There’s a hummus container in your fridge that’s opened for a few days already. That makes you wonder: how long does hummus last?
Or maybe you have an unopened hummus that’s out of date. And you’re not sure if you can still eat it, or how to tell if it’s bad or not.
The good news is that unopened hummus usually keeps for a couple of extra days past its date. Or even a couple of weeks if you opted for the shelf-stable variety.
But once you open the container, you only get up to a week of refrigeration until the hummus goes bad or is no longer safe to eat. That’s when knowing the spoilage signs is quite helpful.
Want to learn about the two varieties of hummus available, their shelf life, storage, and signs of spoilage?
If so, you’re in the right place. Let’s jump right in.
Does Hummus Need to Be Refrigerated?
Both varieties of hummus require refrigeration after opening, but only refrigerated hummus needs to sit in the fridge at all times. In other words, shelf-stable hummus is fine at room temperature until you open the container.
Let me explain.
There are two kinds of hummus available on the market, and the names are quite self-explanatory:
- refrigerated hummus
- shelf-stable hummus
You’re probably familiar with the first one, especially if you buy yours in the refrigerated section in the store. But there’s also shelf-stable hummus available that, as the name implies, doesn’t require refrigeration until you open it up.
That variety is popular among those who want to enjoy hummus on the go. And that’s why you can find it in small containers that easily fit in a lunch box.
One option isn’t necessarily much better than the other, but they are processed differently. For example, to make hummus shelf-stable, it’s usually treated with high temperatures, either by being pasteurized or undergoing the UHT treatment.
Shelf-stable hummus isn’t necessarily loaded with preservatives, and refrigerated hummus isn’t necessarily preservative-free. Always read the label to make sure which category yours falls into.
Last but not least, homemade hummus requires refrigeration at all times.
Does Hummus Go Bad?
Like all dips and spreads, hummus goes bad. The time an unopened container of hummus lasts until it spoils depends on whether it’s the refrigerated or shelf-stable variety. But once you open it up, the leftovers keep for a pretty limited period of up to a week.
What’s important is that unopened hummus expires as well. Of course, it keeps for much longer, but sooner or later, it either goes bad (e.g., grows mold), loses quality, or becomes no longer safe to eat due to prolonged storage.
The last aspect is important – even if yours doesn’t show any signs of spoilage (more on those in a minute), if it sits in storage for too long, it’s time for it to go. There’s a whole section on shelf life later in the article where I talk about this issue in detail.
Now, let’s discuss the mentioned spoilage signs.
How to Tell if Hummus Is Bad?
When checking if your hummus is still okay, you check its appearance, smell, and if everything else seems okay, taste. Here’s how to go about that.
Check its appearance
Look for any discolorations and dark spots that might be mold. Since hummus is usually uniform in color, those are pretty easy to spot. If you see any, it’s time to toss it.
When it comes to texture, hummus might separate a bit, and that’s perfectly normal. Separation is most common in dips made without any stabilizers, binders, and the like. To fix that, all you need is to stir it.
If the whole thing is separated into lots of oil on top (think of unopened peanut butter) and a firm paste on the bottom, it’s probably something wrong with the sauce, and you should discard it.
If it looks okay, it’s time to check its smell.
Give it a good whiff
Hummus usually has a light and somewhat neutral smell. Unless it’s a flavored option, in which case it should smell the way the flavor suggests (garlicky for garlic, and so on).
If your hummus gives off a sour aroma (lemon- or vinegar-like), it’s done for. The same is true if it smells moldy, funny, or the smell is harsh (unless the flavor can explain that).
If your hummus looks and smells okay, it’s time for the taste test.
Eat a bit
Try eating a bit of that hummus and decide if it’s good enough to eat or not.
If it feels sour or off, discard it. But if it tastes okay but not great, it’s up to you what to do with it.
Last but not least, if your hummus sits in storage for way too long, discard it no matter its quality. It might still be okay to eat, but you never know.
So, how long storage period is too long for hummus, exactly? Let’s talk about that.
How Long Does Hummus Last?
Shelf-stable hummus has a shelf life of at least a few months and keeps for a couple of extra weeks past its date. Refrigerated hummus lasts between a week up to even a couple of months, depending on packaging. Both varieties keep for about a week of opening the container.
As you can tell, the shelf life depends heavily on the variety of hummus, and the shelf-stable one usually lasts much longer. That’s understandable.
What’s surprising is that the recommended storage times for refrigerated hummus differ so much.
I’ve seen (and bought) homemade-style hummus sold at a farmer’s market that said I should eat it within four days of buying. I’ve also bought refrigerated hummus in a supermarket with a shelf life of about a month.
And some options last even longer, like 3 months or so. Such a long shelf life can be achieved thanks to the High Pressure Processing (HPP) technology.
The date you can find on a hummus container is usually either a best-by date (if it’s the shelf-stable variety), or a use-by date (for the refrigerated ones). Neither is an expiration date, and both have little to do with food safety.
Those dates are estimates of how long the hummus should retain quality. And they are pretty defensive, for obvious reasons.
In other words, hummus usually stays perfectly fine for some time after the date on its label.
How long, you ask? It’s impossible to tell, but we can make some educated guesses.
For shelf-stable hummus, it should keep okay for at least an extra month past its date, maybe a bit more. If it’s more than 2 months after its date, toss it.
I give this 2-month period as a hard stop because you need to draw a line in the sand at some point, and that one is as good as any.
For refrigerated hummus, you need to take into account its overall shelf life. If it’s that homemade-style hummus from a small vendor that lasts only a couple of days, the max I would add is a day or two.
But if it comes with a 3-month storage time, extending that by 7 to 10 days doesn’t seem like a stretch. If yours is in between the two, go with 5 to 7 days.
Before eating expired hummus, make sure it’s safe to eat using the guidelines I outlined in the section on spoilage. Also, you do this at your own risk.
A store-bought hummus keeps for about 7 days of opening the container.
That 7-day period is already much longer than the usual “store leftovers for up to 4 days” advice, and I suggest you stick to it. If a week isn’t long enough, you can always freeze the leftovers (more on that later).
Of course, you can sometimes get away with refrigerating that hummus for an extra day or two, but I feel like it’s not worth the risk. As usual, early signs of spoilage are easy to miss, and that’s why I recommend sticking to the 7-day suggestion.
Unfortunately, hummus doesn’t last nearly as long after opening as tahini, one of its most important ingredients, does.
How Long Does Homemade Hummus Last?
Homemade hummus keeps for 5 to 7 days, depending on whom you ask. If that seems like way too long for a homemade dip, you can always shorten it to 4 days, which is the recommended storage time for most leftovers.
Homemade hummus doesn’t contain any preservatives, and the chances of any microbial contamination are much higher than those in store-bought hummus. Because of that, the sooner you finish the container, the better.
Again, if those few days aren’t long enough, or you made a huge batch, freezing is always an option.
How Long Can Hummus Sit Out?
The official recommendation is that you shouldn’t leave perishable foods (like hummus) out for longer than 2 hours at room temperature. The time allowed halves if the temperature where the food sits is over 90°F (or 32°C).
Now, it’s up to you whether you take that suggestion strictly or as a general guideline instead.
The gist of it is that bacteria like warm (but not super hot) temperatures and multiply quickly when food that requires refrigeration sits on the counter. And we don’t want that.
At the same time, if that hummus container is still unopened, and it sits on the counter for 3 hours because you somehow missed it when organizing your groceries, it’s probably going to be fine. But if you left it out overnight, err on the side of caution and toss it.
This recommendation obviously doesn’t apply to unopened shelf-stable hummus.
How To Store Hummus
Store homemade and refrigerated hummus in the fridge at all times. If it’s the shelf-stable variety, it should sit in a cool and dark place until you open it. That’s when you need to transfer it to the refrigerator as well.
You probably know all of that if you read everything up to this point. There are a couple of other things worth mentioning, though.
First, always make sure hummus sits in a sealed container. In most cases, store-bought hummus comes in resealable plastic containers, so that’s not a big deal.
But if you can’t seal yours easily, transfer the leftover contents into an airtight container before you return it into the fridge.
Second, practice good food hygiene.
That means always using clean cutlery when scooping hummus and never double-dipping. This way, you don’t accidentally contaminate your hummus, which could result in premature spoilage.
And if you need hummus to dip veggies, chips, crackers (or whatever else you like) in it, pour a few tablespoons into a small bowl and use that instead of the original container. You can always add more hummus to that bowl if needed.
Can You Freeze Hummus?
Hummus is one of the few dips that even the sellers agree that it freezes okay. Which pretty much means that you can freeze it with no problem.
After you freeze and defrost hummus, there might be some separation on top, but you can fix it by stirring it. The taste stays pretty much the same.
Here’s a simple way to freeze hummus:
- Portion the dip. If the whole container is too much for you to use in 2 to 3 days, divide its contents into 2 or more airtight containers. Each one shouldn’t contain more than you can use within 3 days.
- Seal the containers tightly. Add labels with the name and date if you like.
- Freeze. Place all the containers in the freezer.
That’s it. That hummus can sit in the freezer for at least a couple of months.
To defrost it, transfer the container into the fridge and leave it there overnight. The sauce should be perfectly thawed in the morning. That’s when you give it a good stir, and it’s ready for use.