Scrumptious and nutritious, mashed potatoes are a versatile side dish that goes well with most types of vegetables and meats. The greatest quality of mashed potatoes is that they retain the same consistency and flavor for a few days, making them an ideal leftover meal.
But how long are mashed potatoes good for? From storing tips to the secrets of reheating, here’s everything you need to know about this dish.
How Long Are Mashed Potatoes Good For?
If you store mashed potatoes in an airtight container, they can last for about four days in your fridge. You should never put warm mashed potatoes in the fridge, as that can shorten their shelf life. Instead, wait for about two hours after serving before popping them into the refrigerator.
However, the rules are different if you want to freeze the potatoes. In such a case, they can last for months on end. Still, it is best to use them within a month or two because they will taste the same in that period. For a longer shelf-life, you should use ziplock bags instead of plastic containers.
Tips for Storing Mashed Potatoes
1. Timing Matters
As already mentioned, you should store your potatoes in the fridge or freezer about two hours after serving them. If you leave them outside for longer, different pathogenic bacteria will appear and multiply inside the dish.
The tricky thing about these bacteria is that they are not visible to the naked eye. The potatoes will appear normal and taste the same, but the bacteria will be multiplying all the while.
When you freeze these bacteria, they simply hibernate until you thaw the meal. Once that happens, they will resume spreading and can make you sick as soon as you eat the potatoes.
Thus, don’t let mashed potatoes sit for too long. That way, you’ll ensure the bacteria never form, making the dish safe for future consumption.
2. Low Temperatures Are Preferable
If you want to store mashed potatoes, make sure to keep your fridge/freezer on the lowest (coldest) setting. In addition, try to find containers no deeper than 3 inches or use zip lock bags. Doing so will help the potatoes get cold faster, making it more challenging for any bacteria to develop.
3. The Sink Cooling Method
You can use certain methods to cool down your mashed potatoes before storing them. Doing so can, once again, prevent any bacteria from forming during the cooling period.
One such technique is called sink cooling. For this process, you will need to fill up a quarter of your sink with iced water and then place the storage container or ziplock bag inside the water for about an hour.
It is important that you do not submerge the whole container in the water. Rather, keep the lid and upper half of the dish outside the water. For ziplock bags, keep everything except for the seal in the water.
4. Check the Potatoes Before Using Them
No matter how careful you are, sometimes mashed potatoes go bad before the four days are up. It can happen due to the quality of the potatoes or some of the ingredients you used to make the dish.
For this reason, it is essential to check your potatoes before reheating and eating them. If they have an unpleasant smell or have become discolored in any way, you should throw them away immediately. These changes indicate that bacteria have multiplied in millions, and the dish is no longer safe to eat.
How to Reheat Leftover Mashed Potatoes
Reheating mashed potatoes from your fridge is relatively simple. Just put them into a pot and place them on your stovetop on medium heat. Depending on how old the potatoes are, you might have to add some ingredients to give them more flavor. These include chicken or vegetable stock, milk, melted butter, and spices.
If you take out mashed potatoes from your freezer, you should let them thaw overnight in the fridge. That will allow the dish to warm up gradually and regain its creamy consistency.
Once the potatoes thaw, you can reheat them on your stove as usual. It is imperative that you don’t use your microwave to reheat them, as the temperature is too high. It will make all the liquid evaporate, turning the potatoes dry and gooey.
As you reheat your freezer mashed potatoes, you can also add some seasoning to make them more flavorful and consistent.
How Can You Tell If Mashed Potatoes Have Gone Bad?
It is quite easy to spot bad mashed potatoes. They will appear either moldy, discolored, or gooey. In addition, they will have an unmistakable rotten smell. As soon as you notice any of these characteristics, you should throw the dish away.
However, the potatoes might look decent but still taste a bit off. If that is the case, you should not eat them, as the taste probably stems from an unhealthy amount of bacteria in the dish.
What Can Happen If You Eat Spoiled Mashed Potatoes?
If you eat a bite or two of expired mashed potatoes, you probably won’t get sick. The mold that accumulates on the potatoes isn’t toxic, so it shouldn’t cause nausea, vomiting, or even a stomachache. As long as you stop eating as soon as you notice that something is wrong, you should be fine.
The same does not apply to pathogenic bacteria. As already mentioned, they are not visible and might not make the dish taste strange. You will most likely get a stomach ache and vomit if you consume them. The worst-case scenario is that you can get food poisoning.
Your symptoms should recede in about 12 hours or as soon as you get the bacteria out of your system. But if they persist for more than a day, you should definitely see a doctor.
All in all, you should remember never to leave your mashed potatoes sitting outside of your fridge for more than two hours. That way, you’ll ensure the pathogenic bacteria never appear in the first place.