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Can Chicken Broth Go Bad?

Chicken broth is such a common ingredient, that you may take for granted just how long it will last in your pantry. And then there’s the question of whether that half empty container you just put in the fridge is still good.

Can chicken broth go bad, and just what is the shelf life of chicken broth? Read on to find out!

Chinese chicken noodle soup
(credit: Stacey Doyle)

Can Chicken Broth Go Bad?

Though sealed chicken broth has a pretty long shelf life, chicken broth actually can go bad.

Commercial chicken broth is packaged in aseptic containers, and if properly stored, can have a shelf life of around a year beyond the printed date. The same shelf life applies to chicken broth packaged in cans.

Once the broth is opened, the clock begins ticking, and the shelf life will decrease to about five days.

Chicken broth and its ingredients
Chicken broth and its ingredients

Homemade chicken broth has a similar shelf life to opened broth, though will stay good for a bit longer if the fat is not strained out. The chicken fat will congeal in the refrigerator, forming a seal over the broth that will protect it, and keep it fresh for up to ten days.

Of course, you should always check for signs of spoilage before using broth that has been stored for more than a few days.

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

How to Store Chicken Broth

Unopened, packaged chicken broth should be stored in a cool, dry place. Your pantry, basement or even kitchen cabinets are all suitable options.

Once opened, the chicken broth should be stored in the refrigerator, in a container that seals tightly. If the broth was canned, you should transfer the rest of the broth to another container.

Homemade broth should be allowed to cool completely before transferring to an airtight container, and stored in the fridge.

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

Chicken broth can also be frozen, to keep it for even longer. Freeze chicken broth in a freezer safe, airtight container. For easier thawing, first freeze chicken broth in an ice cube tray, and then transfer the frozen cubes to a sealed container. You can add a few cubes of broth to rice or other grains cooking on the stovetop, to add some extra flavor.

While chicken broth will technically stay safe to eat indefinitely in the freezer, it will eventually begin to degrade in quality. The broth can develop strange flavors over time.

For the best quality, chicken broth should be frozen for six months. To thaw, leave the container overnight in the refrigerator, or simply transfer the frozen block of broth from the container to a pot, and heat on the stove.

Ladle of soup
(credit: Piotr Miazga)

Signs Chicken Broth Has Spoiled

Visual signs are a good way to initially check if broth has gone bad. Any mold that may appear (either greenish blue, or white) indicates that the broth has definitely gone bad and should be discarded.

Mold is more commonly seen in homemade broths, as more solid particles are present. If the broth becomes cloudy, or bits of sediment form, it can be a sign that the broth has spoiled, and should not be consumed.

Smell is another good indicator that chicken broth has gone bad. If the broth begins to smell sour, or in any way unpleasant, it should not be consumed.

Chicken broth and noodles soup
(credit: Henrique Félix)

Whether or not the broth has been previously opened, if the container is swelling or bulging in any way, this is a sign that there is bacterial growth and the broth should definitely not be consumed.

Large or sharp dents in a can may also lead to bacterial growth and potentially botulism contamination. If you are concerned that the can of broth may be contaminated, boil the unopened can for 30 minutes to eliminate any toxins before discarding in the trash.