DIY Hemp Tofu

| January 31, 2012 | 15 Comments
  • 15 Comments

tofu block

As a vegan, it’s easy to eat A LOT of soy. Actually, these days, it’s easy to eat a lot of soy even if you’re an omnivore. It’s in so many things.

A popular source of protein for vegans and vegetarians is, of course, tofu. And while I love tofu and all varieties of it, I am trying to be very conscious of the amount of soy I take in. I know the topic of the health and environmental impacts of soy is controversial and people stand on opposite sides of the issue (and a lot depends on the form of soy in question). But I don’t like to overdo anything, and I say, “better safe than sorry.” Plus, I love a culinary challenge and welcome as many ways to take in my protein as possible.

I have become kind of obsessed with hemp seeds lately. They contain all essential amino acids and fatty acids, and are therefore a complete source of protein. In addition, hemp is not a common allergen, like soy or nuts. And, most importantly, they are delicious. They have a nutty, creamy taste. I put spoonfuls on my coconut yogurt in the morning. I make fresh hemp milk. So, I figured, why not make some hemp tofu? Hey, the Italians already do it commercially!

hemp seeds
hemp seeds

I got inspiration for this recipe from a few sources, mainly from a forum member on Post Punk Kitchen, named “vegimator” who makes tofu out of pumpkin and hemp seeds, and from a Finnish blog named Mammi who calls the finished product “hefu.” I took their advice, combined it with my knowledge of tofu-making, and started experimenting.

This recipe yields a more crumbly tofu than soy tofu. Soy tofu is usually made after straining liquid from the pulp (or okara). I tried this technique with hemp and not enough solids were left in the strained out liquid to coagulate. Using the milk as is, straight from the blender, did work (and a Vitamix helps create a very smooth milk). Hemp tofu is great seared, for a scramble, or a stir-fry, if you don’t mind having rustic, non-cube chunks. Or do what I did: simply drizzle with some sweet soy sauce (equal parts soy sauce and sugar, simmered until thickened) and sprinkle with nori strips. The sweet soy sauce and nori goes great with the creaminess and earthiness of the hemp!

Hemp Tofu (or “hemp-fu” or “hefu”)

Total Time: 1 hour
Yield: a few blocks, depending on size of tofu mold

Ingredients
2 cups shelled hemp seeds
4 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons powdered nigari (available at Rainbow Grocery), which will be dissolved in 1 additional cup of water (Note: I have seen recipes for hemp tofu where a coagulant is not even used, so feel free to skip this part. Although, you may get a more crumbly result.)

Instructions

  1. Blend hemp seeds with water for one minute at high speed (I used a Vitamix) to make hemp milk.
  2. Put hemp milk in a pot and, partially cover it and bring to a boil. You’ll start to seeing curds forming.
  3. hemp milk

  4. When it reaches a low boil, turn the heat down to medium-low and boil the milk for four minutes, stirring constantly to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
  5. <curdled milk

  6. Meanwhile, dissolve the nigari in a cup of warm water.
  7. nigari

  8. Remove the pot from the stove, wait until the temperature reaches 155F. Add half the nigari solution and stir briskly for a few seconds. Wait until the liquid stops moving. Then add the rest of the nigari solution and gently stir a few times. Let sit 15 minutes.
  9. thermometer

  10. Place a cheesecloth over a colander and strain the curds out.
  11. curds in cheesecloth

  12. Take an amount of curd that will fit in your press (this recipe makes a good bit of curd), place in another piece of cheesecloth and twist to get ALL of the liquid out. If it’s too hot to squeeze, you can try squeezing with tongs.
  13. curd ball

  14. Place the ball of curd, still in the cloth, into a tofu press/mold, and press the curd down. Stack a few bottles or cans on top as a weight. [I bought a cheap wooden press for four dollars at Daiso in Japantown, but I think I’m going to invest in a TofuXpress so that I don’t have to worry about stacking cans on the press.]
  15. curd in mold
    mold with weights

  16. Let the press stay for 30 minutes. Then unmold the hemp tofu and enjoy!
  17. tofu with sauce

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Category: asian food and drink, Bay Area Bites Food + Drink, cooking techniques and tips, DIY, foraging, urban homesteading, health and nutrition, recipes, vegetarian and vegan

About the Author ()

Vi Zahajszky, originally from Hungary, Boston, and New York, drove across the country to San Francisco a few years ago with her husband Chris and a rescue pup named The Bandit. By day she works at KQED and is involved in the station's new media efforts. By night, her passions lie in vegan food and fashion. Her own blog, plantmade, focuses on vegan and cruelty-free fashion. She is a fashion writer for eco-conscious website One Green Planet, and has contributed to SF vegan lifestyle blog Vegansaurus and San Diego food blog Pizzelles. Currently studying fashion design and pattern-making at Apparel Arts in San Francisco, she has plans to eventually develop a vegan clothing line. You can find her on facebook and on twitter @plantmade.
  • http://blog.muffinegg.com Rachel

    Cool! I’ve never made my own tofu before but making a non-soy-based version sounds like the perfect excuse to give it a try!

  • vegimator

    Woah! This looks great! I’m definitely going to give it a try with some nigari. How close does it come to soy tofu in terms of firmness/crumbliness?

  • http://plantmade.me/ Vi Zahajszky

    @vegimator: It is more crumbly than soy tofu (but not dry), and I think it’s because the fiber is left in. But, as I mentioned, my homemade hemp milk just didn’t have enough solids to coagulate. Was your version that you posted on PPK crumbly too? I am also wondering if perhaps the strength of the press matters. I can only get so much pressure on the block of tofu with cans. A TofuXpress may be the way to go, where I can get a lot more pressure, and so perhaps a firmer block? I’ve also heard that depending on where in the world the hemp was grown, it reacts differently to coagulants – not sure how accurate that it though. Once I try the new press, I will come back to these comments and update!

  • vegimator

    I use a TofuXpress and get better results from that then I did with the improvised press I had before. It is definitely still fairly crumbly though. But that is surprising that you were getting hardly any curds before. I have read that protein and fat content is pretty variable among the different hemp varieties which might also be a factor. I buy Nutiva through Amazon which I’ve found to be the best deal. And I have found pumpkin seed to work slightly better than hemp, but then you miss out on the omega 3s.

    I wonder if straining the milk through cheesecloth or something would eliminate some of the fiber. It might also strain out less dissolved bits of protein and fat too though. Hmm.

  • http://plantmade.me/ Vi Zahajszky

    @vegimator I did strain through a cheesecloth on the first try, after boiling (which, as you know, already starts to coagulate the mixture), following a soy tofu recipe but with hemp as the replacement. I am wondering if a more hemp-than-water ration would yield enough solids in the water and still result in coagulation even after straining through cheesecloth. Because my vitamix blends the hemp milk to a smooth milk, with no grit at all, I did the second attempt without straining the coagulated bits out, and instead used the coagulated solid milk as is. And that worked much better. I also used Nutiva – the best price for sure. I will definitely have to try your suggestion and do a pumpkin version! I’d love to try other non-soy beans as well. Perhaps peanuts too!

  • vegimator

    I meant to specify, I wonder if straining the milk *before* boiling would reduce fiber. But I’m not sure that would work because from my own experience, everything gets pretty dissolved easily after blending. Anyway, I’m going to try a batch in the next few days with the coagulant and see how it goes.

    Let me know if you have success with peanuts! I tried once using the defatted peanut flour from TJ’s but it did not work out well. Maybe with coagulant though.

  • sehnzen

    I followed your receipe without nigari and it worked great. Thank you for your excellent article. I used the hempfu to make mushroom+tofu burgers and it tasted delicious. One question is : do you drink the liquid remaining after straining ? I was surprised how the taste was reminding me cow milk. As the only ingredients are hemp and water I suppose their is nothing unhealthy. But what do you think and did? How did you eat the hempfu?

  • http://www.plantmade.me/ Vi Zahajszky

    I am so glad you liked it!! I am sure you could drink the liquid if there is no nigari in it and it’s just hemp and water. I don’t see why not. I didn’t because I just didn’t think to. I have a vitamix, so when I make homemade milks I just blend the seeds or nuts with the water and there is no need to strain – that also makes it much richer and creamier. I have had hemp milk and ice cream bought from a store and I really like it because it’s more neutral tasting and creamier than almond or soy milk. It doesn’t have that beany or nutty taste. So I agree that it can remind one of cow’s milk, since it’s just slightly sweet and creamy. I liked eating the hempfu simply with some sweet soy sauce, like in my recipe, or other sauces. But a veggie burger sounds like a great idea! I am definitely going to try that next. I may also try to add some chives, herbs, or garlic before pressing it too!

  • WSmart

    Wonder
    if that tofu press is made out of poly carbonate. They say it’s made
    with a theromoplastic, which according to wiki poly carbonate is a
    thermoplastic. You have to be careful what you buy today in our
    alcohol loving cultures of denial. From what I’ve read, poly
    carbonate should be called poly estrogen. Prolly that vitamix is
    made with it too. Some would say it doesn’t leach, but I wonder
    how popular it would be if it were poly testosterone? Enjoy
    ladies.

    Bet
    that hempfu would make great linked sausage. Italian seasoning on
    pizza? I once added hemp nut butter to some tomato soup and the
    proteins coagulated into little cheese like bits. Very tasty.

    Be real, be sober.
     

  • Martin A

    I wonder if it is possible to use hemp seeds with shells? I have found a great deal on those here in Sweden, where the shelled seeds costs twice as much.

    I also wonder if you can use gypsum instead of nigari?

    Lastly, I read in the comments that you were interested in peanut tofu. I found the following article when I was looking for soy free tofu:

    http://www.plantfoods.org/demos/nufu/index.html

    Looking forward to try your recipe!

  • Martin A

    Do you know if I can use whole hemp seeds (with shells) as well? shelled hemp seeds are very expensive…

  • Chelsea Sawyer

    Great recipe you have there. I also came across a blog that made cookies out of hemp protein. It looks tasty. I have also learned some other recipes from http://www.hempstore.com.au/

  • orionsune

    or you can can shell the seeds yourself by laying them out flat on a piece of metal or glass and using something flat and heavy to press down and roll around, cracking all the shells… then put all the crushed seeds into a bucket of water… the seed matter will sink while the shells will float, simply skim off the hard shells and use them for compost or filler for animal feed…

  • Brennan

    Yes, you can use whole hemp seeds. Soak in water overnight and blend with fresh water before making the tofu. You can also use gypsum instead of nigari, however consistencies in the tofu may differ.

  • Kathryn Bulver

    If you blend to make hemp milk, then strain, before bringing the hemp to a boil, it should probably work. Just an extra step. But remember that the hulls take up about half the bulk of the hemp seed, so buying them already hulled might not really be that much more expensive. Buy in bulk from Nutiva or Amazon.com to make the per pound price of the hulled seeds less.