Kouya tofu drying of Japan
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Dehydrating Tofu (Complete Guide)

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If you are looking to maximize the flavor and texture of tofu, then you have to learn the proper way to dehydrate it!

How to dehydrate tofu? Tofu can be dehydrated in many ways. The best method to do it is to use a tofu press, where you put a weighted object over the tofu to drain out all the excess water. Then there are other methods such as the passive dehydration method, free-weight method, microwave method, boiling method, and more.

Read below to learn more about how to properly dehydrate tofu, some best practices, and how to make the most out of dehydrated tofu!

All About Tofu

In its essence, tofu is simply a tasteless mass of protein and water — but we love it because it is perhaps one of the most versatile ingredients in the culinary world!

Not only can it easily absorb the flavor of any dish it is added to, but tofu also provides a considerable amount of protein — without any added calories. 

To understand why tofu needs to be drained and why it is stored in water, we must first explore how it is made!

Tofu is essentially made by blending mature soybeans. 

The beans are first soaked for up to a day, which hydrates them. They are then drained and mixed again with fresh water and blended in batches, depending on the quantity of the beans. 

The blended mixture is then filtered through a fine mesh that separates the pulp from the liquid — which contains the nutrients (mostly protein). 

The pulp is pressed until all of the moisture has been extracted and the leftover “cake” is sold as animal feed. 

Meanwhile, the soybean liquid goes on to the next process, which transforms it into tofu!

The liquid is first processed through another mesh filter to further clarify it — and then other ingredients like salt or flavorings are added, specifically in the case of flavored tofu

For plain tofu, the mixture is left unseasoned and is directly coagulated using magnesium chloride, a byproduct of sea salt. 

Once the tofu has completely curdled, the curds are then drained of excess water and then further pressed until the tofu has its iconic block shape. 

The cubed tofu is then packaged and sold in specialized containers that are built to prolong the life of the product. 

Characteristics Of Tofu

You might be wondering — if the entire process of preparing tofu heavily revolves around dehydrating or compressing it to release excess moisture, then why do we store it in water-filled containers?

Why not just keep it dehydrated for added convenience?

The answer to this question lies in the characteristics of tofu. See, to keep it fresh, manufacturers package tofu with a bit of water to keep it from getting too dry.

While dehydrating tofu enhances its texture and flavor-absorbing capabilities, it doesn’t help it with its shelf life!

Without water, tofu can irreversibly dry up, much like how you can’t reverse freezer burn! This change means that the tofu won’t taste as fresh and will also probably lose its soft and spongy qualities. 

To highlight their differences, let’s go over the characteristics of dry and hydrated tofu.

Fresh Tofu: Flavor

Fresh tofu that has been recently taken out of its packaging will be relatively tasteless, especially if you have bought the plain variety. 

Many manufacturers also sell garnished or flavored silken tofu — this type of tofu will usually have complex flavors and in most cases, it might not even be required to be dehydrated. 

Dehydrated Tofu: Flavor

Dehydrated tofu can take on many flavors, and is arguably tastier than fresh tofu because its flavors are much more concentrated due to the lack of water. 

On its own, plain and dried tofu offers a bland flavor with a subtle hint of nuttiness from the soybeans, but if you were to dehydrate marinated tofu, then the flavors would be greatly enhanced! 

Fresh Tofu: Texture

Fresh tofu is soft and spongey. Since it is already hydrated with moisture, you can expect it to be very tender too. It also cuts easily and can offer a very pleasant mouthfeel. 

Flavored fresh tofu is usually added as it is in recipes without cooking it since its tender texture can cause it to lose its shape, especially in the case of silken tofu, which is far creamier and more fragile.

This is why flavored tofu is usually added at the end of many recipes so that it can quickly take on the flavor of the ingredients in the recipe without changing its texture. 

Dehydrated Tofu: Texture 

Dehydrated tofu has a firm but tender texture. Tofu is naturally dense, so when you dehydrate it, it takes on a rubbery and resistive texture. 

The great thing about dehydrated tofu is that it becomes highly porous and will soak up more moisture as soon as it is added to any recipe. The firm texture of dehydrated tofu also allows it to be added to stir-fry or deep-fry recipes. 

Fresh Tofu: Uses

Raw, fresh tofu can be used in many different ways. It can be added as a base for smoothies, ice creams, fillings, and much more. 

Fresh tofu can also be enjoyed on its own and is considered to be a healthy way to enjoy tofu that doesn’t involve the use of oil or other caloric-dense ingredients. 

You can even cut fresh tofu and use it as a garnish in salads, soups, and more. We recommend using fresh tofu in recipes that can make the most out of its soft texture and mild flavor!

Dehydrated Tofu: Uses

Dehydrated tofu is just as versatile as its fresher counterpart. It can be used in several ways but is usually enjoyed in stir-fry or other oil-based recipes. 

Dehydrated tofu can also be used in soup or other gravy-based recipes that will allow the tofu to take on all the flavors! It can also be added to pasta or rice dishes — you can even enjoy it on its own with a bit of seasoning.

We recommend using dehydrated tofu in recipes that call for a chewy texture, along with flavorful bits and pieces of tofu!

Dehydrating Tofu – A Complete Guide

Now that we know how tofu is made and its unique characteristics, it’s time to learn how to dehydrate tofu on your own!

Here are some of the most popular methods to dehydrate tofu at home.

Tofu Press

If you want a safe, mess-free, and easy way to dehydrate tofu, then we highly recommend that you go with a tofu press.

A tofu press is designed to drain fresh and raw tofu in a way that doesn’t ruin its delicate texture.

Most of these presses come with either a weight or a pressing mechanism that slowly drains water out from the tofu. 

To use a weighted tofu press, simply place the tofu block inside the container and then place the included weight over the center of the tofu. Give the tofu 15-20 minutes to fully drain and enjoy!

Using a pressing mechanism is even easier. All you need to do is to store the block inside the presser, then seal it using the clamps on both sides. 

This type of presser is excellent because it also allows you to store the tofu in the fridge while it drains — they are also much more compact and convenient to use.

Some tofu-pressers are even designed with a separate drip compartment that collects the drained water and keeps the tofu suspended so that it doesn’t reabsorb any liquid. 

Free-Weight Method

The free-weight method follows the same instructions as the weighted-press method above, but instead of a dedicated tofu press, you can use virtually any weighted object to compress the tofu in a container. 

The best way to go about this method is to use the flat shape of the tofu container as a presser! You get to reuse and recycle!

Place the tofu in a separate storage container. Clean the bottom of the tofu container to remove any dirt or bacteria, and then place the container over the block of tofu.

Then balance any weighted object over the container to press down on the tofu. We recommend that you use a large can (tomato cans work best). For added pressure, just stack the can with another one to increase the weight. 

Wait for about 15-20 minutes and then remove the excess water from the container. Wait another 5-10 minutes and then remove the compressed tofu from the container and use it as required!

The advantage of this method is that you can conveniently put any type of weight over the tofu to dehydrate it, but a disadvantage is that you won’t be able to store the tofu in the fridge due to the stacked weights.

This is why we recommend that you reserve this method when you want to immediately use a block of tofu in a recipe. 

Passive Dehydration Method

The passive dehydration method is for people who want the easiest and laziest way to dehydrate tofu. This method uses the laws of physics to its advantage! 

Simply cut a block of cold tofu into small cubes and then let them rest on a cutting board or container. 

The tofu will begin to release moisture as it comes up to room temperature. Wait for about 20-25 minutes or until the tofu has been adequately dehydrated. 

Please note that while this method is usually the easiest, it may not be the most effective. 

It will somewhat dehydrate the tofu, but if you are accustomed to fully dehydrated tofu, then you should try out the other methods first. 

Boiling Method 

This method is a great way to drain tofu using escaping steam and residual heat. 

Bring a pan with water to a boil and then simply cut the block of tofu into manageable pieces and put it in the pot.

Boil the tofu pieces for about 3-4 minutes and then drain them using a sieve. Move the drained tofu into a container lined with two layers of paper towels

Cover the tofu with the paper towel from the top and let it cool down. You can even repeat this step twice if you notice a lot of wetness in the towels.

Microwave Method

This method is the quickest way to remove excess moisture from the tofu — but it does require some vigilance!

Microwaves work by heating water molecules which effectively heat the food from the inside out. During this process, most of the water from the food also escapes as steam and can also be drawn out using capillary forces. 

Begin by cutting a block of tofu and discarding the water in the packaging. Place the pieces in a microwave-safe container lined with paper towels.

Wrap the paper towel over the top of the container, just like in the boiling method above. Put the container in the microwave and let it heat for about 2-3 minutes at a medium or high setting.

Remember: Be careful while dealing with hot tofu! Remove the wet towels and then re-wrap them using fresh and dry paper towels. Wait until the tofu is at room temperature and use as required! 

Please note that while this method is usually very convenient, it can also deform some soft tofu varieties. We recommend using this method for recipes that don’t require a firm or well-shaped tofu.

Stove Method

The stove method is a great way to cook and dehydrate the tofu — at the same time! This method should be reserved for when you want to immediately cook the tofu without waiting for it to drain.

Start by cutting the tofu into equal pieces and then heating a non-stick pan over medium heat. Make sure that you use a non-stick pan because tofu has a habit of being very sticky!

Add a splash of oil, or just skip the oil and place the tofu directly in the hot pan. Let the tofu cook undisturbed for about 3-4 minutes on each side. 

Then flip and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for another 2-3 minutes and then quickly add your favorite sauce or any other flavoring condiment.

By now the tofu will be adequately dehydrated! This means that it will easily absorb any moisture (or flavor) you add to it.

We recommend going with a slightly runny sauce. Cook the tofu in the sauce for a few minutes or until the sauce has been absorbed. Dish the seasoned tofu on a plate and enjoy! 

Fridge Method

The fridge method is best used when you want to cook the tofu the next day — or when you aren’t in a hurry.

To use this method, simply cut the block of tofu into equal pieces and then place it in a container lined with dry paper towels

Store the container at the back of the fridge at 40°F. Let the tofu chill overnight and then remove the towels and use the tofu as required!

You can also use double-lined paper towels if you are using a particularly hydrated or soft type of tofu. 

Related Questions 

Tofu can be dehydrated in many simple ways! Now that you know how to prepare it for recipes, its time to take a look at some related questions.

How long does dry tofu last in the fridge?

Dry tofu will last about 1-2 days in the fridge. You can store it for up to 2-3 days, but it will likely lose its texture the longer it sits in the fridge.

You can also store tofu in the freezer but we advise that you use it as soon as possible or it might take on an altered texture as it thaws. 

Can tofu deform using the pressing method?

Using a dedicated tofu presser will not ruin the natural block shape of the tofu. But if you are using the free-weight method, then you will have to balance the weight in the middle to compress the tofu equally on all sides.

Not pressing the tofu equally may result in permanent distortion as the tofu dries.

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