Not only is tofu a healthy alternative to meat but is quite versatile, as well:
You can add it to your stir-fry, crumble it up and use it as a replacement for cheese and eggs, or add it to dishes such as noodle soup and vegan lasagna for a plant-based protein boost; the possibilities are endless!
If you love tofu – despite the bad rep that it gets for being bland and tasteless on its own – then you might be tempted to stock up on this soybean product.
That’s fine if you’re going to use the entire package at once.
However, if you only need a small amount for your dish, and you’re not sure how to handle the leftovers, you’re probably wondering:
How long does tofu last, can it go bad, and what’s the best way to store it?
If you have any questions regarding tofu’s shelf life, proper storage, and signs of spoiled tofu, this article is for you!
Does Tofu Go Bad?
Oddly enough, tofu’s shelf life isn’t that far off from the average shelf life of meat and dairy products that it aims to replace in plant-based diets:
Even if you follow all the instructions to the letter, once it’s out of the original packaging, it will go sour in a matter of days.
So, yes, tofu can go bad, because, like most other food items present in your diet, it comes with an expiration date. There’s not much you can do about its relatively short shelf life. Even more so, improper handling and storage will only speed up the process.
Signs Of Spoiled Tofu: How To Tell If Tofu Has Gone Bad?
Learning how to recognize the signs of spoilage and knowing the difference between tofu that’s safe to eat and one that’s gone sour can make a difference between a delicious meal and a potential food poisoning.
If you take a closer look at the label, the chances are that you’ll find the manufacturing date, sell-by and use-by date somewhere on the packaging.
Although this tends to cause some confusion among consumers, the date that you should focus on here is the expiration date:
When stored properly, tofu is still safe to eat even if the sell-by date has passed – as long as it doesn’t show signs of spoilage. However, once the expiration date has passed – and especially if it looks or smells bad – it would be best to get rid of it.
Otherwise, food poisoning is a genuine possibility.
And no, you shouldn’t eat expired tofu; it’s not safe, and it’s likely to make you sick.
That’s why we’ve prepared a few essential tips to help you figure out whether or not it’s time to move the leftover tofu from your fridge and into the trash can:
- Texture And Color Changes – The easiest way to tell if tofu has spoiled is to inspect its appearance and look for changes in texture and color. Any signs of discoloration – such as tofu that began to darken or turned yellowish – indicate that it’s spoiled. Also, tofu tends to show similar signs of spoilage as dairy products do. It can become curdled or lose its firmness; if the texture seems off in any way, it’s probably past its prime.
- Signs Of Mold – Besides the changes in color and texture, mold is another easy-to-spot sign that tofu has gone bad. Even if only one small area of the block has turned moldy, it’s no longer safe to eat, and you should throw it out.
- Bad Smells – Fresh tofu doesn’t have much of a smell. Spoiled tofu, on the other hand, has a strong sour and pungent odor that’s pretty hard to ignore. Even if you don’t know what spoiled tofu smells like, there’s no way that you won’t notice the rancid smell as soon as you open the packaging.
How Long Does Tofu Last & What’s The Best Way To Store It
As long as it’s stored properly, unopened tofu can last as long as two to three months following the manufacturing date. If the production date isn’t indicated on the label, you can rely on the best-by or use-by info to give you an idea of how long tofu will last and stay safe for consumption.
But here’s the thing:
There are non-refrigerated and refrigerated tofu varieties available on the market.
You’ll probably find this piece of info somewhere on the packaging, but if not, your safest bet is to keep it in the conditions similar to those at the store:
If you got it off the shelf, you could safely store it at room temperature in your pantry. And if you got the tofu from the refrigerated section of the store, you should put it in the fridge once you arrive home.
On that note, chilling in the fridge won’t have any adverse effects, even if you got it off a shelf in your local store. Whenever you’re in doubt regarding proper storage, the fridge is your best bet.
Opening the package cuts the tofu’s shelf life short – and drastically so – and, as a rule of thumb, it has to be consumed within three to five days, max. These recommendations vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, though:
Some brands recommend that you consume the leftover tofu within two to three days, especially if you don’t store it in water. Others, however, suggest that the tofu is safe to use within four to five days upon opening the package, given that it’s submerged in water and refrigerated.
The thing that everyone agrees on, though, is that the leftovers should always be kept in the fridge – even if you purchased the shelf-stable tofu variety.
That brings us to our next point:
What’s the best way to store leftover tofu to extend its shelf life for as long as possible?
Well, depending on how soon you plan on using the leftovers, you have two options – refrigeration and freezing.
Keep on reading for our tried-and-true tofu storage tips!
Option #1: Refrigerated Tofu
If you’re going to use up all the tofu within a week after opening it, then refrigeration is the best storage method for you. However, the key to preventing it from going stale – or, even worse, sour – within that time is to do it properly:
- Transfer the tofu from its original packaging into a plastic container with an airtight lid. You should never keep it in a bowl or on a plate because this makes it more susceptible to bacteria and mold.
- Then, cover it with cold, and preferably filtered, water, and close the lid. Ideally, you should change the water daily. Keeping the water fresh will ensure that the tofu doesn’t become stale or spoiled.
As we mentioned earlier, refrigerated tofu will only last a few days – three to five, on average – so be sure to use it up as soon as possible.
Option #2: Frozen Tofu
If you know that you won’t use up all the leftover tofu within a week of opening the container, your best bet is to freeze it straight away.
Here’s how to freeze tofu properly to make it last longer:
- Place the tofu on and cover with a layer of paper towels, then place a heavy object – a book or a heavy plate, for example – on top to squeeze out any excess water. Leave it to drain for at least half an hour.
- Cut the tofu into cubes or slices – whatever works for you – cover it with plastic wrap, and place it into a freezer-safe container before freezing.
You can store tofu in the freezer for over three months – defrost it in the fridge overnight before cooking with it – but keep in mind that it may come out of the freezer with a slightly different texture.
It will likely become chewier and spongier – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing:
- The spongier the tofu, the better it is at absorbing flavors and marinades during the cooking process – and the tastier the final dish!
Besides answering your main question – how long does tofu last – we wanted to discuss a few more essential tofu-related matters, including what’s the best way to store it and how to recognize the signs of spoilage.
We get it, it was a long read, but considering that tofu doesn’t have an impressive shelf life once the original container is opened, we believe that this info was more than necessary.
Anyway, now that you know how long it lasts and how to keep it fresh, we’d like to hear how you’ll use your leftover tofu.
So, don’t be shy – leave your favorite tofu-based recipes below!