Whether you're a fan of miso soup or just like to add an extra dash of umami to your dishes, there's one Japanese ingredient you can't do without. Miso paste is a great addition to any refrigerator's condiment shelf, especially because it keeps so long. But exactly how long does miso paste last?
If unopened, your miso paste could last up to a year, though the most surefire way to tell is to look at the sell-by date. When opened, it usually has a shelf life of about three months. But if you're still feeling uncertain about yours, learn how to spot the signs of spoilage below.
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How Long Does Miso Paste Keep?
Miso paste is actually one of the best foods for long-term storage, and that's not an accident. As a fermented food product that's high in sodium, it has a natural defense against bacteria and mold. This is why it's so good for gut health and why it keeps so long in the fridge.
Exactly how long is that? Well, it depends entirely on how it's stored. Assuming yours is still in its original packaging, you can expect it to last up to a full year, while opened miso will last about three months.
If you're living in the United States or Europe, you should be able to find a best-by date on the packaging. This will usually be printed in black letters on the lid or bottom of the packaging, but keep in mind that it's not the same as an expiration date. In fact, you can usually eat miso several months after its sell-by date.
What Happens After the Sell-by Date?
A "sell-by" date is only a guideline that informs retailers how long to hang onto products before it's time to throw them away. While some products can suffer greatly after this date, like milk or eggs, miso is a bit more resilient.
After miso's sell-by date has passed, it is usually still edible, though its flavor may have changed slightly. Since miso is fermented, it will tend to become sweeter as the fermentation process continues over time.
If your sell-by date has passed, the best way to tell if your miso paste is still edible is to look for signs of spoilage. More about that in the next section.
Signs Your Miso Paste May be Bad
Not everyone is as familiar with miso paste as they are with bread or sour cream, so it can be trickier to tell if it's spoiled. Look for these signs when judging yours:
The first thing to understand is that miso paste can vary widely in color when it's fresh, from yellow to white, to brown, to red. There's even green miso! So before looking at its color to judge freshness, look at the packaging to see what color it was supposed to be in the first place.
What you're looking for when checking for spoilage is any color other than what it's supposed to be. Miso should also have an even color throughout, so if you see any variation, there's a good chance it has gone bad.
The only exception to this rule is if your miso is very old. Over time, it will get darker in color, and this may cause a slight variation from the miso at the top of the container to the part beneath.
Fresh, good-quality miso should have a thick, paste-like texture with a slight grittiness. It should also be consistent throughout the product. If you notice excessive moisture, sliminess, or variations in texture, be sure to throw it out without delay.
Since miso is fermented, it should have a sweet, slightly funky smell. This can make it difficult to tell when it has spoiled. However, spoiled miso has a distinctly different odor than fresh miso, and it should be fairly obvious after just one sniff. Keep an eye out for unpleasant, garbage-like smells.
Storing Miso the Right Way
Since miso is so resilient, storing it is usually pretty straightforward. But if you want to maximize the lifespan of your product, be sure to keep all of the following tips in mind.
Refrigerate After Opening
Did you know that you don't need to refrigerate unopened miso? In most cases, it's perfectly shelf-stable while sealed. But once you crack the lid, you definitely want to keep it in the refrigerator.
Seal the Lid Tightly After Use
Especially when you're adding a spoonful on the fly, it can be easy to forget to secure the lid tightly. Don't make this mistake. The easiest way to ruin your miso is to leave it in the fridge with an insecure lid.
Don't Leave It at Room Temperature
Even short periods outside the refrigerator can drastically shorten the lifespan of your miso. Keep it away from the stove or a hot oven while you're using it, as these temperature fluctuations can affect its quality. Your best bet is to scoop out what you need and put it right back in the fridge.
Use Clean Utensils to Serve
This may be the easiest one to miss, as it's not one most people think of. When scooping miso or any condiment like hummus, be sure to use a clean spoon to avoid cross-contamination.