Does Tomato Sauce Go Bad? (Shelf Life, Expiration, and Storage Tips)


Despite the wide range of pasta sauces to choose from, tomato sauce remains to be the most popular of them all.


Statistics show that about 221.07 million Americans bought tomato sauce in 2020, which is expected to increase in 2024. (*)

If you’re one of them, you probably still have a can of tomato sauce lying in your kitchen pantry. You may even have a can that’s a few years old already!

If you’re planning to use your old can of tomato sauce, you might want to know the answer to this question first: does tomato sauce go bad?

Simple Answer:

Like most food items, tomato sauce can go bad. The good news is it’s one of the longest-lasting pasta sauces. Read this article if you wish to know how long it can last!

Here are other questions that we’ll answer in this article:

Are you ready to dive into the world of tomato sauce? If so, let’s get started!

Can Tomato Sauce Go Bad?

Just like almost all food items, tomato sauce does go bad. However, the good news is that it has a long shelf life compared to other types of pasta sauces.

Here’s why:

The main ingredients of sauce are fresh tomatoes which have been simmered and seasoned with onions, garlic, and different herbs and spices. Since tomatoes are highly acidic, it reduces the risk of bacterial growth, which allows the sauce to last longer.

But as times go by, the sauce becomes less acidic to the point where bacteria can already thrive in it, causing it to go bad.  

How Long Does Tomato Last?

So naturally, our next question will be—how long does tomato sauce last? The shelf life of tomato sauce depends on a wide range of factors, including the packaging, how it’s stored, whether it’s unopened or opened, and the type of tomato sauce you’re using.

Here’s a simple table to help you determine when you can enjoy using your sauce:

Type of Tomato SaucePantryRefrigeratorFreezer
Canned/ Jarred Store bought Tomato Sauce (Unopened)2 years______
Canned/ Jarred Store bought Tomato Sauce (Opened)___5 to 7 daysUp to 18 months
Homemade Tomato Sauce____3 to 4 days4 to 6 months
Canned Homemade Tomato SauceUp to 1 year3 to 4 days____

Since it doesn’t contain artificial preservatives, you can expect homemade sauce to have a shorter shelf life than commercial ones. But if stored the right way (canned), homemade tomato sauces can last for up to a year.

How To Tell If Tomato Sauce Is Bad?

image of Wood Spoon and Tomato Sauce

To be honest, the shelf life we’ve shared with you is not exact. These are just estimates. The rule of thumb is it’s safe to consume and use tomato sauces as long as there are no signs of spoilage.

So what are the signs that tomato sauce has already gone bad? Here are some of them:

1. Darker Color

It should have a vibrant red shade. If your sauce is darker than expected, it’s a sign that oxidation has taken place.

While the oxidized tomato sauce is still safe for consumption, it will no longer be at its best quality, so you may want to consider using it in your dishes.

2. Sour Smell

A sour or off smell indicates spoilage. If your sauce gives off a pungent odor, discard it immediately.

3. Watery Texture

The original texture of tomato sauce is in between the texture of tomato paste and tomato juice. So it’s thinner than tomato paste but thicker than tomato juice.

If the tomato sauce takes on a watery texture or you’ve noticed that the sauce has separated, you shouldn’t use it anymore since it can affect the texture of your entire dish.

4. Bitter or Sour Taste

Tomato sauce should taste sweet and tart—never sour or bitter. So to make sure that your sauce is still safe to use, get a small amount of the sauce and taste it. If it has any unwanted taste, throw it away as soon as possible.

5. Mold Growth

The first thing you should do is inspect the rim and cover of the can and jar and the surface of the sauce. Don’t use it anymore if it has black or green spots or white fuzzy growth.

Did You Know?

Even if the canned tomato sauce is already past its printed date, you can still safely consume it—as long as there are no signs of spoilage.

Since the printed date in the packaging is the best before date and not an expiry date, the tomato sauce is still safe for consumption months past the indicated date.

How to Store Tomato Sauce Properly?

One great way to prolong the freshness of tomato sauce is to store it the right way. To help you out, we’ve compiled a few storage tips below:

1. Place unopened cans of the sauce in a dark, dry, and cool place.

For unopened cans of tomato sauce, the best storage place would be your kitchen cabinet or pantry. There’s no need to refrigerate unopened cans yet.

2. Refrigerate opened and homemade tomato sauce.

Once you open a can of tomato sauce, you must refrigerate it right away. This is the best way to protect it from light and high temperatures, which will cause it to oxidize.

Pro Tip:

All dishes with tomato sauce should be refrigerated.

3. Transfer the sauce to an airtight container before refrigerating it.

Never store tomato sauce in its can once it has been opened. This is because the moisture inside the refrigerator can cause it to corrode and rust and may produce chemicals that are not safe for us. (*)

To stay on the safe side, place the tomato sauce in an airtight container.

4. Freeze the sauce to extend its shelf life.

If you wish to prolong its shelf life by a few months, the best thing you can do is freeze it.

When freezing it, divide it into single-serve portions and place each portion in either a resealable plastic bag or a freezer-safe container.

Also, don’t forget to label the bag or container with the storage date so you can monitor how long the sauce has been in your freezer.

Learn more: Can You Freeze Tomato Sauce?


Final Words

Tomato sauce might be the most popular pasta sauce in the US, but it is also one of the most wasted pasta sauces.

Since it has become a pantry staple in many homes, people cook or buy them in bulk. But unfortunately, most of them are rotting away inside the kitchen cabinets.

That’s why it’s vital that you know if tomato sauce goes bad and the signs that it has already gone bad. In this way, you can determine if the can of sauce in your pantry is still safe for consumption, so you can help minimize tomato sauce wastage.

So what are you waiting for? Check your tomato sauce now, and go prepare an excellent pasta dish for your loved ones!

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