Sushi is a traditional type of Japanese cuisine that’s quite popular worldwide.
Although many people associate sushi with raw fish, it can also be made with a variety of cooked seafood. Other ingredients include vegetables and vinegared rice wrapped in dried seaweed (known as nori).
You may have some leftovers if you have made sushi at home or dined out. But how can you store sushi so it’s safe to eat at another time?
This article covers how long sushi can last, the best ways to store it, and how to identify signs of spoilage.
How long can sushi last before spoiling?
The main ingredients in your sushi will dictate its overall shelf life and storage guidelines.
Generally, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that leftovers should not be kept at room temperature for more than 2 hours and no more than 1 hour if you’re eating outdoors and the temperature is above 90°F (32°C).
This guidance applies to raw sushi, such as sashimi, and cooked sushi, such as tempura or California rolls.
However, when storing sushi in the fridge, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) advises that raw fish and shellfish can be refrigerated for 1–2 days but 3–4 days when cooked.
The goal is to keep sushi out of the temperature “danger zone” of 40–140°F (4–60°C) to avoid rapid bacterial growth, which increases your risk of foodborne illness.
- Raw sushi (e.g., sashimi) lasts up to 2 hours at room temperature and 1–2 days when stored in the refrigerator
- Cooked sushi (e.g., eel, California rolls) last up to 2 hours at room temperature and 3–4 days when stored in the refrigerator
Summary: Raw sushi can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 hours and in the fridge for 1–2 days, but cooked sushi can be stored in the fridge for 3–4 days.
How to safely store leftover sushi
Raw fish and seafood — including sushi — should be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, foil, or moisture-proof paper and stored in the refrigerator or freezer, according to the FDA’s guidelines for storing raw fish and seafood.
Alternatively, you may store it in an airtight container, which reduces moisture and bacterial growth. Avoid containers that do not seal well since these may promote bacterial growth or food spoilage.
Refrigerate raw and cooked sushi for up to 2 and 4 days, respectively. Sushi may be frozen for longer storage; however, the quality of the product may become compromised.
Summary: For safe storage, sushi should be placed in plastic wrap and refrigerated in airtight containers for the recommended times above.
Signs of spoilage in sushi
Here are some ways you can use your senses to tell whether your sushi dish has gone bad:
- Odor. Bacteria may cause sushi to spoil and emit an unpleasant odor. If you have stored sushi in the refrigerator, smell it for pungent odors before eating it.
- Dull look. Though refrigerating sushi may change its taste and texture slightly, visually inspect the sushi for significant changes in color or other signs of spoilage, such as mold.
- Slime. When foods are going bad, especially rice, they often develop slime. Toss the sushi out if you see or feel slime on your leftovers.
Summary: Use your senses to determine whether your sushi has gone bad by smelling for pungent odors, visually inspecting for color changes or mold, and touching it for slime.
Risks of eating spoiled sushi
Raw fish and seafood, such as sushi and sashimi, are more likely to contain parasites and bacteria that can be transmitted to humans and cause foodborne illnesses.
Suggested read: What is cross-contamination? And how to avoid it
Anisakidosis — larval gut infection — is a common foodborne illness associated with sushi in Japan, while sushi has been linked to salmonella outbreaks in the United States.
Though individual symptoms may vary, the most common symptoms of a foodborne illness are diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and stomach cramps.
Cases of food poisoning may be severe, especially among those who are considered at higher risk of complications, including young children, older adults, pregnant people, and those with certain health conditions.
In addition to the risk of foodborne illness, sushi may be a source of mercury — a toxic heavy metal that, in large amounts, may damage the brain, gut, and kidneys.
Summary: The major risk of consuming spoiled sushi is developing a foodborne illness, although sushi as a dish may be a source of the toxic heavy metal mercury.
Sushi is a popular Japanese dish often prepared with raw and cooked seafood, vegetables, vinegared rice, and dried seaweed (nori).
It’s more likely to contain parasites and bacteria and must be appropriately stored to reduce your risk of developing foodborne illnesses.
Raw sushi, like sashimi, can be refrigerated for 1–2 days, while cooked sushi lasts 3–4 days. Neither type should be kept at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
Pro tip: The next time you purchase packaged sushi, check the expiration date on the label. If you have any leftovers, wrap them in plastic wrap before refrigerating them in an airtight container.