How to Safely Dehydrate & Freeze-Dry Tofu for Backpacking Meals

By Inga Aksamit & Aaron Owens Mayhew, MS, RDN, CD • Updated June 12, 2022

This post may contain affiliate links.
Learn how to boost the protein content of your backpacking meals by dehydrating tofu. You can also enjoy our Veggie Pho Noodle Soup recipe! #howtodehydratetofu #howtofreezedrytofu #dehydratedtofu #backpackingmealideas #howtodehydratefood #backcountryfoodie

Drying Instructions | Storage | Veggie Pho Recipe

The key to dehydrating tofu is freezing it ahead of time. Before Chef Glenn cracked the code with this technique, dehydrating tofu resulted in hard nuggets that were nearly impossible to rehydrate or chew. Freezing and thawing the tofu opens up air spaces in the otherwise dense product. The resulting product is crunchy when dry and rehydrates easily with hot or cold water. It’s a little too dry to enjoy as a snack, but in a pinch, it can be eaten in the dry form. It’s a good source of protein in a variety of recipes. 

What types of tofu can you dehydrate or freeze-dry?

Firm or extra firm tofu is best for dehydrating and freeze-drying. If you do not have access to a dehydrator or freeze-dryer, freeze-dried tofu, called koyadofu in Japan, can be found in Asian markets or on Amazon. It rehydrates easily. Another option is to use tempeh or dried bean curd.

How is tofu prepared for dehydrating or freeze-drying?

The most important step is to freeze the tofu for at least a day and then defrost it overnight in the refrigerator. It may be left in the original package for the freezing and thawing.  

Can tofu be flavored before dehydrating?

Tofu may be dehydrated plain, or you can add flavor. Tofu absorbs flavors easily. Bouillon, ramen broth (from a packet or homemade), or flavored broth using Mexican, Thai, Italian, or other spice blends can be used with tofu that has been frozen, thawed, and sliced.

  • Simmer tofu in 1-2 cups of broth (enough to cover the pieces of tofu) for 10 minutes.
  • Leave the tofu in the pot for an hour to absorb more flavored water.
  • Drain the broth.
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How do you dehydrate or freeze-dry tofu?

Step One: Prepare tofu for drying.

  • Pre-freeze and thaw tofu as described above.
  • Drain the juice from the package.
  • Slice into uniform cubes or strips.
  • Simmer in broth as described above as desired.

Step Two: Prepare the dehydrator or freeze-dryer trays.

  • Place the prepared tofu that has been frozen, thawed, drained, and sliced on the dehydrator or freeze-dryer trays.
  • If using a dehydrator and the pieces are very small or are crumbled, use mesh tray liners.
  • Tray liners are not necessary for freeze-dryer trays.

Step Three: Begin the drying process.

  • Dehydrate tofu at 135° F (57° C)
  • After a couple of hours, move the pieces around to break up any clumps and rotate trays if it seems like some are drying faster than others.
  • If freeze-drying, start the freeze-dryer and allow it to run its cycle.
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Step 4: The tofu is done when it is completely dry.

  • Tofu is done when it is very firm and dry to touch.
  • The dehydration process will take approximately 4-8 hours or longer, depending on the humidity.
  • The freeze-drying process will take approximately 12 hours.
  • The tofu should break in half easily, rather than bending.

Step Five: Prepare the dried tofu for long-term storage.

  • For dehydrated tofu, allow the tofu to cool for 30-60 minutes. Then package it in an air-tight container.
  • For freeze-dried tofu, package the tofu immediately in an air-tight container.
  • Once dried, the tofu will reabsorb moisture from the air, so do not leave it out for more than an hour.
  • To lengthen the shelf-life of the tofu, consider vacuum sealing it in vacuum seal bags, mylar bags, or mason jars.
  • You can purchase a mason jar vacuum sealer accessory online.
  • Also, consider adding an oxygen absorber. Oxygen absorbers will remove any extra oxygen from your container.
Goscien brand vacuum sealer with Foodsaver brand mason jar accessory
Goscien brand vacuum sealer with FoodSaver brand mason jar accessory.

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    What is the yield?

    • 16 ounces of tofu will give you about 1 cup of dried pieces.

    How do you rehydrate dried tofu?

    • Add hot or cold water to cover for 10-20 minutes.

    How long will dehydrated or freeze-dried tofu last?

    • Dried tofu can be stored for 1-2 weeks (the short time frame is due to the fat content) in an airtight container kept in a cool, dry, dark area, 6 months in the refrigerator, or 12 months in the freezer.
    • You can store freeze-dried tofu for 10-15 years when vacuum sealed with an oxygen absorber.

    How do I use dehydrated or freeze-dried tofu in backpacking meals?

    Dried tofu can be added to a wide variety of meals as its naturally mild flavor will take on the meal’s flavor. It’s a great way to inexpensively boost the protein content of backpacking meals without significantly increasing the total weight of the meal.

    Here are a few of our favorite recipes using dehydrated tofu.

    Give this Backcountry Foodie dehydrated tofu recipe a try!

    Veggie Pho Noodle Soup

    Backcountry Foodie Recipe
    This recipe is a staple in my backpack and at home on weeknights. It's that good!
    Rate This Recipe
    5 from 1 vote
    View Comments / Leave A Review

    NUTRITION (per serving)

    cal/oz 98
    cal/gram 3.6
    Calories 364 kcal
    PROTEIN 12 g
    CARBS 76 g
    Fiber 10 g
    Added Sugar 6 g
    Fat 2 g
    Sodium 2755 mg
    Home Prep Time 9 hrs
    Field Prep Time 5 mins
    WT/SERVING 3.7 oz (102 g)
    MEAL PREPCook
    Diet TYPESDairy-Free, Nut-Free, Vegan
    Servings2 servings

    INGREDIENTS
     
     

    VEGETABLES

    • 4 cups broccoli, fresh florets, roughly 1 head of broccoli
    • 2 cups cabbage, fresh shredded, coleslaw mix works just fine
    • 1 ½ cups mushrooms, fresh white, sliced, approximately 8 oz container
    • 1 small onion, fresh yellow, thinly sliced
    • 1 cup carrots, fresh shredded, pre-shredded carrots in a bag work just fine
    • 1 bunch green onions, fresh, chopped, tops only

    NOODLES

    OPTIONAL

    INSTRUCTIONS

    HOME

    • Bring a stockpot of water to a boil.
    • Add the broccoli, cabbage, and carrots to the stockpot.
    • Blanch the vegetable mix for 3-4 minutes after returning to a boil.
    • Drain the vegetable mixture and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.
    • Spread the mixture onto two dehydrator trays.
    • Spread the sliced yellow onion, green onions, and mushrooms onto separate dehydrator trays.
    • Dehydrate vegetables at 125℉ (52℃) for 4-8 hours or until completely dry. The time required to dry the vegetables will vary based on the humidity in your home.
    • Divide the dried vegetables into two servings and store them in two bags or containers to be used in the backcountry.
    • Divide the noodles into two servings. Add one serving of noodles to each serving of vegetables.
    • Divide the dry broth ingredients into two servings. Add one serving of broth to each serving of vegetables.
    • Pack the soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and sriracha (optional) separately.

    FIELD

    • Bring 16 oz (480 mL) of water to a boil.
    • Remove the pot from the stove and add the soup mixture, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and sriracha (optional) to the pot.
    • Stir to mix well and cover the pot with a lid.
    • Let the soup stand for 5 minutes to allow the vegetables and noodles to rehydrate.
    • Stir occasionally to make sure the noodles are completely covered with hot water.
    • Once fully rehydrated, stir to mix well, and enjoy!

    NOTES

    MEAL PREP TIPS

    • Dehydrated or freeze-dried tofu is a great way to add protein and calories to this meal.
    • Instructions for dehydrating tofu:
      • Freeze the tofu overnight in the container that was purchased.
      • Allow the tofu to thaw completely in the refrigerator.
      • Cut the tofu into 1/2″ cubes and place on dehydrator trays.
      • Dehydrate at 135℉ (57℃) for 4-8 hours or until completely dry. The tofu should break in half easily, rather than bending.
      • Dehydrated tofu can be stored for 1-2 weeks in an airtight container kept in a cool, dark, dry place, 6 months in the refrigerator, or 12 months in the freezer. The short shelf-life is due to the fat content of the tofu.

     

    NUTRITION

    • Be aware that this recipe prepares two large, low-calorie servings of soup.
    • Total sugar (per serving): 13 g, including 6 g added sugar from the hoisin sauce
    • To reduce sodium by 2453 mg, use sodium-free bouillon and low-sodium soy sauce.

    MY NOTES

    Did you make this recipe? We’d love to see it!Share photos from your kitchen or the backcountry below.
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    ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

    Inga Aksamit is a Northern California-based author and backpacker who writes about exploration, adventure, and eating well on the trail. She focuses on creating delicious gourmet meals with healthy, wholesome ingredients and no-fuss preparation in the backcountry. She has written several books, including “The Hungry Spork: A Long Distance Hiker’s Guide to Meal Planning” and “The Hungry Spork Trail Recipes.”

    Aaron Owens Mayhew, MS, RDN, CD, is a registered dietitian and ultralight long-distance backpacker with over 20 years of nutrition and backpacking experience. She’s also the founder and owner of Backcountry Foodie, an online ultralight recipes and meal planning platform for backpackers. She also enjoys teaching hikers about backpacking nutrition via virtual masterclasses, YouTube videos, and podcast episodes. You can follow Aaron’s adventures in the kitchen and the backcountry via Instagram and Facebook.

    Resources:

    McCallister, Glenn. “Dehydrating Tofu.” Backpacking Chef.com.

    MacKenzie, Jennifer, Jay Nutt, and Don Mercer. The Complete Trail Food Cookbook.

    Learn how to boost the protein content of your backpacking meals by dehydrating tofu. You can also enjoy our Veggie Pho Noodle Soup recipe! #howtodehydratetofu #howtofreezedrytofu #dehydratedtofu #backpackingmealideas #howtodehydratefood #backcountryfoodie

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