6 Best Nigari (Tofu Coagulant) Substitutes

What Is Nigari?

Nigari is the most general coagulant for making tofu in Japan. The main component, magnesium chloride contained in nigari actually reacts with soy milk protein and hardens.

To know more about nigari, please check this page.
What Exactly Is Nigari?

However, what if you can’t find any type of coagulant including nigari when making tofu at home?

Here, I am introducing 6 best substitutes for nigari that are familiar to you.

Good Substitutes for Nigari

1. Lemon Juice

When you put lemon juice in soy milk, protein causes acid coagulation and it works like nigari (bittern) to harden the tofu.

Tofu hardened with lemon juice is relatively soft and somehow it has a cottage cheese-like texture. However, the taste is more concentrated than normal tofu, and it is rich and delicious. A little sourness of lemon is added, but if you eat it with soy sauce, you wouldn’t notice it.

Please refer to the following for recipes and procedures.

・1cup (250ml) Soy milk
・2 tsp Lemon juice

1. Heat soy milk on low heat.
2. When it’s warm, add the lemon juice and turn off the heat.
3. Wait for a while (about an hour), drain the water and cool in the refrigerator.

2. Vinegar

As with lemon juice, protein causes acid coagulation by putting vinegar in soy milk. So, you can harden soy milk to make tofu by substituting vinegar for nigari.

The texture of the tofu will be also soft, and like a “Oboro tofu (おぼろ豆腐)”, half-curdled tofu produced in the making of tofu.

The ingredients and direction for this is the same as when substituting lemon juice.

3. Salt

You can also use salt as a substitute that every family has in the kitchen. But, not all salts can be substituted.

The main component in nigari is magnesium, therefore salt with plenty of magnesium can be substituted actually. In Japan, there are several types of salt with plenty of magnesium, and yukishio (雪塩) produced in Okinawa is one of the famous one.

Tofu hardened with salt has very strong taste of soybeans, and so delicious. Since it already contains perfect saltiness, you don’t need to pour soy sauce when eating.

Please refer to the following for recipes and procedures.

・1cup (250ml) Soy milk
・1 tsp Salt
・2 tsp Water
・Boiling water

1. Put about half of the water in the pot, and bring to a boil.
2. Put soy milk, salt, and water in a heat-resistant container. Mix well.
3. Cover the heat-resistant container with aluminum foil. Put it in the pot [1].
4. After heating on medium heat for about 15 minutes, turn off the heat and let it steam for a while.
5. After steaming, take it out of the pot and let it cool.

4. Potato Starch

Potato starch, which is often used for thickening can be great substitute too.

In fact, there is a specialty of Saga and Nagasaki prefectures, tofu made from soy milk and potato starch. It’s called “Godofu (呉豆腐)”.

Tofu hardened with potato starch is jiggly, soft, and very smooth. People often eat it with sweet soy sauce, sweet miso sauce, or mentsuyu.

Please refer to the following for recipes and procedures.

・1cup (250ml) Soy milk
・3 tbsp Potato starch
・A pinch of Salt

1. Put soy milk, potato starch, and salt in a pot.
2. Boil over medium heat while stirring with a spatula.
3. When it thickens, reduce the heat. Mix well for 2-3 minutes and remove from heat. Let it cool down.
4. Prepare 3 cups, and put a sheet of plastic wrap. Pour the liquid into each cup.
5. Twist the top of the plastic wrap tightly. Fasten it with an elastic band.
6. Refrigerate for about 3 hours to harden.

For the topping, you can sprinkle grind sesame and pour soy sauce. Mentsuyu also matches so well with this type of tofu. Depending on your taste, please add sugar to the sauce.

If you like, it would be also great to add some other ingredients in the tofu. For instance, you can put edamame, kabocha squash, and boiled shrimp in the cup before pouring the liquid in the step [4].

5. Corn Starch

When you are making Godofu (呉豆腐) like above, you can use corn starch instead of potato starch.

The ingredients and direction for this is the same as when making tofu with potato starch.

You can enjoy Godofu with soy sauce or miso sauce like I said earlier. Additionally, you can make tasty Agedashi-tofu (deep-fried tofu) from Godofu by sprinkling with flour and deep-frying in oil.

6. Gelatin

Gelatin used when making jelly can be also good substitute for nigari.

Good things about using this are it doesn’t have unique smell and can harden the tofu with nice and jiggly texture.

This is one of the option for those who think the tofu made with the ingredients listed above are too soft.

Please refer to the following for recipes and procedures.

・1cup (250ml) Soy milk
・1.5 tsp Gelatin (powder)
・2 tbsp Water

1. Mix gelatin and water well, and microwave them.
2. Mix [1] with soy milk.
3. Refrigerate to harden.


How was the recipes for tofu without using nigari?
If you are looking for the replacement for nigari, please find some coagulable material like the followings:

・Lemon juice
・Potato starch
・Corn starch

You can not only enjoy the tofu as a simple side dish, but also can put in miso soup or any type of dishes as an ingredient.

I hope you will enjoy new texture of tofu with plenty of soybean flavor!!

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