Tofu is one of my favorite foods. The soft, creamy texture and mild flavor make it so versatile in recipes. However, there have been times when I’ve had a package sitting in the fridge and wasn’t sure if it was still safe to eat. Knowing the shelf life of tofu can help avoid accidentally eating spoiled tofu.
Why You Don’t Want to Eat Spoiled Tofu
Consuming spoiled or rotten tofu can lead to severe gastrointestinal issues. Symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, and cramps are no fun. Spoiled tofu isn’t just unappetizing, it can actually make you sick. So it’s crucial to know the signs of spoiled tofu and discard it properly.
I’ll never forget the time I hastily grabbed a container of tofu that had been sitting for who knows how long in the back of the fridge. The smell that hit me when I opened it was so foul and sour that I nearly gagged. Lesson learned – that sour, rotten smell means toss it immediately!
How Long Does Unopened Tofu Last?
An unopened package of fresh tofu has a decently long shelf life. The FDA Food Code states that tofu can be stored for up to 5 months past the sell-by date if it has been continuously refrigerated below 40°F.
Of course, I like to use my tofu long before 5 months. But it’s helpful to know you have some leeway with an unopened package sitting in the fridge.
What Factors Affect Cooked Tofu Shelf Life?
Once that package is open, the clock starts ticking faster. How you handle, prepare, and store cooked tofu impacts how long it stays safe to eat.
Here are some key factors that determine cooked tofu’s shelf life:
- Storage temperature – refrigerate below 40°F
- Exposure to air – seal container tightly
- Washing and drying – prevent bacterial growth
- Acidity of dish – acidic foods prolong shelf life
- Preservatives – add lemon juice, vinegar, oil
How Long Does Cooked Tofu Last in the Fridge?
Cooked tofu has a shorter shelf life than fresh. But prepared tofu stored properly in an airtight container in the fridge should last:
- Up to 6 days for cooked tofu dishes and baked marinated tofu
- Up to 4 days for leftover tofu-based soups and stews
The key is minimizing exposure to air and bacterial contamination. So use clean prep tools, and refrigerate in a sealed container.
Tips to Maximize Leftover Tofu Fridge Life
Here are my tips for getting the longest fridge life out of cooked tofu:
- Drain water from any open tofu package and wrap tofu in plastic wrap before refrigerating
- Transfer tofu to an airtight storage container before refrigerating
- Ensure the storage container is completely clean and dry before use
- Press out excess moisture from cooked tofu to prevent sogginess
- Change the water daily if storing in a water-filled container
How Long Does Opened Tofu Last?
An opened package of fresh tofu has a slightly shorter shelf life compared to unopened. But opened tofu stored in the fridge should last:
- Up to 1-2 months past printed date if continuously refrigerated
- About 1 week once opened if water is changed daily
As long as you drain the water and seal it, opened tofu stays fresh for a reasonable time. Just be diligent about water changes and watch for any sour smells.
3 Ways to Tell If Tofu Has Gone Bad
Learning the signs of spoiled tofu can prevent unfortunate food poisoning incidents. Here’s what to look for:
Fresh tofu has a bright white color and appears moist with a jelly-like texture. As it starts decomposing, tofu becomes more grayish, yellowish or beige. Dark brown spots or a primarily brown color signals spoilage.
Sliminess, stickiness or mushiness points to spoiled tofu. Fresh tofu should feel smooth and firm but not overtly mushy.
Your nose knows when tofu has soured. A strong sour or ammonia-like smell means toss it immediately. Some describe rancid tofu’s odor as similar to smelly feet!
Can You Eat Spoiled Tofu?
I do not recommend knowingly eating spoiled, rotten or moldy tofu. Consuming bad tofu can cause nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. The smell itself is usually enough to make you run away!
Safest bet is to identify and promptly discard spoiled tofu. When in doubt, remember the saying “when in doubt, throw it out” applies here.
How to Defrost Frozen Tofu
Freezing extends tofu’s shelf life significantly. Frozen tofu lasts for 6-8 months in the freezer. But what’s the best way to thaw frozen tofu?
Here are a few safe ways to defrost frozen tofu:
- Place frozen tofu in refrigerator overnight
- Submerge sealed package in bowl of hot water for 15 minutes
- Microwave on medium power for 60 seconds
Depending on the defrosting method, thawed tofu may end up a bit more soggy or chewy. Quick microwave defrosting can lead to mild texture changes. But thawed tofu is still perfectly usable in any recipe!
Be sure to inspect the appearance, smell and texture of thawed tofu. If you notice any sour aromas or brownish colors, discard it rather than risk foodborne illness.
A Brief History of Tofu
While many associate tofu with Asian cuisine, the origins of this soy-based food date back over 2,000 years. Tofu is believed to have been invented in China during the Han Dynasty.
There are competing stories about the first person to create tofu. Some credit Prince Liu An of Huainan. But others believe tofu originated from the Mongolian steppes before spreading to China. Despite debates around its invention, tofu became a common food in China by the Song Dynasty.
The production technique for making tofu curds spread across Asia over centuries. Tofu arrived in Japan during the Nara period, leading to innovations like kinugoshi silken tofu. Through trade and immigration, tofu became popular worldwide by the 20th century.
The Many Health Benefits of Tofu
Beyond just tasting great, tofu offers some stellar nutritional benefits. Here are some of the top nutrients found in tofu:
- Protein – 10 grams per 1⁄2 cup serving
- Iron – 13% Daily Value per serving
- Calcium – Over 20% DV per serving
- Magnesium, copper, zinc – All greater than 10% DV
- Vitamin B1 – 15% DV per serving
With sizable amounts of protein, amino acids, and key minerals, tofu makes an excellent meat substitute. The amino acid and iron content provide a complete protein source for vegetarians and vegans.
Research also shows diets rich in soy-based foods like tofu can lower cholesterol and heart disease risk. So adding tofu to your diet provides nutritional and potential heart health benefits!
The Takeaway: Enjoy Tofu Safely With Proper Storage
Tofu can go bad, so following proper storage methods extends its shelf life and reduces foodborne illness risks. While opened tofu only lasts about a week, an unopened package stays fresh for up to 5 months refrigerated.
Cooked or prepared tofu has a shorter fridge life of 4-6 days max. But draining moisture, sealing containers, and refrigerating below 40°F keeps cooked tofu safe to eat for almost a week.
It’s easy to incorporate tofu into many delicious recipes while keeping your family healthy. Check for sour smells or brownish colors, and discard any spoiled tofu immediately. Following these simple tofu storage guidelines can prevent unfortunate cases of food poisoning.
With its stellar nutritional profile and versatility, tofu is worth including in your weekly meal plans. Just be diligent with storage and enjoy this tasty soy-based protein often!
Hi, I’m Ben Holland. I love cooking, traveling, and spending time with my family! Here you’ll find simple and delicious recipes, travel tips, and stories about my adventures with my wife and kids.