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


Tomato sauce, the beloved staple of many households, holds a special place in the world of pasta sauces. With approximately 221.07 million Americans purchasing tomato sauce in 2020 (a number expected to rise in 2024), it’s evident that its popularity remains unmatched (*). If you’re among those who keep a can of tomato sauce in your pantry, you may wonder: Does tomato sauce go bad?

Yes, tomato sauce can go bad like most food items. 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!

In this article, we’ll explore the shelf life of tomato sauce and provide you with valuable information to ensure you can make the most of this versatile sauce.

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

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

Does Tomato Sauce Go Bad?

Tomato sauce can go bad, like almost all food items. However, the good news is that it has a longer shelf life than other pasta sauces.

The secret lies in its main ingredients: fresh tomatoes simmered and seasoned with onions, garlic, herbs, and spices. The high acidity of tomatoes reduces the risk of bacterial growth, allowing the sauce to last longer. However, the sauce’s acidity decreases over time, creating an environment conducive to bacterial growth.

So our next question will be—how long does this sauce last?

img of tomatoes sauce on

Shelf Life of Tomato Sauce: How Long Does Tomato Sauce Last?

The shelf life of tomato sauce depends on many 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. Let’s take a closer look at these variables:

Type of Tomato SaucePantryRefrigeratorFreezer
Canned/ Jarred Store bought Tomato Sauce (Unopened)Up to 2 yearsN/AN/A
Homemade Tomato Sauce5 to 7 daysN/AUp to 18 months
Canned Homemade Tomato SauceUp to 1 year3 to 4 days4 to 6 months

Since it doesn’t contain artificial preservatives, you can expect homemade sauce to have a shorter shelf life than commercial ones. However, when stored correctly in canned form, homemade tomato sauces can last up to a year.

How Can You Tell If Tomato Sauce Has Gone Bad?

While the shelf life, as mentioned earlier, estimates provide general guidance, it’s essential to rely on your senses to determine whether tomato sauce has gone bad.

Here are some telltale signs of spoilage:

1. Darker Color

Fresh tomato sauce exhibits a vibrant red shade. If your sauce appears darker than expected, it may indicate oxidation. While oxidized tomato sauce is safe to consume, its quality diminishes, so it’s best suited for use in dishes rather than as a standalone sauce.

2. Sour Smell

Spoiled tomato sauce emits a sour or off smell. If you notice a pungent odor, it indicates spoilage and the sauce should be discarded immediately.

3. Watery Texture

Tomato sauce typically possesses a texture that lies between that of tomato paste and tomato juice. It is thicker than tomato juice but thinner than tomato paste. If your sauce becomes excessively watery or separates, it’s best to avoid using it, as it can negatively affect the texture of your entire dish. 

4. Bitter or Sour Taste

Tomato sauce should taste sweet and tart, never sour or bitter. To ensure your sauce is still safe, take a small amount and taste it. If it tastes unwanted, throw it away as soon as possible.

5. Mold Growth

Inspect the rim, cover, and surface of the can or jar. Discard tomato sauce when observing 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. The printed date on the packaging represents the best-before date rather than an expiry date, allowing for safe consumption months beyond the indicated date.

How to Store Tomato Sauce Properly?

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

1. Place Unopened Cans In A Dark, Dry, and Cool Place.

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

2. Refrigerate Opened and Homemade.

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.

Warning: 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 safe, place it in an airtight container.

4. Freeze The Sauce To Extend Its Shelf Life.

If you wish to extend the shelf life of tomato sauce by a few months, freezing is an excellent option. Divide the sauce into single-serve portions and place each in a resealable plastic bag or a freezer-safe container. Remember to label the container with the storage date for easy monitoring.

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. 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.

By familiarizing yourself with the signs of spoilage and maximizing its shelf life, you can minimize wastage and ensure its safe consumption.

So, don’t hesitate to check your tomato sauce now, and prepare to create delightful pasta dishes for your loved ones!

Up Next: Stay tuned for our next article, exploring the question: Does Tahini go bad?

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