Does Tofu Go Bad? Protein-based foods like tofu usually come with a sell-by date instead of an expiration date.
That generally means you can still use the product for a few days after the sell-by date. Tofu, also known as bean curd, can go bad like any other food, and the key to serving safe and appealing tofu dishes depends on how you use and store the product.
The Shelf Life Of Tofu
The shelf life of tofu is generally 3-5 days after it’s been opened and stored in the refrigerator. Unopened tofu comes with a sell-by date, which is usually 3-5 months. You should avoid buying tofu with a short sell-by date unless you plan to use it immediately. You can detect subtle differences in flavor and texture that depend on the brand you choose and how fresh the tofu is. Whether you buy tofu with a shorter sell-by date depends on your personal experience with different brands.
Related Question: How Long Does Tofu Last?
Choosing Tofu In Prime Condition
How you choose which tofu to buy is important to the flavor and texture of your finished recipes. Adding a curdling agent to cooked soybeans – such as magnesium sulfate or calcium sulfate – is how the product is made. The curds are pressed to remove water, and the amount of water removed determines the type of tofu:
- Firm and extra-firm tofu: This type of tofu holds up well and is perfect for stir-frying, grilling and soups.
- Soft tofu: This type of tofu is also good for soups and excellent for dips, mashing and puréeing.
- Silken tofu: This type is made using a different process that employs a cornstarch derivative to create a smoother texture for blending, puréeing and baking. Check out our article on does cornstarch go bad.
It’s important to try different types of tofu to find which type you like best. Even though the ingredients are simple, the preparation makes a big difference in flavor, texture and shelf life. Firmer tofu won’t absorb as much flavor from other ingredients, but soft tofu is a blank palette for your palate because it absorbs flavors readily.
Understanding The Lifecycle Of Tofu
All foods can eventually go bad – even canned items – but tofu generally has a long life when you buy it from the store. After opening a package of tofu, however, it stays fresh and safe for only three to five days under refrigeration. Some expert chefs and tofu aficionados insist that you should change the water every day for freshest quality. Covering tofu with water prevents it from dehydrating, which hastens changes in texture and decomposition.
The safest way to store your tofu is in an airtight, covered container in which the tofu is covered by water. If your tofu is about to expire, you can take it out, cut it into strips, brown the strips in a skillet and return the tofu to storage for two to three days to extend its life. You can also freeze tofu, but some people feel that the freezing process usually affects taste and texture negatively.
The freezing process is fairly easy. Drain the tofu thoroughly, place it on a paper towel and cover it with another. Press gently but firmly to absorb more of the water. Change paper towels as needed. You can then wrap the tofu in freezer paper or cut it into strips first before wrapping. You can put the wrapped tofu in a freezer bag. The tofu will keep for several weeks using this method.
How To Tell If Your Tofu Has Gone Bad
There are five key steps to determine whether your tofu has gone bad. You can’t always rely solely on dates when making your famous barbecued avocado and smoked tofu toast. Use your senses to make a final decision.
Steps For Determining If Your Tofu Is Bad:
The recommended steps for determining whether your tofu is bad include:
Step 1: Appearance
- Looking at the tofu can often determine whether the curd is questionable. Don’t even consider using tofu that has gone yellow or brown or has green spots of mold growing on any surface. Unlike cheese, it’s not safe to cut off the mold and eat the rest.
Step 2: Aroma
- Bad tofu gives off a rotten smell – like other foods. Good tofu has no smell because the product is a bland soybean curd designed to smell and taste bland. On occasion, tofu can absorb odors from other refrigerated items. It might be a good smell that you can don’t mind in your cooked dish, but a rotten smell will still make your food unappetizing.
Step 3: Sell-by Date And Manufacturer Recommendations
- Check the sell-by date on the package and the manufacturer’s recommendation about how many days the product can be stored after opening. If there’s any doubt, or you have lost the packaging, throw the tofu out and buy fresh.
Step 4: Keep Tofu In Its Original Liquid
- The liquid in most brands of tofu keeps the tofu in good condition, so it’s safe to assume a longer shelf life for a product in its original liquid. Some cooks insist on replacing the liquid with fresh water each day. Whichever method you choose, be sure to keep the tofu in a tightly sealed container and follow any manufacturer recommendations.
Step 5: Be Accurate And Proactive
- If there’s any question about dates, it’s best to throw the tofu away. Someone in your family might consume tofu that’s past its expiration date if you forget to throw the tofu away.
- Unopened packages of tofu can be kept five to seven days past the manufacturer’s sell-by date.
Tips For Storing And Using Tofu
- There are some important tips you should know if tofu is a big part of your diet, or you’re just beginning to enjoy the healthy benefits of bean curd to replace some or all of your meat consumption:
- Calibrate your refrigerator temperature, and make sure it chills to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder.
- Keep a package of tofu unopened until you’re ready to use it.
- Freeze opened tofu if you don’t plan to use it within a few days.
- Tofu will still be good if frozen at 0 degrees Fahrenheit indefinitely, but the texture may suffer.
- Tofu – when prepared in a dish with other ingredients – will only be safe to eat for the shortest expiration date of any of the other ingredients in the dish.
The Common Sense of Using Your Common Senses
The most important way to determine if your tofu is safe to eat is simple observation. If the tofu has started to darken or yellow, it’s questionable. If you detect even a slightly sour smell, the tofu will have a sour taste, and it’s just not worth adding expensive ingredients to a dish with questionable tofu. Fresh tofu doesn’t smell; it’s one of the most neutral foods you can buy.
The Healthy Benefits Of The Tofu Alternative
- Tofu is a healthier alternative to red meat, calorie-laden carbohydrates and even too much white meat and fish. It’s the perfect food for vegans, vegetarians and dieters. You can add tofu to soups, stews, sandwiches and pasta dishes to increase the protein without adding excess calories and fat. Tofu absorbs other flavors and aromas while providing pure soybean protein for health. Check out our article on how long does lunch meat last.
- Like any other food, tofu goes bad if not handled and stored properly. However, if you follow the recommendations and tips in this article, you’ll never ruin a meal by adding bad tofu.