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How Long Does Mustard Last? Can It Go Bad?

Seeing as mustard is one of those ingredients that seems to take care of itself over long periods, you may be forgiven for keeping and using a jar of it way after its sell-by date. But, this does raise some questions. For example; is it really safe to continue using such a jar? Does mustard really preserve itself so well that it never goes off? Well, if you have found yourself staring down a jar of mustard that looks a bit suspect, these are no doubt the answers you need. Fear not, we’ve got you covered. Read on for handy storage tips, real estimates on how long mustard will last, and how to tell if your mustard is no longer safe to use.


Does Mustard Go Bad?


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Luis Echeverri Urrea/


A large amount of mustard long shelf life is granted by the fact that it sits in vinegar. This vinegar acts as a preserving agent, and though it won’t make it last forever, it does a pretty good job of keeping it good. This is because it is naturally hostile to bacterial growth. As we will find out later in this article, there are ways to make mustard keep for an absurdly long time. However, there are also ways to dramatically shorten the life of your mustard. Below are a few handy tips to make sure the latter doesn’t happen to you.


How Do I Store Mustard?


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Though it’s true to say that mustard is an incredibly widely-used condiment, you would be surprised at how many questions there are about it online. Some answers will conflict with others, even claiming that it is okay to store an opened jar of mustard outside of the fridge! Such an idea just seems crazy to us, so we have decided to put all the best storage tips together in one place, getting rid of the myths as we did. So, without further ado, here’s the definitive guide on how it should be done!

Unopened jars

Thankfully, because of the vinegar content in mustard jars, it is relatively easy and forgiving to store. The only things you should really watch out for are that the jar doesn’t come into contact with too many elements that can age it prematurely. These elements are heat, air, and sunlight. Each of these will gradually break down the subtle compounds in the mustard, destroying the flavor pretty quickly. So, to combat this, all you need to do is to store the mustard in a cool, dark, environment. This means keeping it away from the countertop and preferably, even the fridge. Room temperature is ideal, so the pantry or a kitchen cabinet is totally fine when the jar is unopened.

Opened jars

Once the jar is opened, it is unavoidable that the mustard will begin to age a bit quicker. To avoid this happening at too quick a rate, the best thing you can do is to always make sure that the jar is properly resealed before putting it back into storage. As to where it goes to after it stores, it really depends on how quickly it is going to be used. If you think you will consume the contents relatively quickly, the pantry or a kitchen cabinet will do. However, if you don’t get through too much mustard in your household, the best place for it is in the fridge. Here, it will retain more of its qualities for a longer period of time.

Should You Refrigerate Mustard?


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Yellow Cat/


As far as we are concerned, there is no good reason to refrigerate an unopened jar of mustard. Doing so won’t prolong its life, and fridge space is generally at a premium in most households. However, as soon as the jar is opened, the best call is to put it into the fridge afterward. Even if you think you will finish the jar pretty quickly, it is much safer to place it in the fridge. Though you may not notice the difference, the quality is much likely to keep in this environment. Additionally, when using your mustard, always make sure that your utensils are clean. Using dirty ones can contaminate your mustard with foreign bodies that can cause your mustard to go off much quicker.


Can You Freeze Mustard?

Mustard already can survive for quite a prolonged period of time without freezing. However, if you really want to squeeze an extra month or two out of it, freezing isn’t the absolute worst idea that you could have. If you are going to go through with it, the best thing to do is to separate it into individual portions so that you don’t have to thaw and use all of it at once. For this, we would recommend using an ice-tray to initially freeze the mustard. Because of the high vinegar content, it will take the mustard up to 3 days to freeze. After they are fully done, they can then be transferred into an airtight bag or into a sealed container. For us, it seems like a lot of unnecessary effort, but if you have bought in bulk and are worrying that your mustard may expire, it is a handy trick to have in your back pocket.


How Long Does Mustard Last?


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Pretty much all shop-bought mustard will have a sell-by date printed on them. In most cases, we have found that this date plays it pretty safe. If the right measures are taken, there is no reason why your mustard won’t survive for months after the printed date. By nature, mustard is quite acidic so will stand the test of time quite well. Naturally, the more acidic the mustard, the longer it should last. So, giving an exact date is quite difficult, but this rough guide, coupled with our section below on how to spot the signs that your mustard has gone off, won’t set you off on the wrong track. As we mentioned earlier, how you store your mustard has a massive bearing on how long it will last.

So, for an unopened jar, stored according to all of the guidelines listed above, we would suggest that this jar can and will last for anywhere from 6-12 months after the sell-by date would suggest. However, when it comes to opened jars, the answer is a lot less straightforward. For an opened jar stored in the pantry or kitchen cabinet, it will last for up to two months after the date that it was opened. As we mentioned earlier, this same jar will age a lot slower in the fridge – expect it to last for up to 9 months in the fridge after opening. If you really what to push out this date as far as you possibly can, freezing the mustard once the jar has been opened will give it an extra few months on top of this. So, after the date the mustard was opened, you can keep the mustard in its frozen state for a maximum of a year.


How Do I Make Mustard Last Longer?

There is no better way to make mustard last longer than ensuring that it doesn’t come into contact with things that are harmful to it. For example, keep the jar out of the way of heat sources and direct sunlight. Once it has been opened, always make sure that you use clean utensils to extract the mustard and that the jar is always perfectly resealed after use. If you have all of this taken care of, the mustard can pretty much take care of itself.


Signs That Your Mustard May Have Gone Off

Gone off mustard is pretty easy to identify, thankfully. The first signs you should be looking for are mold or any sort of growth that shouldn’t be there. This will signify that some contaminant has gotten into it at some stage. As a result, the whole thing should be thrown out immediately. The same goes if you notice any sort of pungent odor. However, in most cases, the mustard won’t go off, as such. Instead, it will just begin to fade, gradually losing all of its unique flavors. If you notice this, or that your mustard is maybe 2 years beyond the sell-by date, the best thing to do is to enact quality control and just throw it out. It won’t taste good. One thing to look for is separation of the solids and the liquids in the jar. This is perfectly natural with condiments that have been stored for a long time and doesn’t necessarily mean that the mustard has gone off. If nothing else is noticeably wrong with the mustard, simply stir the contents back together and you should be good to go!

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