How To Store Tofu: Every Method In Detail – Grow Your Pantry

How To Store Tofu: Every Method In Detail

by Susan Grey on September 19, 2019
how_to_store_tofu_guide
Many recipes don't require using an entire block of tofu, and often leftover tofu gets stored, forgotten about, and goes rotten. By learning how to best store tofu in the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer, as well as how to preserve tofu through fermenting, and smoking, you can ensure this won't happen again. 
Tofu is extracted from soy milk and is in the form of curd and is either acid or salt precipitated. Tofu has a high moisture content which quickly disappears when exposed to the air. This makes it a rather tricky task to store tofu. The method of storage will depend on the length of time you want to store it.
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Why Is It Essential To Store Tofu?

tofu_on_chalk_board

 

Due to its texture, tofu tends to dry out quickly, so it's therefore essential to preserve the tofu to maintain its texture. The flavor of your tofu will also depend on how well you store it as exposure to the elements hugely degrades the flavor.
Storing tofu also makes it possible to preserve extra tofu which has already been taken out of the packaging.

Which Is The Best Method For Me?

Take a look at the table below to discover which is the best method of storing tofu. It will depend on when you plan to use it, and what for. 
Fridge
Freezer
Pantry
Opened Tofu
Yes - 3-5 days
Yes - 3 months
Not Recommended - 1-2 days
Unopened Tofu
Yes - 3 months
Yes - +3 months after expiry
Yes - Up to expiry
Cooked Tofu
Yes - up to 5 days
Yes - 3 months
No
Fermented Tofu
Yes (once open) - 6 months
No
Yes (unopen) - 1 year
Smoked Tofu
Yes - 2 weeks
No
No

Methods of Storage

tofu_block

 

Refrigeration

Sealed tofu can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 months. Once the original packaging is open, the tofu can only be kept in the refrigerator for 3-5 days before it starts to lose its flavor. 
How To Refrigerate Tofu:
Unopened:
After buying tofu it's recommended to store it in its original packaging until the time comes to use it. This not only prevents contamination but also the loss of flavor and texture, which happens when tofu is left exposed to the elements.
1. Immediately refrigerate tofu:
After buying tofu, you should keep it in your refrigerator immediately. It is recommended to use a fridge compartment with a constant temperature and use within 3 month.
Opened:
After opening a packet of tofu, the chances are that some will remain. Open tofu is best stored in the fridge for up to 5 days. It needs to be kept in airtight containers and at reduced temperature to prevent bacterial and fungal growth. If this does occur, it will render the block useless.
1. Place the tofu in airtight containers:
Tofu is highly susceptible to bacteria. Exposure to air introduces these bacteria which proceed to contaminate the tofu leading to early rot. All open tofu should be stored in airtight containers to prevent this.
2. Fill the container with water:
Tofu will lose its texture and go dry or even spoil if stored without water. Pour in enough fresh water to fully submerge the tofu within the container. You should use filtered water for the best results as tap water does at times contain contaminants which can harm the tofu.
3. Change the water daily:
To keep the tofu moist and fresh, you should empty and refill the water everyday. This can be done by draining the tofu in a colander before refilling the airtight container.
Does tofu go bad if not refrigerated?
Yes, opened tofu will go bad if not refrigerated within 2 days of opening its original packaging. Sealed tofu will remain fresh up to its expiry date out of the fridge.
Do I have to refrigerate tofu?
Yes. Some manufacturers do sell their tofu in sealed containers which can be kept at room temperatures initially. However, they will eventually require refrigeration once they are opened.
How long can you keep tofu in the refrigerator?
This will depend on whether the tofu is in its original packaging or not. When dealing with store-bought tofu which has not been opened, you can keep it in the fridge for 3 months or until its expiry date. On the other hand, open tofu can only be kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
What type of tofu is best to use?
While all varieties can be stored in the refrigerator, this method is best recommended for silken. These are often shipped submerged in water and therefore storing them submerged in water only serves to maintain the silken texture.
What types can you not use?
Refrigeration is not advisable when dealing with extra firm tofu and super firm varieties. This is because the blocks will absorb moisture and lose their firmness as well as flavor and texture.
Pros:
  • Comes in handy when storing leftover tofu for a short period of time.
  • The method is relatively easy to use and requires little maintenance.
Cons:
  • The process requires you to change the filtered water daily when dealing with opened tofu.
 

Freezing

This is the most effective method for long term storage as it will retain its flavor for up to 3 months. Freezing tofu also makes it chewier and increases its capability to absorb marinades.
How To Freeze Tofu:
Unopened:
You can freeze it in its original packaging. These will freeze up and remain fresh up to 3 months past their printed date of expiry.
1. Store the unopened packages in the freezer:
The unopened packages should be kept on an open compartment in the freezer. Avoid placing anything on the packets as this only serve to exert pressure on the tofu, which leads to damaged blocks.
2. Only defrost the required amount:
When you are ready to use the frozen tofu take out the required amount and defrost it. It's important to note that the defrosted tofu will have a different taste and texture as it becomes spongier and chewier due to the freezing over of water molecules within the tofu. These icicles then evaporate during defrosting.
Opened:
1. Drain any excess moisture:
Before you freeze your leftover tofu, it's recommended to drain out any excess moisture. This is to prevent loss of flavor and texture.
2. Cube the block before freezing:
Cutting up the leftover tofu block into cubes makes it much easier to store it in a container. The frozen cubes will also be much easier to deal with when you want to take out some for cooking.
3. Freeze the cubes on a cookie sheet:
Place the tofu cubes on a cookie sheet and freeze for up to 2 hours. The cookie sheet makes it much easier to remove the cubes as they don't usually stick to the cookie sheet.
4. Store the frozen tofu in plastic freezer bag or container:
These are not only airtight but are also prevent the cubes from sticking. Place them on the upper part of your freezer and avoid adding any extra weight onto the tofu.
Can you freeze fresh tofu?
Yes, freezing fresh tofu is a great way to preserve it, and it will also enhance its texture becoming chewier.
Do you freeze tofu in the water?
Tofu should be drained of any excess moisture before freezing.
How long should you freeze your tofu?
Tofu can be frozen for up to 3 months after which you defrost it and proceed to cook as per the recipe.
What type of tofu is best to use?
Freezing tofu is the best way to preserve all tofu types for future use. The method is especially recommended for silken to give it a chewy texture and capability to absorb marinades.
What type of tofu can you not use?
Some manufacturers do add "do not freeze" labels on some of their tofu packages. What this usually means is that you should not freeze the tofu while in that specific package. This is because the frozen tofu can swell, leading to the package bursting in your freezer.
Pros:
  • The cheapest method to store all tofu varieties for 3+ months.
  • Silken tofu becomes more flavorful after freezing and gains a chewy texture.
Cons:
  • Frozen tofu will have to be thawed before cooking; this can lead to loss of texture.
 

In The Pantry/Cupboard

Most tofu packages can be stored at room temperature until they are opened. Once opened, the tofu will have to be preserved by another method.
How To Store:
After buying your favorite tofu, you can place the package in a cupboard. The room temperature will not affect the tightly sealed tofu.
Unopened:
1. Store the tofu in a cupboard away from direct sunlight:
The sealed tofu packets will remain fresh as long as the seal remains unopened. It is recommended to avoid storing tofu in cupboards that are in line with direct sunlight to prevent increased temperature fluctuations.
Opened:
While it's not recommended, it's still possible to store unsealed tofu in the cupboard. The method is, however, not effective and can only be used for up to 1-2 days.
Firm Varieties: 
1. Place the leftover tofu in airtight containers:
The leftover tofu should be transferred from the opened package into an airtight container. This method is best recommended for extra firm and super firm tofu varieties.
Silken Varieties:
1. Place silken tofu in salted water:
To preserve it at room temperatures, you will have to submerge it in salted water if you drained the liquid it was submerged in. Add half a liter of water and three tablespoons of salt into a mason jar, mix well before adding in the silken tofu. The sealed mason jar can then be stored in the cupboard for 1-2 days.
How do you store tofu without a refrigerator?
The only way to store open tofu without a refrigerator is by soaking it in brine.
What type of tofu is best to use?
This method is only recommended for sealed tofu.
What types of tofu can you not use?
This method is not recommended when storing silken due to its high moisture content. The only way to preserve it in the cupboard is by submerging it in brine. This leads to an overly salty flavor.
Pros:
  • It's cheap to implement as you don't require any specialized equipment.
  • Tofu stored at room temperature does not require any special preparation before cooking.
Cons:
  • The method is not as cost-effective as tofu stored at room temperature will go rancid in less than 3 days.
  

Methods of Preserving 

smoked_tofu

 

Smoking

This gives it a smoky flavor, and depending on the technique, it can gain the flavor of the wood being used to smoke it such as almond and ash. Smoking drains away the excess water content making it unsuitable for softer and silken types.
How To Smoke Tofu:
1. Prepare the grill:
Tofu doesn't require much smoke, unlike its meat alternatives. Set up half a cup of wood chips on the cool side of the indirect fire on the grill. Unwrap the wood chips to flavor the tofu. 
2. Marinade the tofu:
Apply a marinade or rub to the tofu before grilling it. 
3. Grill the tofu:
Place the tofu blocks on a gentle trickle of smoke and cover with the lid, the temperature should be around 225 to 250 degrees F (107 to 121 degrees C). Grill for about 15 minutes before turning the pieces and replacing the lid once more. Always check periodically to ensure that the charcoal doesn't burn out or become too hot.
How To Store:
Smoked tofu can be kept in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Simply wrap the smoky brown tofu pieces in paper towels and store in the refrigerator. However, it's best to serve smoked tofu straight from the grill. 
Pros:
  • The tofu gains a distinctive smoky flavor.
  • Smoking tofu prolongs its shelf life.
Cons:
  • The process is prone to bitter and over smoked flavors.

Fermenting

Fermented tofu makes for a rusty Chinese condiment for unique recipes as well as maintaining tofu for up to a year. Tofu can either be fermented after shaping it or before. This makes it possible to preserve all varieties of tofu via fermentation from silken to extra-firm types.
How To Ferment:
1. Rinse the tofu:
Rinse the block and pat dry with paper towels.
2. Press the tofu:
You can either use a tofu press or construct one using kitchen tools such as a heavy skillet. Use a kitchen towel to catch the water as it drains out of the tofu.
3. Place the tofu in a steamer:
Cut the pressed block into cubes and place them evenly in the steamer. Cover with a lid to allow fermentation to take place.
4. Allow the tofu to mold:
Mold starts to grow on the tofu cubes around the 24 hours after placing them in the steamer. The mold serves to ferment the tofu while also preventing the growth of harmful bacteria. Allow the tofu to ferment for up to 7 days.
5. Prepare the seasoning:
Add chili powder and peppercorn powder and mix in a bowl.
6. Prepare the white wine:
Pour a bottle of white wine into a bowl, dip each piece of tofu into the wine. Roll the soaked piece in seasoning and ensure that it's evenly coated.
7. Place the coated tofu in a mason jar:
Add the coated tofu pieces into a mason jar and pour in about 20g of white wine into it. Seal the jar tightly.
8. Fill the mason jar with sesame oil:
After 24 hours unseal the mason jar and top with sesame oil until the tofu is completely submerged. Ensure you leave an inch of air space on the top for escaping carbon dioxide. Seal the jar and store in the pantry for up to 1 year. Once opened the jar of fermented tofu can be kept in the fridge for up to 6 months.
Pros:
  • Fermented tofu can last for up to 1 year while sealed.
Cons:
  • Fermented tofu can become too spicy depending on the seasoning used.
 

FAQs

crispy_fried_tofu

 

How to tell if tofu is bad?
When tofu goes bad its appearance changes to a discolored yellowish hue with molds growing on it. The smell also becomes sour and pungent (link).
Can I store tofu without water?
Yes, you can freeze the tofu or unopened store in the pantry.
How to preserve tofu without a fridge
It can be stored in the pantry or a cupboard when unopened.
Does freezing it make it taste better?
It alters the taste; many people prefer the taste of tofu once it has been frozen. It makes the tofu firmer, less spongy, meatier, and able to absorb marinades better.
Why do you store tofu in the water?
Tofu is stored in water so that it can maintain its texture and flavor while also keeping off contaminants.

 

 

Interested in learning more about tofu?
Check out these articles:
What Does Tofu Taste Like?
How Long Does Tofu Last?
Can Tofu Be Eaten Raw?
Types of Tofu
Tofu Press
Can Dogs Eat Tofu?
Is Tofu Keto?
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