Let’s talk about the shelf life, storage options, and spoilage of store-bought and homemade hummus.
Say you’ve just opened a hummus container, and you’re wondering: how long does hummus last?
Or maybe yours is a bit out of date, and you’re not sure if it’s safe to eat. That’s why you want to know how to tell if hummus is bad.
Either way, if you’re looking for a quick primer on homemade or store-bought hummus that will answer your hummus-related questions, you’re in the right place.
Let’s jump right in.
Table of Contents
- Does Hummus Go Bad?
- How to Tell if Hummus Is Bad?
- How Long Does Hummus Last?
- Does Hummus Need to Be Refrigerated?
- How To Store Hummus
- Can You Freeze Hummus?
- Hummus Shelf Life and Spoilage Summary
Does Hummus Go Bad?
Hummus goes bad because it’s a mix of perishable ingredients. But how long it will take for the dip to spoil depends on the variety.
The most popular option is refrigerated hummus, which typically lasts up to a couple of weeks.
Next in line is canned (shelf-stable) hummus that’s sold unrefrigerated. It’s much less popular despite the fact it comes with a shelf life measured in months, not weeks. And while it easily lasts beyond the printed date, it still goes bad fairly quickly once you open it.
Last, we have homemade hummus. It’s free from artificial preservatives, so it stays good for only a couple of days before it spoils.
There’s a section on shelf life later on, where I discuss the topic in detail and include storage time estimates for each variety.
Next, let’s discuss all the spoilage signs you should look for.
How to Tell if Hummus Is Bad?
Discard your hummus if:
- It’s moldy. If you notice any fuzzy mold on the surface, it’s game over for the dip.
- There are some discolorations or dark spots. Hummus is usually uniform in color, so those are pretty easy to spot. If you see any, it’s time to toss it.
- It smells “funny” or sour. Hummus usually has a light and somewhat neutral smell unless it’s a flavored option, in which case it should smell accordingly (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, off, or harsh (unless the flavor can explain that).
- It tastes off. Your hummus has to go if it tastes bitter, sour, or off in any other way.
- You store it for too long. If your store-bought hummus sits open in the fridge for ten days while the producer suggested using it within a week, it’s time for it to go. The same applies to homemade hummus that’s refrigerated for more than a week.
Besides the above, if you notice anything unusual or suspicious about the dip, err on the side of caution and toss it. Better safe than sorry.
Next, let’s talk about one thing that worries many people but is quite normal for hummus.
Hummus might separate a bit, and that’s perfectly normal.
Separation is most common in dips made without stabilizers, binders, and the like. So if yours has a “clean” ingredients list, or you’re making it yourself, chances are it will separate a bit after a couple of days.
To fix that, all you need is to stir it.
But 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 spread, and you should discard it.
Having that out of the way, let’s talk about how long hummus lasts.
How Long Does Hummus Last?
|Use-by + 5 – 7 days
|4 – 7 days
|Canned (shelf-stable) hummus, unopened
|Best-by + 1 – 2 months
|Canned (shelf-stable) hummus, opened
|4 – 7 days
|3 – 4 days
Shelf-stable hummus has a shelf life of at least a few months and keeps for a couple of extra weeks beyond its date, while regular refrigerated hummus lasts between a week up to even a couple of months, depending on the packaging. Both varieties keep between 4 and 7 days after opening.
Homemade hummus has a much shorter storage time of only 3 to 4 days from the moment you make it.
As you can tell, the shelf life depends heavily on the variety, and canned shelf-stable hummus usually lasts the longest. That’s understandable.
Surprisingly, the recommended storage times for refrigerated hummus differ greatly between brands.
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.
But some options last even longer, like three months or so. Such a long shelf life can be achieved thanks to the High Pressure Processing (HPP) technology.
After opening, a store-bought hummus typically lasts between 4 and 7 days, depending on the brand. And it’s always best to check the label to make sure what the seller suggests.
If there’s no info on the label or you already transferred the leftovers, finish the hummus within four days or freeze what’s left.
Any period longer than the typical 3 to 4 days of storage is already a bit of a stretch, so I don’t recommend pushing things even further. Instead, stick to what the seller says.
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. Early signs of spoilage are easy to miss.
Unfortunately, hummus doesn’t last nearly as long after opening as tahini, one of its essential ingredients.
Homemade hummus lasts for 3 to 4 days when tightly sealed in the fridge. If you can’t use it within that period, you can always freeze it for later.
Those 3 to 4 days are a general guideline for all perishable leftovers, and hummus is no different.
Not necessarily, but the longer your fresh hummus sits in the fridge, the higher the chance it’ll go bad. And first signs of spoilage aren’t obvious, so it’s safest to stick with the mentioned four days.
Homemade hummus doesn’t contain any preservatives, and the chances of microbial contamination are much higher than those in store-bought hummus. Because of that, the sooner you finish the container, the better.
(All the same considerations are true for other dips, in case you’re wondering how long homemade pesto lasts.)
If you want to make more hummus for later, freezing is your friend, and hoping it’ll last the whole week is not.
How Long Can Hummus Sit Out?
Hummus shouldn’t be left out for more than 2 hours, or even an hour if the temperature is above 90°F (or 32°C). That’s the 2-hour rule that applies to all perishable foods.
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 quickly multiply when food that requires refrigeration sits on the counter. We don’t want that.
At the same time, if that hummus container is still unopened and sits on the counter for 3 hours because you somehow missed it when organizing your groceries, it will probably be fine. But if you left it out overnight, toss it no matter what.
The only exception to this rule, as you might imagine, is unopened shelf-stable hummus.
The date you can find on a hummus container is usually either best-by (if it’s the shelf-stable variety) or a use-by date (for the regular refrigerated ones). Neither is an expiration date, and both are about food quality, not safety.
Those dates are estimates of how long the hummus should retain quality. And they are pretty conservative, for obvious reasons.
In other words, hummus usually stays perfectly fine for some time beyond 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 beyond its date, probably even more. Canned products last years, but if you’re not comfortable eating one that’s 2 months after its date, toss it.
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. And remember that you do this at your own risk.
Does Hummus Need to Be Refrigerated?
The only variety of hummus that doesn’t require refrigeration is unopened canned (shelf stable) hummus. Every other type, including homemade hummus and opened canned hummus, requires refrigeration at all times.
As I already mentioned elsewhere, shelf-stable (meaning it doesn’t require refrigeration until you open it) hummus is a thing, and it’s slowly building up its consumer base. And it’s the only exception to the “you should always refrigerate hummus” rule.
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 easily fitting in a lunch box.
The refrigerated 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 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.
How To Store Hummus
Store homemade and refrigerated hummus in the fridge at all times. If it’s the shelf-stable variety, it can 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 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 returning to 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), 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 two or more airtight containers. Each one shouldn’t contain more than you can use within three 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 few months.
To defrost it, transfer the container into the fridge and leave it there overnight. The dip should be thawed in the morning. That’s when you give it a good stir, and it’s ready for use.
Hummus Shelf Life and Spoilage Summary
Thanks for reading this primer on hummus. Here are the takeaways:
- Discard hummus that’s moldy, discolored, or has any dark spots. Do the same if it smell sour or off in any other way or if it tastes bad. Finally, toss it if you store it for longer than what’s reasonable.
- Unopened hummus lasts between a couple of weeks and a few months beyond the printed date, depending on whether it’s sold refrigerated or not. Once you open the container, it keeps for 4 to 7 days. Homemade hummus keeps for 3 to 4 days, similar to other perishable foods.
- Canned hummus doesn’t require refrigeration until you open it. After opening, you need to store it in the fridge, and the same is true for refrigerated and fresh homemade hummus.