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?
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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?
I ran a mini taste test on whether to freeze cubed tofu or freeze the whole block of tofu during the Thai green curry taste test. Is there a difference in the texture?
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.
RELATED: Read more Garlic Delight taste tests, including Parmigiano-Reggiano vs. Parmesan and Hot Chocolate vs. Hot Cocoa.
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.
If you want crispier, firmer tofu without the sponge-like tofu texture, consider pressing your brick tofu instead of freezing it.
Different Ways to Cook Defrosted Tofu
Defrosted tofu is best for soups, stews, curries, and other saucy dishes. Here are ideas for dishes that make defrosted tofu shine:
- 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.
READ NEXT: How to press tofu without a special press
38 thoughts on “Taste Test: How to Freeze Tofu for an Amazing Texture”
Thanks for all of the suggestions. I just started experimenting with Tofu and love it. Freezing it to make “beef textured” meat is great with of kinds of gravy.
I am now making my own tofu with chickpeas and another bean flour. Fantastic for cheesecakes etc once you get the hang of it.
Try making a decadent chocolate cheese cake with black-eyes peas flour. First toast the flour in a cast-iron fry pan until tan color. Takes on a wonderful taste when using cocoa etc. Unbelievable taste when you experiment and get rid of bitterness of the cocoa.
Thank you For Your reassurance now what can I do with SMOKED TOFU?
THANK YOU!! I learned about freezing tofu several years ago, but the blog I was following had me press the tofu AND cut it into smaller cubes beforehand. I found the texture was a little improved, but that it wasn’t worth the process.
I’m THRILLED to know that throwing the unopened container in the freezer will result in a more spongy texture, and I can’t wait to try it!
This article brings back fond memories!
In 2001 I entered a Chili cook off in SC for fun. This was a competition of 30 local cooks and chefs. They were all using bison, beef, deer and chicken. We were not asked for the main ingredients until the end.
I took gold at 19 years old as a culinary student.
At the end I was asked what my secret was; I just said, Tofu.
The judges were stunned and one by stander even said “ why the hell did you do that?!?”
I just said “I thought it would be funny to get meat eaters to eat tofu”
Don’t get mad at me! Y’all just gave this 19 yr old 1st place.
Wow, really helpful post. Thanks for doing these experiments and letting us know.
If wonder if you’ve tried refreezing it? My problem is that I go through tofu very slowly – I just need a little now and then if I make miso soup or something.
So I’d like to freeze a whole block to get the better texture – but then I’d have to thaw it out to cut it. But then I’d want to save most of it, so I wonder if the texture would be ok if I put the rest back in the freezer at that point.
Hello! I don’t know if this reply is very helpful to you anymore, but I think the best way to do it if you use small amount of tofu at one time is to cut your tofu into however many portions you think you will need, and then freeze each of those portions in some water. I think it’ll give you the same or similar texture as the whole block freezing method, but with more manageable portions. Generally it is frowned upon to re-freeze things, but even if it doesn’t affect the texture to re-freeze tofu, it will still save you much more time in the long run to do individual portions.
This seems like the perfect application for braising tofu in honey and soy sauce. awesome explanation.
Thank you for introducing me to tofu. One of our kids and family are vegans and coming to stay I am about to make sausages with tofu and wondered if they will freeze and still be at their best in a week’s time.
I’ve discovered that they will.
I’ve been using tofu for 30yrs and I just heard that you could freeze it! Yours was by far the best explanation of how to freeze the tofu and what to expect. One thing I might add is that you probably want to double or triple marinade recipes, because the porous tofu drinks it up like crazy. My kids love the chewier texture.
Thanks for the instructions! I’ll be freezing tofu for the first time and using it as a meat substitute in a pot of chili.
Just a note on microwaving it to thaw – be aware that this might toughen the tofu up even more. I’ve nuked cubed tofu in the past and it’s given it a really, really chewy texture. Combined with freezing might make the texture too firm for some people’s tastes.
So the chili turned out well. But I shouldn’t have been hesitant about microwaving after freezing. Oops!
I countertop thawed before pressing out excess water, crumbling in coarse pieces, then frying in oil to get it super duper crispy. But after simmering in the pot of chili, the tofu’s texture softened a lot more than I expected it would.
Anna’s right – microwaving is a fine way to thaw tofu, and will add some nice, chewy texture that should be retained if it’s going in a sauce after. Can’t wait to try this again.
I have looked at more search results on freezing tofu. Most all call to drain & press before freezing. Just nuts! I have to say your article covers it. Those others are misleading, unless the purpose of freezing is to keep the tofu in storage longer.
Thanks for your thorough assessment of tofu! Most helpful after husband went to
Costco. I asked for tofu, two boxes! He thought I was mistaken, saying to freeze it in its unopened container. Saved me some unnecessary work. I like frozen tofu.
It is great for all,the things you mentioned, again, very thorough,very much appreciated. I had looked at several sites & was disappointed!
this was super helpful
You have no idea how helpful this was. I tossed — well, no, gently placed — a block of tofu, in its soft plastic packaging (not a hard plastic tub sort of thing) into the freezer a few minutes ago in anticipation of using it for a tofu skewer recipe that I’ve made several times with *unfrozen* tofu but that I suspect will be even better with tofu that’s been frozen. I plan to defrost it this evening, using one of the quick methods (because of time – duh) and am *inordinately* excited to see how it turns out. As they say, “It’s the small things.” THANK YOU for this wonderfully comprehensive post.
Impressed with all your trials. Thank you for doing this.
Thanks for the details. I’m definitely trying this.
Can I freeze the silken tofu? I don’t like the firm one
Hi Ranee, you can freeze it but it changes the texture of silken tofu. I use silken tofu because it’s creamy and you will lose that property. If you’re OK with layered tofu, then you can freeze the silken tofu. You can see my photo of frozen silken tofu and my opinion of whether it’s worth doing: https://garlicdelight.com/how-to-freeze-tofu/#is-it-worth-freezing-silken-tofu
Thanks so much. Our blocks of Tofu available here are quite large and too big to keep fresh and eat, as my husband doesn’t like tofu😩 and I have to give him just a couple of pieces. So I will most probably freeze it and cube it after I thaw it slowly. If Microwave makes it harder then I won’t like it. I like soft.
Great work, thanks for sharing I really wanted to recreate the texture I remember in a dish but had no idea how. Your explanation is perfect. Thanks
just put my tofu in the freezer, two blocks, if this goes wrong, I know who to blame
it worked out perfectly! best red curry with tofu ever <3
After freezing the whole block of tofu, how long would it take to complete the thawing process if only left out on a kitchen table?
I just tested this. It look 7 hours and 22 minutes to defrost the block of tofu in my kitchen sink at an indoor temperature of 62˚F/16˚C. The middle was still a bit frozen (about 1 inch/2.5 cm in diameter). But it was defrosted enough that I could slice a knife through the tofu (firm) without much resistance.
Defrosting anything at room temperature should be discouraged as it can promote the growth of bacteria. Refrigerator and microwave are the food safer options. 🙂
Good point, Steph. Thanks for the reminder to readers.
If defrosting at room temperature, make sure it’s an unopened container of tofu. Otherwise, defrost in the fridge.
All I can saw is WOW!!!! Sometimes buying the Costco bulk can be, well all of the sudden overwhelming and the need to hurry and eat it all! So happy I came across your article. It’s MY type of reading. One of the best articles I’ve read in a long time! I’m very visual and each step and explanation I could actually see!!! Im on it now. going to freeze two in the package now and the ones I sliced and are pressing, I’ll marinate and cook up tomorrow!
I make a vegan pumpkin cookie that uses 8 ounces of pureed firm or extra-firm tofu. Of course, tofu comes in 16 ounce packages. What do you think of freezing half the tofu after I’ve already pureed it? Would it leach water when thawed, or be the same texture? Thank you!
Thanks. I’m just getting “brave” and used tofu. (Extra firm block) for the first time. Now I bought more but I’m not ready to use it. I think you answered all my questions. Very informative, with all the steps written clearly. You thought of all the answers to the questions a newbie would ask.
Loved the experiment and the explanation! Many thanks 🙏🏻
I just purchased a restaurant blocks of tofu in 6 of 4# slabs sealed in plastic sleeves. Can I freeze in this & how long may I store like this in the freezer?
Thank you for your assistance and very informative article!!
Wow, I didn’t know you could buy restaurant blocks of tofu. Since I haven’t seen what the plastic sleeves look like, I can’t say for sure. Can you send me a photo? firstname.lastname@example.org
I would guess that if the plastic sleeve is like the vacuum-sealed package from Trader Joe’s or the plastic tub, then it would be OK. Just be careful because the tofu will expand when it freezes and you wouldn’t want the plastic to burst and cause a wet mess in your freezer. Plastic is flexible so it could probably stretch but it’s something to remember.
If you don’t trust the plastic sleeve, then open the tofu and cut into smaller pieces. Then freeze each piece in plastic containers. You can store tofu in the freezer indefinitely if it is vacuum sealed. However, it can get freezer burned so I usually eat it within 3-6 months.
Great, thank you for responding. I opened 2 of the package rinsed drained and cut up in 3×4” chunks with some water & froze in actual freezer Tupperware containers. I will email a photo of the package by tomorrow. Thank you again!
Thank you for this elaborate documentation. It saves me a lot of time experimenting myself.
Best how to freeze Tofu on the net.
Thanks for your positive feedback. Appreciate it.