Soy Milk, Tofu, and Veggie Burgers for pennies, anyone?

by Nora Dunn on 11 August 2008 27 comments
Photo: Nora Dunn

Those who are vegetarians, lactose intolerant, or just plain omnivores who like soy products know how much it can hurt the pocketbook. Staying stocked in soy milk, cooking with tofu, and grilling up veggie burgers can be downright financially painful, especially if you have a larger family to feed. But making your own soy products isn’t as difficult as you may think, and you can do it all for literally pennies on the dollar.

The last batch of soy beans I processed cost $1.50 and produced 24 meals. Want to know how? Read on... 

 

Buy dried soy beans in bulk.

These days you can find them pretty much anywhere; bulk food stores, health food stores, and even pre-packaged in many grocery stores. You’ll need a fair amount, and will probably want to prepare this recipe in larger quantities, so don’t be afraid to stock up.

 

Soak your beans overnight.

Exact amounts aren’t relevant for these recipes. However for your first batch, try soaking three cups of soy beans in water. Be prepared for them to swell in size dramatically…a large container with lots of water is in order.

 

Grind up those beans.

Put the beans and water in a blender and go to town. You’ll probably find that you have to do this and the next few steps in batches, depending on the amount of beans you soaked.

You want your blender mix to be pretty watery, so don’t be afraid to add more water to the bean mixture. Once blended, it should be the consistency of a thin milkshake.

 

Squeeze those beans.

Line a large pot with a pillowcase (or cheese cloth if you have an abundance of cheese cloths lying around) and pour your blender mix into the pillowcase. Then, squeeze the pillowcase for all it’s worth! This is best accomplished with two people: one holding the pillowcase over the pot, and the other squeezing the soy – you’ll definitely need two hands and some elbow grease for this one.

You’ll notice a white milky substance coming from the ground up mixture (soy mash)…this is the first step to making soy milk. If you think that after squeezing you could get some more milk from your soy mash, then add more water to the soy mash in the pillowcase and keep squeezing. You’ll know you got everything out of the mash when the liquid coming from the squeezing starts to pale in colour.

 

Repeat this step until all your beans are ground and squeezed.

I did this the other day, and three cups of beans yielded three blenders full, and hence three squeezing sessions. It’s messy work, but fun too! (Another reason why it is best done with a friend. Kids will dig this too).

 

This is the basic work for all three recipes: soy milk, veggie burgers, and tofu. And now for the individual recipes:

 

VEGGIE BURGERS

The leftover soy mash is your base for veggie burgers. Season it to your heart’s content, add an egg and/or bread crumbs if you like, form patties, and grill them up. The consistency won’t exactly be like beef, but then again what veggie burger is?!

If you want to have some fun, add some finely grated carrots or other veggies to your patties for extra colour and flavour.

 

Or if you have lots of soy mash and a large family to feed, try making a veggie loaf! Add some canned diced tomatoes, bread crumbs, an egg or two, worstershire, seasonings, and bake it up! I  actually prefer this to the veggie burger option; the consistency of the soy mash is more conducive to baking a loaf in my mind.

 

SOY MILK

Now for the milk you laboriously squeezed into your large pot. Put that sucker on the stove, and boil it gently, stirring frequently for 10-15 minutes. This is not an exact science. You will notice the frothy bubbles on top will dissipate, which is a sign that the milk is coming along nicely. Remove from heat.

 

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW

lass="MsoPlainText">And whamo – you have soy milk! Feel free to add flavouring (eg: vanilla and sugar if you like the flavoured stuff), or leave it au natural for your enjoyment. Be sure to store it in the fridge once cooled.

 

TOFU

Whatever milk you don’t wish to keep as soy milk will become your tofu. The entire batch (3 cups of dry soy beans) will yield about 500grams (18 ounces) of firm tofu, so it’s up to you how to divide your soy-squeezing efforts between soy milk and tofu.

 

Add flavour (optional).

If you like flavoured tofu, now is the time to add it. Simply mix your flavour in with the hot soy milk. I tend to skip this step (and add flavour when I’m cooking up the tofu instead), so I can’t be of much help here. But feel free to get creative; curry power, teriyaki sauce, or some fresh herbs would all make interesting additions.

 

Add something sour to the hot milk.

The choice it up to you: for the best results, use either Epsom salts or white vinegar. You can also use tamarind juice (which I like to use), or other types of vinegar, but be aware that the tofu will take on the flavour of what you use, so choose carefully. White vinegar is the most conventional and  least expensive option.

 

Stir, then let sit.

The amount of sour to add to your milk is also not an exact science. Stir it for a minute, then let the mixture sit for a few minutes. As it sits, you will see the milk will separate and curdle. Once you see that the milk is fully curdled and the remaining liquid is clear, you have added enough.  If not, then add some more vinegar, stir, and let sit again.

 

Drain and press.

Pour the curdled milk mixture back through your pillowcase, retaining the curdles and discarding the liquid. Squeeze the pillowcase gently to get the remaining liquid out (watch out: it’s hot!). Then set the pillowcase with your tofu-to-be on a flat surface where liquid can continue to seep out without ruining anything (a cutting board in the sink works well), and put something heavy on top to press the tofu into its firm and final form.

 

Allow to sit.

Let your tofu sit under the weight for 20 minutes or so. You will know it is done when you open up the pillowcase and discover a block of firm tofu inside!

 

Enjoy!

Your tofu will keep best if stored in a tight container in the fridge. Cut it into pieces and add to stir frys, salads, or fry it up on its own with some seasonings. The consistency is firm, and it will absorb flavour nicely when you cook with it. You may even catch yourself eating it on its own…it is that good!

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Guest's picture
VV

I could say that soya milk is really good and healthy. Nice tips.

Guest's picture

I used to love soya, but after reading about the health concerns of unfermented soya I stopped using it, and switched to nut milk.

Guest's picture
VV

Hi I really like soya milk and thanks for the tips.

Fred Lee's picture

Thanks for the informative article. We're trying eat less meat, and soy seems to be the food of choice. We also like the idea of making more of our own food, so we'll definitely check this out. How cool would it be to make homemade tofu? You'd be the envy of your next vegan cookout.

Guest's picture
Russ

If you're worried about the possible health issues caused by consuming too much soy (and there's so much conflicting info out there, it's hard to tell whether you should be or not), you can make your burgers out of black beans, your milk out of almonds or rice, and your tofu out of... well, okay, you're stuck with soy for the tofu. :)

Thanks for the article.

Guest's picture
Guest

Our family used to eat soy products and drank a lot of soy milk. Then I started reading reports that it isn't the 'health food' it's made out to be. The more I read, the more alarmed I became. We stopped completely. It's especially damaging to males because of the estrogenic effects.

Guest's picture
Guest

I've heard some harmful things about soy as well. There's a history of breast cancer in my family, so I was told to avoid soy or limit my soy intake because of the effects on estrogen. Does anyone know more about this?

That being said, our local grocery store's in-house brand sells tofu for a really great price. It's a lot cheaper than meat. However, I have never seen soy beans in bulk for the low price mentioned in this article. Perhaps they aren't so cheap outside the US?

Guest's picture
Nancy

I finally found a place to get my soybean in bulk for cheap. Found it by doing a search on the internet.
bulkfoods.com
I now buy my vital wheat gluten in large bulk bags also.
I try to buy 75.00 worth of stuff to get free freight.
I like making my own wheat bread so I get my flour there.
Beans, Nuts also.

Guest's picture
Angela

The health concerns aren't all that conflicting. Soy isn't as healthy for us as once touted, especially for males. I'd hate to be feeding my boys "no grandchildren" burgers. We buy rice or nut milks, sometimes cheaper than regular milk.

Guest's picture
Guest

Just wanted to point out that many vegetarians do not eat eggs and no vegetarians use Worcestershire sauce because it contains ground anchovy (fish meal).

Good tips, though. Vegetarians can easily leave these ingredients out or substitute egg replacers or other seasonings.

Guest's picture
Dwight

Two generations of Seventh-day Adventists have grown up eating large quantities of highly processed soy-meat without any ill effects

Of course there are plenty of other reasons why the SDA lifestyle is healthy, but we can say that SDA's are not being killed off by all that soy.

Guest's picture
Guest

Thank you Dwight! Those of us who have personal interests in the SAD and not the SDA will try to promote the Standard American Diet by spreading misinformation to those who are uninformed. So what would be the cause of that nasty epidemic of optimal health and longevity that SDAs and billions of Far East Asians have been experiencing for hundreds of years of eating soy products be? Common sense or perhaps logic? One note: Monsanto, a huge chemical multinational that produces GMOs, dominates the market on soybeans - so please purchase organic soybeans when possible.

Guest's picture
Johnny

There is a lot of conflicting information about consuming soy products. All the propaganda about soy being dangerous is mostly hype, just like soy being a wonder food is probably overhyped. Like any other food, it's good for you when consumed in moderation and part of a balanced diet consisting mostly of minimally processed foods. As a vegetarian, I find people constantly telling me that enjoying some tofu stir fry is going to make me grow "moobs" annoying. The fact of the matter is that soy has very limited estrogenic effects. You'd have to eat an unnaturally huge quantity to really see significant estrogenic effects. Having excess body fat will have a bigger estrogenic effect than consuming soy. Also, milk (at least in the US) tends to be produced by pumping up cows with estrogen, making dairy a bigger source of dietary estrogens than soy. Even eating beef during pregnancy has also been shown to adversely affect male fetus genital development. I'd be more worried about overall diet rather than being worried about just soy.

You can read more about soy information (and misinformation) at:
vegfamily.com
and
T-nation.com

Guest's picture
Guest

Johnny, thanks for that post! The misinformation that gets put out there about diet is out of control. And the truth about the hormones placed in cows and dairy are grossly under reported and ignored. It is more likely that the large amounts of meat and milk produced with questionable chemicals and hormones and feeding (and sometimes processes that have been declared completely illegal in other countries) are contributing to the sexual fertility and cancer issues we are seeing in our population. Soy is likely not anywhere near being a culprit. (Along with environmental toxins)

Guest's picture

I love this article and will undoubtedly make use of it.

Hate that febreze ad that follows me down and slows my computer.

Andrea Karim's picture

That Febreze ad is crazy, isn't it? I can't tell when it's going to show up. Cute dog, but yeesh.

I think the 'dangers' of soy are seriously overwrought. People all over Asia eat tofu frequently. The key, of course, is not to overdo stuff. Don't eat tofu at every meal if you are concerned about the estrogen issue.

Guest's picture
Carrie

that i'm kinda glad my daughter has trouble eating soy, lest i be tempted to try this. i dunno, seems like a pound of tofu costs about a buck or so on sale, or am i remembering wrong?

but, yeah, there's the other 22 meals you mentioned. definitely sounds frugal.

Guest's picture
plonkee

I had no idea that tofu was like cheese. Amazing :) .

Myscha Theriault's picture

I don't know that I'll have the tenacity to do my own tofu, but might very well try the soy milk and loaf options. At any rate, this is a super resource for those on a budget. Thanks for sharing!!

Guest's picture
wildgift

OMFG. This was awesome. I've read about it before, but, your post just sums it up so well.

Guest's picture
Jul

I've considered making my own soy milk and tofu before, but most recipes seem to call for special equipment or ingredients. Thanks for making it simple!

Guest's picture
Anna

I have been making my own soy milk for over a year now. After trying it a couple times with the blender and the cheesecloth and the pot on the stove, I opted to buy a soy milk machine. I bought it for $90, used, on eBay, but each liter and a half costs me only about 25¢ to make.
The soymilk that I used to buy, Edensoy, I believe was the only soymilk I could find that didn't contain filler, sugar or flavorings. It was also usually the most expensive- usually around $2 a liter. We go through about a liter a week, so we do end up saving money. Yes, it would be more of a savings if I made it without the machine, but the time and cleanup required were just not for me.

Incidentally, I bought a large bag of soybeans at our International Market and this spring, I planted some. It was the best edamame I have ever had, because it was fresh as opposed to frozen.

Guest's picture
MarciaT

A SoyMilk machine (almost any brand, read the reviews) will save you a LOT of time and energy. After soaking the 1/2 cup of dry beans overnight, I just put it into the SoyMilk maker and 15 minutes later, have hot steaming soymilk.

I make a batch every 2-3 days, and every other time, pour the batch of soymilk into a yogurt machine with a little starter, and the next AM have a quart of plain, fresh yogurt. No preservatives, no sugar, no dairy, etc.

The best investment I have made in my health, other than a VitaMix, and truly frugal, too!

Guest's picture
Suz

Great recipies, I've always thought it'd be good to make my own soy products but I've never attempted it. I just might now!

-Suz

Guest's picture
richsplace

My only thought on this subject is........
Why so much?

Guest's picture
123go!

Made the veggie burger and tastes amazing, didn't use egg or bread crumbs just extra veggie oil and worked great! Great sit thanks alot

Guest's picture
Guest

No your not stuck with soy beans for tofu. Hemp can be made into a milk and a tofu, its great for those allergic to soy.