Cooks’ questions: how long is soup good for in the fridge?

How long is soup good for in the fridge? On average, three to four days.

The colder months of the year call for big batches of hot soup – and, with those, come plenty of leftovers. As you work through the rest of a batch, knowing how long your soup stays fresh is crucial to maintaining its quality and curbing food waste.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), soups and stews containing meat and vegetables will be safe to eat for three to four days if refrigerated. The Hong Kong Centre for Food Safety (CFS) recommends setting your fridge temperature at 4 degrees Celsius (39 degrees Fahrenheit) or below.

While such food safety authorities offer rough estimates for the fridge life of your cooked soup, those containing cream may go off quicker than broth-based ones.

Home-made chicken vegetable soup. Food safety authorities advise that soup made with meat and vegetables will last three to four days in the fridge. There are refrigeration hacks to adopt to maximise its fridge life. Photo: Shutterstock

It’s a good idea, therefore, to check refrigerated soup regularly for any signs of spoilage. These can include an off smell, mould formation, or changes in colour or texture – indicators that it’s time to toss it.

How you store your soup plays a big part in maximising its fridge life.

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According to CFS guidelines, perishable foods should be refrigerated within two hours of cooking.

Since food grows bacteria the fastest when it’s in the danger zone of 4C to 60C (39F to 140F), a big pot of soup needs to be cooled down quickly to ensure it doesn’t spoil while in this danger zone – in less than two hours, that is.

To that end, the USDA suggests dividing your freshly made but eaten pot of soup into small, shallow, airtight containers before putting it in the fridge to cool it down faster. That’s because refrigerating a big portion of soup in one container can cause the fridge to heat up more than it should, potentially spoiling other perishable items stored in it.

It’s better to divide leftover soup between small, shallow airtight containers for storing in the fridge than refrigerating the whole lot in one pan or container. Photo: Shutterstock

Another option is to rapidly chill your pot of soup in an ice bath or cold water bath to aid cooling before refrigerating. If you’re feeling bold, you can even add ice cubes directly to the soup when it finishes cooking and you have served the bowls intended for immediate consumption.

While refrigerating your soup can keep it good for eating longer, keeping it at a low temperature doesn’t guarantee its quality is maintained: refrigerated food items lose vitamins and antioxidants over time, a 2017 study in the medical journal Antioxidants revealed.

That being the case, it’s in your favour to finish up your leftovers as soon as possible for both food safety and food quality reasons.

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