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How long does ketchup last? Can it go bad?

What’s in a bottle of ketchup? Let’s explore!


Ketchup is a table condiment or sauce made of tomatoes, vinegar, and sugar. Sometimes, people refer to it as “catsup” or “catchup.” And you all know that your hot dogs, fries, and burgers won’t be complete without a smudge of ketchup, right? This tomato-based condiment just makes these kinds of food taste excitingly better! Also, to make it more unique, some manufacturers produce kinds of ketchup with spices and seasonings such as garlic, cloves, onions, cinnamon, and more. 


Aside from that, ketchup is not only made from tomatoes. Some varieties are made from other main ingredients like banana, carrot, mushroom, and oyster ketchup, to name a few.


Tomato ketchup is often used in hot, fried, or greasy dishes like french fries, chicken tenders, tater tots, hamburgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, meat pies, eggs, and meats. Ketchup also serves as one of the ingredients for sauces and dressings.


If you wish to keep the tarty goodness of ketchup, this post will tell you how to store it the right way and know the signs if it has gone bad. 


How to store ketchup?

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It is so easy to store ketchup! 

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You can keep store-bought ketchup in a cool, dark, and dry place. See to it that you should not expose your ketchup against direct sunlight. And once you have opened the bottle, be sure to refrigerate it to keep it longer. 


Every time you open a bottle of ketchup, make sure that the bottle cap is clean and wipe the build-up around it to avoid contamination and mold growth. If your ketchup is stored in a wide-mouthed container, make sure that the utensil you will use to scoop the ketchup out is clean. 


As for your homemade ketchup, make sure to keep it in a tightly sealed container then put it in the fridge. 


What’s more? You can consider doing the canning method to preserve your homemade ketchup for a more extended period, even up to one year, as long as it is unopened. The water bath canning method will be okay since your ketchup is acidic. Once you have appropriately finished canning your homemade ketchup, you can keep it in a cool, dark place where no sunlight can land on it.


How long does it last?

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Daria Saveleva/

Condiments such as ketchup come with a “best by” date, “best before” date, or expiration date. So, make sure to not forget to check the label for this information before buying or opening your ketchup.

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An unopened ketchup bottle can stay from one to two years as long as it is properly sealed and stored in the best conditions. Yes, it has a long shelf life because ketchup is naturally acidic. An acidic environment makes it inhospitable for most foodborne microorganisms to proliferate.


Some people don’t mind cold ketchup upon serving, and some prefer to have ketchup unrefrigerated. So, that’s up to you whether you want it refrigerated or not.


Generally, a ketchup bottle can stay up to six months after opening it and keeping it refrigerated. If you place your opened ketchup bottle in the pantry, it will only last for one month. 


On the other hand, homemade ketchup has a shorter shelf life compared to those that are store-bought. It will last in the fridge for 2 – 3 months. So whenever you prepare homemade ketchup, make sure that you’ll just have to make enough to last you at least a month rather than overproducing it and just let it stay in the fridge until it spoils. 


Can it go bad?

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Some condiments seem to have an indefinite shelf life. But as for ketchup’s case, it does spoil, but it still has a great shelf life. Ketchup contains tomatoes (that are naturally acidic), vinegar, and sugar. The combination of these ingredients helps preserve your ketchup in your storage for months after opening it. 

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Always ensure that you are keeping your ketchup safe from any forms of contamination that can cause spoilage. 


How to tell if it has gone bad?


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You have to remember that applying food safety and hygiene practices while handling food is essential to prevent yourself from getting such foodborne illnesses. 


It is quick and easy to tell whether or not your ketchup is still good for consumption. Here are the signs of spoiled ketchup.

  1. Watery. The longer your opened ketchup stays, the more time it allows the vinegar and other liquid ingredients to separate from the tomato paste. You’ll notice the beginning stage of this when the ketchup’s texture starts to look watery as you squirt it out of its container instead of seeing a smooth and homogenous mixture. 


If it is a little watery, that will still be fine to use. Just shake the ketchup bottle to mix it properly. However, it will eventually separate again. With this state, don’t be surprised if the taste may turn out different than the original. 

  1. Darkened color. Your ketchup will eventually look dull and get thicker as it ages. Instead of a bright red color, your ketchup may turn brick red or maroon. But, that doesn’t immediately mean that you need to immediately dispose of it. That is a sign that its peak quality has started to deteriorate. So before it completely spoils, use it up as soon as possible. 


  1. Molds formed. Though we know that tomato ketchup has vinegar, chances of mold growth are low. However, anything is possible. When you see molds sticking to the cap of the ketchup bottle, that definitely means that it is already spoiled, and you better just throw it away. This can happen, especially if you left an already opened bottle under ambient temperatures. As a result, this will serve as the best environment for molds and other harmful bacteria to multiply quickly. 


  1. Bloated bottle. If you see that your bottle of ketchup is bloated, don’t use it. 


  1. Bad odor. Do a quick sniff test. If it smells funny, rotten, or merely spoiled, just throw it away. Or, if it makes a popping noise with a sour or yeast-like odor when you open it, never think twice to discard it. 


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Basically, if it looks normal and smells fine, it is mostly okay to use it. Giving it a taste will help you finally decide whether you should consume it or not. 


Can I freeze ketchup?

Yes, you can, if you wish, but it is not recommended. Freezing your ketchup will only destroy its texture once you have it thawed in ambient temperature. You ketchup will become unpleasantly gummy with a strange flavor.

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