How Long Does Tofu Last – Info And Recipes

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How long does tofu last? People who avoid meat must know the answer to this question as it is very different from chicken or beef. In this article we will provide info on when does tofu go bad and more.

Anyone who has taken a conscious decision to stay away from animal meat swears by tofu. This product is a healthy alternative to meat, especially chicken.

That’s because of the texture of tofu and its ability to absorb the flavors it’s cooked with. It’s also a great source of protein. Made with curdled soy milk, tofu is one of China’s very versatile gifts to the world. But how long does tofu last?

There are different forms or textures of tofu, like silken, regular, and varying degrees of “firm’. These come in sealed packages, and you can refrigerate or freeze them, either sealed or unsealed.

Tofu can also be fermented. Depending on when the fermented tofu is opened and how it is stored, tofu can last between 3-5 days and 6-12 months, after which it can go bad. 

How long does tofu last? Does Tofu Go Bad?  

how long does tofu last

Tofu is a healthy and delicious alternative to meat. It’s not just popular among people who don’t eat animal meat. Meat-eaters love it, too.

It’s bean curd made by curdling soy milk, and it was invented by the Chinese some 2000 years ago. It is plant-based and thus fits into a vegan dish seamlessly. 

Tofu is used as the main protein in sides, salads, soups, pasta, and more. If you depend on plant-based sources of protein, it’s likely that you stock up on tofu at the start of the month when you’re out grocery shopping.

But for how long can tofu be stored before it starts to get spoiled?

Tofu comes with an expiration date that’s mentioned on the package, after which it will expire. By storing and preserving it properly, you might be able to extend its life and enjoy it in its best condition. But eventually, there will come the point when it will no longer be edible.

How Long Does Tofu Last?

How long you will be able to enjoy tofu depends on two things - 

  1. Method of storage
  2. It the package is open or sealed

The texture or firmness of tofu does not affect the product’s life. Let’s find out about the shelf life of tofu.

Refrigerated Tofu

Check out the manufacturing date of the product. It’s always marked in the package. If the tofu is still in its package and refrigerated at 2-4 C, it is safe for consumption for 2-3 months after the date of manufacturing.

Usually, a tofu pack comes with a “best before” date that’s about 2 months from the product’s manufacturing date. Once opened, tofu lasts for about 3-5 days in the fridge.

Frozen Tofu

When tofu is kept in the freezer, it can last for several months - or even years. However, the quality will deteriorate over time.

In its frozen condition, tofu will remain at its best for about 3-4 months from the date of manufacturing.

Remember to thaw frozen tofu overnight in the fridge before you can eat it. Once unfrozen, you shouldn’t refreeze it, or its texture and freshness will be compromised. 

Fermented Tofu

Fermentation of tofu was invented to preserve the bean curd, but it has given us a soft and spreadable salty condiment that lasts really long.

Fermented tofu is readily available in any local Asian store, usually in sealed jars. Unopened fermented tofu can last for up to 12 months.

But once opened and stored in a closed jar in a dark and cool place, it will last for another 6 months. 

Cooked Tofu

If cooked tofu is cooled first and then refrigerated with the lid on, you can expect tofu to last for 4-5 days.

You must remember that once cooked and refrigerated, tofu will last as long as the ingredient in the dish, which has the shortest life span.

So, it might be a good idea to separate cooked tofu from the sauce, though it may not be a possible option all the time.

How To Tell If Tofu Is Bad, Rotten Or Spoiled?

how long does tofu last

When tofu starts to go bad, there will always be some telltale signs to warn you. You must check for these signs to prevent unpleasant experiences, or worse, foodborne diseases.

You’ll have to rely on your visual, olfactory, and tactile senses for that. Don’t worry, your senses are the most reliable tools to tell you when food goes bad - and in case of tofu, they won’t have to work too hard. 

One of the most common traits of spoilt tofu is the pungent smell. You will get a repulsive, source odor from stale tofu, which will never be there in fresh tofu.

In fact, fresh tofu does not really have any smell. Spoilt tofu will also look oddly yellowish. With time, it will also develop mold. Stale tofu will also change in texture as it will stop being firm and even. It will also start to curdle.   

How To Store Tofu For Extended Shelf Life

Every new tofu pack comes with instructions regarding how to store it. Check out the best ways of storing tofu in various ways:

Refrigerating Tofu In Fresh Water:

As a rule of thumb, you can refrigerate tofu at 2-4 C to maintain its freshness and for easy and repeated consumption. While freezing will keep the tofu in its edible condition for a longer time, you won’t be able to refreeze thawed tofu.

So, for repeated use, refrigeration is your best bet. You should remember to refrigerate tofu in a tightly sealed container immediately after using it.  

It is essential to note that once the package is opened, tofu should be placed in fresh and clean water at the time of refrigeration. This will maintain the moist and bouncy texture of the tofu instead of turning it into a hard block.

Replace the water every day to keep your tofu fresh. Otherwise, the stagnated water and the moisture will lead to mold. 

Freezing Tofu:

Freezing tofu is an easy way to extend the life of tofu. Interestingly, freezing does not change the taste of tofu, though the texture becomes spongier, which is a good thing. Spongy tofu absorbs flavors better.

In fact, if you press the tofu before freezing it, and later thaw it properly, the texture of tofu will become nice and chewy, almost like chicken. 

The ideal way to freeze tofu is by draining the liquid in the tofu package first. Then press it gently by putting it in between kitchen towels.

This will remove water from inside the tofu block, which, if left inside, can freeze and create holes inside the tofu to make it spongy.

You can wrap the pressed tofu in cling film and put it in a freezer container to freeze it. It takes at least 3 hours for tofu to freeze. 

How To Freeze Tofu For A Chicken-Like Texture: Tofu Chicken Recipe

how long does tofu last 3

Freezing an unopened pack of tofu is easy, as you just have to put the package in the freezer and keep it there until you’re ready to use it. You just need to thaw it for around 2-3 hours. But if you have opened the package, you can follow the steps below to freeze the tofu. This method will also give the tofu a fibrous, chewy texture, almost like chicken. 

Ingredient:

  • Tofu (firm or extra firm): 1 pack

Instructions:

  • After opening the package, discard the liquid inside. 
  • Pat the tofu dry with a kitchen towel and slice it to make it thin for easy water drainage. 
  • Wrap the tofu pieces in a kitchen and press it down with something heavy. Let the weight sit on the tofu for half an hour. Change the towel in between if it gets too wet.  
  • Remove the kitchen towel and cut the tofu into bite-size pieces. 
  • Wrap the pieces in cling film or put them in a freezer container to freeze them.  

To use this tofu, you’ll need to defrost it first. Line a plate with a kitchen towel and then put the frozen tofu on it to defrost it in the microwave.

Once done, pat them dry before coating them lightly in soy sauce, salt, and cornflour dusting. Place these on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and bake them for 20-30 minutes at 180 C. You can cook the pieces like chicken for a meaty dish! 

Fermenting Tofu

Fermented tofu, preserved tofu, fermented bean curd - this Chinese specialty has many names, and it is supposed to preserve tofu for a long time.

The process itself is quite tedious and is definitely more challenging than freezing tofu. However, fermented tofu lasts longer than tofu stored in any other way.

Besides, it offers a unique texture and depth of flavors and is versatile in its own way. 

Fermented tofu is soft, like cheese spread, and is used as a condiment. You can also cook stir-fried dishes with fermented tofu in it for some complex flavors and creamy texture.

Tofu is fermented using rice wine, salt, sesame beans, vinegar, etc. There are different variants of fermented tofu, including the stinky tofu, a popular street food.  

The process of fermenting tofu is all about brining it properly. The recipe of brine might differ, but most commonly, it calls for a combo of salt and rice wine.

White fermented tofu is the most popular form. Stinky tofu, which is brined for months in fermented milk, or red fermented tofu, which uses yeast rice, are less common.   

How To Ferment Tofu - Fermented Tofu Recipe

how long does tofu last

You can try fermenting tofu at home, using ingredients that are mostly available at home. Check out this recipe:

Ingredients:

Tofu:

  • Firm tofu: 500 g (sliced in half)
  • Water: 4 cups
  • Salt: 1 tbsp
  • Chili flakes: ¼ cup (optional)

Brine:

  • Water: 1 ½ cups
  • Salt: 3 tbsp
  • Sugar: 1 tbsp
  • Rice wine: ½ cup
  • Sesame oil: ½ tsp (optional)

Instructions:

  • Boil 4 cups of water. Add 1 tbsp of salt. 
  • Once the salted water comes to a boil, add the tofu and keep it in the boiling water for 4 minutes. 
  • Remove the water with the tofu from the heat and take the tofu out of the water. 
  • Wrap it in a kitchen towel and place something heavy on top to press it. This will help remove water. Let it sit there for 1.5 hours. Change the towel if it gets too wet. 
  • Take a large plate and line it with a fresh kitchen towel.   
  • Remove the tofu from the towel and cut it into cubes. Place these cubes on the prepped plate. Make sure that the pieces are not touching each other. 
  • Put another layer of kitchen towel. Then, wrap the top with a cling film to keep away bacteria or dirt. 
  • Place the plate with the tofu pieces in a dark place where the temperature is 25-30 C. 
  • Let it sit for 2-3 days, after which you’ll notice an orangish shade on the tofu. It will also smell slightly and may develop white mold, which is normal. Dark mold needs to be scraped it off. 
  • For the brine, take a saucepan and put the salt and the sugar in 1 ½ cups of water. Bring it to a boil. 
  • Boil it for 1 minute and then remove it from the heat. Let it cool down to room temperature. 
  • Add the rice wine and stir properly. 
  • Take a glass jar and add the tofu pieces in it. You can roll the pieces in chili flakes before putting them in the jar. But that’s optional. 
  • Add the brine into the jar and cover the tofu pieces completely.    
  • Put the lid on the jar, and keep the covered jar in a dark place at a temperature of around 20 C. Keep it there for 3 weeks, at least.  
  • If you want to add a little more flavor, then add the sesame oil after 3 weeks. 

Your fermented tofu is ready at this point, though you can let it age a little more. You can use it as a dipping sauce or add it to soups, marinades, stir-fries, etc. 

Can You Eat Expired Tofu

Despite all the procedures of preservation and extension of tofu’s shelf life, there comes the point when it becomes inedible.

Usually, an unopened and refrigerated pack of tofu remains edible for 2-3 months after the “sell by” date. The “sell by” date can give you an estimate of how long the product is safe for consumption. But it’s best to follow the above guidelines regarding the shelf life of tofu. 

If tofu goes bad and you try to eat it, it can lead to serious health concerns. Expired tofu can bear many diseases. Stomach ache, vomiting, etc. are common side effects of eating expired tofu.

Tofu that has developed mold on it, it might contain either mycotoxins or aflatoxin. Mycotoxins can accuse severe food poisoning, while aflatoxin can even cause cancer. You must discard tofu that seems off.

Types Of Tofu And Its Health Benefits:

There are different types of tofu. Based on water content, texture, and firmness, these are:

  • Silken Tofu 
  • Regular Tofu
  • Firm Tofu
  • Extra-Firm Tofu
  • Super-Firm Tofu 

You can cook them in any way you want and add them in soups, salads, and mains to replace animal-based protein. 

Tofu can alleviate several health problems, such such as:

  • Osteoporosis
  • High cholesterol
  • Hot flashes
  • Coronary heart disease

It can also lower the risks of colorectal cancer and prostate cancer. 

Conclusion:

Tofu is a protein-packed and delicious staple that was first invented in China thousands of years ago. Now, the world discovered this hidden treasure and started infusing it in all cuisines as a plant-based alternative to animal meat.

If you stock up on tofu to shift to a vegetarian or vegan diet plan, you must store it well. Refrigerating unopened tofu is an easy way to store and use it conveniently. 

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