Kitchen Hacks

Making Your Own Soy Milk is (Much) Easier Than You Think

January 19, 2016

Creamy, high-protein soy milk is a staple in Asia, where estimates peg 95% of the population as lactose-intolerant.

Since soy milk is calcium-rich and contains the equivalent amount of protein as cow’s milk, it’s regarded as the closest match to dairy. That said, soy milk tastes different from dairy milk. While cow’s milk is very sweet, thanks to lactose (milk sugar), soy milk is more savory in flavor, with very subtle bean-y notes.

Photo by Bobbi Lin

Although packaged soy milk is readily available, homemade versions are ultra-fresh, plus customizable. You can control the ingredients and texture and decide whether to leave the milk plain, flavored, or fortified.

  • For the most versatile soy milk, leave it plain.
  • To flavor it, add 1/8 teaspoon of salt per 8-ounce serving and to sweeten it, also add 4 teaspoons agave nectar, honey, or maple syrup.
  • To fortify, add calcium tablets or protein powder to the finished soy milk, then blend. You can also accent the milk with spices (such as ground cinnamon), cocoa powder, green tea powder, and more.
Photo by Bobbi Lin

Drink your soy milk solo, add it to cereal or porridge, or incorporate it into puddings and smoothies. The soybean solids left over after straining (called okara) can be stirred into pancake or quick bread batter or smoothies, or combined with other ingredients (such as canned pumpkin) and shaped into patties.

Okara a.k.a. soybean solids. Photo by Bobbi Lin

Here's how to do it:

To make your own soy milk, you need just two ingredients: dried soybeans plus water. Look for dried soybeans that are organic or non-G.M.O. (since the soybean crop is particularly prone to genetic modification). You’ll also need a nut milk bag (which resembles a cross between cheesecloth and a pastry bag), a high-speed blender, and a pitcher. If you're going to make soy milk all the time, consider springing for a soy milk machine, such as the Soyajoy G4. You can find all of these supplies at The New Milks website.

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[Editors' Note: We used doubled-up cheesecloth instead of a nut milk bag and, while we endured some splatters, the process worked beautifully regardless, though we were left with perhaps more soybean solids than had we used a bag.]

Dried soybeans (bottom left) and soybeans soaked for more than 12 hours. Photo by Bobbi Lin

First, soak, then drain and rinse, the beans: Soaking the soybeans helps water penetrate into the legumes, resulting in a creamier, more homogenous milk. Soaking also helps remove or neutralize the phytic acid in soybeans, making the nutrients in the beans easier for the body to digest.

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Top Comment:
“i reasoned that the only way they could get the added protein and only have soy beans and water as ingredients, would be to keep the okara blended into the final soy milk. so, using my ninja blender with 32 oz drinking cup/ blender attach, i added back the okara to the soy milk and re-blended for 20 secs. result tastes almost same as west soy. creamy and yummy! ninja bev cup easy to clean too...easy added 60 sec step to get creamy high protein/nutrient rich soy milk.”
— Charmed
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To soak, pour 1/2 cup dried soybeans into a medium bowl and cover with a few inches of water. Let sit for at least 8 hours, or overnight, at room temperature. (You will notice that the beans will almost triple in volume, to about 1 cup plus 6 tablespoons.)

Pour the beans into a colander positioned in the sink, then rinse and drain.

Compare the dried soybeans to the soaked ones—such plumpness! Photo by Bobbi Lin

At this point, you have 3 options for preparing the soy milkCook First, Cook Later, and Machine—all of which are described below.

For each method, I offer directions for how to strain it, but you have a choice: For ultra-thick, nutrient-dense milk with a porridge-like consistency, do not strain. For soy milk that is milk-like in consistency, strain.

Straining and squeezing. Photo by Bobbi Lin, Bobbi Lin

After straining, you should have between 2 and 4 cups of soy milk (you'll get the most with the Machine technique, since it requires the most water). The Cook Later and Machine techniques should leave you with about 1/2 cup okara, whereas you will glean almost no soy milk solids from the Cook First method.

Use a steamer—or a hacked "steamer"—to cook beans 'til tender. Photo by Bobbi Lin

Cook First

Although it takes the most time, this method (which is also the one pictured) is my favorite, since it yields the most velvety, complex, rounded soy milk. Although the aroma is bean-y, the soy milk itself is balanced and pleasantly nutty.

  1. Bring a few inches of water to a boil in a medium saucepot.
  2. Once the water is boiling, insert a steamer basket into the pot. [Editors' note: We hacked our own steamer, using a colander sitting in a few inches of water in a heavy Dutch oven with a lid.]
  3. Pour beans into the insert, cover, and steam over medium-low heat until slightly tender, about 1 hour (you might need to add more water to the pot during this process). You can also boil the beans, or cook them in a slow cooker or pressure cooker.
  4. Add beans to a high-speed blender, with about 3 cups water. Cover and blend until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Position a nut milk bag over a large bowl. Pour the bean mixture into the bag and close the bag. Wait for the mixture to cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes (to avoid burning your hands). Squeeze the nut milk bag repeatedly, wringing out the soy milk. [Editors' note: We waited for the beans to cool before blending them with the water. That worked, too!]
Before blending. Photo by Bobbi Lin

Cook Later

This is the fastest, most popular technique, in part since there is no lag time waiting for the mixture to cool before straining. That said, I find it yields a thinner and less flavorful, slightly more raw-tasting milk.

  1. First, add the soaked beans to a high-speed blender, along with about 3 cups of warm water.
  2. Purée until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Position a nut milk bag over a large bowl. Pour the bean mixture into the bag, and close the bag. Squeeze the nut milk bag repeatedly, wringing out the soy milk.
  4. Pour the soy milk into a deep, small to medium saucepot, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat (watch carefully, to avoid a boil-over). Once the milk comes to a boil, immediately reduce to medium-low heat. Simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
After blending! Photo by Bobbi Lin

Machine

This is the easiest technique, and yields a soy milk most similar to packaged varieties.

  1. Add soaked beans to a soy milk machine.
  2. Pour in about 6 cups of water (the machine’s specified range is about 6 to 8 cups).
  3. Hit the “soaked beans” button, and the appliance will turn on, cooking the beans and processing them into soy milk, 25 to 33 minutes (less if you use hot water).
  4. Position a nut milk bag over a large bowl. Pour the bean mixture into the bag, and close the bag. Wait for the mixture to cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes.
  5. Squeeze the nut milk bag repeatedly, wringing out the soy milk.
Photo by Bobbi Lin
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10 Comments

Charmed May 3, 2018
i am using a joyasoy g4 to make soy milk (machine method). great machine - automates blend and cook approach. i had been buying westsoy unsweetened prior which tastes great and creamy and has 12g protein per cup but 5-10x as expensive. the dyi method soy milk nutrient estimates are usually around 5-6 gram per cup. i reasoned that the only way they could get the added protein and only have soy beans and water as ingredients, would be to keep the okara blended into the final soy milk. so, using my ninja blender with 32 oz drinking cup/ blender attach, i added back the okara to the soy milk and re-blended for 20 secs. result tastes almost same as west soy. creamy and yummy! ninja bev cup easy to clean too...easy added 60 sec step to get creamy high protein/nutrient rich soy milk.
 
Kt4 March 8, 2017
I really tight on money. Would making my own soy milk save me money or be more expensive? I'd love to be able to afford getting rid of the additives.
 
Joseph T. July 13, 2016
My favorite method is to soak, blend, cook, then filter. It's a great middle ground between your Cook First and Cook Later method. Very complex and creamy, but less beany flavor. It's worth the try, I promise! =]
 
Author Comment
Dina C. July 27, 2016
I'll definitely try that! I can see why cooking the blended beans would result in more of the beans' surface area being exposed to heat, which would probably minimize the beany flavor more. Thanks for the comment!
 
Diana S. February 16, 2016
Great article! Thank you for sharing. Can this method for soy milk work for almond milk as well?
 
Author Comment
Dina C. February 17, 2016
My pleasure! Nut milks are much easier and more straight-forward to prepare: you don't need to do any cooking. Just soak the nuts overnight, then rinse and drain the next day. Blend with fresh water and strain, if desired. That's it!
 
Lex January 22, 2016
Which of these methods is best for yuba/tofu skin. And, can this be done with an ordinary blender (I.e. Not high speed ala vitamix)?
 
Author Comment
Dina C. January 22, 2016
All of these methods should work well for yuba (tofu skin). I would guess that the manual methods might work slightly better, since the soymilk they yield has more soy bean solids, hence more protein and fat. Yes, you can absolutely use an ordinary blender. A high-speed blender is just faster and will do a better job of melding the beans and water.
 
vm January 20, 2016
interesting! thanks for the explanation! Is there something for which we could use what remains in the cloth, to avoid wasting?
 
Author Comment
Dina C. January 20, 2016
Absolutely! The solid leftovers are called okara. Imagine a smooth, creamy off-white paste. You can add okara to smoothies or patties (such as veggie burgers) for extra protein. You can also try integrating okara into oatmeal and pudding.