Tofu is a popular ingredient in many dishes, especially in Asian cuisine. It’s made from soybeans and is a good source of protein, as well as other nutrients like calcium and iron. Uncooked tofu has a fresh, mild flavor and can be used in anything from stir-fries to smoothies. But if you’ve ever bought a package of tofu and weren’t able to use it all right away, you may wonder – how long does unopened tofu last in the fridge or freezer?
How to tell if tofu is bad
Fresh tofu has a firm texture and a pale off-white color. As it starts to go bad, it will develop a sour or “off” smell and become more soft and soggy in texture. The color may also become more yellow. If your tofu develops any of these characteristics, it’s best to throw it out.
Mold is another clear sign that tofu has gone bad and should be discarded. You may notice fuzzy mold growing on the surface or throughout the tofu. This means the tofu is contaminated and should not be eaten.
Shelf life of unopened tofu
An unopened package of tofu has a relatively long shelf life compared to opened tofu.
In the refrigerator, commercially packaged tofu will typically stay fresh for 7-10 days past the printed expiration date. Be sure to check the expiration or “best by” date printed on the packaging. As long as the tofu is still within several days of this date when you open it, it should be fine to eat.
The freezer time is much longer. Commercially packaged tofu can usually last for up to 1 year in the freezer. This extended shelf life makes the freezer a great option if you know you won’t use the tofu soon.
How to freeze tofu
Freezing gives tofu a chewier, spongy texture that works well in certain dishes. Here are some tips for freezing tofu:
- Drain the tofu well and pat it dry first. Getting rid of excess moisture prevents ice crystals from forming.
- Cut the tofu into slices or cubes before freezing. This makes it easier to break off just the amount you need later.
- Place the tofu pieces in a single layer on a baking sheet or platter and freeze until solid, about 2-3 hours.
- Transfer the frozen tofu to freezer bags or airtight containers. Squeeze out as much air as possible.
- Label with the date and return to the freezer for up to 1 year.
How long does opened tofu last?
Once opened, the shelf life of tofu is much shorter. Here’s how long opened tofu will last in the refrigerator:
- Firm or extra firm tofu: 5-7 days
- Soft or silken tofu: 3-5 days
If you open a package of tofu and won’t use it all within a few days, your best bet is to store the remainder in the freezer. Thaw in the refrigerator when ready to use.
Tips for storing opened tofu
Here are some tips for getting the longest shelf life out of your opened tofu:
- Keep it submerged in cold water, changing the water daily.
- Drain off any excess liquid and wrap tightly in plastic wrap or store in an airtight container.
- Place near the back of the top shelf of the refrigerator, not in the door.
- Avoid introduing any new utensils or hands into the tofu once opened.
With proper storage methods, you can enjoy your leftover tofu before it spoils.
Can you refreeze thawed tofu?
It’s best not to refreeze tofu once it has fully thawed. The texture and flavor will degrade after being frozen a second time. Partial thawing is okay, though – if the tofu is still cold and icy, you can safely return it to the freezer for storage.
If your tofu did fully thaw in the refrigerator, you have a few days to cook and eat it before it goes bad. Or you can cook it immediately and then freeze the dishes you prepared with the tofu.
How to tell if frozen tofu is still good
Check frozen tofu for the following signs of freshness:
- No ice crystals or frozen condensation inside the package. This indicates the tofu has partially thawed and refrozen.
- No signs of mold, spots, or discoloration.
- No unpleasant odors when opened.
- Firm, solid texture with no sogginess.
As long as the frozen tofu has been properly stored at 0°F or below, it should keep for up to 1 year past the printed expiration date.
Can spoiled tofu make you sick?
Eating spoiled tofu is unlikely to cause serious illness in most people because tofu is fermented. The fermentation process lowers the pH and makes it inhospitable to the growth of dangerous bacteria like salmonella or E. coli.
However, spoiled tofu can still cause unpleasant digestive symptoms like:
- Abdominal cramps
The mold that grows on spoiled tofu can also cause respiratory irritation or allergic reactions in some people. If you see any mold, err on the side of caution and throw out the tofu.
To avoid getting sick, inspect your tofu carefully before eating and discard any that has developed off colors, odors, or textures.
Cooking and eating tips
To make sure you safely enjoy tofu before it expires, keep these cooking and eating tips in mind:
- Use firmer tofu varieties like medium, firm, or extra firm for longer storage. The firmer texture prevents spoilage.
- Cook tofu within 3-5 days of opening the package for peak freshness.
- Keep cooked tofu dishes like stir-fries for 3-4 days in the refrigerator.
- Add fresh tofu at the end of cooking acidic dishes to prevent it from curdling.
- Enjoy tofu in smoothies and shakes within 2 days for best texture.
Storing cooked tofu
You can extend the shelf life of cooked tofu dishes by storing them properly. Here are some guidelines:
|Tofu scramble||3-5 days||2-3 months|
|Tofu curry||5 days||4-6 months|
|Tofu stir-fry||3-4 days||4-6 months|
Let cooked tofu dishes cool completely before storing in airtight containers. Always reheat to 165°F before serving.
With proper storage methods like freezing, refrigerating, and sealing airtight, uncooked tofu can last 7-10 days past its printed date unopened, and 3-7 days once opened. Frozen, unopened tofu keeps for 1 year in the freezer. Cooked tofu will last 3-5 days in the fridge, or 2-6 months in the freezer. Check for mold, off smells, or slimy texture to determine if your tofu is still fresh. With some simple storage savvy, you can always have deliciously fresh tofu ready for all your favorite recipes.