Can Ketchup Go Bad?

Heinz Tomato Ketchup

Ketchup is certainly a pantry staple, but how much thought have you really given to this condiment? Can ketchup go bad? How do you store ketchup? Well, whether you buy your ketchup at the grocery store, or make it at home, read on for the answers!

Can Ketchup Go Bad?

While condiments seem as though they’ve all got an indefinite shelf life, ketchup (or catsup) actually can go bad. Because of the acidity of the tomatoes and vinegar, and the amount of sugar, ketchup has a pretty long shelf life. An unopened container of ketchup can remain stored for up to two years past the printed expiration date.

Once the bottle is opened, it will last for another year in the refrigerator. If you’d rather keep your ketchup at room temperature, the shelf life for an opened bottle in your pantry is about a month, though you should check for signs of spoilage before consuming the ketchup.

Homemade ketchup will have a far shorter shelf life, remaining good for about two to three months in the refrigerator, when properly stored. However, if you like ketchup enough to make your own, you’ll probably finish the batch in less than three months!

Heinz Tomato Ketchup

Image used under Creative Commons from Mike Mozart

Signs that Ketchup Has Gone Bad

As ketchup ages, the vinegar and other liquid will begin to separate out from the tomato paste in the condiment. You’ve likely experienced the beginning stages of this when you go to squeeze out some ketchup, and find a splash of liquid instead. A little separation is fine, and can be shaken back together, but eventually, the liquid will separate out too much to be mixed back in.

As ketchup continues to age, the color will begin to darken. While the darker color doesn’t necessarily indicate spoilage, it’s surely a sign that the ketchup’s shelf life is coming to an end. You’ll definitely want to use it up quickly!

Because of the preservative quality of the vinegar in ketchup, it’s highly unlikely that mold will grow on this condiment, though it is still possible. Mold growth in ketchup definitely indicates spoilage, and the ketchup should not be consumed. Mold may also grow on the cap of the bottle. In addition to growing mold, ketchup can ferment, especially if left at room temperature or warm environments. If the ketchup bottle appears bloated, or makes a popping noise when opened, the bottle has likely fermented and should not be consumed. A sour, or yeast-like smell also indicates that fermentation has occurred.

How to Store Ketchup

Unopened bottles of store bought ketchup should be kept in a cool, dark place, away from heat or direct sunlight. Once the bottle is opened, ketchup should be refrigerated to maximize shelf life. Homemade ketchup should also be stored in the refrigerator, in a tightly sealed container.

Be careful to keep the bottle cap clean, to prevent contamination and possible mold growth. Simply wiping any buildup off of the cap, and making sure it’s dry before replacing on the bottle should be enough to keep contamination at a minimum. When using a utensil to get ketchup out of a glass bottle or jar, just be sure the utensil is clean.

Can You Freeze Ketchup?

While ketchup technically can be frozen, it’s not recommended for extending the shelf life of this condiment. Freezing will drastically change the texture of the ketchup once it has thawed, making it gummy, and quite unpleasant. Additionally, the shelf life of ketchup is already quite long, and won’t be extended by freezing.

To preserve homemade ketchup for longer periods of time, try canning! Because of the high acid content in ketchup, a water bath method of canning should be fine. If all proper procedures are followed, canned ketchup can be stored at room temperature for a year. Be sure to keep canned ketchup in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight or heat.

« More from Condiments