We usually think of fermentation as a way of preserving foods without refrigeration, so it may seem like tempeh is one of those foods that can last forever in the right conditions.
Does tempeh go bad, and do you need to trust expiration dates on the packaging? Does tempeh need to be refrigerated, and how long does it last?
Tempeh does go bad, so you need to store it in the fridge or freezer in an airtight container. This article will answer everything you need to know about how to store tempeh.
Does Tempeh Go Bad?
Tempeh does go bad. Even when tempeh has been fermented, pasteurized, and sealed by a manufacturer, natural processes will continue to slowly break down the food, which is why the packaging has an expiration date.
Even if you are within the “sell by” date, it’s always a good idea to check your tempeh and make sure it is still good and safe to eat.
Here are some signs that tempeh has spoiled and should not be eaten:
- It has a bad smell. Fresh tempeh has a nutty, mildly funky fragrance, like many cheeses do, but it should not have a strong, bad smell.
- It should have a firm texture. If tempeh starts to feel soft and floppy, it has probably spoiled.
- It should have a smooth, dry surface. Tempeh should not look or feel wet or gelatinous
- Tempeh may naturally have small grey or black spots, but the spots should not be fuzzy and they should grow slowly, if at all.
If your tempeh is not smooth, dry, firm, and lightly fragrant, it is better to discard it than risk illness by eating it.
Does Tempeh Need to be Refrigerated?
Tempeh should be refrigerated.
The cool temperatures in the fridge slow down the process of fermentation and allow the tempeh to last longer without over-ripening or becoming unsafe.
How Do You Store Tempeh in the Fridge?
There is a lot of debate about how to store tempeh in the fridge. Here are the two primary perspectives:
- Place tempeh in an air-tight package to prevent it from drying out in the fridge
- Wrap tempeh in parchment or wax paper to allow air circulation in the fridge
The right answer depends on whether your tempeh has been pasteurized or not.
If you’re buying tempeh at the store, it has almost always been pasteurized, which stops fermentation, and it should be stored in an air-tight container.
If you have unpasteurized tempeh, either because you specifically bought unpasteurized tempeh or you made the tempeh yourself, wrap it in parchment or wax paper to allow air circulation as it slowly continues to ferment in the refrigerator.
How Long is Tempeh Good for in the Fridge?
As a general rule:
- Store-bought, unopened tempeh will stay good in the refrigerator in its original packaging for about 5 days after its “sell-by” date, which may be weeks or even months
- Uncooked tempeh will stay good in the refrigerator for 7-10 days, either stored in an airtight container or wrapped in wax paper
- Cooked tempeh will stay good in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 5-7 days
Can You Freeze Tempeh?
Tempeh can easily be frozen and freezing is the best way to store tempeh for longer periods of time.
How Do You Store Tempeh in the Freezer?
Tempeh should be stored in the freezer in an airtight container.
You can use a resealable plastic freezer bag or a freezer-safe container with an airtight lid.
How Long is Tempeh Good for in the Freezer?
Tempeh will stay good in the freezer for 10-12 months.
Label your tempeh container so you know how long it has been frozen.
How to Thaw and Use Tempeh After Freezing
To thaw frozen tempeh, you can place it in the refrigerator overnight.
However, since most people steam tempeh before cooking with it, you can steam or microwave frozen tempeh to defrost it more quickly and save time while cooking.
- To defrost frozen tempeh in the microwave, place it in a microwave-safe container and microwave for 1 minute on high
- To defrost frozen tempeh with a steamer, place it in a steamer and steam for 5 minutes
How to Store Tempeh
If you want to store tempeh for more than a week, follow my steps below.
If you’re using home-made, unpasteurized tempeh: cook it in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees for 30 minutes to pasteurize it.
If you’re using store bought tempeh that has been opened and handled: microwave for 5 minutes or steam your tempeh for 10 minutes to kill any surface bacteria.
Slice the tempeh into slices or cubes the way it’ll be served in your final preparation.
Place sliced or cubed tempeh onto a sheet pan in a single layer.
Place the sheet pan in the coldest part of your freezer and leave it for 1-3 hours.
When your tempeh pieces are frozen solid, take them off the sheet pan and place them into a freezer-safe container. Be sure to write the date on the container.
Remove only as much tempeh as you plan to cook (or eat raw) at a time and leave the rest in the freezer.
Never re-freeze tempeh that has been frozen and thawed.
Following these steps to properly store your tempeh will allow it to last for as long as possible, and stay fresh, delicious, and full of nutrients when you’re ready to use it in your favorite recipes.