Freezing Tofu

Freezing tofu gives it an appealing chewy texture, still easy for our aging parents to eat. And it absorbs sauce and flavor wonderfully!

Plate of frozen and thawed tofu, soaking up sauce.

I updated this old post about an extremely useful technique.

When I did the Proteins post, I didn’t happen to have any tofu on hand. It’s a great food to have around, though, as it keeps reasonably well (the sealed packs are good for a week or two at least, though unsealed fresh tofu should be used in a couple of days) and and cooks quickly.

And there is a very useful method that both preserves it longer and turns it into an entirely different food – freezing.

Freezing tofu is an entirely traditional Japanese method. It changes the texture, so that, instead of the smooth, soft, rather bland curd,  you get a chewy, spongy substance that absolutely soaks up liquid and seasoning. It gives variety, and allows a bit more flavor. And sometimes people who have never liked tofu, because of the texture, find they do like this.

The texture is especially useful now, for the parents. When Mom bites it, she gets some resistance to her teeth, so it feels nice and chewy, but it then comes apart almost at once. She needs to chew even the most tender meat for a full minute or more before she swallows, but because the tofu is tender and saturated with sauce, it goes down a little more easily. 

Slabs of tofu on a towel, to remove water.

Take a 14-16 ounce package of tofu, and slice it into four slabs. Wrap the pieces in a towel and put it aside for a while to dry. (This step is optional – you can even just shove the container, water and all, in the freezer – but removing excess water gives a more even texture.)  Then place the slices in a freezer bag, and put it in the freezer, where it can stay for a minimum of a day – or weeks…  The water still in the tofu expands as it freezes, creating holes. And the frozen tofu turns this deep yellow brown color.

Freezer bag of frozen tofu

When you are ready to cook it, start by thawing it. The traditional way is to put it in a bowl, pour boiling water over it, and let it sit until the water cools and you can handle it. I microwave it… Put it in a shallow bowl, to hold the water that will come from it, and microwave it for two minutes. Turn it over (use tongs – it’s hot!) and microwave it another minute or so. Then, I let it sit and cool a while – be careful, as the water is now very hot.

The tofu is probably now sitting in a pool of scalding water – you may want to carefully drain that, so it doesn’t all immediately reabsorb. After a few minutes, pour cold water into the bowl, and start carefully squeezing out the tofu. The slices become like sponges… If you have the time, it may be easier to skip the cold water and let it sit until the tofu completely cools, then squeeze it out. I gently but firmly press it between my hands.

Now you have something that looks and feels remarkably like a kitchen sponge… Have no fear, now we add flavor! Like that sponge, it soaks up liquid. First, cut it up so there it has more surface area – I usually do slices or cubes.  In the past, I just used simple broth and added more flavor with the rest of the dish. But now, the fact that Mom can’t taste much has made food unappealing…

Frozen, thawed, and sliced tofu absorbing sauce

So I take the most highly flavored component of the sauce and marinate the tofu in that. In the pictures, I used chili paste that I mix with tomato for enchilada sauce – enough heat that she can taste it, enough other flavor for everyone else – and mixed it with a little concentrated broth to thin it enough to be absorbed. Rich (and perhaps salty) broth, barbecue sauce with both heat and a bit of sweetness, anything that will give it a little punch of flavor that she will taste and enjoy. (And if you are not cooking for someone with taste issues – just marinate it in some broth or the sauce you plan to use. You do need to add some flavor in a liquid form.)

And a traditional Japanese method skips the neat slicing and marinating. Tear it up in uneven chunks and drop it into a thin soup or other brothy mixture, then serve – the rough surface of the  chunks will just suck up that broth. I tend not to do that, as I’ve found the chunks sort of crumble – but it may work for you!

In this case, I just popped it into the enchiladas along with some chopped shredded pork. Another time I cubed it, instead of slicing, marinated it in sauce, then tossed it in with shrimp and vegetables. I’ve rarely served it to the parents as the only protein in a dish, but that’s as much because there are four of us and one package of tofu isn’t enough, as for any other reason…  The combination also gives Mom some variation in texture and flavor, which seems to help make the meal more interesting.

The tofu, cooked this way, has plenty of flavor and a nice bite to it. It’s sometimes even described as “meaty” – which I think is a reference to the texture… It is also very convenient to just have it in the freezer, ready whenever you want it.

Freezing tofu gives it an appealing chewy texture, still easy for our aging parents to eat. And it absorbs sauce and flavor wonderfully!

Frozen, thawed, and sliced tofu absorbing sauce

Frozen Tofu

Anne Murphy
Freezing tofu gives it an appealing chewy texture, still easy for our aging parents to eat. And it absorbs sauce and flavor wonderfully!
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes


  • 1 14-16 oz package of tofu


To Freeze

  • Slice your tofu into four even slices.
  • Wrap the slices in a clean dish towel, or paper towels, to absorb excess water. Let it sit, pressing lightly, for about 10 minutes.
  • Place slices in a freezer bag or other container. Freeze at least overnight, until frozen solid. You can leave it in the freezer for as long as a few weeks.

To Thaw and Use

  • Take out as many pieces as you want. Place in a deep plate or shallow bowl, to catch water.
  • Microwave 2 minutes. Turn, microwave another minute. Let cool.
  • Pour cold water over the tofu to cool it enough to handle it. Carefully squeeze out as much water as you can. You should get something that resembles a cellulose sponge.
  • Your tofu is now ready to cut up, marinate, and use!


Your tofu will now absorb any flavorful marinade.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!


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