I’ve tried my fair share of tofu variations since going vegan, and frozen tofu is one of the best.
Somehow, freezing tofu makes it spongier and firmer when you actually cook it.
Two researchers actually conducted a study to find out what happens when you freeze tofu.
Here are the highlights:
Tofu made from frozen soybeans showed higher hardness, gumminess and chewiness than the control. Freezing treatment also made the microstructure of the tofu more uniform than the control.
It turned out that tofu frozen for 5 hours was higher quality than tofu frozen for 24 hrs. After 24 hours, the hardness went down, and the mouth-feel decreased.
Note they did not test times between 5 and 24 hours, somewhere in-between is likely optimal. But the point is that you probably don’t want to freeze tofu for days or weeks.
Why Does Frozen Tofu Taste Different? The Answer – Its Structure
During the study, the researchers took a closer look at the physical changes to the tofu using a scanning electron microscope (SEM).
They found that normal, unfrozen tofu (left) has a discontinuous network with big and
irregular pores, but frozen tofu (right) has a continuous and more uniform structure.
After 24 hours the pore size actually increased, which is why the researchers concluded that the tofu quality actually decreased. The taste testers’ ratings agreed.
So while you can buy frozen tofu that’s been frozen for who knows how long, it may not be as good as the tofu you freeze overnight or over the day. Although perhaps there are other freezing techniques used that result in different structural changes.
A few more questions you might have before we wrap up this post…
Can you cook tofu from frozen?
Yes, you can, but the standard advice is to thaw it and press out as much water as possible to get an even firmer tofu.
That’s how I prefer it personally, and it’s particularly important if you started by freezing silken (soft) tofu.
One other benefit of thawing and pressing at this stage is that the tofu is so deprived of liquid, that anything you marinate it in will be readily absorbed.
Frozen tofu usually cooks about twice as fast as well.
Can you freeze tofu in its package?
Almost all tofu comes in plastic packaging that is definitely not freezer safe. It can deteriorate and leach chemical into the food.
There are some types of plastic that are designed for freezer use, but tofu is rarely sold in them. Why take the chance? Find a freezer safe container of some kind to use.