Tofu is known as a healthy food item; it is low in calories and high in nutritional values, particularly protein contents. Suitable for a meat substitute, this soy-based product is considered as a staple for vegan and vegetarian as well as a great option for a gluten-free diet.
Since the last few decades, tofu is also getting more popular in Western society. It is widely available in local grocery stores or Asian stores and usually sits on the vegetarian/ vegan shelf.
If you are a new tofu eater, you might wonder how to store tofu correctly and how long it lasts. It’s always a pity to spend money on food ingredients, but end up throwing them out into the garbage because they get bad before the time due to improper storage.
Read through this article to find out more interesting knowledge and answers to the most common questions about tofu shelf-life; how to store tofu properly, how long tofu lasts, and most importantly how to tell if tofu has gone bad.
Varieties of Tofu
Tofu (or also known as bean curd in some countries) originated in China, dating back to circa 2000 years ago. It spread to the neighboring countries and has become an essential ingredient for East Asian and Southeast Asian cuisine.
Tofu production is relatively simple, more or less similar to the making of cheese. It is made by coagulating soy milk to form curd and pressed into a solid block.
Tofu has a unique subtle taste which makes it easy to use in many different dishes, either sweet or savory. It is often used for soup, stir fry, deep fry, salad, dessert, smoothies, and the list goes on. However, you may need to check the recipe to learn which type of tofu is needed.
In general, tofu can be divided into silken and regular tofu. Silken tofu doesn’t undergo curdling and pressing steps, leaving it with a delicate and silky texture.
On the other hand, regular tofu is formed by pressing the curd and squeezing out the water. The more water squeezed out, the firmer the tofu gets. Depending on the firmness and texture, regular tofu can be grouped into soft, firm, and extra-firm tofu.
Other than silken and regular tofu, you might come across another type of tofu, called egg tofu. It is made by simply adding eggs to soy milk during the making. It has a soft texture and rich flavor from the egg.
How to Store Tofu
An unopened pack of tofu is easy to store, no need to prep, just put it in the refrigerator until further use.
Meanwhile, if you have an opened pack of tofu, put it into an airtight container or a zip lock bag. Add some fresh potable water into the container until tofu is covered. Water will help to prevent tofu from drying out and maintain the freshness of the tofu. Try to change the water daily to keep tofu fresh.
If you have leftovers or a dish containing tofu in a bulk, the storage tips are similar to how you store a cooked dish. Put it into an airtight container and quickly keep it safe in the refrigerator until your next meal. Make sure the dish is cooled down before refrigerating.
Can you freeze tofu?
Yes, it is possible to freeze tofu. But freezing can alter the texture, making it more compact and chewy. To freeze tofu, drain the water and wrap the tofu in a freezer-safe container or bag.
Make sure to press out as much water as possible, if you don’t want to end up with ice pockets that turn into holes once the tofu is defrosted. To drain the water, simply squeeze the tofu using paper towels. For removing more water, place paper towels between the tofu, and then place a cutting board topped with another heavy object, for example, a bowl or plate.
Frozen tofu may last up to 3 – 4 months. When you need to use frozen tofu, defrost it in a refrigerator or microwave before cooking it.
How Long Does Tofu Last?
Just like any other food item, at some point tofu will expire. Tofu is best consumed before the expiry date indicated on the label. Be sure to check this date for guidance. Proper storage may extend its shelf life and maintain its quality, sometimes surpassing its expiry date.
An unopened pack of tofu
When it comes to an unopened pack of tofu, the easiest way to tell how long it lasts is by checking the “expiry date” or “best before date” on the label. Generally, a pack of tofu lasts for 2 to 3 months in the fridge. When stored outside of the fridge, it will last much shorter, which is 3- 5 days.
Opened pack of tofu
After opening, tofu will stay good for the next 3 to 5 days when properly stored in the fridge.
Freezing is an easy method to prolong the shelf life of food. Frozen tofu may last for 3 to 4 months in the freezer. But, once thawed it should be used immediately and should not go back to the freezer.
To tell how long a dish prepared with tofu lasts, check the ingredients that go bad fastest. This is also applicable to check other dishes. Typically, it can last for 3 – 4 days in the fridge with proper storage. But, if you find foul smell or signs of spoilage, better to throw it away!
How to Tell if Tofu is Bad
There are several signs to observe when it comes to spoilage of tofu.
A bloated package is an indication that unopened tofu is spoiled. Bloating is caused by the gas produced by the bacterial colony inside the package. The gas cannot be released since the package is sealed, and thus causes bloating.
Tofu package usually contains water. After some time the water can get cloudy and thickened which is also a sign of bacterial spoilage.
If the color changes and turns brownish or darker, it is also a sign that tofu has gone bad.
If you see signs of molds, this is also a clear indication to throw your tofu immediately.
If your tofu smells unpleasantly strong and sour, it is better to discard it.
If you don’t see and smell any signs of spoilage on tofu, taste a small amount of it. If it has an unpleasant, sour taste, better to get rid of it.
Technically, tofu can be eaten as it is since it has undergone a cooking process during production. However, tofu is not prepared as a portion of ready-to-eat food and not all raw tofu might be appealing to everyone, and therefore better to fry, steam, or cook into a dish. For eating raw, soft and silken tofu might be the best choices.
Pregnant women are generally at higher risk of getting ill or harming the baby from certain foods, particularly raw food. Although technically tofu is not raw food, it is not prepared as a ready-to-eat food.
The safety aspects of raw tofu also depend on the production process, which may vary between one factory to another. To avoid pathogenic and harmful bacteria, it is suggested to cook the tofu before consumption, especially when served for pregnant women, children, elderly people, and people with weakened immune systems.
Tofu will go bad after some time, and that depends on whether the tofu is already opened and the storage condition.
A pack of tofu usually carries a “best before” date. If you have tofu that has passed the date, try to check for signs of spoilage. If there are no signs of spoilage and the quality is still acceptable, it is likely safe to consume. But, if you see any signs of spoilage, it is better to stay on the safe side and throw the tofu.
Tofu is a great addition to a healthy diet. It provides a good amount of protein and other nutrients. Just like any other food, it is best consumed during its peak quality. Use the stamped date on the label as guidance.
An unopened pack of tofu lasts for 2-3 months, while after opening it lasts for the next 3-5 days. When frozen tofu lasts up to 3-4 months. If you have a dish with tofu, try to consume it within 3-4 days.
Proper storage is important to maintain the quality and safety of food, including tofu. If you have a pack of tofu that’s been a while in the fridge, make sure to check signs of spoilage before consuming.
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