How to drain silken tofu and which recipes need it

Does the advice to press, drain, and dehydrate block tofu apply to silken tofu? Is it dangerous to press silken tofu? Let’s learn how to prepare silken tofu so you can bake it, blend it, or braise it.

Silken tofu on a dark green plate to show silken tofu texturePin

As a quick refresher, silken tofu is tender and prized for its smooth texture. It’s made with a coagulant which produces a jelly-like texture. In contrast to the traditional style of tofu, also known as “regular” tofu, “block” tofu, or “brick tofu”, silken tofu does not have holes visible to the naked eye.

However, this silky, custard-like consistency makes it challenging to prepare, especially if you’re preparing soft silken tofu. It can be a nightmare to pick up, let alone press and drain.

Let’s learn why you don’t need to press silken tofu and, therefore, how to prepare it.

RELATED: Read more about silken tofu in the post Silken Tofu vs. Soft Tofu: What’s the Difference?


Do you need to press silken tofu?

I read a lot of tofu preparation advice that recommends pressing tofu to get excess water out.

There are many techniques to press tofu, including salting the tofu and placing it between two sheets of paper towels to absorb the water. Some advice includes putting heavy books or pots and pans on the tofu to further squeeze it.

2 heavy books pressing silken and regular tofu cubesPinPin
Foreshadowing: the tofu on the left didn’t end up faring very well from the pressing

The rationale behind pressing tofu is that excess water:

  1. Makes it harder for the tofu to absorb marinades and sauces
  2. Makes it harder to fry the tofu to a crispy texture
  3. Makes baking tofu take longer because of the extra moisture

However, the advice to press tofu rarely tells you whether the recommendation applies only to regular block tofu. What about silken tofu?

Should silken tofu be pressed?

What would happen if you squished a block of jelly / jello?

Imagine the same thing happening to silken tofu.

What happens if you try to press silken tofu?

Step 1: 2 samples of tofu – 1 cube of silken tofu and 1 cube of regular firm tofu

A cube of silken tofu and regular firm tofu side by side on a cutting boardPin

Step 2: A sheet of paper towel for absorbing the liquid

A cube of silken tofu and regular firm tofu side by side with a piece of paper towel on topPin

Step 3: Press with heavy books

2 heavy books pressing silken and regular tofu cubesPinPin

Step 4: Observe the changes

A cube of silken tofu and regular firm tofu side by side showing results after pressingPin
Both cubes got a bit squished

Observation: After reshaping the tofu with some gentle pushing, the regular tofu resumes its original shape albeit with imperfections. The silken tofu is unsalvageable.

A cube of silken tofu and regular firm tofu side by side showing results after reshapingPin

Silken tofu turns into a squished mess when you press it. It didn’t crumble gracefully as the regular tofu did.

You can use the regular tofu to stir fry or bake it. Even though it got a bit crushed, it would still hold its shape fairly well.

On the other hand, the silken tofu is broken into segments which makes it harder to pick up and eat. It’s probably only good for smoothies or baking where you would blend the silken tofu further.

A cube of silken tofu and regular firm tofu side by side showing results after reshaping from a 45-degree anglePin

Conclusion: There’s no need to press silken tofu. It actually hurts the silken tofu.

But there may still be recipes that call for draining or dehydrating silken tofu to remove excess moisture. How do you deal with silken tofu in this case?


How to drain silken tofu

Place your silken tofu on a plate and let it sit for a few minutes. The tofu will weep.

Once the excess liquid pools on the plate, you can easily pour out the water. If you want to speed it up, you can zap the tofu in the microwave for 30 seconds.

Some cooks recommend patting the tofu with paper towel. You can use the paper towels to gently soak up the excess liquid from the plate.

Block of silken tofu with paper towel to drainPin
Use a paper towel to soak up the liquid from the plate to drain silken tofu. Or gently pour out the excess liquid.

I find it a bit wasteful to use paper towels for draining silken tofu. So I often hold the tofu gently on the plate and tilt the plate over the sink to drain the excess water.

TIP: You can use a muslin cloth to soak up the liquid instead of a paper towel as muslin is washable and reusable.

Draining silken tofu on a white plate using a paper towelPin

WARNING: If you want to stir fry tofu or bake it until it’s crispy, you should NOT use silken tofu. Cook with regular (“block”) tofu for these recipes instead.


What recipes benefit from draining silken tofu

Draining silken tofu is optional.

Most of the time, I don’t bother draining silken tofu because it’s a waste of time.

However, there are some recipes where having excess liquid can harm the taste of the dish or throw off your recipe measurements, such as when you’re baking with silken tofu.

Let’s learn what kinds of recipes might benefit from draining or dehydrating your silken tofu.

RELATED: Check out the post Does Tofu Melt?

Silken tofu in soups and stews

When I’m adding silken tofu to soups or stews (or braising silken tofu), such as egg drop soup or mapo tofu, I skip draining the silken tofu since the tofu will be served with a lot of liquid anyway.

Silken tofu in salads and cold dishes

Silken tofu is a common ingredient for Chinese cold dishes. There is a myriad of ways to enjoy silken tofu, such as the Silken Tofu With Green Onion and Silken Tofu with Century Egg cold dishes.

Close up look of century egg with soft tofu, green onion, soy sauce, and sesame oil with golden ribbon in backgroundPin
This dish has raw silken tofu with soy sauce and sesame oil dressing. Check out Silken Tofu with Green Onion for the recipe. The century eggs are optional.

Because cold dishes are a great food to make ahead of time, if I don’t plan to eat the dish for 15 minutes or more, then I will cube the silken tofu and allow the excess water to pool in the plate. Just before preparing my salad or cold dish, I will drain the excess water.

However, if I am preparing the cold dish to serve immediately, I skip draining the silken tofu.

Silken tofu in smoothies and baked foods

Silken tofu is a common egg substitute for vegan baking recipes. Because precise measurements are more important in baking than in cooking, excess water can negatively affect your baking recipe.

Follow your recipe’s instructions on whether or not to drain the silken tofu. Look for well-tested recipes to increase your chances of baking success.

Smoothies come down to personal preference. If you like thick smoothies, you may want to drain. If you don’t care, then throw the tofu in straight and save your time.

Tall blender with glass jar, tofu and frozen berries in the glass jarPin
Adding silken tofu to your smoothie offers a plant-based substitute for milk, yogurt, or ice cream that still gives you a lot of protein.

RELATED: Learn more about tofu in the article Does Tofu Melt Like Cheese?


How long can you keep silken tofu once opened?

Store the unused silken tofu in the fridge. Ideally, store it in an airtight container.

If it came in a carton, you could leave it in a container to avoid drying out the tofu. You want to avoid developing a crust that ruins the texture.

Andrea Nguyen, in an interview with The Kitchn, suggests you should use silken tofu within a day or two.

I stored silken tofu in the fridge in an airtight container. This storage method kept the silken tofu in a fresh state for 5-7 days. After day 5, it started to dry out.

When I stored the silken tofu uncovered, it dried out, became hard, and developed a gross yellow color in 3 days. Avoid storing the silken tofu uncovered in the fridge for longer than 1-2 days.

Do you need to cook silken tofu? 

No. As long as the package of tofu doesn’t have any holes, it should be aseptic. So, you should feel about confident eating the silken tofu straight from the box without getting sick.

I frequently eat raw silken tofu. I like dropping cubes of raw silken tofu into miso soup. I also create a soy sauce and sesame oil dressing and pour it over raw silken tofu as a refreshing summer dish. Silken tofu also makes a tasty vegan smoothie.

WARNING: If you’ve opened the silken tofu container and stored it in the fridge for more than 3 days, I would cook it before consuming it.

Silken tofu’s biggest appeal is that it requires almost no work. Once you prep your ingredients, you simply need to mix in the silken tofu. Then you have a moist and creamy meal to enjoy.


Silken tofu recipes

5-Minute Homemade Vegan Miso Soup With Silken Tofu and Seaweed
You'll love this belly-warming miso soup during cold wintery nights. It only takes 5 minutes and you can add any garnishes to tailor it to your tastebuds. Add a dash of sesame oil for extra indulgent miso soup.
Get the Recipe
5-Minute Silken Tofu with Green Onion
This easy vegan recipe using silken tofu is a quick-to-make appetizer. You'll love the silky texture. Bump up the recipe to serve a family by doubling all the ingredients.
Get the Recipe
Must-try Fruit Smoothie with Silken Tofu and Peanut Butter
This vegan smoothie recipe uses silken tofu instead of dairy for a delicious, high-protein breakfast or snack. Substitute with your favorite fruits and top with roasted nuts for extra richness.
Get the Recipe

Has this post changed the way you use silken tofu? Leave a comment to let me know.

READ NEXT: French-Style Vegan Silken Tofu Chocolate Cake

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About Anna Rider

Hi! I'm Anna, a food writer who documents kitchen experiments on GarlicDelight.com with the help of my physicist and taste-testing husband, Alex. I have an insatiable appetite for noodles 🍜 and believe in "improv cooking".

7 thoughts on “How to drain silken tofu and which recipes need it”

  1. A partial block of opened silken tofu was overlooked in the refrigerator
    for 4 days ( it had been drained & covered initially with filtered water in a loaded container). Must it be discarded?! There is no discoloration & no signs of mold. Oh my! do I hate to have to throw it away!

    Reply
    • Hi Marti,
      If I were you, I would use my eyes and nose to determine whether the silken tofu has gone bad. Do you smell anything that seems off? Sour? Can you see signs of mold? Does the tofu feel sticky or slimy on the surface where you touch it? You know the saying: “When in doubt, throw it out!”

      That said, it’s only been 4 days in the fridge. If it doesn’t have signs of spoilage, I’d be inclined to eat it. However, I would cook it thoroughly by boiling it in soup or making a dish like mapo tofu. I wouldn’t eat it raw like in a cold dish or in a smoothie, just in case.

      Reply
    • Hi Helen,
      No the tofu is not rotten. It is simply pressed. I used tofu in an unopened package straight from the fridge for the recipe. Hope that helps.

      Reply

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