Kouya Dofu or Kohya Dofu, Freeze Dried Tofu


I’ve talked a little about kohya dofu or kouya dofu (高野豆腐)in the past, but I thought I’d describe it in detail so that I can refer back to it when I use this very versatile Japanese pantry staple in recipes.

Kouya dofu is freeze dried tofu. It’s a long lasting pantry staple of most Japanese households. It comes in plastic packaging, usually 5 to a pack, like so:


Each square is about the size of a business card, and about 1cm or 1/2 inch or so thick. Each kouya dofu square is about 90 calories. They look like dehydrated squares of bread, or one of those sponges that you soak in water to reconstitute and use. The packets require no refrigeration.

Indeed, it is a sponge - a block of tofu that’s been reduced to its cell structure. It’s a very old traditional preserved food, that probably got invented by accident when someone left out some tofu in the winter and it froze solid. It’s made by repeatedly freezing and thawing tofu, until all the moisture can be extracted.

Usually, kouya dofu is used by reconstituting it first. The easiest way is to soak it for a while in boiling water to cover. When the water has cooled down enough for the tofu to be taken out and genty squeezed, it’s ready to use. It swells up to about 3-4 times its original size.


From here, you can just cut it up and use it in soups or stews. You can also marinate it. It has a more dense and firm texture than regular tofu, and like regular tofu it soaks up any flavor it is soaked or cooked in. It’s usually stewed in a standard japanse soy sauce - mirin - sake - dashi - sugar mixture.

Here I’ve cooked some reconstituted kouya dofu in the same way that I cooked frozen tofu cutlets, to make kouya dofu nuggets. But I didn’t have to take the time to freeze and defrost regular tofu. The results are much ‘meatier’ than nuggets made with frozen regular tofu. You might even be able to fool some unsuspecting people into think it’s some sort of meat….


Another interesting way of using kouya dofu is to turn it into a powder by grating it or whizzing it in a food processor. The powder can be used instead of breadcrumbs, as a filler or binder in burgers and meatballs. This can be a good thing for celiacs and gluten intolerant people. The spongy texture soaks up any excess moisture and flavors. And of course, it provides and extra protain boost.

In Japan, kouya dofu is very cheap. Outside of Japan it can be more expensive, but the packet of 5 in the photo above was only $1.99 at Nara Foods in Port Washington, Long Island. So, look for it next time you are in a Japanese grocery store and give it a try, especially if you or someone you cook for has gluten allergies, or are vegan or vegetarian.

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Re: Kouya Dofu or Kohya Dofu, Freeze Dried Tofu

This is really interesting - I always figured that Kouyadofu had the same consistency as well, frozen tofu, but it's clear it's much different... Now I really wanna try some!

pii_bii | 30 January, 2009 - 11:25

Re: Kouya Dofu or Kohya Dofu, Freeze Dried Tofu

How to make kouya tofu at home with regular tofu? Is it that simple? I mean, just freeze?

anon. | 2 February, 2009 - 22:47

Re: Freeze Dried Tofu

Ha! I think I've got some in my pantry. I bought it once in a Japanese shop in Rotterdam (Holland) but there's no (readable) preparation advise. So: thanks!

btw It's a package of little cubes (1 x 1 x 1 cm) with little faces on it, so I can't be sure if it's the same thing but I guess so!

Gnoe | 17 February, 2009 - 16:17

Ague dashi tofu/doufu

Hello there!
Can you help me with a doubt? (well actually two)
Is it possible to make ague dashi tofu with kouya tofu? Would it be less "watery" than the normal/fresh one?
And.. to make the crumbs.. I´ve always seen mom using fresh tofu to make crumbs to add to fish nuggets. In the case of the kouya tofu, would I crumble it "dry"?
Arigatou! ^_^

karaimame | 3 July, 2009 - 11:13

Re: Ague dashi tofu/doufu

Hi karaimame! To me, agedashi dofu has to be soft on the inside, crispy on the outside, so it calls for using silken or kinugoshi dofu. If you use kouya dofu, it would be more in the nature of tofu nuggets like these (which are not deep fried but panfried, but are crispy-ish on the outside nevertheless) or these mochi nuggets.

If you are using kouya dofu as a filler for meat or fish mixes, you can just grate it on a grater or pulverize it in a food processor, and use it like dry breadcrumbs!

maki | 4 July, 2009 - 08:25

Re: Kouya Dofu or Kohya Dofu, Freeze Dried Tofu

Well, I'm glad I found this page as I just had massive failure trying to use it in a stew. If you don't adequately rehydrate the tofu it has the taste and texture of packaging foam sprinkled with wormwood.

Next time I'll ignore the directions on the package and just refer to your site when using an unfamiliar product.

Joshua | 1 December, 2009 - 19:18

freeze tofu

Hi! I tried some tofu recipe when I was in Tokyo 4 years ago, and my friend told me that it was Koya (or Kouya) Tofu, so I wanted to make some, and then I saw your post!!! But I didn't understand one thing: you say the package doesn't need refrigeration, so it's not frozen? When I buy it, it is in the freezer (or refrigerate) section, right? I want to eat it so bad but i don't really want to dry it and freeze it and dry it again and freeze it again!!!
Thank you!!!

Silvia | 28 March, 2013 - 22:00

Re: freeze tofu

Koya dofu is freeze dried and sold as a dried food product. It kind of looks like one of those sponges that you put into water to reconstitute. So it can be stored for some time in a cupboard. You'll find it in the dried food/packaged food section of a store, not in the refrigerated section.

maki | 28 March, 2013 - 23:12

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