How Long Does Tofu Last?
With the increase in people pursuing a vegan diet, whether for health reasons, ethical reasons, or out of concern for the environment, a lot more of us are trying out tofu for the first time. While it's a really versatile and nutritious food, it's not really similar to any other foodstuff, so you may be a little unsure on the basics, how to store tofu, how to cook it, how to tell if tofu is bad, etc.
In this article, we're going to look at storage, shelf life and other safety questions to make sure you can enjoy your tofu without worrying about it going bad or making you sick. We'll start with a simple one:
Does tofu go bad?
Yes. Like pretty much all foods, tofu doesn't have an infinite shelf life, and it will eventually go bad, although how long this takes will depend on the specific method of storage you've used, how long it's been stored for, whether it's opened or unopened, and a whole lot of other factors.
Is it OK to eat expired tofu?
It's not a great idea, no. If you're not sure how to tell if tofu is bad the best way is to use your senses. Eyes and nose mainly. Tofu which is past its best will tend to darken in color to a tan or even brown shade. You may also see signs of spoilage on the surface of the tofu, such as mold or discoloration. Also, when tofu has gone bad it usually develops a sour or rotten smell, whereas fresh tofu doesn't smell much of anything at all. Trust your senses and don't eat it if any of the above is applicable.
How long does tofu last for unopened?
That depends on the type of tofu. There are two main types sold in most stores, a shelf-stable one and a refrigerated one. You'll find some variance in the use by dates, with the shelf-stable version generally having a longer shelf life. Usually, you have around 2-3 months before you need to worry.
It's an easy rule, if you bought it from a refrigerated cabinet, keep it in the fridge. If you bought it from the shelf, you can store it at room temperature. We'd recommend not using tofu which has been improperly stored or is more than a few days over the use by date.
How long can tofu sit out at room temperature?
Like any foodstuff which contains moisture, if you leave tofu out uncovered at room temperature it can quickly become a breeding ground for all types of nasty bacteria. Ideally, you should avoid leaving it uncovered and out on the counter or table at all, but if it's just over a mealtime, for example, a tofu salad that you don't finish, and you refrigerate the leftovers in a sealed tub or covered dish, you should be okay.
How long does tofu last in the fridge?
If it's unopened, you should just go by the use by date on the pack, which will give you the best idea of the shelf life. If it's opened, refrigerated tofu is generally good for 3 to 5 days, as long as you've stored it properly. Any more than that, and there's a risk it may have started to spoil, especially if the refrigerator door is opened frequently.
Reduce that amount by a couple of days if you've been removing it frequently to chop and use in meal preparation. The best way to be sure is as we said above, trust your eyes and nose. If it doesn't quite look right or doesn't smell great, maybe don't take a chance on it or you may get sick.
How does tofu go bad in the fridge?
If your tofu is within the use-by date, and you've kept it refrigerated and it's still gone bad, then it might be that you need to take more care over how it's stored. Leaving it uncovered in the refrigerator means it is still exposed to bacteria from other foodstuffs, and it may also absorb flavors from pungent items like garlic or onions.
So the best method is to keep it tightly wrapped, or in a sealed plastic tub with some freshwater to stop it drying out (you should change the water every 24h at least).
Can you freeze tofu?
Sure. Tofu is perfectly fine for freezing. In fact, some people think that freezing tofu makes it more absorbent once defrosted, so it'll hold more of the flavor of whatever you're cooking it with. For best results though, don't freeze tofu in a whole block.
You'll get better results if you chop it up into roughly one-inch cubes before freezing. This also means that you can take the exact amount you need out of the freezer later, without having to try and slice through a solid block of frozen tofu.
Ideally, you should also try to reduce the water content as much as possible before freezing. Place the chopped cubes on a paper towel to soak up any excess. To dry it further, you could cover with another paper towel, then add weight such as a cookbook or frying pan on top, which will gently press the water out of the tofu if left for ten or twenty minutes. You can also use a tofu press for maximum convenience.
Tofu will last for 4 - 6 months in the freezer. Any longer than that and it will probably still be safe to eat, but the flavor and texture is likely to have worsened.
How long does cooked tofu last?
Once you've cooked your tofu, it has a slightly longer shelf life compared to raw tofu, usually an extra 2 or 3 days. So if you have a large amount of raw tofu, which you want to eat the same week, you could cook it all at once and store some in the refrigerator for 6-7 days.
Cooked tofu doesn't freeze as well. Although it's safe to do so, the change in texture is usually not something people enjoy. If you want to try it, we'd recommend testing a small batch first and seeing whether the firmer, chewier texture bothers you before freezing a whole batch. If you don't mind the change in texture, it'll keep in the freezer for a few months, as we've explained for raw tofu above.
Hopefully, these tips have put your mind at rest when it comes to safely storing your tofu, whether packaged, opened, raw or cooked. As with any type of food, there are no guarantees about how long tofu will stay fresh, and there are a lot of factors that can extend or shorten its shelf life. So do take the tips above as guidelines, and always check for yourself - remember - if it doesn't look right and doesn't smell right, it probably isn't going to taste right either.