This Trick Works *Every Time* For Crispy Tofu
Creative Assistant, Meredith Holser, is B+C's resident food writer, photographer, and TikTok taker. Meredith writes about a range of topics for B+C, but she's adopted food writing in all its many facets for the last year. You can see her work published in Do214, Advocate Magazine, WFAA, and North Texas Daily. Meredith's passion for photography began after sneaking her mom's iPhone to take pictures of flowers on vacation, eventually evolving from a passion to a professional career. Outside of work, you can catch Meredith hiking, trying new recipes, and dreaming about having a yummy little treat.
The Best Frozen Tofu Trick
Freezing an extra-firm block of tofu removes unnecessary moisture, giving it a much more desired and complex texture.
"When you freeze a liquid, that liquid expands," says Catherine Perez, a Registered Dietician, plant-based enthusiast, and Founder + Creator of Plant Based RD. "This is what happens internally with tofu when you place it in the freezer. The liquid inside the tofu freezes, and more importantly, expands, creating pockets inside the tofu. As a result, you end up with a chewier, meatier texture."
Freezing the tofu also makes it better for marinating, and it does *wonders* for frying each cube to a golden crisp.
"The resulting pockets also make tofu act more like a sponge," Perez says. "So after you thaw and press the excess water out, you can pour your marinade and the tofu will better absorb it, which will help improve the flavor of the tofu."
You don’t even have to remove the tofu from its original packaging — simply slice a small hole into the package you bought, drain the excess water, place the package into a sealable plastic bag, and pop it into the freezer for 4-8 hours before use.
How To Unfreeze Tofu – Thaw *Or* Boil
To unfreeze your frozen tofu, you can either let it thaw completely by setting it out on a counter at room temperature, or briefly boil it.
- Take your tofu out of the freezer and set it out at room temperature.
- Wait 8 hours – or leave it overnight to make it easy – to let the tofu thaw out completely.
- Once thawed, using your hands or a tofu press, carefully press out any remaining moisture.
- After freezing the tofu, start boiling some water in a saucepan big enough to accomodate your tofu.
- Once the water is boiling, submerge the tofu and let the water return to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to a simmer, and let the tofu cook for about 15 minutes. The frozen tofu might have a yellowish hue to it, but this is totally normal. Once you boil it, it will fade back to a healthy shade of white.
- Carefully remove the tofu from the simmering water and set it out on a plate lined with paper towels or napkins. Let it cool.
- Once cooled, continue to pat with paper towels or press the tofu until it's dry. Now you're ready to cut and prepare it how you'd like!
If you find yourself crunched for kitchen time – or just don't want to do the heavy-lifting – Perez offers her greatest hack:
"Truly, my secret weapon when I'm feeling lazy is using a pre-pressed tofu like Nasoya's Super Firm Tofu. Firmer tofus like this tend to come in vacuum-sealed packages and require no additional pressing. Just remove from the package, pat dry, and you are ready to go."
Cooking The Tofu
You'll want to pan-fry the tofu for a quick, easy way to achieve crispness.
First, heat a skillet over medium-high heat, and add your choice of a high-heat cooking oil. You want the oil to be quite hot before adding the tofu, but *not* to the point where it’s smoking.
Cut your tofu into cubes and allow them to cook in the oil for about 5 minutes, checking on the browning process periodically. When the cubes are golden brown, gently flip them, and continue to brown each side. This should only take about 10 minutes tops! Once all of the sides are golden and crisp, remove them from the pan.
From there, you're prepped to toss them into salads, stir-fries, noodle dishes – or just eat them on their own. Seriously, they’re that good. But if you're looking for a *bit* more flavor, we've got the tips for that, too!
Tofu is a blank slate, so it *begs* for flavor, no matter how well you initially crisp it.
Marinating the tofu in different sauce mixtures is the ultimate way to bring some flavor action to your protein. Simply add your marinade to a sealable bag or bowl with prepped chopped or torn tofu and let it sit for as long as overnight. From there, you can pan-fry it using the guide above.
"I often remind people that preparing tofu is not too dissimilar to how we approach preparing meat dishes," Perez says. "Make sure to use sauces you love and be generous with the spices so you can really add in flavor. If you don't have time to marinate, I recommend crumbling or shredding your tofu and cooking it up with a sauce."
When you bring your tofu to the pan, get creative with adding soy sauce, hot sauce, or ginger. If you add garlic, add it near the end of the cooking time, as garlic burns quickly – and burnt garlic is what misery is made of. You can also toss the tofu into a dressing right after it’s been cooked, or serve it with a dunk-able dipping sauce.
You don't have to opt for stovetop cooking, though – "you can freeze it, bake it, pan fry it, shred it, crumble it, saute it, or turn it into deli slices to name a few," Perez says. "I always encourage those that have not tried (it or have had a bad experience with it) to go back to it and try it a different way!"
Do you have any awesome tofu hacks we should know about? Tweet us @BritandCo!
Photography by Dana Sandonato / Brit + Co.
This post has been updated.
Quotes have been edited for clarity.
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