Sushi is a popular dish not only in Japan, but all over the world. Whether you have leftover sushi rolls from your favorite sushi bar or made a few rolls yourself, you may be wondering, how long can sushi sit out before going bad?
Since sushi is typically made using raw fish and leftover rice is particularly prone to harboring dangerous bacteria, it’s good to know how long sushi can sit out in order to prevent foodborne illness and enjoy your sushi the next day.
How long can sushi sit out for?
Sushi can sit out at room temperature for up to two hours before it needs to be tossed or transferred to your refrigerator. The Food Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that leftovers should not stay out for longer than 2 hours.
This is because when food is in the “danger zone” (temperatures between 40°F to 140°F), bacteria can grow rapidly, particularly harmful bacteria that can cause foodborne illness.
If food is kept in this temperature range for an extended period of time, you are at heightened risk for food poisoning.
If you plan to leave sushi out for longer than 2 hours, you will need to ensure that your rolls are at 40°F or below to ensure they don’t spoil. This may require you putting your rolls on ice and closely monitoring the temperature with a food thermometer.
Sushi Storage Tips
It’s important to store raw sushi properly to avoid food poisoning. This applies to sushi purchased at a restaurant, store-bought sushi as well as homemade sushi.
In the refrigerator
If you choose to store your sushi in the refrigerator, you will need to transfer it to an airtight container or alternatively use plastic wrap to cover the sushi completely or wrap your rolls.
When stored in the refrigerator, your sushi rolls should last about 1-2 days if they contain raw fish and 2-3 days if they contain only cooked ingredients.
Along with this, examine your sushi for signs of spoilage before consuming leftovers. While the sushi may have been in the refrigerator for a day, it’s still possible for it to be spoiled.
In the freezer
You can also store your sushi in the freezer, especially if you don’t plan to consume the leftovers within a day or two. This will slightly alter the texture of your sushi, but it will keep for a while.
Frozen sushi should last in the freezer for about 3 months. While technically freezing food will keep it safe for longer periods of time, the sushi will lose its freshness and quality sooner.
When you are ready to eat your sushi, defrost it in the refrigerator overnight. Do not defrost your sushi on the counter at room temperature. You can also reheat it directly from frozen if you desire.
When you are ready to eat your leftover sushi the next day, you will want to reheat it safely. The best way to reheat sushi is in the microwave.
To retain moisture, you can cover your sushi with microwave-friendly plastic wrap or cover it with a damp paper towel. Reheat your sushi until it reaches the internal temperature of 165°F.
Sushi Preparation Tips
It’s important to keep food safety in mind if you are making homemade sushi. Below are a few tips to keep in mind to ensure you are preventing foodborne illness to the best of your ability.
Choosing your fish
If you are preparing sushi containing raw fish, you will want to ensure your fish is sushi-grade. Alternatively, you can purchase your fish raw and defrost it before using it in your sushi.
Fresh fish can contain parasites and the freezing process will kill these parasites. That being said, there still is a risk since other bacteria may be present.
It’s also important to note that the label “sushi-grade” is not regulated by any government agency. It’s a label that is used when the manufacturer deems the fish safe to consume raw.
In the end, there will always be a risk of foodborne illness when you consume raw fish, even if it’s listed as sushi-grade or frozen. It’s your personal decision whether the risk is worth it.
Cleaning your space
Make sure your kitchen space is clean before preparing your sushi. Wipe down your countertops, use clean and sanitized cutting boards, bowls and plates and always make sure you are washing your hands throughout the cooking process.
Use warm soapy water to clean your hands and ensure you are getting in between your fingers and under your fingernails. This is especially important since you are working with raw fish.
The proper handling of your ingredients is essential when preparing your sushi. Use separate cutting boards when preparing your fish versus your vegetables.
Don’t use the same knives and utensils for the fish versus the rice and vegetables. You can alternatively wash your knives and utensils after they are used for the raw fish.
While cross-contamination isn’t as important as when you are preparing raw poultry, pork or beef, you should still practice good food safety regardless.
Food Poisoning Risks
Unfortunately consuming sushi, both with raw fish and without, comes with risks. There are certain harmful bacteria that can be present in sushi, especially if prepared without food safety in mind.
With improper storage or preparation, bacterial growth can occur and increase your risk of food poisoning. Below are two examples of bacteria that can be present in your sushi rolls.
Bacillus cereus is a kind of harmful bacteria that is commonly associated with leftover cooked rice. Since most forms of sushi contain cooked rice, the bacteria may be present.
It can most commonly cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. In more severe cases it can lead to severe infection and vision loss, though this is more common in those with compromised immune systems. Symptoms typically appear within 4-24 hours and last 12-24 hours.
To prevent bacillus cereus infection, ensure you are storing and reheating your leftover sushi properly.
Vibrio is another kind of harmful bacteria that may be present in raw seafood, such as that in many varieties of sushi. That being said, it’s most commonly found in raw oysters.
Infection can lead to symptoms including nausea, vomiting, watery diarrhea, fever and chills. Symptoms typically occur within 24 hours and last about 3 days. Severe illness is rare and typically only affects those with compromised immune systems.
To avoid vibrio infection and reduce your overall risk of foodborne illness, opt for vegetarian sushi or sushi containing cooked fish.
Listeria is a harmful bacteria that is the third leading cause of death from foodborne illness. While it’s not commonly associated with sushi, it is associated with smoked seafood.
Symptoms vary depending on the person. Common symptoms include fever, flu-like symptoms, headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and seizures. Symptoms typically start within two weeks of eating a contaminated food.
Pregnant women are especially prone to infection from listeria and may have symptoms such as miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery or infection of the newborn.
Identifying Spoiled Sushi
Unfortunately even if you follow all the food safety storage guidelines, you can still end up with spoiled sushi. If you do end up with bad sushi, it’s best to stick to the side of caution and toss it. Below are the signs of spoilage to look out for.
Examine the appearance of your sushi. If you notice anything that looks “off”, it could be mold. This could look like green or black specs, white fuzzy patches or general discoloration.
Give you sushi a nice smell. Is there an unpleasant odor coming from your sushi? Sushi should not have a strong smell other than a slight fishy odor. If the odor is strong, or has a musty smell, toss it.
Next, feel your sushi. If the outside layer of your sushi has a slimy texture or rough patches, that could be a sign that it is spoiled. If you notice a layer of moisture or slime on your sushi, it’s time to toss it.
Who Should Avoid Sushi?
Anyone with compromised immune systems should avoid sushi containing raw fish. This includes young children under the age of five, pregnant women, elderly people and HIV patients.
Basic Sushi Recipe
The below recipe is for the popular California roll which contains avocado, cucumber and imitation crab.
- 1 cup Japanese short-grain white rice
- 2 cups water
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 sheets of nori
- 1/2 pound of imitation crab meat, shredded
- 1 ripe avocado, sliced
- 1/2 cucumber, julienned
- Soy sauce, for dipping
- Wasabi and pickled ginger
- Wash the short-grain rice until the water runs clear. In a saucepan or rice maker, combine the washed rice and water. If using a saucepan, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the rice is tender and the water is absorbed.
- In a small saucepan, heat the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Transfer the cooked rice to a large bowl, and while it’s still hot, gently mix in the vinegar mixture. Let it cool to room temperature.
- Lay a bamboo mat (rolling mat) on a clean, flat surface. Cover the mat with plastic wrap. Place a sheet of nori on the prepared rolling mat with the rough side facing up.
- Wet your hands to prevent the rice from sticking and take a small handful of the vinegared rice. Spread it evenly over the nori, leaving about half an inch of nori at the top edge without rice. Lay a few slices of avocado, cucumber, and a line of crab meat horizontally across the center of the rice-covered nori.
- Start rolling the sushi by lifting the edge of the bamboo mat closest to you, using your fingers to hold the fillings in place. Roll the mat away from you, tucking in the ingredients. Continue rolling, applying light pressure to create a tight roll. Wet the exposed edge of the nori with a little water to seal the roll.
- With a sharp, wetted knife, slice the roll into bite-sized pieces.
You can arrange the California rolls on a plate and serve with soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger if desired. This makes for a delicious meal, snack or appetizer!
Types of Sushi
There are a few different types of sushi that are important to know if you are ordering at a restaurant or want to make sushi at home. All varieties are delicious and fun to make!
Maki is the type of sushi you probably think of when you hear the phrase “sushi roll”. It’s simply rice and fillings wrapped in a sheet of nori. The complete roll will have the fillings (typically fish and vegetables) on the inside wrapped in rice and then nori on the outside.
Uramaki is similar to maki with a small difference, the rice is on the outside of the roll instead of the nori. On the inside you will find the fish and vegetables which is then wrapped in nori with a layer of rice on the inside. This is my personal favorite variety of sushi.
Nigiri is another popular kind of sushi that consists of only rice and fish. The rice is formed into a small oval-shaped ball and a thin layer of fish is laid across. This is a great option if you dislike the taste of nori but love raw fish and rice.
Sashimi is simply thinly sliced raw fish. This version of sushi contains no rice, nori or vegetables. While it’s very basic, it’s quite delicious and lets you fully enjoy the flavor of the fish without any rice or nori getting in the way.