Did you know you can freeze regular brick tofu to create a sponge-like texture that slurps up sauces and marinades? Should you freeze it whole or cut it up first? Learn which tastes better and how you can add a novel twist to your tofu dishes.
Pockets of water run throughout tofu. Freezing tofu causes the water trapped inside tofu to expand, which enlarges these pores. Once you thaw frozen tofu, you end up with a coarser tofu texture that contains bigger holes (it’s as if Cheddar transformed into Swiss cheese).
I first learned about this trick of freezing tofu from my friend Libby. She swears by it for preparing tofu to cook in hot pot. And rightfully so, frozen tofu has a bite to it like al dente pasta that makes eating tofu much more pleasurable and meat-like. Let’s dive into how to freeze tofu and which dishes work best with it. Plus, discover whether you should cut the tofu before freezing it for a better texture.
RELATED: Learn about the fundamentals of tofu in the guide for beginners
Why Cook With Defrosted Tofu
My friend Lindsay tells me that she freezes tofu because it extends her tofu’s life, and thawed tofu is more absorbent, which means it’ll soak up sauces faster.
Some people also prefer the firmer, denser, and chewier texture. Alex tells me defrosted tofu has a texture that’s more similar to meat.
Because defrosted tofu removes excess water and makes tofu firmer, it can also be a helpful step to prepare tofu for pan frying and braising.
What Kinds of Tofu Should You Freeze?
I recommend freezing firm, extra-firm, and super-firm block tofu. Soft and silken tofu is best in recipes where their tenderness and creaminess is the focus, such as in soups, smoothies, and as a cold dish on their own.
Since Costco only sells firm tofu at a very good price, freezing firm block tofu is a great way to spruce up plain, unflavored tofu. It takes on a sponge-like texture that adds a new and exciting dish to your tofu dish.
RELATED: Learn about the different levels of firmness in block tofu.
Is It Worth Freezing Silken Tofu?
I tried freezing silken tofu to see if it’s worth doing because a lot of people on the Internet say it’s a bad idea. Defrosted silken tofu is chewier and less fragile. It no longer has the iconic creamy and silky texture. You’re welcome to freeze it. But I’ll stick to freezing firm and extra-firm tofu so I can enjoy silken tofu for its tender texture.
Taste Test: Freeze Whole vs. Cubed Tofu
Should you cut the tofu before freezing it?
Here are the 2 conditions:
- I drained and cut a block of tofu into cubes. I froze the cubes in a plastic container. I defrosted them and put half the tofu into each curry.
- I froze the whole block of tofu in its original packaging. I defrosted the frozen block tofu and cut it into cubes. I put the cubes into each curry.
Taste Test Results
Alex and I preferred the defrosted tofu that was frozen as an entire block (scenario #2). The cubed tofu that was cut before freezing (scenario #1) had a texture closer to fresh tofu. It was softer and had fewer pockets to soak up the sauces.
I wondered whether this difference was due to cutting up tofu, additional water, or due to the surface area exposed to freezing. So I ran another test where I sliced the tofu into thick slices and froze them in layers (3 layers, 2 layers, and 1 layer of tofu) to change the about of surface area that was exposed.
I found these thicker layers of tofu resulted in similarly large pockets and chewy texture. I suspect that cubing the tofu before freezing it drained a lot of water. Less water to expand means fewer nooks and crannies in the tofu.
My conclusion is that the amount of water matters more, and it is important to keep as much water as possible in the tofu before freezing it. The lazy approach is to freeze the tofu whole in its original packaging.
There are other benefits to freezing the whole block of tofu first. For example, defrosted tofu is sturdier and easier to cut because it wobbles less.
How to Freeze Tofu
Based on the taste test observations, I’ve come up with the following recommendations on how to freeze tofu to get the most craggy, absorbent, and chewy tofu.
NOTE: Only freeze tofu in its original container if it’s block tofu that comes in a plastic tray filled with water. Don’t try this with silken tofu in aseptic packaging.
How to Freeze Tofu in Its Package
- Put the entire unopened block of tofu in the freezer. Don’t drain it.
- Freeze the tofu. You can freeze it overnight or pop the tofu into the freezer in the morning and it will be frozen by early evening. Although frozen tofu takes on a yellow color, it returns to its original color once you defrost it.
- Defrost the tofu. Use one of the following ways to thaw tofu:
- Defrost the frozen block of tofu in the fridge. It will defrost in about a day. I put a plate under the tofu container to collect condensation so your fridge doesn’t get wet and gross.
- At room temperature. Leave the unopened package in the sink to drain the condensation. Speed up the defrosting process by putting the tofu in a pan of hot water.
- Under running water. If you’re in a rush to defrost tofu, you can run warm tap water over the container to defrost it faster. Once you can remove the tofu from the container, you can microwave or boil the tofu to speed up the defrosting.
- Microwave the tofu. Once you remove the tofu from the packaging, you can microwave it to defrost it faster.
- Boil the tofu once you’ve removed it from the packaging.
- Drain excess water. If you are frying tofu or want it to absorb more sauces, gently squeeze out excess water with your hands. Or you can press the tofu.
- Cut the tofu into strips or cubes.
Downsides of Defrosted Tofu
Not everybody loves frozen tofu. Before you freeze it, consider these downsides so you’re not disappointed. Defrosted tofu takes on a coarser texture and no longer tastes creamy. You won’t be able to blend defrosted silken tofu to use it as a vegan substitute for cream and eggs. Some people also hate the sponge-like texture of defrosted tofu.
Different Ways to Cook Defrosted Tofu
- Stir fries
- Soy sauce-braised tofu
- Chicken-less tofu nuggets
- Hot pot
- Tofu scramble
- Baked tofu
Have you tried freezing tofu? Share your favorite dishes with defrosted tofu in the comments.