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How Long Does Bone Broth Last and How to Tell if It’s Bad?

Let’s talk about the shelf life, spoilage, and storage of bone broth.

Say your canned bone broth has been opened for a few days, and you’re wondering how long bone broth lasts in the fridge.

Or you found an unopened boxed broth when organizing your pantry, and it’s a couple of months past the date on the label. Does bone broth go bad, and if so, how do you tell?

If that sounds like you, you’re in the right place.

But before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s briefly touch upon the differences between regular and bone broth and how they play out in store-bought and homemade broths. That’ll make everything else in this article much easier to grasp.

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Bone Broth vs. Regular Broth

There isn’t any clear definition of what is a bone broth, and at which point your regular chicken or beef broth becomes a bone broth. And in the case of store-bought broth, these can be pretty similar, depending on the brand you buy.

In general, bone broth should be made by simmering bones for hours instead of boiling meat (with some bones) for a short period. And while regular beef and chicken broth are quite thin, proper bone broth should be thick and jelly-like due to the gelatin it gets from the bones.

Now, that jelly-like consistency is typical for homemade bone broth. But if you’re buying it in the grocery store, in most cases, it’s going to be only a bit thicker than regular broth, and that’s it.

In other words, don’t be surprised if your store-bought bone broth tastes and looks like regular broth, but also don’t freak out if your jar contains a gel-like substance that’s not liquid at all.

Last but not least, you can make bone broth from pretty much any bones, as long as they’re gelatin rich and you can get some minerals out of them. So most brands sell “chicken bone broth” and “beef bone broth,” but some might use a mix of both and label it “bone broth.”

Does Bone Broth Go Bad?

Canned and boxed bone broth typically has a shelf life of between six months and two years. And it usually keeps for at least another three months beyond the printed date, if not longer.

If you store the can or box in a cool and dark place away from heat sources and make sure the seal stays untouched, the broth will likely last much longer.

In other words, store-bought bone broth typically keeps well past the printed date.

As you might expect, most brands suggest you use their broths before the printed date, but it’s not like the broth is going to spoil a couple of days or weeks past it.

The date that’s on the label is a best-by date. It’s how long the producer guarantees the product should retain quality. And as with other canned foods (e.g., chicken broth), bone broth tends to last months beyond its date.

That poses the following question:

How Long Is Bone Broth Good After the “Expiration” Date?

The best answer I can come up with is: it depends. It depends on the ingredients in the broth, the production process, and if you take good care of it.

So I suggest instead that you come up with a period you’re comfortable with.

Three months for boxed bone broth and six months for its canned counterpart seem reasonable, but if that seems like a stretch, go with shorter periods.

(I came up with a separate period for boxed and canned varieties because canned broths typically have a longer shelf life. Feel free to use a single period for both.)

Next, you read the printed date, add the period you chose, and check if the broth is still within the resulting date.

If it is, and there aren’t any signs of spoilage (we’ll cover that in a moment), you use it. If it’s past it, you discard it no matter what. Plain and simple.

Next up, let’s talk about what happens after opening the box or can.

How Long Does Bone Broth Last in the Fridge?

Once you open your bone broth, use it within 4 to 5 days and keep it sealed tightly in an airtight container or lidded pot in the fridge. If you need more time, you can freeze the leftovers for later.

That period is a pretty conservative estimate you can run with, no matter your brand of choice.

As you might imagine, some brands recommend slightly longer storage times, like 7 days recommended by FOND or even 14 days suggested by Zoup!.

But if you’re like you, you probably wouldn’t feel comfortable with a half-open broth that sits in the fridge for that long. I’d much rather freeze the leftovers, and that’s what I suggest instead.

Now, let’s touch upon homemade bone broth.

Homemade Bone Broth

Homemade bone broth lasts for 3 to 4 days if you store it sealed tightly in the fridge. Let it cool to about room temperature, transfer it to an airtight container (or use a lidded pot), and refrigerate.

(Limit the cooling period to two hours to err on the side of caution.)

You can probably get by with storing the broth for up to 5 days, but I don’t recommend refrigerating it for longer. Instead, freeze it if you can’t use it up by day 5.

Knowing these storage times, let’s talk about spoilage signs.

How to Tell if Bone Broth Is Bad?

Discard your bone broth if:

  • The unopened box or can is compromised. If the packaging is bulging, swollen, leaking, or the seal broken, the broth is no longer safe. Toss it no matter what.
  • It sits in the fridge for more than 4 to 5 days. If it’s store-bought bone broth, feel free to go with the producer’s recommendation if it’s longer than mine. But if it’s homemade bone broth, stick to five days in the fridge tops.
  • It smells off. If your bone broth that’s been sitting in the fridge for a couple of days doesn’t pass the sniff test, toss it.
  • It tastes bad. Take a small sip before using the broth. You’re not out of the woods yet when your “expired” bone broth seems perfectly fine. You need to make sure it tastes okay. Otherwise, it’s no good. The taste check applies to broth that’s been sitting in the fridge for a couple of days, too.

These are the typical spoilage signs for bone broth. But if you notice anything suspicious, trust your gut and toss the product. Better safe than sorry.

(The rules above work for chicken broth and beef broth, too.)

That said, there are three things you should remember:

  • Fat accumulation on the surface is normal. After storing the broth in the fridge for a couple of hours, you might notice a white layer of fat on top. That’s typical for homemade broth. Feel free to scrape it off if that’s too much fat for you.
  • Refrigeration might make the broth cloudy. In addition, you might notice some sediment on the bottom if you haven’t filtered your homemade bone broth well. That’s normal and nothing to worry about. Store-bought broths are (usually) filtered, and there shouldn’t be any sediment.
  • Jello-like consistency is okay. As I already mentioned, homemade bone broth, if done properly, often gels after refrigeration. That means it contains a lot of gelatin, and it’s a good thing. Store-bought bone broth usually doesn’t gel. It’s just a tad bit thicker than regular broth.

Next, let’s cover storage.

Do You Need to Refrigerate Bone Broth?

After opening a can or box of bone broth, you need to refrigerate whatever is left. Cool the leftovers to room temperature, transfer to an airtight container or lidded pot, and place them in the fridge.

And make sure the cooling period isn’t longer than two hours.

Keeping the pot or container sealed and refrigerated is all your broth needs to last the mentioned 4 to 5 days.

If that’s not long enough for your needs, freezing is the obvious solution. Let’s talk about that.

Can You Freeze Bone Broth?

You can freeze bone broth in an airtight container or an ice cube tray, depending on what makes the most sense for how you’re going to use it. Frozen bone broth should retain top quality for at least 2 to 3 months, but it’ll stay good for much longer.

Now, instead of going gung-ho with freezing the broth, take a moment and think about how you’ll use it. A rough plan will help you portion the broth in a way that makes sense for your needs.

For instance, if you want to sip on it, using small containers and freezing about a cup’s worth of broth in each might make sense. Or you might use an ice cube tray if you need it for pan sauces.

Some people like freezing liquids flat in freezer bags, so that’s another option. If you give it a go, place the bag in a bowl before pouring the broth into it. This way, there’s not much to clean up if the bag is leaky.

But no matter how you freeze bone broth, keep in mind that it expands when frozen, and you need to leave some headspace to account for that.

Now, bone broth is the only broth that many people sip on, so it makes sense to cover a couple of options for reheating it.

How to Reheat Bone Broth

Reheat your bone broth:

  • In the microwave. Place it in a microwave-safe dish or cup and blast it in 30-second intervals until it reaches 165℉ (or 74℃), the safe minimum temperature for leftovers. If you don’t have a food thermometer on hand, simply bring the bone broth to a boil before you drink it.
  • On the stove. Pour it into a small pot and warm up on the stove until it reaches 165℉ (or 74℃) or boils.

Those are the two easiest and fastest ways to reheat bone broth.

Bone Broth Storage, Shelf Life, and Spoilage Summary

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

  • Bone broth can go bad. Throw it out if the can or box is bulging, swelling, leaking, or the seal is compromised.
  • Bone broth typically has a shelf life of six months to two years but lasts months longer if you store it in a cool and dry place and the container stays intact. Unfortunately, you cannot tell how long past its date your bone broth will last, so it’s better to pick up front a period you’re comfortable with, and if the broth is older than that, discard it.
  • After opening, bone broth lasts for 4 to 5 days. Some brands may come with a slightly longer storage time, but if you want to be conservative, stick with the 4 to 5 days period. Homemade bone broth keeps for 3 to 4 days. If you need more time, you can freeze any leftovers.