Did you know that freezing tofu gives it a whole new texture and enhances it's ability to absorb flavor? It does! Read through this guide to learn just when, why and how to freeze tofu.
So, you already love tofu. Or maybe you're working on that. Maybe you're a tofu newbie and just learning (in which case, read my guide to tofu). In any event, I've got a super easy kitchen hack to take your tofu to the next level: freeze it!
Freezing tofu is a game-changer. It alters tofu's texture and allows it to absorb flavors more effectively. In this comprehensive guide I'll talk about why you might want to freeze tofu, lead you through the step-by-step process of how to freeze tofu, and give you some tips on how to thaw and use your your tofu after freezing it.
Why You Should Freeze Tofu
Of course, freeing tofu has one very obvious benefit: it prolongs shelf-life. Tofu is perishable, and as such will only last so long in the fridge. How long? It depends, but you can read all about it in this tofu storage guide.
But in addition, freezing tofu actually makes it better, and more suitable for certain recipes.
Tofu has a reputation for having a somewhat boring, homogenous texture. Freezing it is the solution to those issues.
Once frozen, tofu takes on a chewier, more crumbly texture. Tofu that's been frozen and thawed is an excellent meat substitute. It's perfect for replicating ingredients like chicken, and works great in recipes where it gets crumbled up and used in ways one might normally use ground meat.
Tofu tacos and tofu chili are a couple of great dishes to try with tofu that was frozen. But don't feel limited! You can absolutely use it in recipes like this lemon and herb baked tofu, or a tofu stir-fry. It'll cook up just like any other tofu — the texture will just be more interesting!
The simple act of freezing tofu itself doesn't affect the flavor, but it does make it much easier for you to add flavor to your tofu.
This relates back to that texture thing we just talked about. Here's the thing: tofu is full of water. This is pretty obvious, as it's sold packed in water. When you freeze that water it expands and creates ice crystals. These crystals create pockets within the tofu. Once you thaw it out, all that ice melts and drains away, making little spaces, turning your tofu into basically a sponge for soaking up marinades and sauces. (And these pockets are also what give it that crumbly texture we just talked about!).
How To Freeze Tofu
This doesn't have to be difficult or involved! You have two options — a quick and dirty method, and a slightly more involved one.
Method 1: Just Freeze It
Ready for this — grab a block of tofu. In needs to be in an airtight package of some sort, which can be it's original packaging, or a freezer bag or other container of your choosing. Stick it in the freezer and leave it there until it's frozen.
This easy method comes in handy when you have an unopened package of tofu that's near it's expiration date and you need to get in the freezer fast.
Method 2: Do Some Prep
You can, if you'd like and have the time, do some prep on your tofu first. You can drain and press it to remove excess moisture (read: how to press tofu), which will remove some of the water. The texture might be a tad less crumbly since there's less water in there to create those little pockets.
Whatever prep you do, you will want to make sure your tofu is in an airtight container before popping it in the freezer.
One thing I like to do is portion my tofu before freezing. If you generally only prepare a half block of tofu at a time, then cut your block in half and freeze each one separately.
Tip: Your tofu may change color a bit when frozen, shifting to a yellow hue, as shown in the photo below, or even a slightly brown color. This is totally normal and nothing to worry about!
How to Thaw Tofu
It really doesn't matter how you thaw your tofu — the texture changes will be present no matter what. Here are some options:
- Thaw it in the fridge for about 1 day.
- Thaw it on the counter. If this takes more than two hours, you should move it to the refrigerator.
- Thaw it in the microwave. Place it on a microwave safe dish to catch the water that will be released.
- Thaw it in a hot water bath. Stick the whole block in a container of hot water. Leave it in the packaging or take it out. Just make sure the water is super clean if you take it out.
Using Tofu After Freezing
After freezing and thawing, you can use your tofu in almost any recipe, just as you would with tofu that was never frozen.
If you press your tofu after freezing, be prepared for more water than normal to be released. This is a good thing, as water can stand in the way of things like browning and marinade absorption!
At the very least you'll want to blot it with a kitchen towel or paper towel to get rid of the excess water that's released during thawing.
From there, you can slice, dice or crumble it, then marinade, bake, fry, and/or pan-fry it. It works in soups, stir-fries, scrambles, sandwiches...you name it!
Frequently Asked Questions
It doesn't matter! All that's required for the changes in texture to take place is that it's frozen solid.
Tofu, like pretty much everything else, really lasts indefinitely in the freezer. It won't go bad if it's frozen! But after about 3 months the quality will start to go down. It'll start to taste like freezer. You know what I mean. It's always a good idea to label and date your tofu before sticking it in the freezer.
Any variety of tofu can be frozen, including super-firm, extra-firm, firm and silken. Results will vary depending on what variety of tofu you're using. Generally, the higher the water content (i.e. the softer the tofu), the more texture you'll get from freezing. The exception is silken tofu, which contains a lot of water that is very evenly distributed, giving you very fine crumbles when frozen, as shown below.