Tofu is one of those things that you either love or hate – depending on your cooking skills.
A good block of tofu is nothing more than a blank canvas, or sponge, needing some extra help to get things going in the right direction.
I remember the first time I tried tofu, I chucked the whole thing into the trashcan, I know, wasteful. But I started it all wrong – I didn’t even bother to tik-tap on my computer’s keyboard to figure out how to handle tofu. Growing up in a Puerto Rican household where the word “tofu” wasn’t even in our vocabulary, I didn’t have the slightest clue on how to cook tofu.
Long story shorty, I plopped a block of watery tofu onto a pan and expected it to turn into a delicious roast or something. I clearly didn’t know what I was doing.
After several years of going “this crap is gross” to “this is the most delicious thing ever,” there are a few things I had to learn along the way. Here are 7 Things To Know About Frozen Tofu – so you can hit the fast-forward button and skip the awkward what-the-hell-am-I-doing stages I went through.
1 – Freezing Tofu Will Make It More Porous
Tofu is made of soft bean curds and water. When you freeze a block of tofu, the water becomes ice, which expands and helps creates sponge-like pores.
This is a good thing – and we’ll get into why further into this list (see #5).
2 – Freezing Tofu Makes It Easier To Press
Pressing tofu can be a tedious process, especially if you don’t have a tofu press. Fortunately, when tofu has been frozen and thawed, pressing will be a breeze – no special equipment needed.
After the frozen tofu block has been thawed, place it between the back of two flat plates. Simply press the plates together to release the excess liquid. Do this a few times until the block is dry enough to your liking.
This takes just a few minutes to do.
3 – Freezing Tofu Can Keep For Longer
Everything has an expiration date – including tofu. Your average block of tofu keeps for about 2 months after the production date. However, it’s always a good idea to check the expiration date.
Freezing tofu can significantly expand its “shelf” life, as long as its properly stored and kept a constant 0°F temperature.
If your tofu smells unusual – toss it out. A healthy block of tofu hardly has a smell and it should never cause your nose to wiggle in repulsion.
4 – Freezing Tofu Will Make It Firm And Stable
Sure, freezing a block of tofu can add an extra step, but it’s worth it. One of those “worth it” reasons is that this process creates a firmer and more stable block of tofu.
This means that your flimsy tofu becomes “meatier” and chewier – bringing you into a whole new world of recipe options.
If you were struggling with the mushy structure of most plant-based proteins (think lentils, beans, and peas), a previously frozen tofu block will be your next favorite thing.
5 – Freezing Tofu Will Make Marinating Easier
So in reason #1, we mentioned how freezing tofu will make it more porous. So what’s so great about that?
Well, that greatness is called “flavor opportunities.”
With the absence of the excess liquid and a porous foundation from the expanded ice during the freezing process, the sponge-like tofu block makes marinating and the introduction of sauces much more inviting.
When you use tofu that has not been previously frozen, you’ll find that the marinades are hardly efficient at penetrating the interior of the tofu. You’ll typically have a flavored exterior, with a bland interior – no matter how long you press and marinade. The fresh tofu just doesn’t have the benefit of expanded pores like frozen tofu does.
6 – Freezing Tofu Slightly Changes The Flavor
Marinades aside, fresh and frozen tofu has a mild flavor. However, there’s a slight smell and flavor distinction between the two.
Personally, I find that fresh tofu smells almost clay-like. Others may describe the taste or smell as a mild bean or nutty flavor.
When the frozen tofu has been thawed, I find the smell changes slightly to more of an umami flavor – but I haven’t dug deeper into this and haven’t found any resources explaining it.
Keep in mind, the smell of tofu should never be off-putting, strong, or have a “fishy” smell.
7 – Freezing Tofu Creates A Crispier Exterior
The rule of thumb for pan-frying just about anything is that its exterior needs to be as dry as possible. This is true for meat and it’s true for tofu – if you’re looking for a golden-brown, crispy outside.
So what does this have to do with freezing? Well, as we mentioned in #1, thawed frozen tofu will release more moisture, making a crispier texture achievable.
Tip: After thawing frozen tofu, release excess water by pressing, pan-fry on each side until golden, THEN add the marinade.
How To Freeze Tofu
How To Freeze Tofu
- 1 Block Tofu
- Either keep the fresh tofu in the original packaging, or remove the tofu and transfer to a freezer-safe container or bag. Freeze the tofu block for at least 24 hours. Tofu may be kept frozen for longer.
- When the tofu is done freezing, it's time to thaw. Remove tofu block from the freezer and go for 1 out of are 3 ways to thaw or defrost frozen tofu.
Thaw Frozen Tofu On Countertop
- You can thaw frozen tofu on the countertop at room temperature. It will take about 6 hours or so, depending on a few factors.
Thaw Frozen Tofu In The Refrigerator
- Chuck your frozen tofu into the refrigerator to thaw overnight or during the day. This defrosting method will take about 8 hours or so.
Thaw Frozen Tofu In The Microwave
- If you need your frozen tofu to thaw ASAP, you can zap it in the microwave. This method will take about 8-12 minutes. Check on it to see if has been completely thawed in the middle.
- Once the frozen tofu has been thawed all the way through, allow cooling for a couple of minutes, as it will be too hot to handle.
Frozen Tofu FAQ
How Do You Defrost or Thaw Frozen Tofu?
There are three ways to defrost or thaw your frozen block of tofu.
- In the refrigerator
- Leave out on the counter
- Microwave for a few minutes
The fastest way to thaw frozen tofu is by opting to microwave for a few minutes. I find that it takes about 10-12 minutes to completely thaw a block of frozen tofu. However, I suggest allowing the tofu to cool after microwaving, for safer handling and pressing.
Thawing in the refrigerator may take a day or so. On the counter, it will take several hours.
Do I Need To Remove Tofu Block From Packaging Before Freezing?
There is no need to remove the tofu block from the packaging before freezing. Leave it as is and chuck it into the freezer.
Will My Frozen Tofu Explode In the Freezer?
Nope, it will not explode.
Although your frozen tofu will slightly increase in size when the water transforms into ice, it’ll expand.
How Do I Press Frozen Tofu?
The cool thing about frozen tofu is that you do not need any special equipment to press the water. All you need is the back of two plates and simply press together.
You may even use your hands and squeeze both sides. However, plates may be more efficient at providing balanced ad even pressure for releasing the excess liquid.
How Long Is Frozen Tofu Good For?
You can freeze a tofu block for a minimum of 8 hours to enjoy the benefits of frozen tofu. Additionally, tofu may be kept frozen for months
According to the USDA, food properly stored at a constantly at 0°F will always be safe to consume, as this temperature “prevents the growth of microorganisms that cause both food spoilage and foodborne illness.”
Is It Necessary To Freeze Tofu?
Nope, not necessary – but it depends on your cooking goals. For example, if you simply want to make a breakfast tofu scramble, it’s better to use fresh tofu to get more of an “eggy” rather than “meaty” texture.
What Are Some Recipes Using Frozen Tofu?
- How To Make Tofu Taste Like Chicken
- Tofu Nuggets
- Avocado “Chicken” Salad
- Butter “Chicken”
- Braised Chipotle Inspired Sofritas
Is It Normal For Frozen Tofu To Turn Brown After Freezing?
Yes, it is completely normal for frozen tofu to turn a light brown or beige color.
What Type Of Tofu Should I Freeze?
Regular, firm, and extra-firm tofu work really well when frozen. Silken may be used, but it will yield a softer texture, even when frozen.