Wondering how long that package of tofu in the fridge will last? This guide will teach you how to store your tofu and tell if it's still good!
Tofu is a kitchen staple in my house! I usually have multiple packages of various varieties of tofu on hand. It's one of my favorite plant-based protein sources. In fact, I'm such a tofu lover that I wrote an entire guide to tofu, detailing what it is and how to cook with it.
But as you can imagine, with so many packages of tofu being stored in my kitchen, it can be difficult to keep track of how long each one has been hanging around. That's why it's important to know how long tofu lasts, how to store it properly, and how to tell when it's gone bad.
How Long Does Tofu Last?
The easiest way to tell how long a package of tofu will last is simple: check the expiration date.
But what if you don't have an expiration date? This is a totally reasonable scenario. For example, perhaps it wore off of the package. Or maybe you already removed the tofu from the package. Or maybe you bought (or made) fresh tofu. In these cases, it really depends.
The shelf life of tofu depends on a number of factors. Here are a few to consider:
- What type of tofu is it? Tofu is available in both refrigerated and shelf-stable forms.
- What temperature is it being stored at? Not keeping your tofu at the appropriate temperature can drastically alter it's shelf-life.
- Where did you get the tofu? Freshly made tofu will have less preservatives and therefore a shorter shelf-life than commercially produced tofu.
- How old was the tofu when you obtained it? Obviously you may not always have the answer to this question, but if a block of tofu sat on a store shelf for a while, it won't last as long once it reaches your fridge.
Refrigerated Store-Bought Tofu
For most of us this will be the variety of tofu that makes the most appearances in our kitchen, so it's important to know how long this type of unopened tofu will last in the fridge.
Commercial tofu can be bought at just about any grocery store in varieties such as super-firm, extra-firm, firm and soft tofu. It's normally packed in sealed containers where the tofu is surrounded by water. This is something that might take some getting used to for new tofu cooks, but excess water can be easily removed by blotting your tofu with a paper towel or pressing it before cooking.
The good news is that refrigerated varieties of tofu should have an expiration date on them. So check this, and always look for an expiration date before buying tofu. If it's missing, grab a different pack.
As a general rule, commercially sold refrigerated raw tofu will last for about two months in the refrigerator, assuming you've purchased it relatively soon after production. If this sounds like a long time, it's because store-bought refrigerated tofu contains preservatives and is sold in sealed packages.
Yes, this is a thing! Tofu can be made shelf-stable by being heat treated and packaged in sterile, air-tight material. Most shelf-stable tofu is of the silken tofu variety. Like with refrigerated tofu, shelf-stable tofu should have an expiration date. Check the expiration date to find out how long a particular package of tofu will last. If you find a package that doesn't have one, simply move on to another one.
In general, shelf-stable tofu will last for 6 months to a year from the date of production.
Fresh tofu may be tofu that you make yourself, or tofu that you buy from a local food seller that they've made themself. You'll know when you're buying freshly made tofu because it won't be sold in the sealed commercial packaging you'd find most store-bought tofu in. It's more likely to be housed in containers similar to those you use to store prepared food in your kitchen, such as resealable bags or disposable plastic containers.
Freshly made tofu usually won't have an expiration date. Many producers will only sell tofu that they've produced within the last 24 hours, but this isn't guaranteed. When in doubt, just ask!
Most freshly made tofu will keep in water in an airtight container for about 5 days in the refrigerator.
Tofu that has been cooked and incorporated into a dish will generally last about 4 to 5 days in the refrigerator, or about 3 months in the freezer. This is assuming the tofu hasn't been prepared with other ingredients that have a shorter shelf life, which will in turn shorten the shelf-life of the entire dish.
Tofu Storage Tips
How you store your tofu will depend on a number of things, including the type of tofu and how you intend to use it.
Store-bought tofu. The best way to store refrigerated unopened tofu is in it's original package, which should be sealed. (Throw it out if it leaks.) Keep it in the refrigerator until you intend to use it. As with all perishable food items, never leave your tofu out of the refrigerator at room temperature for more than two hours. If the air temperature is 90°F or above, do not leave it out longer than one hour. Source.
Shelf stable tofu. Shelf stable tofu can be kept in it's original container at room temperature until you're ready to use it. Don't refrigerate it and expect the shelf life to be extended.
Opened or freshly made tofu. Place a block of fresh tofu or tofu from a package that you've opened it in an airtight, sealed container and refrigerate it until you're ready to use it. The packaging must be airtight — unsealed containers or plastic wrap are not sufficient. For non silken tofu varieties, cover the tofu with cold water before closing the container and replace it with fresh water daily until you use the tofu.
Leftover tofu. Store leftover tofu that's been cooked in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer.
Most of the time you'll want to store your tofu in the refrigerator, but on occasion you may want to freeze it. Any of the varieties of tofu that we've already talked about can be frozen.
No matter what variety you're using though, you'll want to place it in an airtight container or freezer bag to prevent freezer burn. Store bought tofu that's never been opened can be frozen right in it's original packaging.
While the general rule of thumb is to never eat expired tofu, there is an exception for tofu that's been frozen, as long as it was placed in the freezer before the expiration date (and remained there until used).
One thing that's important to know is that freezing will change the texture of your tofu. Tofu that's been frozen will become more crumbly and have less ability to hold water. This can be a good thing! The crumbly texture of frozen tofu can work really well in dishes such as tofu tacos, tofu scramble, and tofu chili.
Want to learn more? Read my guide to freezing tofu.
Tip: Keeping a pack of tofu in the freezer at all times is a good habit if you're a frequent tofu user. This will ensure that you almost always have usable tofu on hand!
How to Tell if Your Tofu is Still Fresh
If you're really uncertain how old a block of tofu is, I highly recommend throwing it out in order to be safe. But if it's simply close to the expiration date and you're getting concerned, there are a few telltale signs to look for.
Tofu that's fresh should smell clean, be whitish in color, and packed in relatively clear water.
There are a few different ways to identify spoiled tofu. Tofu that's gone bad will often have a sour smell, and the surface of the tofu may feel slimy or begin to show signs of mold or discoloration, often turning grey or brown. The water that it's packed in may start to thicken or become cloudy.
It's a good idea to throw out tofu that shows any signs of spoilage at all, even if the expiration date hasn't been reached yet. The same applies if you miss the signs mentioned and find that your tofu has a sour taste, which is another good indicator of spoilage.
Food poisoning is no joke, so be safe and not sorry!