How to Make Tofu Taste Like Chicken (The Tofu Freezer Trick)

Freezing tofu gives it a meaty, chewy texture that beautifully mimics the texture of chicken. In this post, we’re sharing all our best tofu tips, tricks, and marinades to create THE most mind-blowing vegan chicken – from lemon pepper tofu cutlets to the BEST EVER vegan chicken parmesan recipe. We call this process “the tofu freezer trick” and it is one plant-based cooking hack that will change your life.

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One of the first things people say when discussing tofu is “How can you eat that squishy spongy stuff?!” The answer is, we don’t. And you don’t have to either.

I’ve been freezing tofu since back in my vegetarian days, and it’s pretty much my favorite way to prepare tofu. We use it in so many recipes on this blog (they’re some of the most beloved!), and there’s always a package of tofu in our freezer or one defrosting in the fridge.

After hearing so many misconceptions and having been asked so many questions, I thought it was about time we created a post dedicated to all our tips and tricks for using this “tofu freezer trick” method, as well as put all the recipes that use it in one place for your convenience.

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What is the “Tofu Freezer Trick”?

You may have wondered before: Can I freeze tofu in the package? 

Of course you can! There are some frozen tofu recipes that will tell you to open and press the tofu before freezing, but we’re here to tell you that’s not necessary at all (and kinda counterproductive)! 

You see, when you freeze tofu in the water it comes in, ice crystals (read: shards) form both inside and outside and penetrate the tofu creating a new, chewy, texture that is a dead-on match for chicken. When you defrost it and drain it, those porous “tears” remain and will REALLY soak up whatever marinade you put it in.

We call the tofu we make with this method “tofu chicken,” and there are SO many ways to use it.

What does tofu chicken taste like?

Given the proper marinating and cooking techniques, it honestly tastes like a marinated skinless chicken breast! You’ll be shocked how much so. (And whenever I write that, I always think it’s nuts I used to eat something called “skinless chicken breast.” Tofu FTW.)

But seriously, in cooking, almost all flavors come from seasonings, spices, marinades, etc. For marinating tofu chicken, we always start with some of our homemade bouillon powder.

How do you substitute frozen tofu for chicken?

While we wouldn’t recommend using it for soups or casseroles (we’re big fans of soy curls for those purposes), when you need more of a stand-alone “cutlet” or “nugget” for a salad, sandwich, pasta, etc, this is the way to go! Torn and breaded, it also makes a great “popcorn chicken”!

This tofu freezer trick really opens up the door to be able to substitute tofu for chicken in all your favorite recipes. Speaking of which, a little later we’ll discuss some of our, and our readers’, favorite recipes. But first, the basics…

In this post, we'll share how we prepare and cook tofu to taste and FEEL just like chicken! The "Tofu Freezer Trick" is a life-changing method that is a staple in our vegan kitchen. Tofu is frozen and thawed creating a porous meaty texture that will blow your mind. Then, we soak it in a flavorful tofu marinade and slow bake it in the oven until the tofu is crispy on the outside and tender (NOT squishy) on the inside. Use this easy tofu trick to make everything from healthy tofu nuggets, crispy tofu sandwiches, stir fry tofu, and the BEST tofu chicken for salads. We've included 6 of our favorite tofu recipes that use this method to get you started!

What You’ll Need:

We’ve included some specific recipes below, but here’s the basic framework for all of them:

  • 1 (16-oz) package extra firm tofu – Make sure you use extra firm tofu, and do NOT (under any circumstances) use silken tofu. Silken tofu has an entirely different texture and will basically turn to cottage cheese when you freeze it. Lastly, make sure the tofu you’re using comes packaged in water.
  • ½ cup marinade – This is where it can really get fun! We’ve included some examples of marinades we’ve used before below. Something to keep in mind: If you have a lot of water in your marinade, this will greatly affect the texture of your tofu as well as the cooking time. We suggest using a marinade with an oil base and only minimal water when absolutely necessary. The oil in the marinade will also help you get that crispy oven-fried effect that is just exquisite.
  • 1-2 Tbsp vegan chicken-style bouillon powder – Since the texture of tofu when frozen like this is so close to that of chicken, we always add a little chicken-style bouillon powder to whatever marinade we’re using! 

How to Make Tofu Chicken (The Tofu Freezer Trick)

While this process takes a bit of time, it could NOT be easier. And we’ve included some tips and tricks along the way to help fit this cooking method more seamlessly into your life. 

How to Freeze Tofu

Take it out of your shopping bag and place the whole container in the freezer. Don’t open the package. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. 😉 No, but really, it’s that simple. 

The tofu will need at least 12-24 hours to freeze completely. You don’t want to rush this. 

Time-Saving Hack: If you dig this method and want to save yourself a lot of time, we highly recommend keeping a block of tofu in your freezer at all times! We order tofu just about every time we get groceries. When one package of tofu goes in the freezer, another package goes in!

How to Defrost Tofu

A slow defrost is best and will allow for the greatest texture transformation. If you have the time, I would transfer the tofu to the fridge for about 24 hours. But, depending on your fridge, it may not defrost in 24 hours and may need up to 48 hours to fully defrost. 

If you want it to defrost in a day, you can transfer it to a pie dish and set it on your counter. This way, the tofu should defrost in 12-24 hours. Once defrosted, move the tofu immediately to your fridge until you’re ready to cook with it.

How do you defrost frozen tofu quickly: If you forgot to take the tofu from the freezer and you don’t have 12-24 hours (been there), put the unopened container in a large container of warm water. Make sure the water STAYS warm. A continuous trickle usually does the trick. Done this way, it should defrost in about 3-5 hours. 

How to Press Tofu

You can press tofu with an actual tofu press or over some paper towels on a dish or pie plate with something heavy on top (here’s a video explaining this method).

It may seem counterproductive to press the liquids out just to saturate it again, but by getting rid of the flavorless water you’re actually creating more space for the flavorful marinade to get soaked back into all those tears the ice shards created. 

How to Flavor Tofu Like Chicken

Tofu is bland AF on its own, but then again so are animal-based meats! It’s always been about the spices and flavors we add that give us the taste. That’s why marinating your tofu is a KEY part of this process. Do not skip this step! 

The longer you can marinate the tofu the better. For most recipes, we suggest 30 minutes at the very, very least but prefer to marinate them overnight.

Time-Saving Tip: If you want to score BONUS points and feel like the most organized person in the world, you can actually re-freeze your tofu in the marinade. This makes an awesome batch cooking session, as I often make several different flavors at a time. They stay good like this in the freezer for up to 2 months. When you’re ready to use them, you’ll just defrost in the fridge or on the counter and cook with one of the methods below!

These Lemon Pepper Tofu Cutlets are the perfect meal prep staple! Frozen + thawed tofu is sliced and soaked in a bath of zesty lemon pepper flavor. Then, they’re slow-baked to achieve that perfect meaty texture. Slice ‘em up for salads, use them for sandwiches, or serve ‘em over a mountain of rice for a filling and easy vegan dinner!

How to Cook Tofu

You may be wondering, after I’ve marinated it, what is the best way to cook tofu? When we use this freeze-and-press method, our favorite way to cook tofu is by slow baking it. We find this gives the meatiest possible texture and does not leave the tofu squishy at all! 

How to cook tofu in the oven: I recommend baking tofu “cutlets” like the ones above at around 350F for as long as 40-50 minutes – low and slow. This really gives the water a chance to cook out of the tofu while the outsides crisp up just enough to seal in the meaty texture.

How to air fry tofu: Air fried tofu is great. While we like to make big batches of these tofu cutlets (which is more conducive to the oven in my opinion), many of our readers have reported great results when cooking these cutlets in the air fryer. I would keep the temperature the same and cook them in small batches, flipping every 5-10 minutes until they’re crispy.

How to pan fry tofu: If you’re looking for those SUPER crispy edges while keeping some of that internal “give,” pan frying is the way to go. Just add a little bit of oil (or just a few Tbsp of the tofu marinade) to a hot pan over med-high heat and sear those babies, flipping every few minutes until beautifully browned!

Frozen Tofu Recipes

Now that we’ve gone over the basics, here are some of our favorite tofu recipes using the tofu freezer trick!

1. Lemon Pepper Tofu Cutlets

Lemon Pepper Tofu Cutlets are the perfect meal prep staple! Slice ‘em up for salads, use them for sandwiches, or serve ‘em over a mountain of rice for a filling and easy vegan dinner! #vegan #tofu #veganrecipe #plantbased #mealprep //

These Lemon Pepper Tofu Cutlets are our EVERYTHING chicken. So flavorful and so, so versatile! We love them warm and served over a nice pile of steaming rice with some seared veg. They’re fantastic in wraps of all kinds, but they truly found their place in the world when they got together with our vegan Caesar salad

2. Sweet Chili Tofu Cutlets

Sweet Chili Tofu Cutlets: Get this simple tofu recipe on your weekly rotation STAT! Tender, frozen-and-pressed tofu is marinated in an intoxicating combination of spicy sriracha and sweet agave with a kick of fresh garlic and baked ‘til crisp on the outside + meaty on the inside. #vegan #tofu #tofumarinade # vegetarian //

Our Sweet Chili Tofu Cutlets are the perfect balance of sweet and spicy, giving a super kick to any dish! This is our favorite way to cook tofu for stir fry, but these are also great in salads, wraps, and easy dinner bowls! 

3. Balsamic Tomato Tofu Cutlets

These Balsamic Tomato Tofu Cutlets are crazy meaty, full of balsamic-tomato-garlic-y flavor thanks to a dynamite tofu marinade, and very easy to make! They are meal-prep and freezer-friendly and pair beautifully with pasta, on a sandwich, or straight off the pan. #vegan #tofu #balsamic #plantbased #veganrecipes #tofurecipes //

These Italian-inspired Balsamic Tomato Tofu Cutlets are molto delizioso! Not only are they fantastic in pasta dishes and also as sandwiches with some extra sauce and some melted vegan cheese, but just wait until you try these in a vegan bacon chicken ranch salad.

4. Tequila Lime Tofu Cutlets

These tequila lime tofu cutlets were originally created to go with our avocado tequila lime pasta. We quickly discovered how much we also love them on nachos and in tacos and quesadillas, And they just shine as the main attraction alongside some Spanish-style rice with some warm flatbread or jalapeno cornbread .

5. Vegan Chicken Parmesan

The BEST vegan chicken parmesan we've ever tasted! You won't believe these cutlets are made with tofu after you're done with them, and that peppery breading really knocks it outta the park. Gluten-free option, and the cutlets are freezer-friendly! //

Oh, Mama mia!! If you’re looking for a breaded, fried tofu style cutlet, our restaurant-style vegan chicken parm recipe is for you! This flavor combination is just absolutely amazing over pasta or as a vegan chicken parm sandwich!

6. Vegan Chicken Parm Pizza

Vegan Chicken Parm Pizza is a fun dinner recipe that’s kid-approved, freezer-friendly, and easy to make. A delicious twist on two classic comfort foods, you can make this vegan pizza from-scratch OR use some of the store-bought shortcuts we suggest. #vegan #plantbased #veganpizza #pizzarecipe #vegancomfortfood #comfortfood #pizza #dinner

Tender, tiny pieces of chicken parm tofu generously grace the top of this freshly baked work of art with just just enough vegan cheese to tantalize and to tease. You can thank us later, just get this Vegan Chicken Parm Pizza in your mouth!

7. Vegan Chicken Cutlets

Overhead shot of a vegan chicken cutlet, partially sliced, on a plate with fresh spinach leaves, lemon wedges, and pepporincini. There's another identical plate behind the first plate along with two glasses of white wine.

These vegan breaded chicken cutlets are as delicious as they are versatile. Marinated in classic Italian chicken flavors, breaded, and baked to perfection. Serve these tender tofu cutlets with any pasta dish and/or a big green salad, and everyone will be asking for seconds!

8. Crispy Greek Tofu

Overhead shot of a bowl filled with couscous, greens, sliced cherry tomatoes, red onions, sliced pickles, and baked Greek tofu drizzled with creamy tahini sauce

This vegan Greek tofu recipe is loaded with Mediterranean-inspired flavors and has a crispy outside and tender inside. Serve this vegetarian Greek inspired recipe in salads, bowls, pastas, or as a delicious Greek tofu sandwich!

9. Pesto Tofu Cutlets

Overhead shot of a fork lifting up a piece of vegan pesto tofu on a cutting board

These baked pesto tofu cutlets are a tasty vegan substitute for pesto chicken! These are the perfect plant-based protein for vegan pesto tofu pasta, salads, and sandwiches!

10. Vegan Honey Garlic Tofu

Overhead shot of two sliced tofu cutlets sitting on top of a pile of dairy-free mashed potatoes and sprinkled with sesame seeds

This vegan honey garlic recipe – made with tofu instead of chicken – will dazzle your tastebuds with its salty/sweet flavors and delight your mouth with the crispy tofu edges and tender meaty inside. It’s a fantastic simple meal prep – with many options for how to prep it, including freezer options! Serve it over brown rice or alongside mashed potatoes, add stir-fried or roasted veggies for an easy make-ahead work night dinner.

11. Vegan Buffalo Tofu Wings

Overhead shot of a pile of breaded and sauced vegan buffalo tofu wings with a bite taken out of the center wing to show the meaty texture inside.

If you’re looking for the best vegan boneless wings with dairy-free buffalo sauce, you’ve found the right recipe, my friend! These vegan chicken wings made with frozen and defrosted tofu are marinated, breaded, and air fried before being tossed in a spicy tangy buffalo sauce and dipped into a vegan blue cheese dip. If you’re a buffalo sauce fan (or love someone who is!), you have to try this game-changing buffalo tofu recipe.

12. Teriyaki Pineapple Tofu

Overhead close up photo of half a round white plate topped with rice, pineapple tofu, pineapple jalapeno salsa, and drizzled with spicy vegan mayo

This crispy tofu with a pineapple glaze is perfect served over rice with chopped red onion, grilled pineapple chunks, and a spicy teriyaki mayo sauce (like the one in our vegan teriyaki burgers!).

13. BBQ Tofu Bowls

Overhead close up photo of a round white bowl with mac and cheese, sliced bbq tofu, and seared green beans

This vegan BBQ tofu bowl meal with spicy green beans and sweet potato mac and cheese is absolute comfort food at its finest. It’s three simple recipes in one meal to create a perfectly balanced bowl of garden-fresh green beans, macaroni and cheese, and BBQ chicken-style tofu. It’s the perfect comfort food with homegrown flavor.

Have you tried the tofu freezer trick before?! What did you think and how did you flavor them?

Let us know in the comments or tag us in your tofu-riffic photos on Instagram! If you’re not already hanging out with us over there, we’re @theplantpowercouple with the “the.”

We can’t wait to hear all about it. 🙂 Enjoy, friends!

Watch our Tofu Marinade web story!

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  1. Great recipes! I've gone through one batch of chicken-style bouillon powder in a week... Especially good with white quinoa and to saute veggies. Also threw it in soup and used it to spice up some homemade crackers. Also love, love, love the meatballs! I've used the frozen tofu trick many times, with a slight variation: Instead of thawing the frozen tofu, I boil it till defrosted. Takes about 10 minutes and leaves me with the little "pockets" you're describing. Thanks for sharing your recipes - I'll be cooking my way through your blog!
    1. Thanks, Iris! You have a lot of great ideas here as well, and that's a very interesting method with boiling! Enjoy and let us know what you think of the recipes as you go, or if there's anything you're looking for! Take care!
  2. Made the Tofu Chicken Parmesan and was blown away. The depth of flavor and the wonderful texture of the tofu were delicious. I’ve been missing the versatility of chicken, but not anymore! Also used the same recipe with appropriate spice/herb changes to make nuggets that I coated in an orange sauce and served over rice.
    1. Hi, Patricia, I'm so very glad you liked it! It's one of my favorites as well, and that orange chicken adaptation of the recipe sounds phenomenal! (I may just need to try that one!) Thanks for reaching out!
  3. Could you maybe do all this, cook the tofu, then add to a meal to be frozen again? I’m trying to prep frozen meals for my time postpartum. Not sure how well it would do being reheated.
    1. Hi, Nisey, we have some of the various tofu cutlets we make listed near the bottom of the post, and there are links to the actual recipes and various marinades you'd use for each type. Hope this helps!
  4. I’m not vegan but I try to limit the amount of meat I eat and try to be more plant based just for health reasons and the lemon pepper tofu was DELICIOUS!! My husband ate it and he is super duper picky! I can’t get over how tasty it was! I had all but given up on tofu because it’s always mushy and not very tasty but this was a game changer!
  5. Well I’m thoroughly impressed with the frozen then pressed tofu recipe that I just made. The lemon pepper tofu is outstanding. O and,by the way, I’m not vegan! I’m always on the lookout for low cost, low allergy sources of protein. I will be trying all of these marinades and will be sharing with friends. I used your recipe for chicken like bouillon powder too. If I could rate it I’d give it 👍👍👍👍👍
  6. I finally got around to trying this and WOW! It totally works! Have you devised a similar method to replicate beef—as in flank steak, not ground “beef”? Seems like this method would give you the mouth feel. The trick would be figuring out the flavor.
  7. Another non-vegan here. I didn't bother waiting for a 24 hour defrost; I just plopped it into pot on the stove to heat up, then pressed out the water no problem. I tore the tofu into random shaped bits like popcorn chicken size before adding to some spicy panang curry with rice and veggies. Made a delicious meal and plenty of leftovers to freeze for another time.
  8. I love your freezer trick to making tofu firm like chicken butt I wanted to ask you I know that you say that you really should only use extra firm but I found firm organic cheaper and I wanted to know without be okay to do it I wanted to be like chicken so I want to do the right thing I also wanted to thank you for your recipes I haven't tried this one yet I'm new to your website but I appreciate so much what you're doing thank you
    1. Hi, Lourdes. I think firm should be a fine sub here. We just really wanted people to know NOT to use silken or soft tofu. The texture of firm tofu runs different from brand to brand and is a little more porous than extra-firm. Just be mindful when handling it so it doesn't crumble. You also may want to cook it a little shorter and check the texture. Hope that helps!
  9. Thank you for these great tips! I would like to make chicken flavored tofu cubes for a homemade pot pie. The pot pie recipe says to stir fry the tofu with the vegetables and sauce for 5-10 mins until the sauce thickens, then add that mix to the pie crust, and bake 45 mins at 400 degrees. Do you think this frozen tofu method would work well with those instructions or might it release too much water? Or need longer time to stir fry and/or bake? Thanks!
    1. Hi, Jacky! This comment somehow escaped me, so sorry! Anyway, I hope the pot pie came out well. We usually use soy curls rather than tofu in our pot pie for that very reason: mushy tofu.
  10. As far as this recipe goes what would you suggest to someone (like me!) who doesn't have access to refrigerated tofu. I have to buy the Silken Extra Firm that you can purchase off the dry goods shelf. I haven't used it for anything yet, but I'm sure it will work for a tofu scramble. I would love to make this recipe!
    1. Hi, Kay! Firstly, silken tofu won't work at all for this: the texture just doesn't hold up to what you're looking for. This "trick" also really depends on freezing extra firm tofu in the water it's packed in. I think I'm familiar with the packaging type for the shelf stable tofu, and it's probably a TetraPak. Those won't really work for this because of both the limited amount of liquid in the package and the packaging style itself. (when you do try to freeze those packs, they expand and "pop").
  11. Have you ever had this technique not work? I froze extra firm tofu for 2 days until it was solid and then defrosted it on the counter for several hours. I then pressed it and tore it into chunks before marinating it. It's exactly the same texture as before I froze it. It was just spongy tofu and not at all the texture of chicken. I can't figure out how I could have messed up something so seemingly simple. Any ideas or suggestions?
    1. Hi, Kris. We've never had this trick not work, but I did just receive a couple interesting emails that may help answer this. One reader said she usually gets sprouted tofu, and the result wasn't the same as when she got non-sprouted to try a second time. Another reader asked about shelf-stable tofu that doesn't have a lot of liquid. The tofu needs to be frozen in its package in the water. Both could result in an unwanted texture change. Do either of those scenarios apply to your situation??
  12. "When one package of tofu goes in the freezer, another package goes in!" Er ... you mean "When one package of tofu comes out of the freezer, another package goes in!"
  13. Hello So my local supply of firm tofu is prepressed. Should I take it out of packaging, add water and repackage to freeze? Maybe I need to get away from mainstream supermarkets. 😅
    1. Hi, Rosemary. So there's no liquid in the package of tofu you get at all? By that I mean our tofu comes in pressed blocks but is packaged in water to give it longer shelf life. We press the extra liquid in a tofu press or under some heavy books.
  14. I froze a package of extra-firm tofu and thawed it in the fridge last week. An emergency came up and the thawed tofu is still sitting in the fridge in its unopened package. Is it still good? If so, how much longer can I keep it like that?

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