Jul 6, 2023
Ever heard of kuya dofu or had it in a soup, side salad, or stir-fried veggie? It’s actually freeze-dried tofu and a pantry staple in many modern Japanese households. This type of tofu was first made in Mount Koya by a Mokujiki Shonin (a Shingon priest) during the Edo Period.
The process back then was very crude and long-drawn, taking about a month of repeated drying and thawing. Thankfully, Harvest Right now made it easy for you to make it at home. Here’s how to freeze dry tofu and have it ready to use even if it’s stored for years in your pantry.
Firm or extra-firm tofu is the best soybean curd to freeze dry. They don’t have a lot of moisture, but have enough substance to stay solid after freeze-drying.
There’s also pre-pressed tofu packed in a dry bag. This eliminates the taking out water, which usually takes about 20 minutes to an hour.
Slice the tofu so that it’s about 3/4 of an inch thick. Don’t go any thicker, or you’ll have a hard time freeze-drying.
You can slice the curd into cubes, sticks, or in 4×4 blocks. This gives you room for creativity in using your freeze-dried protein.
You can also slice them in a way that will make it easy for you to prepare and cook. Long strips, cubes, short strips, whatever you like.
Deep freezers do freeze tofu as hard as a rock, but they form large ice crystals. That’s why you’ll see large air pockets when you thaw frozen tofu. These are left behind by ice crystals when they sublimate into water vapor. This texture is good if you want airy, crunchy freeze-dried tofu.
But if you want freeze-dried tofu that almost has the consistency of bread? Here’s what you can do.
Fresh tofu’s suspended in water to keep it moist and fresh. But too much water can prolong the freeze-drying process and create big air pockets.
Squeeze out excess water by placing the tofu between paper towels. Put them on a plate and cover the top with a flat cookie sheet or baking tray. Then weigh the cover down with a couple of cans, evenly distributed to keep the pressure even. You can do this in the fridge overnight or on the counter for 30-60 minutes.
Overnight works better, but remember to change the paper towels when needed.
This brings your freeze-drying game to a whole new level. Food-grade liquid nitrogen has a temperature of -320°F (-90°C). This is why it’s boiling when you put it in a glass at room temperature.
What it does is it freezes your tofu instantly upon contact. This results in smaller ice crystals, which means smaller air pockets. The freeze-drying may be slower because of this, but you’re left with a smoother freeze-dried tofu.
Food-grade dry ice can work as well. It can freeze your soybean curd faster than a deep freezer with a freezing temperature of -109° F (-78°C). To do this, place dry ice at the bottom of an ice box. Next, put your tofu inside freezer-safe bags leaving a small opening for the gas to come out. Cover the bag with another layer of dry ice, then leave it be.
Put holes in the lid so you can cover and protect the food. If you want to make the dry ice last longer, put the chest in the deep freezer until the tofu’s completely frozen.
Use 1 part of dry ice to 1 part tofu. For example, use one pound of dry ice for every pound of tofu.
When you’re satisfied with your soybean curd, you can now start freeze-drying.
It takes about 16-26 hours to freeze dry soybean curd, depending on how much water it has. If you could press your tofu well and pre-froze it, freeze drying won’t take too long.
Freeze-dried tofu should have almost the same feel as freeze-dried cake, but less dense. It should snap easily between your fingers and have that satisfying, crunchy chew, almost like croutons.
If any of your tofu feels soft, moist, and cold, put the trays back for 2-4 hours of extra dry time.
Freeze-dried tofu reconstitutes almost instantly and absorbs water like a sponge. You can reconstitute by using warm water or dashi stock. Pour the liquid until it’s enough to cover but not drown the protein. Leave it for 5 minutes or until it’s soft and doubles in size. Squeeze the freeze-dried tofu firmly yet carefully using your hand until you get the excess liquid out.
If you use it in soups, there is no need to reconstitute it. Add it to your pot and let the tofu absorb the soup for more flavor, then adjust the liquid if needed.
You can do almost anything with it.
You can deep fry it without reconstituting it until it’s nice and crispy. Pair it with a soy-vinegar sauce made of onions, black pepper, and chili (optional). Now you have a mouthwatering side dish that will go well with porridge or congee.
Did you know you can also make sandwiches out of it? Reconstitute it (either in water or stock, whichever you prefer), then squeeze out the liquid. Make your sandwich using either ham, turkey, pastrami, bacon, or whatever flavorful meat you want. Throw in some veggies and your favorite sandwich spread for added moisture. It’s a great gluten-free alternative that gives you an almost similar experience to eating bread.
You can also grind it into powder and use it instead of breadcrumbs. They go well as breading, filler, or binder in meatballs and burgers.
Got some ideas on how you want to use freeze-dried tofu? Let us know in the comment section.
You can also subscribe to Freeze Dried Guide YouTube Channel for more freeze-drying tips.