Freezing Tofu: The Do's Don'ts And Complete Method
Tofu is classified as a perishable food as it will only remain fresh for 3 to 5 days after opening the packet. As a result, there’s a need to prolong this short shelf life by freezing it. This guide will detail how to freeze different varieties of tofu and answer all of our most frequently asked questions.
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Can You Freeze Tofu?
Yes, tofu can be frozen for future use without any complications. Firm and extra firm tofu varieties improve their texture when frozen. However, the same does not apply to silken tofu which becomes rough and flakey while also losing its creamy-soft texture. Avoid freezing silken tofu due to such complications.
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What Happens When you Freeze Tofu?
The cold temperature freezes the water in the tofu forming ice crystals that melt back to liquid during the thawing process - allowing it to drain out more quickly. This leaves the tofu block with numerous tiny air pockets in its interior giving it a spongy consistency which absorbs marinades much faster.
Why Freeze Tofu? Advantages of Freezing Tofu
1. Increasing the Shelf Life of Tofu
Tofu that’s frozen can remain fresh for up to 3 months without spoiling. This is a stark contrast to the 3 to 5 days refrigerated tofu can stay fresh. The freezing process effectively prevents the rotting process from starting. The freezing process also traps in the fresh aroma allowing the tofu to retain its aroma even after thawing months later.
2. Freezing Tofu Gives It A Meaty Texture
The freezing process changes the structure of the proteins in tofu, giving it a meatier texture. As a result, the tofu does not fall apart when cooked, which is often the case with fresh tofu. The tofu becomes chewier, making it a perfect high-protein vegan substitute for chicken or fish.
3. Frozen Tofu Is Much Easier To Press
As the temperature drops, the water trapped in the tofu starts to form ice crystals. These crystals expand in size as they grow and push against the protein matter in the tofu block. Upon thawing, the ice crystals melt away, leaving tiny pockets within the tofu, which give it a spongy texture instead of the dense texture that’s seen in fresh tofu.
This spongy interior is much easier to drain by simply pressing the block of tofu; it releases water in about 2 minutes compared to the 15 to 45 minutes it takes to press fresh tofu.
4. Frozen Tofu Absorbs More Marinades
Frozen tofu has a spongy texture that is highly absorbent: it's able to absorb more marinade, dips and sauces much faster.
Considerations Before Freezing Tofu
1. Changes In Texture And Color
The texture of tofu changes to a chewy one with a spongy interior that’s able to absorb marinades much faster than fresh tofu. The color also changes to a yellowish hue after thawing. Upon frying the frozen tofu, it will turn crispy without falling apart quickly.
2. Storage Length Of Time
Storing tofu in a freezer will prolong its shelf life by up to 3 months. Opened tofu packets can only be kept in the fridge for 3 to days but they can be frozen for up to 3 months.
3. Effect Of Freezing On The Taste
Freezing tofu reduces some of the nutty taste notes in it. Freezing tofu also changes its internal structure, making it spongier hence it can absorb more marinades. As a result, there’s a significant change in the taste as the frozen tofu will absorb more of the taste notes of the other ingredients used in the recipe.
4. The Recipe You Are Going to Cook After Thawing
Frozen tofu is only suitable for stir-frying and dishes that have sauces. This variety of tofu does not perform well in tofu crumbles or ground beef tofu recipes. This is because the meaty texture does not crumble at all.
5. Variety Of Tofu You’re Looking To Freeze
Firm and extra-firm tofu varieties are the most recommended for freezing. This is due to their diminished water content, which allows them to retain their firm shapes. While all tofu varieties can be stored by freezing, the silken types become harder to apply on spreads after thawing and should not be frozen for too long.
How to Freeze Tofu
Can you Freeze Tofu in Its Package?
Yes, it’s possible to freeze tofu while it's still in its unopened packaging. This method is, however, not recommended for tofu that’s packed in water, and only firm and extra firm tofu varieties should be frozen.
How to Freeze Tofu In The Package
1. Place the unopened and undrained tofu package into the freezer
2. Keep frozen for up to 3 months or until you are ready to use
Can you Freeze Cooked Tofu?
It’s possible to freeze already cooked tofu. The tofu will not get soggy after thawing and cooking. However, if you have stored the cooked tofu for too long, it's recommended to reheat it in the oven to prevent it from getting soggy. Avoid freezing soft and dessert tofu varieties that are already cooked due to their high-water content.
How to Freeze Cooked Tofu
1. Place the individual tofu cubes on a cookie sheet, ensuring that they are not touching
2. Freeze the tofu for about 4 hours or until they are solidly frozen
3. Transfer the cubes into a freezer container and seal it
4. Store in the freezer for up to 3 months
If you have tofu that’s currently stored in the water you should drain it before storing it in the freezer.
How to Freeze Drained Tofu
1. Unwrap the block of tofu and discard any water that might have been in the container
2. Wrap the tofu with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel and place it on a flat plate or a cutting board
3. Use a heavy bowl or any other weight available in the kitchen to press the tofu block
4. The pressure squeezes the water out of the tofu, allow the process to continue for 30 minutes
5. Wrap the drained tofu block with plastic wrap. Alternatively, you can place the tofu in a freezer bag
6. Store in a plastic dish in the freezer until ready to use
How to Freeze Tofu Soup
1. Divide the soup into small batches which are stored in freezer-ready containers
2. Ensure that the containers are airtight sealed before placing them in the freezer
3. The tofu soup will remain fresh for up to 3 months; each batch can only be frozen once so you will have to consume the entire container after thawing it
How to Thaw Frozen Tofu
1. Remove the tofu from the freezer container and place it on a plate
2. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight, alternatively you can leave the plate of tofu to thaw in room temperature for 2 to 4 hours
3. Drain the thawed tofu to remove the melted water in readiness for cooking
How to Tell if Thawed Tofu Has Gone Bad
1. Smell - When tofu goes bad it develops a distinctive sour odor that turns foul by the hour. The tofu will start smelling of rotting food. Ensure that thawed tofu should still smell fresh before cooking them.
2. Visuals - When tofu starts to rot, it becomes flimsy and watery with curled edges. Mold can also be seen growing on the surface of rotten tofu.
3. Taste - If you notice a sour and bitter flavor in your tofu, it's definitely spoilt. This flavor develops as the rotting process breaks down the proteins in tofu.
Using Thawed Tofu
Due to the change in texture, frozen tofu gains an ultra-crispy texture upon stir-frying. One of the best stir-fried frozen tofu recipes is the Thai Peanut Sauce with tofu stir fry.
2. Sauces and Stews
The meaty and chewy texture of frozen tofu makes it the perfect meat substitute in stews and sauces.
How Do I Know if My Tofu Has Spoiled?
Changes in the smell, taste, and color of the tofu are the best indicators if it has spoiled. The scent becomes foul, the flavor becomes bitter, and the color changes to blackish hue with visible molds growing on the tofu.
Can You Freeze Tofu Scramble?
No, do not freeze tofu that’s meant for scramble recipes as it will not crumble easily, which is a requirement for the best results. Only use fresh extra firm tofu to make tofu scramble.
Can You Freeze Tofu Burgers?
Tofu burgers rely on silken tofu, a variety that doesn’t do well when frozen. Silken tofu loses the smooth buttery texture that makes it so easy to use on burgers and sandwiches spread.
Can you Freeze Tofu Stir-fry?
Yes, stir-fried tofu can be stored in a freezer by first freezing individual pieces on a cookie sheet before moving them into a freezer container.
Is it Advisable to Freeze Tofu Twice?
No, tofu should only be frozen once to prevent sogginess. Instead, freeze tofu in small batches and only thaw the amount you want to cook.