Relish Shelf Life Guide: Tips for Storage and Identifying Spoilage


Did you know that relish comes from the French word, reles, which means leftover or remainder? (*) Most likely, relish got its name because it’s used to preserve the leftover fruits and vegetables in the kitchen. Since we know relish to be a preserve, does this mean it can last forever? Does relish go bad?

Relish can go bad. In fact, it can easily go bad when it’s exposed to air and heat for long periods.Because of this, you must learn how to store it properly. This article will help you do that!

Plus, it will also answer the following questions:

Are you excited to learn more about relish? Then, let’s get it on!

Before we explore its expiration, let’s understand what relish actually is.

What is Relish?

Relish is a type of condiment made from a mixture of chopped vegetables and fruits that are pickled or cooked in vinegar, sugar, and spices. The result is a delightful blend of flavors that can be both sweet and tangy, depending on the ingredients used.

Some common varieties of relish include pickle relish, chutney, and corn relish. The ingredients can vary widely, but common components include cucumbers, onions, bell peppers, cabbage, and various spices.

Why Does Relish Go Bad?

Even though relish contains vinegar which may act as its natural preservative, relish can still go bad. Why? That’s because the acidity levels of vinegar decrease over time. When it does, there will be room for bacteria to grow, which will cause it to spoil, rendering it unsafe for consumption.

How Long Does Relish Last?

Since it contains vinegar, you can expect relish to last long—as long as it’s unopened. However, its shelf life will be a lot shorter once it’s opened. This is because it gets exposed to both air and heat upon opening.

To help you determine when you can enjoy relish at its best quality, check out the table we’ve prepared for you below:

Type of RelishShelf Life
Store-bought (Unopened)2 years
Store-bought (Opened)1 to 3 months
Homemade1 week

As mentioned, opened store-bought relish will spoil faster than the unopened one.

And if you love making your own at home, you should keep in mind that it will have a shorter shelf life than the commercial ones. Since it’s less likely that your recipe includes the use of artificial preservatives.

Last but not least, please take note that all the above-mentioned shelf lives are just estimates. These apply only if it has no signs of spoilage.

How To Tell if Relish Is Bad?

Of course, you would need to check the expiration date first. If it’s been years past the expiry date, you shouldn’t use it. If it’s only months past the expiry date, you should inspect it closely. 

The good news is you can easily tell if relish has gone bad. But of course, you need to take the time to inspect it for any of these signs.

The first and most obvious sign would be mold growth which you can see as a fuzzy green or white growth at the surface of the relish.

If you’ve seen some, we don’t recommend just simply scooping it out (like most people do) since the relish might have already been contaminated. Instead, throw away the entire jar or can right away.

You might also notice a slimy texture on tit. Yes, we know that relish is naturally slimy. However, it will have a mucilaginous film on its surface when it gets spoiled. If this is the case, you should no longer use your relish.

Another way you can easily tell that it has already gone bad is to check out its smell. If it smells off, sour, or pungent, you should discard it already.

How to Store Relish Properly?

The best way to prevent it from going bad is to store it the right way. Check out our tips on how you can do it:

1. Place In a Tightly Sealed Jar.

When it comes to keeping it fresh, the most important thing you can do is protect it from air. You can place it in an airtight container or tightly sealed jar.

Pro Tip: As much as possible, use glass jars and avoid plastic containers with PVC as this can harm your health. (*)

2. Store unopened relish at room temperature.

As long as it’s still unopened, you can store it at room temperature. Just make sure that it’s placed in a dry, dark, and cool place to protect it from air, heat, and light.

3. Store opened relish in the refrigerator.

Does relish need to be refrigerated? Yes, It’s best to keep it chilled. While some store-bought relishes may have preservatives that allow them to sit on the shelf for a while, once you open that jar, it’s time to pop it in the refrigerator.

Without refrigeration, relish can spoil quickly, and nobody wants that on their hot dog or burger.

Plus, keeping it cold can help preserve its flavor and texture.

So, next time you’re stocking up on condiments, remember to make some space in the fridge for that jar of relish.

4. Don’t freeze.

Freezing is the best move if you wish to prolong the shelf life of a food item. Since relish already has a decent shelf life, freezing it won’t be necessary.

Because of this, freezing will no longer be beneficial. It may even do more harm than good since it can change the texture and color of the relish.  

Insider Info: How to Extend the Shelf Life of Homemade Relish

– If you wish to extend the shelf life of your homemade relish, here’s one hack you should know about—canning. This is the process of heating and sealing food in jars to make them last longer. Canned homemade relish can last for 6 to 9 months, depending on how tightly sealed the lids are.

Learn more:

The Bottom Line

Relish can go bad. But since it has a highly acidic environment, it can last for 1 week to 2 years, depending on the type of relish and the storage method. If you wish to make it last longer, you should store it inside the refrigerator. Another preservation tip to keep in mind when extending the shelf life of homemade relish will be canning.

We hope that this article can help you enjoy your relish for longer. Let us know if our tips worked well for you!


Up Next: How long do canned foods last?

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