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How to Make Tofu Cheese (Chao)

How to Make Fermented Tofu (Chao)

Full of Plants
Learn how to make fermented tofu, also known as chao, from scratch! It's the perfect condiment to use in sauces, marinades, soups, and more!
4.94 from 33 votes
Prep Time 2 hrs
Fermenting Time 21 d
Course Condiment
Cuisine Vietnamese
Servings 2 medium jars


  • 1 pound firm tofu, cut in half
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • optional: 1/4 cup chili flakes


  • 1 and 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup vodka (or 1/2 cup rice wine)


  • Before starting: I recommend using gloves when handling the tofu to prevent bad bacterias and mold from growing.
  • Bring 4 cups of water with one tablespoon of salt to a boil in a medium size sauce pan. Once boiling, add the tofu and boil for 4 minutes.
  • Remove the tofu from the water and place it on a few sheets of kitchen paper towel. Top with more kitchen paper towel and place a heavy weight on it to press the tofu and remove excess water. I usually use an iron skillet. Let it drain for about 90 minutes, changing the paper towel as needed if it becomes too wet.
  • Line a large plate with two layers of kitchen paper towel, or a clean towel. Cut the tofu into 1-inch cubes and place the cubes on the plate, leaving about 1 inch between each cube, so they don't touch each other. Top with another sheet of kitchen paper towel and cover the whole plate with plastic film. The plastic film will prevent bad bacterias from reaching the tofu.
  • Place the plate in a dark place at 77-86°F (25-30°C) and let it ferment for 2 to 3 days. The tofu will have taken a light orange color and will have a stinky smell. You may also see some white mold as well, this is okay. If you see blue or dark mold, scrape it off.
  • Prepare the brine: combine 1 and 1/2 cup of water with the salt and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute. Once boiling, remove from heat and let it cool completely. Add the vodka and stir to combine.
  • Transfer the stinky tofu to clean glass jars. If you want to make it spicy, dip each tofu cube in chili flakes before putting it in the jars. Pour the brine into the jars to cover the tofu. Close the jars with a lid and place in a dark cool place (around 68°F - 20°C) for at least 3 weeks. The longer you let it ages, the stronger and softer your tofu will be.
  • For extra flavor, you can add about 1/2 tsp of sesame oil into each jar after the 3 weeks have passed.
  • Use this fermented tofu to make dipping sauces, to top rice, add to vegan cheeses, use in marinades, soups, etc.


For a quick dipping sauce, mash one cube of fermented tofu in a small bowl. Add about 1 tsp of lime juice, 1 tsp of sugar, and sliced chili to taste. Feel free to add a couple of tablespoons of water to taste if it's too salty. Use this sauce to dip steamed or roasted vegetables.
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