It seems you can’t go a week without hearing about tofu. Whether it’s because you went to a restaurant that offers tofu dishes or you have heard about the health benefits of this delicious ancient food, tofu seems to be everywhere.
Because it’s such a recent addition to most American homes, plenty of home cooks have no idea how tofu keeps. Today, this article will answer all your burning questions, starting with “How long does tofu last?” We will lay out all the ways you can extend the shelf life of your leftover tofu, how to tell if tofu has gone bad, and all the little-known tofu food storage hacks you need to know. If stored properly, a large block of tofu can be transformed into a handful of delicious dishes!
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How Long Does Tofu Last?
Picture this: you drove to the store, bought a block of unopened tofu, and now you have no idea what to do with it. Have you ever been in this situation? While tofu (and its cousin soy milk, to some extent) can leave many Americans scratching their heads when it comes to keeping it fresh, it’s actually a pretty easy food to store.
Think back to when you were at the supermarket. Was that block of tofu you have in the fridge section or on a shelf? If it was unrefrigerated, you can simply leave that block of unopened tofu in your pantry, in a dry place at room temperature.
You will probably be surprised at the answer to "how long does tofu last?" This kind typically keeps for 3 to 5 months in the food storage conditions just described. It naturally has a long shelf life, as it is manufactured to be shelf-stable. You can always look at the “best before” and “use by” dates to guide yourself.
Alternatively, if your tofu was in the refrigerator section of your grocery store, you must also keep tofu in the fridge at home. Surprisingly enough, the shelf life of tofu of this kind is longer than that of other things we buy fresh (such as meat and fish). You can wait between 2 to 3 months to open the package of tofu and use it. As always, make sure to read the “best by” and “use by” dates on the packaging—and to follow your senses to tell if tofu has gone bad (more on that later).
Maybe you have taken on the seemingly daunting (but not that complicated) task of making your own tofu. If so, your tofu will need to be kept in cold storage conditions (in the fridge, for example) at all times. Unfortunately, it won’t last you much longer than a full week before it starts to go bad.
How to Extend the Shelf Life of Tofu
Alright, say you have peeled back the lid of your unopened tofu and started cooking with it. Simply by doing that you will have cut short its shelf life. That is because, as soon as tofu leaves the brine the manufacturer places it in and is in contact with the air, it starts to go bad. Here are some ways you can extend its shelf life.
Cook, then Refrigerate
Cooked tofu is easy to keep. Store tofu in an airtight container and put it in the fridge for 3 to 5 days. You can then reheat your leftover tofu in the microwave or on a frying pan if you want it to keep that tasty crunch.
Store Covered in Water
You will usually find the best deals on tofu price-wise when you buy a large block of it. Fortunately, you don’t have to cook the leftover tofu you didn’t use in your recipe. There is a little-known food storage hack for “raw” opened tofu.
Start by placing the block in an airtight container and cover it with cold, filtered water. This layer of liquid will keep tofu fresh for 3-5 days, and sometimes up to a week. Just remember to change the water every day to make the tofu last longer.
If you don’t plan on using up your block just yet, don't let your tofu go bad. There is yet another food storage hack to help you store tofu easily—and will make the tofu last a long time.
Start by pressing most of its water content using a tofu press (this gadget is incredibly easy to use, and will come in handy if you are serious about cooking killer tofu). Then, wrap your pressed block of tofu in plastic wrap and place it in a freezer bag. Alternatively, if you trying to cut out plastic from your home, you can wrap the tofu in a paper towel or reusable dishcloth and place it in a freezer container. You can freeze tofu today and eat it only 4 to 6 months from now.
Just keep in mind that frozen tofu, when thawed, gets an odd consistency—but in a good way! Many people say frozen tofu has a similar texture to chicken meat, which is why plenty of recipes (such as this Tofu Nuggets recipe) tell you to freeze tofu and defrost it before you start.
Does Tofu Go Bad? How Can You Tell If Tofu Is Bad?
Yes, tofu does go bad. You can't make tofu last forever, unfortunately. You don’t have to necessarily follow the manufacturer's labels to know if your tofu has gone bad. Believe us, you will know if your tofu is bad.
Expired tofu can look darker in color, show mold growth on the surface, and smell awful. It gives off a sour smell, often similar to that of rotten eggs. Besides, tofu isn’t the online soy product to show these signs. Soy milk, for instance, gives off this disgusting smell when it’s bad, too.
Can You Eat Tofu Past the “Best Before” Day?
You can tell bad tofu from good tofu very easily just from your senses. Therefore, as a rule of thumb, unless you have a very sensitive stomach, you could eat tofu that has gone past the “best before” date. You probably wouldn't be able to stomach expired tofu even if you wanted to.
This shelf life information (along with the “sell by” date) is often just a suggestion. In most cases, manufacturers can’t guarantee the product will taste great past that date. However, it is perfectly safe to eat as long as it passes the smelling test. Use your senses!
What About the “Use By” Date?
The “use by” date, unlike the “sell by” date, is more rigorous. It is as close to an expiration date as can be. Whereas you can eat products past the "sell by" date, you shouldn't do the same with those with a "use by" date.
This label is usually applied to products that are more sensitive. If eaten past that date, they can lead to food poisoning. While this usually doesn’t apply to tofu, still keep an eye on the packaging of your tofu, as different manufacturers recommend different things.