Poor tofu. It’s gotten a bad rap as one of the scariest vegan proteins and it’s really not tofu’s fault. You see, people misunderstand this magnificent ingredient. It’s no more meant to be served plain any more than a blank canvas is intended for display. Tofu works well with others. In fact, it needs others to bring out its true genius.
Have you ever wondered how restaurants get that magical spongy, flavorful texture that makes tofu chewy and juicy in stir-fries and curries? The secret is to learn how to freeze tofu (read on).
When tofu is frozen, the water inside it becomes ice crystals, which expand and make little “bubbles” inside the tofu block. When defrosted, the ice melts back into water but the structure of air bubbles remains. This makes the tofu chewier, spongier, more absorbent, and eliminates the “jelly-like” consistency. These bubbles are perfect “flavor pockets” just waiting to absorb sauces and marinades.
An added benefit to freezing tofu is that it will keep in the freezer for months, so you can save money by buying extra when it’s on sale.
So what’s the proper technique for freezing tofu? Simply toss the unopened package of tofu in the freezer. Leave it for at least 24 hours, and then when you’re ready to use it, simply thaw. To speed up the thawing process, pop the entire container into a bowl of hot (not boiling) water.
Once the tofu is completely thawed, rinse and press to remove the extra water and then marinate, sauté, fry, or bake, as called for in the recipe.
If you open and press the tofu before freezing, it’ll still work, you’ll just have fewer “flavor pockets.” Note that for dips, smoothies, and spreads that want a creamy smooth texture, refrigerated tofu is what you want, not frozen.
One of my favorite recipes using frozen tofu is Smoky Fried Tofu Bacon.
Happy cooking and joyful eating!
Photo credit: Hannah Kaminsky
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