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How Long Does Salsa Last and How to Tell if Its Bad?

Let’s talk about the shelf life, storage, and going bad of homemade and store-bought salsa.

Say you’ve just opened a jar of salsa, and you wonder how long it is good for. How long does salsa last in the fridge?

Or maybe yours has been open for some time, and you want to ensure it’s okay to eat. That’s when you ask: how do you know if salsa is bad?

In short, you’re looking for a quick primer on salsa that’ll answer your salsa-related questions quickly and concisely.

If that’s the case, you found it.

Let’s dive right in.

Image used under Creative Commons from Taz

Table of Contents

Does Salsa Go Bad?

Salsa goes bad, no doubt about it. But how long it stays good depends on which type of salsa we’re talking about, the ingredients used, and how the sauce was made.

Jarred salsa is sold unrefrigerated and typically lasts for months as long as it’s unopened. It’s a great option if you don’t eat a lot of salsa but would like to have some on hand when you need it.

The second option is salsa sold in refrigerated containers.

Those containers usually come with a storage time of between a week (sold by small sellers) and a couple of weeks (found in supermarkets). So when you buy a container or two, you’re committed to eating its contents relatively soon.

Finally, there’s homemade salsa that has the shortest storage time. While fresh homemade dips like pesto, hummus, or guacamole last for only 3 to 4 days, that’s not necessarily the case for salsa.

If what you’ve whipped is loaded with peppers and feels more like hot sauce than salsa, it’ll likely last longer than the usual 3 to 4 days. That’s because mashed hot peppers are an excellent preservative, and that’s why hot sauce lasts for months even after opening.

Besides the types, it’s important whether the sauce has been pasteurized. Pasteurized ones typically come with a longer storage time than fresh unpasteurized ones.

Last, how spicy your salsa is also plays a role. The hotter the sauce, the longer it lasts after opening, and that’s why some salsa keeps for only a week after opening, while others last for a month or even longer.

(That’s why Tabasco lasts more than a year after opening.)

We’ll talk about storage times in more detail in a moment. For now, let’s cover how to tell when your salsa is spoiled.

How to Tell if Salsa Is Bad?

Throw out your salsa if:

  • It’s moldy. Any fuzzy mold or specs that shouldn’t be there mean the sauce is gone.
  • Color has changed. Some browning is okay because the peppers tend to brown after a while. That’s why hot sauce and Tabasco turn brown in storage. But if it’s starting to change color in any other way, and the seller didn’t specifically mention that as being okay, toss it.
  • It’s separated. If you store your jarred salsa for so long that it has completely separated, you probably shouldn’t use it. Some separation is likely okay, and the sauce just needs a good stir.
  • It smells off. If your salsa smells sour, bitter, or “funny,” it’s time for it to go. It’s no good if it doesn’t pass the sniff test.
  • You store it for way too long. If your salsa is opened for much longer than the label suggests, discard it. There’s no point in risking food-borne illness. The same is true for an unopened salsa that’s way beyond the best-by or sell-by date.
  • It tastes bad. If everything up to this point seems okay, give your salsa a taste and see how it goes. If the flavor is okay, you’ve got yourself a good salsa. And if it’s not, toss it.

Last but not least, if anything about the sauce seems off, or you’re not sure it’s okay to eat, err on the side of caution and discard it. Better safe than sorry.

Now, you might not be sure what it means to store salsa for too long. Let’s cover that next.

Image used under Creative Commons from Jennifer

How Long Does Salsa Last?

Jarred salsa, unopenedBest-by + 1 – 3 months
Jarred salsa, opened1 – 4 weeks
Refrigerated salsa, unopenedUse-by + 1 – 7 days
Refrigerated salsa, opened4 – 7 days
Homemade salsa4 – 14 days

Jarred salsa typically lasts 1 to 2 years unopened and lasts between a week and a month in the fridge after opening. On the other hand, refrigerated salsa usually has a storage time shorter than a month and keeps refrigerated for 7 to 14 days.

Those are the rough estimates.

As you can tell, the time spans I give above are quite wide, and for a good reason: the differences in storage times between brands are quite significant. They’re all over the place, to be more exact.

Because of that, it’s best to read the label to know what you’re working with.

That said, there are a couple of things worth remembering, regardless of your personal brand of choice.

“Expired” Salsa

Store-bought salsa typically lasts some time beyond the printed date, but how long it stays good depends on the type.

With jarred salsa that’s shelf stable, pasteurized, and lasts a year or longer, it’s not a stretch to assume that it will be fine for at least a couple of months past its date. Possibly even longer.

Obviously, there’s no way to tell exactly how long the sauce will stay okay after the printed date. It should remain safe for months, assuming the jar is sealed and intact, but it’s up to you to judge its quality.

Besides safety and quality, it’s your call whether you feel comfortable eating that “expired” salsa or not.

For salsa containers you find in the refrigerated section, their shelf life is much shorter: usually less than a month. So it’s no surprise that these don’t last particularly long beyond the printed date.

That said, the shorter the overall shelf life of the sauce, the less leeway you have. So if you buy yours from a small local seller that asks you to consume it within four days of buying, follow their advice.

After Opening

Once you open a jar of shelf-stable salsa, you get 1 to 4 weeks of refrigeration, depending on the brand. Some brands recommend a pretty long (for a dip) storage time of about a month, while others go with a much shorter period of one to two weeks.

To know which one you’re dealing with, all you have to do is to read the label.

After opening a container of refrigerated salsa, the sauce typically lasts 1 to 2 weeks, depending on the brand. Mild salsas and those without preservatives normally fall on the shorter end of the spectrum, while hotter ones or spiked with preservatives keep for longer.

(That’s not a hard-and-fast rule, so it’s best to check the ingredients list if you want to make sure yours are preservative-free.)

So what if your salsa sits in the fridge longer than the label suggests? Should you toss it right away?

Not necessarily.

If it’s one of those long-lasting salsas that keeps for a month after opening, it should probably last for a few extra days, maybe even a week.

But if it’s a typical salsa with a 7-day storage period, I wouldn’t use it if it’s refrigerated for more than eight, maybe nine days.

Write the opening date on the label so that you know how long that salsa is already opened.

Homemade Salsa

Homemade salsa lasts between 4 days and 2 weeks, depending on the ingredients. If your recipe doesn’t come with any specifics regarding storage time, use the salsa within four days, similar to how you go about other leftovers.

If you check some salsa recipes online, you’ll find the suggested storage time typically falls between 4 and 14 days.

Some even suggest using the sauce within three days, but that’s a bit too cautious if you ask me. It should keep those four days if it doesn’t include any ingredients that’ll ruin the quality of the sauce sooner.

When it comes to those homemade salsas with a slightly longer storage time, take the period recommended by the recipe’s author with a grain of salt. Your salsa might keep for the whole span but might as well spoil sooner.

And since it’s difficult to spot the first signs of spoilage, if you notice any off changes and the sauce is refrigerated for like a week, it’s probably better to toss it.

Ingredients Matter

As I’ve mentioned a couple of times already, storage times vary between brands, and besides the differences between shelf-stable and refrigerated salsa, ingredients matter as well.

Salsa is pretty unique in that way because the ingredients used depend heavily on the recipe. There are almost always some peppers and tomatoes, but that’s about it. The rest varies between sellers and flavors.

One thing that greatly impacts the storage time is the amount of hot peppers used. Hot salsas typically last quite a lot, while mild ones have a very limited shelf life.

And it works the same way, no matter if we’re talking about store-bought salsa or a homemade one.

Another factor that’s no surprise is the amount of preservatives added. Fresh salsa without any extras will have a fairly short storage time (unless loaded with lots of jalapenos), while ones with a few extra items in the ingredients list will likely last longer.

Fortunately, you don’t have to remember all that, as in almost all cases, you can find all the info you need on the label. I’m just explaining how things work so that you’re not surprised that two similarly-looking jars of salsa have vastly different storage times.

Does Salsa Need to Be Refrigerated?

Unless we’re talking about an unopened jar of shelf-stable salsa, salsa requires refrigeration. The ingredients are perishable, and so is the sauce.

In other words, salsa sold in refrigerated containers, homemade salsa, and shelf-stable salsa after opening all need to be stored in the fridge.

Also, remember to put the container or jar in the fridge within 2 hours of opening or making the sauce. That’s the two-hour rule in action.

When storing salsa, keep it sealed tight when not in use, and make sure you use clean spoons when scooping. Double-dipping is off-limits.

Finally, freezing salsa isn’t a good idea, especially if it’s at least a bit chunky. If it’s blended into a uniform sauce, like a more runny tomato paste, it might freeze okay-ish, but if it’s not, it’ll likely turn out pretty bad after freezing.

Salsa Shelf Life and Spoilage Summary

Thanks for reading this primer on salsa. Here are the key takeaways:

  • Throw out salsa that’s moldy, discolored (slightly more brown is okay), or has any specs that shouldn’t be there. Do the same if it smells sour or off, or if the flavor has changed. Last, discard salsa that sits open for more than the recommended time.
  • Unopened shelf-stable salsa lasts 1 to 2 years and 1 to 4 weeks after opening. Refrigerated salsa lasts up to a month and keeps in the fridge for 1 to 2 weeks after opening. Homemade salsa lasts between 4 and 14 days.
  • Salsa requires refrigeration. The only variety that’s an exception is shelf-stable jarred salsa before you open the jar. All other options, including refrigerated and homemade salsa, and open jars of canned salsa, must sit in the fridge.