Does Ketchup Go Bad?

Ketchup is one of the most popular and, for sure, most loved condiments nowadays. If you don’t serve your fries with this tomato-based dressing, then I don’t know what to tell you.

Can you imagine a burger without ketchup? Or are you more of “an omelet with some ketchup on the side” person? I know most Italian will disapprove of this, but I gotta say it. Most people can’t imagine pizza without ketchup. Not me, I’m not judging; I only say I am good without ketchup on it. 

Now let’s get one thing straight ketchup is one of the most used food products. Some buy it in the store. Some prefer organic, clean versions of this condiment, so they make it on their own. Anyhow, the point is that there is almost no household where you can’t find the ketchup.

But have you ever questioned yourself, does ketchup go bad? How long is it safe for you to consume it after you opened it? How should you store it? Read this article to find out more.


How To Store Ketchup?

When it comes to storing, the process is like for any other condiment such as mustard or hot sauce, for example. There are some minor differences in storing unopened and opened bottles of ketchup. Also, there is a difference in storing store-bought and homemade ketchup. 

Let’s see what it’s all about.

First, we are going to start with the store-bought ketchup. They are full of additives and preservatives, so they can last way longer than homemade ones.

You should store unopened bottles of store-bought ketchup in a cool, dark place. Make sure there is no source of heat or direct sunlight near your precious bottle of ketchup. The best solution is a pantry, but a kitchen cabinet can serve as well. 

Unopened ketchup doesn’t need refrigeration. But if you think that keeping ketchup in the fridge is the safest way to prevent spoilage, you are free to do so.

Once you open up the bottle, ketchup can only stay in the pantry if you know you will use it in a short period of time. The ketchup will keep its freshness and taste for up to a few weeks. Keep in mind that the restaurants do it all the time, so that means it is 100% safe for you to do it at home as well. 

In case you know you won’t be using it for quite some time, place it in the fridge to maximize the shelf life. My personal opinion is that you should store it in the fridge the moment you open it to avoid any contamination. 

There are a few things you must keep in mind when storing an open bottle. 

First, keep the bottle cap clean by wiping it and leave the cap to dry before placing it back on the bottle. This way, you will prevent contamination and possible mold growth. The second thing is that some ketchup comes in a jar, so always use clean cutlery when scooping it. This way, you avoid transferring any contaminants that might cause spoilage.

As I said, many people love to make their own ketchup. Homemade ketchup is a healthier version without an excessive amount of sugar and preservatives. Sometimes they do not have any preservatives at all, so you must store them in the fridge or in the freezer. A tight-sealed container is a must. Also, always use a clean spoon when scooping it. 

Can You Freeze Ketchup?

  • While we are still in the storage compartment, let’s focus on this topic. So you bought a lot of ketchup on sale, or you made a big batch of it. The question arises, can I freeze it? The answer is yes. Well homemade one for sure, but let’s see how store-bought examples will react.
  • It is not recommended to extend the shelf life of the store-bought ketchup. Why? Because freezing will change the texture a lot once you thaw it. It will become gummy and sometimes not even tasty. The store-bought ketchup’s shelf life is already quite long, so there is no point in freezing it.
  • You can store homemade ketchup in the freezer for some time, but I would recommend trying canning! If you do it the proper way and you store it in a dark and cold place, it will withstand up to a year at room temperature.

So Does Ketchup Go Bad?

So I still did not answer the burning question. Does ketchup go bad? The answer is yes, and no. How? Read along to find out.

All store-bought bottles of ketchup come with an experience date on the label. This date is a rough estimation of how long the product should keep its freshness.

As already said, ketchup is full of natural preservatives like vinegar, sugar, and salt. Also, the tomato paste is very acidic, which contributes to the long shelf life. Still, this does not mean it can’t go bad. Actually, it can turn rancid in no time if you are not careful with it.

How Long Does Ketchup Last?

  • An unopened bottle can remain fresh from half a year to two years past the printed best-by date.
  • The freshness will depend on whether you keep it at room temperature or in the fridge. It can maintain good quality and freshness for about a month at room temperature. The one placed in the refrigerator can sit for a year. 
  • Make sure that you always taste the ketchup before putting it in your food to make sure it is still good. Also, if you keep an open bottle of ketchup in the fridge for over a year, discard it even if it does not taste and smell bad.
  • Homemade ketchup has a far shorter shelf life. It will remain good for about two to three months in the refrigerator. If you store and maintain it as I recommended above. If you decide to freeze it, you can keep it in the next six months. 

How To Know When Ketchup Turned Bad?

This is a very easy task, believe me. With time the vinegar or any other liquid component will start to separate from the tomato paste. 

You should recognize this as a first sign that your ketchup is coming to an end. You will be able to notice this when you try to squeeze out some ketchup, and it splashes some liquid instead. If there is a little separation, it is fine since you can shake it back together. But with time, the liquid will separate more and more until it hits the point where it can’t mix anymore.

The next thing that should alarm you is discoloration since it will begin to darken. Taste it, and if it is still okay, use it immediately. It’s unlikely that mold will grow on ketchup, considering it is full of preservatives. However, it is still possible since not all manufacturers use high-quality vinegar. If there is any mold, discard it.

Mold may grow on the bottle’s cap and make ketchup ferment, especially if you keep it at room temperature. So if the ketchup bottle appears bloated or makes those popping noises when you open it, discard it. The chances are high that the fermentation began. Keep in mind that a sour yeast-like smell also indicates that fermentation.


Let’s Close This Topic

Ketchup in the restaurants is always stored out of the fridge due to its frequent use. It can’t turn bad since it does not stay at room temperature for too long.

This only proves that despite the recommendation on the label, ketchup is shelf-stable. That is because of its natural acidity that comes from both tomatoes and vinegar. The problem occurs when people don’t store it the right way after it’s open. Or in case it comes in a jar, they put already used spoons and forks in it and spoil the whole batch. 

Yes, the smartest way is to store it in the fridge since this will give you some peace of mind, of course. But it is crucial not to forget to keep the lid of the ketchup clean at all times as well. If you are an avid ketchup consumer, I am sure that you do not have any problem with storing this lovely dressing since it won’t last long.

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