There's no reason to run to the store every time you want to cook with tofu. Freezing tofu is a simple process - you can drain it first or freeze it right in the package. You might even find you prefer the taste and texture of tofu that has been frozen to that of the fresh product!
How to Freeze Tofu After Draining
The best way to freeze tofu is to drain it first. This is really easy to do and ensures very little water will be left in the tofu. Leftover water forms ice pockets inside the tofu, so after thawing it leaves tiny holes throughout the product. These holes won't damage the tofu in any way, but draining it first provides a more stable and firm base after it's thawed.
To drain your tofu, follow these steps:
- Unwrap the tofu and discard any liquid in the container.
- Line a plate or shallow bowl with several layers of paper towels or two to three kitchen towels.
- Place the tofu on top of the towels and cover with another towel or a couple of paper towels.
- Press gently on the towels to remove moisture.
- Place a heavy bowl or other kitchen item on top of the towel-covered tofu and allow to set for 15-30 minutes.
Freezing Drained Tofu
- Once the tofu is drained, you can simply wrap it in several layers of plastic wrap or place it in a freezer bag.
- If desired, slice or chop your tofu into individual servings before freezing, separating the slices or pieces with waxed paper, before wrapping or bagging.
- Store in the freezer until ready to use.
- Thaw for 2 - 3 hours before using.
Freezing Tofu in the Package
Some people prefer to simply place their unopened package of tofu in the freezer without draining.
To freeze tofu in the package, follow these steps:
- Place the unopened tofu package into the freezer.
- Store it in the freezer until you are ready to use it.
- Thaw for 2 - 3 hours before using.
It is completely safe to store unopened packages of tofu in the freezer. Be aware, though, that the added moisture causes ice to form both on the inside and outside of the tofu block.This may result in a consistency that is softer than that of tofu that has been drained before freezing.
Changes in Texture and Color
Regardless of the freezing method that you choose, you should expect the thawed product to be different than tofu that has never been frozen.
- After being frozen, tofu takes on a yellowish color and different texture. While the yellow tinge may at first surprise you, it doesn't affect the tofu in a negative way. The exact shade will depend on the tofu brand and how long it's been frozen, and can range from a slight beige tint to a bright yellow.
- The texture after freezing can best be described as chewy or spongy, a difference actually desired by many tofu fans. When crumbled, it tends to mimic textured vegetable protein (TVP), a vegetarian ground beef substitute.
- Thawed tofu also takes on a chunky consistency, which means its best to avoid using it for creamy dishes like dips, smoothies, or spreads, due to the chunky consistency. Use fresh tofu for those types of dishes.
- Sometimes previously frozen tofu can become crumbly and difficult to slice, much like cheese.
Advantages of Freezing Tofu
There are some distinct advantages to freezing tofu, especially if you enjoy the chewier texture of the resulting product. Here are some other benefits to freezing:
- Save money by purchasing tofu on sale, and freezing it until you want to use it.
- Frozen tofu has little moisture left in it, so it soaks up flavors of whatever you're cooking or marinating it in much quicker and flavors will be stronger.
- Thawing out frozen tofu is as simple as leaving it in the refrigerator overnight, but pre-sliced or crumbled tofu that has been frozen can be cooked straight from the freezer as long as it has been drained first.
Using Thawed Tofu
Frozen tofu keeps in the freezer for up to six months and can be used effectively in any tofu recipe for non-creamy dishes. For example, tofu that has been frozen is perfect for cooking in a stir-fry, as a base for sandwich filling, sprinkled on top of salads, or added to soups or stews. Now that you know how to freeze tofu, stock up on the product when it's on sale and keep plenty in your freezer so that you'll always have some on hand.