The Cheap & Healthy Protein You Should Always Have in Your Freezer for Quick Meals
Welcome to Thrifty. A weekly column where assistant nutrition editor and registered dietitian, Jessica Ball, keeps it real on how to grocery shop on a budget, make healthy meals for one or two, and make earth-friendly choices without overhauling your entire life.
To be clear, I am not a vegetarian. I had a long stint with veganism late in high school and early in college. Though I can totally see the merit of following a lifestyle diet like that, it wasn't for me. That being said, I still try and work in a few plant-based days each week. It's not always Meatless Monday, but it usually is something quick and easy.
There are so many recipes with tofu that I love. It is so versatile in flavor, and holds its own in everything from tacos to stir-fries. But it can be hard to get through a whole container of tofu before it goes bad, especially living alone. Plus, even when I try my best to prep it right, sometimes it comes out a little bit mushy. There is one hack though, that has saved me money while making my tofu more delicious: freezing my tofu.
How to Freeze Tofu
Freezing tofu is super simple and helps your tofu last for three to five months, as compared to three to five days in the fridge. Drain the liquid from the package and cut the tofu into slices about the size you would want for the dish you want to make. I usually do slices that are about a half inch thick. Placing them in a single layer in a freezer-safe bag or food storage container prevents them from sticking together. You can press the tofu before freezing to prevent ice buildup, but you don't have to.
To use frozen tofu, remove it from the freezer and thaw in the refrigerator. No need to pat, press or drain it. Once it is thawed, use it just as you would regular tofu. It can be marinated, baked, fried, sautéed or prepared however you like. Note that tofu can get a yellower color when frozen. The slight color change happens because of the bean protein and water separation but it's totally natural and safe to eat.
Why to Freeze Tofu
One of the main advantages to freezing your tofu is that it helps expel water, giving the tofu a spongier, firmer texture. It also minimizes sogginess and can make tofu more chewy and more similar to meat in texture, if that's what you are after. Having less water also lets the tofu absorb sauces and spices more easily, making it more flavorful.
Frozen tofu lasts over three months in the freezer, compared to a few days in the fridge, so it is a great idea if you are looking to cut down on food waste. It also is easy to have on hand for quick, meatless meals to help you eat in a healthy, earth-friendly way. Some stores even have options to buy tofu in bulk at a reduced price, so you can save money too.
My Favorite Tofu Recipes
When I need something fast, I turn to recipes like our Tofu & Vegetables Scramble. It works with a variety of veggies, making it great for "clean out the fridge" meals. Plus, it's on the table in just 20 minutes.
I also love our Tofu & Snow Pea Stir Fry with Peanut Sauce, which is ready in just 30 minutes. The tofu and peanut sauce pack it with a rich savory flavor that makes me feel like I'm eating takeout at home.
When I have a little bit more time, I love to treat myself to our Caesar Salad with Cashew Dressing & Tofu Croutons. It is a delicious, plant-based take on one of my all-time favorite dishes.
For something comforting, I turn to our Thai Coconut Curry Soup. I love the frozen tofu in this for its firmness, which is a nice contrast to the cooker greens and broth. It's basically a warm hug in a bowl.
Related: Is Tofu Healthy?
Whether you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet or you just want to eat more plant based, try freezing your tofu. It helps you save money, cut down on food waste and boost the flavor of your dishes with ease. Once I started freezing my tofu, I won't store it any other way. Try it yourself for a delicious, quick and easy plant-based meal.