Many people assume since vegan meats do not contain raw animal products, they have a longer shelf life than regular meat.
Like all food, you should practice good food safety with vegan meats. This means, after cooking, plant-based meats are only good to eat for a few days at the most. For uncooked plant-based meats, the expiry time can vary.
We’ll guide you through everything you need to know about the shelf-life of plant-based meat.
How Long Does Plant-Based Meat Last After Cooking?
Plant-based foods are still foods – so you should still follow general food safety rules.
Most cooked food can be kept for up to four days in the fridge. After this point, it should be thrown away as there is a higher risk of developing food poisoning after this time period has elapsed (source: foodsafety.gov). This rule of thumb should apply to plant-based meats, too.
If you cook plant-based meat and leave it on the counter, it should be refrigerated within two hours. Do not leave plant-based meats out overnight at room temperature.
Vegan meat should not be placed in the fridge pipping hot either. Instead, allow some time for it to cool. The longer the food is out, the more time the bacteria that cause e. Coli and salmonella infections have to develop (source: USDA).
How Long Does Vegan Meat Last in the Fridge?
Best before and use by dates are not one and the same. An unopened product that has elapsed its best before date is still safe to eat (within reason), but the quality is likely to have deteriorated.
Meanwhile, the use-by-date indicated that the product may not to safe to consume after that date, even if it is unopened.
Vegan meat can last up to three days in the fridge unless the best-before date is sooner than three days away. In that case, consume the product before the best-before date (source: Impossible Foods).
Generally speaking, cooked and uncooked food can last between three to five days in the fridge, so it’s best to follow that time frame.
How Long Does Plant-Based Meat Last in the Freezer?
Lots of vegan meats warn customers that their products cannot be frozen. It’s best to do as the packing suggests. These brands include Beyond Burgers that have been purchased thawed (source: Adams Fairacre Farms).
Meanwhile, the Impossible Burger can be frozen, but it should be consumed before the best-by date passes (source: Impossible Foods).
Many Quorn products can be purchased frozen. While freezer foods technically do not go off, it is recommended to consume these products before the best date as the quality decreases afterward.
For products that can be frozen, check the packaging to see if it specifies if they can be frozen, cooked, or uncooked.
There is little guidance on long plant-based meat can be safely frozen for. Plant-based meat is still relatively new and does not react in the freezer the way animal meat does.
Denny’s suggests consuming their meat-free products within a month after freezing (source: Denny). Meatless Farm also recommended freezing for one month (source: Meatless Farm).
These products are still safe to eat after one month in the freezer, but the texture and flavor will likely be diminished. Remember, different brands may have different life spans and could last longer in the freezer.
In general, you can freeze cooked food. If you are freezing cooked plant-based meat, do not put it in the freezer while it is still hot. This can change the temperate of your freezer and potentially allow harmful bacteria to flourish on all the items (source: Michigan State University).
Can You Eat Expired Plant-Based Meat? Is it Bad?
People tend to assume vegan meats and plant-based food, in general, is safer than animal products. While you don’t need to worry about falling ill with plant-based meats as you do with the likes of undercooked chicken, pork, or steak that has not been seared, vegan meats are not risk-free either.
Research suggests vegans and vegetarians are less likely to get food poisoning than those who eat meat (source: Infectious Diseases Hub). However, those who do not eat meat still need to take food safety seriously.
Expired plant-based foods, especially food from open packaging and unfrozen food, can still make you ill.
Veggie burgers is a broad term; veggie burger ingredients vary drastically. They can be made from tofu, beans, falafel, diced vegetables like carrots and peas, lentils, and more. Their freshness also depends on if they’re homemade or store-bought.
Keep in mind that vegetables are not immune to contamination from the likes of e. Coli or salmonella (source: Texas Cooperative Extension).
While sausages can be made from these ingredients, they’re usually closer to vegan burgers. This means they’re typically made from soy or pea protein and taste more like a real sausage.
Store-bought plant-based meats and burgers, such as Beyond Meat products, tend to contain preservatives. Preservatives can reduce the risk of food-borne illness by killing harmful bacteria (source: Food Additives & Ingredients Association). You should still take heed to the expiration date and storage instructions to be on the safe side.
Again, there is no overall rule for how these products should be handled. It’s always best to err on the side of caution. So, while vegan or vegetarian products that have elapsed their best-before date should generally be safe to eat, it’s not worth taking a risk by eating expired plant-based meat.
How Long Does Beyond Meat (Beyond Burgers and Sausages) Last?
Beyond Meat products like burgers, mince, and sausages can last up to ten days in the fridge if it has been unopened.
However, if the package has been opened, then that time drops down to three days, whether raw or cooked. If the best-before date is sooner than those times, then consume it by then.
Beyond Meat products bought frozen can remain in the freezer until the best-before date. If a product was already bought thawed, i.e. in the fridge section of a store, not the freezer, then it should not be frozen whether it is cooked or not (source: Beyond Meat).
I hope this cleared up any questions you had about how long plant-based meat is good for!