If you didn’t grow up eating sushi, we’re sorry. But hopefully, you will experience this amazing culinary creation. If you get a great batch, the sushi is refreshing, flavorful, and leaves you full and satisfied, yet craving much more.
However, a bad batch can leave you hovering over a bucket for hours on end, wishing you could curse the person who invented it. Luckily, the most common reason people get sick from sushi is when they consume it after its shelf-life is spent.
So, how long is sushi good for? It depends on the type of sushi, but typically sushi will last up to four days in the refrigerator as long as it is stored properly and if it is a fresh batch made with fresh ingredients.
Let’s look at different types of sushi, ingredients that are used, and how that affects the shelf-life of the sushi. We will also look at how you should store sushi and how to recognize sushi that has gone bad.
Types of Sushi
Sushi is one of the oldest and greatest inventions in the culinary world. If you are unfamiliar with it, it is more of a category of food than a specific dish with a specific set-in-stone recipe – just like pasta is a very broad category of dishes and recipes.
Sushi is a Japanese seafood dish that consists of many different components and combinations thereof to create beautiful bite-sized pieces of fresh produce and flavors.
These pieces are very colorful and a feast for the eyes as well as the pallet. Sushi is traditionally served with pickled ginger, wasabi, and soy sauce to add additional, but optional flavor.
Ingredients that are very often used to make sushi include:
- Sushi rice, which is a vinegared short or medium grain sticky rice.
- Fish, including but not limited to salmon, yellowtail, tuna, mackerel, and amberjack. Other kinds of seafood used include squid, imitation crab, lobster, and shrimp.
- Other fresh ingredients: veggies and fruit such as avocado, cucumbers, daikon radishes, and even mango are often used.
- Some form of dried seaweed or nori that helps bind the sushi roll together.
Some sushi items are also served with a sushi mayo, Asian dressing, or traditional soy sauce and also have additional garnishes such as sesame seeds or roe (fish eggs).
All of these ingredients can be used to make many traditional sushi pieces as well as create new, exciting combinations.
The most common types of sushi sold virtually everywhere include Nigiri, Maki, Uramaki, Temaki, Sashimi, and Tempura rolls. This all sounds very fancy and foreign, but it basically just describes different combinations and preparation methods of ingredients.
What Affects the Shelf-Life of Sushi?
Because sushi and all of its related dishes consist of mainly fresh ingredients, two main aspects will affect the shelf-life.
When working with fish, it is especially important to know the factors that will affect its shelf-life:
Freshness of Ingredients
Any type of produce, be it meat or plant-based, will have a much shorter shelf-life when being prepared to use in something else. As soon as any protective layers are removed, the clock starts ticking.
For seafood (meats), it starts as soon as the fish or crustacean is caught.
When it eventually reaches the store to be processed into different cuts, a considerable amount of time has passed. It has lost most of its protection (its skin) against environmental factors.
Once the portions have been cut, they are still in storage before eventually reaching the sushi bar.
A lot of fish portions are also frozen to keep them from expiring sooner. However, this does not necessarily preserve the fresh fish taste. As soon as the piece has been defrosted, you have a day or two to use it.
The exception of course are restaurants that only use freshly caught fish to make their sushi and also make their sushi to-order.
Plant-based ingredients have a much longer shelf-life than fish. They usually only drastically decompose when the outer protective layer is removed.
Different ingredients have different shelf-lives and it is important to know each of the components’ to have the safest possible product.
The cold-chain is an extremely important factor that will affect the overall shelf-life of the produce. The cold-chain is the chain, or sequence, of managing perishable food in cold conditions.
If the chain is unbroken, food is kept cool and less likely to suffer. If food isn’t stored in proper temperatures, especially the seafood, you could run the risk of accelerating decomposition.
From start to finish, sushi should be kept under cool conditions. Remaining fully refrigerated is even better, to eliminate as many risks as possible.
How to Store Sushi
If you are making your own sushi at home, it is extremely important to pay attention to the cold-chain. Every ingredient that has the potential to go bad quickly (and cause major health problems) should be kept in the refrigerator for as long as possible.
Once you have made your sushi or bought it from a trusted restaurant, you can store any leftover sushi in your refrigerator. All you have to do is tightly wrap all of the sushi pieces together in saran or plastic wrap before placing it into an airtight container.
If your sushi doesn’t taste super fresh when you eat it, don’t bother wrapping it up for later – you are taking too big of a risk by doing so.
Can You Refrigerate Sushi?
Refrigeration is definitely a must when it comes to sushi – no exceptions. Sushi has to be stored in the refrigerator as we have mentioned above. Under no circumstances should it be left out to be eaten at a later stage.
If not, any ingredients that have been processed and touched by people have a very high risk of growing harmful and even deadly bacteria.
You should never consume fish that has left the cold-chain (gone unrefrigerated) for more than 4 hours. This is an extremely important rule as fish has tons of health risks involved, especially when consumed raw.
How to Keep Sushi Fresh Overnight?
You can keep sushi until the next day using the above-mentioned method. Simply wrap any leftover sushi pieces in saran wrap and place them in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
The sushi has to be consumed or discarded the next day if you are unsure of its quality.
Can Sushi Be Frozen?
It is possible to freeze sushi, however, we do not recommend it at all.
One of the biggest reasons is that the texture of the sushi will change drastically. When defrosting rice, there are also health risks involved and the texture will become very mushy and unappetizing.
The same goes for ingredients like seaweed (or nori) and cucumber. These are ingredients that will not be able to undergo a freezing process.
Another major factor to consider is how sushi has been made. You should be careful when freezing cooked fish or seafood, as well as cooked vegetables.
As an overall rule, never freeze store-bought sushi. You have no idea how long the ingredients have stood out, how many hands they have passed, and the quality of it.
If you are making sushi at home, and you have too much of a specific ingredient, don’t use all of it to make the sushi. Instead, freeze any leftover ingredient separately so that you can use it later to make new, fresh sushi.
How Long Does Sushi Last?
Just as we mentioned before, there are many factors to take into consideration to determine the shelf-life. Different types of sushi will last for different amounts of time.
If sushi is made fresh, with freshly caught fish and freshly made and processed produce, it will last for up to 4 days if stored properly in the refrigerator.
Any sushi that contains cooked ingredients should be consumed within 24 hours (but only if it has been refrigerated).
Store-bought sushi, regardless of the use-by date on the packaging, should be consumed immediately and any leftovers should be discarded. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
How Long Does Sushi Rice Last?
Sushi rice on its own can last up to 5 days if stored properly. Rice also has a ton of health risks associated with it. So use this guideline to determine if it is still good.
You can make sushi rice a day in advance to reduce some of the work required to make the sushi the next day.
How to Tell if Sushi Has Gone Bad?
There are many ways that you can identify sushi that has gone bad. We’ll go over the most obvious:
Have a look at each ingredient in a piece of sushi to see if it looks “right”.
Vegetables and fruits used in the piece should still look fresh and crispy. Some fruits, like avocado, might have discolored, but if it is still intact and not slimy, it should still taste right.
The rice should still have some structure to it. It shouldn’t be discolored or falling apart. Sushi rice is meant to hold everything together in the roll, so if it no longer does that, you should discard the piece (or perhaps the whole roll).
Most importantly, the fish should still look fresh. If the flesh is breaking or falling apart, that means the internal structure of the tissue is falling apart. It is no longer fresh enough to consume safely.
If there is any form of slime or a milky discharge on the flesh of the fish, it has gone way past its use-by date.
The last sign to look for on fish is at its color. If the color has gone pale or dull, you should also not risk it.
Your nose is an incredible organ as it can easily distinguish fresh from not-so-fresh produce.
If you smell the sushi piece as a whole, any acidic or sour smells are an indication that something is going bad. Now, we aren’t talking about obvious acidic smells, such as when lemons or vinegars are used, but rather any unrecognizable or foul-smelling scents.
If you smell the fish on its own and it smells strongly of fish (and not a flavor-balanced sushi roll), it isn’t safe to consume anymore. Fresh fish shouldn’t have any strong odors to it and should only smell like ocean water, typically.
Other ingredients could also give off rotten smells. That is a great indication that you shouldn’t eat the sushi.
As always, if you aren’t sure if it has gone off, follow our shelf-life time frame. Sushi is not safe to consume 4 days after it has been made.
Do not just follow any use-by dates on store-bought sush. Use your intuition and the knowledge you have learned today to determine if it’s still consumable. When in doubt, err on the side of caution.
There are many health risks involved when consuming raw fish. Some restaurants have been found to use poisonous fish that causes digestive problems or even hallucinations.
Make sure you know what fish you are consuming and that it is safe to consume. Where possible, make sure that you know where your fish is from and if it was obtained sustainably.
Other health risks associated with raw fish include the risk of salmonella or tapeworms.
Salmonella is a foodborne illness that is caused due to poor hygiene when handling food products, including fish. It can also be introduced to fish if they are exposed to contaminated water.
When people refer to food poisoning, they are actually referring to salmonella poisoning. It can cause severe diarrhea, vomiting, headaches, fevers, and/or chills.
Listeria is another harmful bacteria found often in raw fish and causes the same type of illness as salmonella, just worse.
Tapeworms are a parasite found in fish that feeds on their hosts’ nutrients and energy. When you consume raw or undercooked fish that contains tapeworms, it can lead to some serious problems.
Tapeworms can cause you to lose a ton of weight, diarrhea, vomiting, and malnutrition. This is extremely dangerous. That’s why it is extremely important to only source your fish and sushi from reputable suppliers and restaurants.
Another, somewhat unlikely but very possible, risk is mercury poisoning.
If you consume large amounts of big ocean fish (such as tuna and yellowtail), it could lead to an overconsumption of mercury. Mercury poisoning causes memory loss and issues with your muscles such as spasms and loss of use. Make sure to balance your diet.
Overconsumption of sushi rice could also lead to spikes in your blood sugar and insulin levels. This can be risky for diabetics.
Now, all these risks might seem scary and you might even be put off by sushi entirely. But remember, sushi is perfectly safe to consume if you act responsibly and source carefully.
Only source your ingredients or sushi from reputable suppliers and restaurants and make sure you know all the signs of off-sushi.
Never take a risk when consuming raw fish, no matter how much you paid for it or how badly you have a craving. Wasted food is always a bummer, but food poisoning is much worse. It won’t be worth it when you end up in the hospital.
Lastly, always source sushi from restaurants that use sustainable and ethically sourced produce and production methods. If they have those qualities, you know that their attention to safe food handling and storage will likely be up to standard.
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