How Long Does Cooked Food Last in the Fridge?

Refrigerating leftover cooked food is a common practice. The trick is to know the shelf life of the food in order to prevent food poisoning.
How Long Does Cooked Food Last in the Fridge?

Last update: 18 March, 2023

Making too much food, cooking ahead for the next week’s meals, or getting food ready for an event are reasons to refrigerate cooked foods. The purpose is to conserve food supplies for longer. But, how long does cooked food last in the fridge?

Although this practice is common, carrying it out without knowing how long the food will last can have some consequences. Every food -cooked or not- has an expiration date, even those that you can freeze. We’ll explain it to you.

Why is it necessary to keep cooked food in the fridge?

People often prepare extra food to reheat and eat later. However, eating spoiled food can result in food poisoning that can range from mild to severe.

As the Mayo Clinic points out, foodborne illnesses are rooted in food contamination, as you ingest infectious organisms or toxins from spoiled food.

Food poisoning manifests itself with the following symptoms:

  • Weakness
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever and chills
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea, sometimes with blood

As recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), leftovers should be refrigerated no more than 2 hours after cooking, or one hour if exposed to an outside temperature above 90°F.

Cooked food in the fridge.
Storing cooked food in the fridge helps prolong its shelf life. However, there is a time limit for consumption.
If dishes are very hot, wait for them to cool down a little before refrigerating.

How long does cooked food last in the fridge?

Not all foods require special cooling; for example, pickles, dehydrated foods, foods with few nutrients or a lot of salt. The foods that do require this are the following:

  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Dairy products
  • Creams and sauces
  • Recipes that combine cooked and raw foods

However, for safety reasons, it’s necessary to throw away those foods that show signs of spoilage or that appear to be fine but have been in the refrigerator for several weeks.

Although cold delays spoilage and, therefore, the proliferation of microorganisms, to minimize risks it is important to know the average shelf life.

Let’s take a look at some specific information.


Cooked fish and seafood should be consumed before 2 days in the refrigerator. In the case of frozen white fish, it should be used in less than 3 months, a period that is extended to 6 if it’s raw.

When fish isn’t adequately refrigerated, it can cause scombroid intoxication, according to the Archives of Pediatrics of Uruguay (article in Spanish).


In the refrigerator, meat in stews, in broths, or in sauces can be consumed up to 2 days after storage; when frozen they can last up to 4 months. The time is determined, apart from good refrigeration and airtightness, by the fat content; the higher the amount of fat, the faster it goes rancid.


Cooked chicken and turkey can be kept refrigerated for up to 4 days. In freezing, they remain in a good condition for up to a year.


There are several opinions about egg recipes. Some say they can remain a week in the fridge, but the OCU says it can be up to 3 weeks. However, if it’s the raw yolk or white then 2 to 4 days is the maximum.


Refrigerated soups can last up to 4 days; whereas if you freeze them they can last 3 months.

Pasta and rice

Both pasta and cooked rice preserve their flavors for 4 days in the refrigerator. If you freeze them then eat them within a month.

Tips for better preservation of cooked food in the refrigerator

The CDC highlights refrigerators as useful tools in food safety; its reprt notes that these appliances need to be set between 32°F and 40°F, while freezers are set at 0°F or below.

Likewise, they urge us to store warm food in different shallow containers with lids to accelerate cooling.

Other bodies recommend using the central and upper shelves of the refrigerator to store cooked food, as it’s the coldest area of the appliance. Other tips are as follows:

  • Separate: Keep raw food away from cooked food to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Label: Identify the tupperware with the type of food and the cooking date, as it helps in calculating the expiry date.
  • Act quickly: Don’t wait too long to put cooked food in the fridge, just wait till it’s not too hot.
Food in the fridge.
It’s important to store food in airtight containers so that it keeps well in the refrigerator.

The importance of good packaging for storing cooked food in the fridge

Using airtight containers is key for cooked food to last longer in the refrigerator. Refrigerating the food inside the same pan or pot in which you cooked it hastens oxidation and damage.

This process results from a mixture of humidity, low temperatures, and aluminum. If you want to take full advantage of what you prepared, it’s better to store the leftovers in a glass or plastic container, in both cases with their lids.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.