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How Long Does Chicken Broth Last and How to Tell if It’s Bad?

Today we’ll cover whether canned chicken broth goes bad, how long it lasts after opening, and how you can tell that yours is spoiled.

So maybe your canned chicken broth is a week or two beyond the printed date, and you’re wondering: does chicken broth go bad?

Or maybe you have some leftovers and need to know how long does chicken broth last in the fridge.

Either way, you’re looking for a quick primer on chicken broth, and that’s what this article actually is.

Let’s jump right in.

Chinese chicken noodle soup
(credit: Stacey Doyle)

Table of Contents

Does Chicken Broth Go Bad?

Chicken broth typically comes with a shelf life of 6 months to 2 years, and as long as it’s unopened, it should last at least 3 months beyond the printed date. If you store it in a cool and dry place, and the seal is untouched, it should be okay to use within that period and possibly even longer.

As you might imagine, sellers always recommend using their product before the date printed on the label. But as you probably know, that date is a best-by date, not an expiration date.

In other words, it’s how long the seller guarantees quality, not how long the broth will be any good.

And as with most canned or boxed products, these typically keep for months beyond the printed date.

Chicken broth and its ingredients
Chicken broth and its ingredients

How long is chicken broth good after the “expiration” date?

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to give an exact period.

Boxed chicken broth usually has the shortest shelf life of maybe six months to a year, so three extra months seem like a safe assumption. Jarred chicken broths usually last a bit longer, so giving them an additional 4 to 6 months seems reasonable. Canned chicken broths last the longest, so using one that’s 6 to 9 months beyond the printed date should be okay.

Of course, those periods are rough estimates, and if you’re not comfortable using chicken broth that’s so long past its date, toss it. And don’t lose your sleep over it.

Second, when using “expired” broth, always examine the container, jar, or can before use, and make sure the seal is intact. And if it is, check the quality of the broth before using it – it might be safe, but taste meh.

Now that your broth is opened, it’s time to talk about how long it stays good.

College Inn Chicken Broth in a Can
Image used under Creative Commons from Mike Mozart

How Long Does Chicken Broth Last in the Fridge?

Store-bought chicken broth typically lasts 4 to 5 days if it’s sealed tightly in an airtight container or a lidded pot and refrigerated. However, some brands recommend longer storage times, so it’s best to read the label for details.

If that’s not long enough, you can freeze chicken broth for later.

If you’re curious about these extended periods, FOND recommends using their broths within a week of opening, while Zoup! asks you to use theirs within two weeks.

For me, I wouldn’t feel particularly confident leaving a half-open can of chicken broth in the fridge for longer than 4 to 5 days. That’s why I recommend freezing any surplus instead.

(We’ll cover freezing in a moment.)

Now, let’s talk about homemade chicken broth.

Homemade

Use homemade chicken broth within 3 to 4 days of cooking and store it in the fridge sealed tightly in an airtight container or lidded pot. Let the broth cool to about room temperature before refrigeration, but limit the cooling period to two hours.

Some recipes might say you can store the broth for up to a week, but I recommend sticking with the conservative recommendation of 4 days of storage. You can always freeze it if you need more time.

That brings us to freezing chicken broth.

Bowl of broth and fresh vegetables
Bowl of broth and fresh vegetables

How Long Is Chicken Broth Good in the Freezer?

Use your frozen chicken broth within two to three months for the best quality.

Chicken broth stays safe indefinitely in the freezer, but its quality gradually degrades, hence the recommendation. If it sits frozen for longer, all you can expect is a slightly worse quality, nothing else.

To freeze chicken broth, divide it into portions based on how you’re going to use the broth.

If you need small amounts, say to deglaze a pan, freezing the broth using an ice cube tray is a great idea. But if you plan on using it as a base for a soup, a large container or freezer bag are much better options.

If you’re using freezer bags for storing liquids, place the bag in a bowl before pouring. That minimizes cleanup if the bag is leaky.

Last but not least, remember to leave at least half an inch of space for your broth to expand in the freezer.

Ladle of soup
(credit: Piotr Miazga)

How to Tell if Chicken Broth is Bad?

Discard chicken broth if:

  • It smells off. The most common spoilage sign of chicken broth is a sour or “funny” smell. Give your broth a good whiff before using, and toss it if it doesn’t pass the sniff test.
  • It’s opened longer than suggested. That means tossing a homemade broth if it’s more than four days old or getting rid of a store-bought one sitting around for longer than the brand suggests (or 4 to 5 days if you’re conservative).
  • It’s unopened, and the container is compromised. If you find that the can is bulging or swelling, toss it. Do the same if the seal on the jar or carton is not intact or the container is leaky.

(The above works when checking if your beef broth is bad or if your bone broth is spoiled, too.)

If you notice anything else that seems off, err on the side of caution and get rid of the broth.

In most cases, the off smell will remind you that the broth has been sitting in the fridge for a bit longer than it’s supposed to. Whenever I had homemade chicken broth in the refrigerator for longer than five days, it started to smell weird, and that was a clear indicator it was time to let it go.

What’s Okay

With chicken broth (and broth in general), a few things might happen when you refrigerate it.

First, it’s completely normal for fat to accumulate on top, especially if the broth is homemade. Some recipes ask you to scrape it off and discard it, but you can just as well leave it and use it (that’s what I do). It’s going to dissolve when you cook it.

Next, broth can get a bit cloudy in storage, and there might be some sediment on the bottom. Both are perfectly normal for homemade broth, but sediment showing up in a store-bought broth (that’s usually filtered) is iffy. Read the label to make sure if it’s expected or not.

Chicken broth and noodles soup
(credit: Henrique Félix)

Does Chicken Broth Need to Be Refrigerated?

You should store unopened, canned chicken broth in a cool, dry place. Your pantry, basement, or even a kitchen cabinet are all suitable options.

Once opened, the chicken broth should be stored in the refrigerator, in a container that’s sealed tightly.

Let the broth cool before refrigeration if it’s just cooked, and put it in the fridge within two hours of opening or cooking.

(That’s often referred to as the 2-hour rule.)

Now, it’s up to you if you follow the 2-hour rule to a tee, but if you accidentally leave your broth out overnight, discard it. It’s not necessarily spoiled, but it’s definitely not safe to eat.

In other words, chicken broth can sit out for up to two hours for it to remain safe to eat. That’s because bacteria multiply rapidly at room temperature, and if the product stays unrefrigerated for longer, bacteria might get to dangerous levels and cause food poisoning.

Chicken Broth Shelf Life and Spoilage Summary

Thanks for reading this primer on chicken broth. Here are the takeaways:

  • Unopened chicken broth lasts 6 to 24 months and easily keeps for three months or more beyond the best-by date printed on the label. If the can, jar, or box is bulging, swelling, or the seal isn’t intact, toss the broth.
  • Chicken broth typically lasts 4 to 5 days after opening when refrigerated in an airtight container or lidded pot. Some brands recommend longer storage times, like up to a week or even two weeks, but I suggest sticking to the conservative 4 to 5 days anyway. If you need more time, you can freeze the broth.
  • The most popular sign of spoilage for chicken broth is an off smell. If yours doesn’t pass the sniff test, discard the broth. Likewise, if it sits open in storage for more than 4 to 5 days (or whatever the brand suggests), it’s no good.