Can Ketchup Go Bad Or Expire? How Long Does It Last?

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Did you know that Heinz alone already sells around 11 billion single-use packets and 650 million bottles yearly? Crazy, right? (*)

There’s a catch, though. Around 5 to 20% of catsup is wasted every single year. That’s a waste of a perfectly good condiment!

So you’re probably wondering, what can you do to prevent such wastage? As a ketchup lover, it’s a must that you use up your ketchup down to the very last drop.

It sounds simple, but it isn’t, especially if you have lots of old bottles of ketchup in your pantry and you’re not sure if it’s still safe to consume those. We know the feeling we’ve been there.

And the big question that’s running through your mind might be—does ketchup go bad?

We’re going to let you in on a little secret: Ketchup does go bad, but you can enjoy it for a prolonged period, thanks to its acidic conditions and high sugar content.

However, there’s more to this simple answer than you think. And if you want to know more about your favorite condiment, you should keep on reading.

 In this article, we’ll also address these ketchup-related questions:

If you’re ready, let’s dive right in!

How Long Does Ketchup Last?

While it’s unfortunate that ketchup does go bad, we have good news for you. It has a pretty long shelf life since it contains many natural preservatives (i.e., sugar, salt, and vinegar).

So how long does ketchup last? This would depend on the type of ketchup you have: homemade or store-bought.

Homemade Ketchup Shelf Life

Since homemade ketchup doesn’t contain artificial preservatives, its shelf life is a lot shorter—only 1-3 months in the refrigerator. If you want to make it last longer, consider canning it.

This would depend on the ingredients that it contains, so you should check the recommendation in the recipe that you’re going to use.

Store-bought Ketchup Shelf Life

To determine the shelf life of a commercial ketchup bottle, the first thing you should do is check out the bottle’s expiration date or best by date.

Here’s the kicker: The printed date is not an expiration date but more of a safety date.

It indicates when you can enjoy the ketchup bottle at its best quality. The ketchup may still be safe for consumption past the expiration date, but it will already start to lose its freshness.

You may still be able to enjoy it a few months past the expiration date—as long as it’s properly stored.

To give you an idea of how long your ketchup will last, here are some guidelines:

  • Unopened Ketchup: Best By Date + 6 -12 months
  • Opened Ketchup: 1 month (pantry), 6 months (refrigerator)

How To Tell If Ketchup is Bad?

We’re going to be honest with you: the guidelines we’ve shared with you are just estimates because there are no hard-and-fast rules for the shelf life of ketchup.

To be safe, the best thing you can do is watch out for signs of spoiled ketchup. Here they are:

1. Discoloration

When you picture ketchup, you automatically think of its bright red color. But as it ages, it will start to darken.

If you noticed that it already has a maroon shade, continue inspecting it for other signs of spoilage.

2. Smell Changes

If it still has its mild spiced tomato smell, it’s still safe to eat. But if your ketchup gives off a yeast-like or sour smell, it means that it has already spoiled, so discard ketchup immediately.

3. Mold Growth

This is one of the telltale signs of spoilage, so throw the ketchup right away once you see mold growth. You can usually find it at the surface of the ketchup or around the cap of the bottle of ketchup.

4. Separation

Take a look at the texture of your ketchup. Is it still a homogenous mixture? Or has it already been divided into two parts: a thicker liquid at the bottom and a watery liquid on top?

If it’s the latter, it means that the vinegar has already separated from the tomato paste. So, while it’s not a sure sign of spoilage, it indicates that the ketchup is already not at its best quality.

5. Bloating

If the plastic ketchup bottle is already bloated or has a bulging lid, you should discard it immediately.

6. Taste

Even though the old opened ketchup bottle doesn’t have the signs of spoilage mentioned, you should taste it in small amounts before using it.

While ketchup bottles don’t taste the same, they mostly have a sweet yet tangy flavor. However, you’ll know it’s no longer good when it has a sour and rancid taste.

What Happens When You Eat Expired Ketchup?

Food poisoning incidences related to eating spoiled ketchup are rare but still possible. If you’ve consumed spoiled ketchup, you should watch out for food poisoning symptoms like abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, chills, fever, and diarrhea. (*)

To avoid this, you must learn the proper food storage of ketchup.

How to Store Ketchup Properly?

So what’s the proper food storage for ketchup? It’s easier than you think.

Below are the food storage tips that you need to follow if you want your ketchup to retain quality:

1. Store unopened ketchup in a cool and dark place.

Same with other condiments, ketchup is shelf-stable. That’s why you can store an unopened bottle of ketchup at room temperature, but it must be placed away from direct heat and sunlight.

With that, the best place to store unopened ketchup will be in your kitchen cabinet or pantry.

2. Place opened ketchup in the fridge.

Once the bottle has been opened, you should store it in the refrigerator to extend its shelf life.

3. Store homemade ketchup in an airtight container.

Store homemade ketchup in an airtight container and refrigerate it to keep it at its best quality and retain freshness.

4. Keep the bottle clean to avoid contamination.

Ensure that the opened bottle and its cap are clean and dry at all times to avoid bacterial contamination. Similarly, make sure to use only clean utensils when scooping out the opened ketchup.

5. Transfer ketchup to a freezer-safe container.

Can you freeze ketchup? Yes, you can. However, you need to place it in a freezer-safe container to avoid contamination and oxidation.

It’s recommended that you pour the ketchup into ice cube trays and freeze it. Afterward, transfer the frozen ketchup cubes into the container and freeze it again.

The Bottom Line

Let’s recap: Ketchup will go bad, but it has a long shelf life. Also, it’s still safe for consumption months past the expiration dates as long as it’s stored properly and there are no signs of spoilage.

So it all adds up to this: To be on the safe side, you should inspect and taste old bottles of ketchup before using them. But most of all, always follow proper food storage tips when storing ketchup so you can enjoy it for longer.

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Up Next: Soy Sauce’s Shelf Life: Can It Go Bad? How Long Does It Last?

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