanks for the kind words! I stumbled across the same problem you did while looking for a soy-free tofu option, and so I just decided to document experiments here!
I’m really curious to hear how it goes with the mung beans! I tried using peanuts at one point and it turned out alright, so I’m curious to hear how other beans go. 😀
And whoa, why doesn’t anyone produce flavored tofu in the states?? I have a Thanksgiving-themed flavored tofu on this site that actually came about by accident (it’s got squash and typical Thanksgivingy spices), but, I never really thought to take that idea further. This comment is so inspiring!! 😀
Hi Liz, I’m just about to start a vegan keto period to see how I feel. I did veggie keto last summer and I felt absolutely amazing, but am not trying to faze dairy out. This alternative tofu is amazing and I can’t wait to try it! Have you ever tried to freeze this? Or and homemade tofu? Thanks, Louisa
Hi Louisa, I hope it goes well for you! Please feel free to reach out with any questions! I also have a hemp-tofu recipe here that has become my go-to: https://foreatssake.org/diy-hempfu-soy-free-tofu/
I really like this recipe! I’m gonna try it. I’m vegan and paleo (and sometimes do Keto cycles) so this is perfect!
By the way there is now a store bought option for pumpkin seed tofu (Pumfu) by Foodies Vegan. I buy it online at Vegan Essentials. It’s kind of pricey with shipping, but worth it for the convenience of having it on hand in the freezer to use for all sorts of dishes.
Whether homemade or store bought a soy free, bean free, low carb tofu alternative is life changing.
Whoa, I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled for the Pumfu!! It looks awesome! 😀
Hi Liz, I just made this and it turned out great! I’m going to use it for frittata cups, hopefully it’s not too crumbly! One question: do you strain your seed milk before cooking/coagulating? I did, but I’m also a seasoned non-dairy milk and tofu maker and assumed you did. I’m particularly curious about this in terms of the nutrition info you provide, as straining would alter it a bit. Thanks!!!
Hi Rachael, I hope your frittata cups turned out! I typically only strain the milk when using hemp seeds, as they seem to have more hard bits around them. Usually, my blender does a great job pulverizing (shelled) sunflower and pumpkin seeds. If you find yours is a bit grittier, you could definitely strain it, though!
Hi Liz, Thank you! I have made one batch without the chia and am making one with it today. Its so simple! I have a comment about the Epsom salts. To clarify its the bath salts right? If so I would NOT use the ones you get at a drugstore or Walmart. They come from China and have extra “unknown stuff” in them. I would recommend that you get some from a plant or farm supply store. They get a medical grade form of epsom salts that are way better for you. They would be more pure form of magnesium, and cheaper too! I use them on a regular basis and they are more potent at relaxing the muscles in the bath. You just can’t believe the difference! I’m off to make tofu! Thanks again.
Just made this last night and pressed it until this morning I coagulated with lemon juice and bound with chia seed. It is definitely still crumbly, and a bit grainy. I think I will attempt to tweek the method a bit for next time and add more water as the gentle boil was difficult to achieve with such a thick mixture. I haven’t tried cooking it yet but will soon. This will most likely be crumbled and used as a ricotta replacement in lasagna for now.
Omg! Where have you been all my vegan life
I don’t even know who I found this page, as I have just been clicking and clicking, but I have found you now. I can not wait to try this pumpkin tofu, as I am very old and well in to the menopause and a cancer survivor I am trying not to have too much soya in any shape or form. I make my own walnut milk, or hazelnut milk depending what I have in, I can adjust who much salt or maple syrup goes in it, which I love.
So now I have found this rich in protein alternative I am definitely going to have a go. Thanks so much for doing the hard work/experiments and for sharing really appreciate it. Thanks