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How Long Does Mustard Last? (Shelf Life Expiration Tips)

Mustard is a popular condiment that’s used all over the world. But does it spoil? Should you refrigerate it after opening it? And how long does mustard last before it goes bad?

If left unopened in the pantry, mustard will last indefinitely and can be consumed past its best-before date. Once opened and kept in the refrigerator, it is best consumed within 1 year. However, it will generally not spoil, it will simply decrease in flavor.

But don’t worry! I’ll cover jarred mustard, opened and sealed, refrigerated and non-refrigerated, powder, seed, and everything else.

Do you have an unopened jar of mustard you’ve left for a long time in the pantry?

Here, you’ll find out how to tell if mustard has gone bad and if it’s OK to eat expired mustard. But we’ll also find out if you should refrigerate every variety of mustard.

Read on for more.

mustard last before bad lg

Does Mustard Go Bad?

Absolutely, mustard can go bad.

While it’s known for its relatively long shelf life, it isn’t invincible. With time, especially if improperly stored or contaminated, mustard can lose its potency and flavor. Additionally, if water or other contaminants get inside the jar, mold and bacteria can develop. Always check for changes in smell, texture, or appearance before using.

Knowing when your mustard has passed its prime is essential for both taste and safety.

Understanding Mustard’s Shelf Life

Mustard, a staple in many kitchens, has an impressive shelf life thanks to its vinegar content and acidic nature.

Yet, like all condiments, it doesn’t last indefinitely. Factors like its type, storage conditions, and exposure to contaminants play a role in determining how long it remains good. By understanding its longevity factors, you can ensure you’re always using mustard at its best and avoiding any potential food safety issues.

Basics of Mustard Preservation

First off, let’s talk temperature. Whether it’s Dijon, whole grain, or classic yellow, keeping mustard in a cool environment is crucial. Your pantry works for unopened bottles, but switch to the fridge after that first squeeze.

Next, sunlight is a no-go. Direct light can deteriorate its quality, leading to faded flavors. Store your mustard in a dark spot or, better yet, in its original box or a cabinet.

Lastly, contamination is a mustard jar’s enemy. Always use a clean utensil when diving in. Avoiding crumb or food particle invasion will ensure your mustard stays bold and tangy.

Reasons Mustard Might Spoil

Temperature is a big factor. Warm spots can make your mustard lose its zing, so cool storage is a must, especially post-opening.

Next up: moisture. Mustard hates excess water. It’s a breeding ground for unwanted bacteria. Always ensure that the jar lid is on tight, keeping moisture and air out.

Light, especially sunlight, is another freshness enemy. Extended exposure can degrade your mustard’s quality, dimming its robust flavors. A shaded pantry shelf or a cabinet does wonders.

Lastly, cross-contamination. Double-dipping with that mayo-covered knife? Big no-no. Keeping foreign food particles out is key to maintaining that classic mustard taste.

Freshness Differences Between Ground Mustard, Mustard Seed, and Prepared Mustard

Mustard seeds win the longevity game.

Stored in a cool, dark place, they can stay fresh for up to four years. They’re hardy little things, and their protective outer shell keeps the flavor locked in.

Ground mustard powder, on the other hand, has a shorter lifespan.

Once those seeds are ground into powder, they expose more surface area. This means they can lose potency faster, typically within six months to a year.

Then there’s prepared mustard.

Containing other ingredients like vinegar and spices, its shelf life is more limited. Typically, it stays fresh for a year unopened. Once opened, though, aim to use it within a few months to enjoy its peak flavor.

Signs of Spoiled Mustard

The best way to tell if mustard has gone bad is to look at it and smell it. Mustard that has spoiled will give off a sour smell or have an off odor. Additionally, the flavor or appearance may be off, and in some cases, mold may be visible.

Lastly, if the liquid has separated from other ingredients it can be a sign of spoiling.

Common Indicators of Bad Mustard

The good news is that you can simply check the following to tell if mustard has gone bad: color, texture, taste, aroma, and mold. Let’s go over each one.

  • Color – It’s natural that mustard would change color over time, but it’s probably gone bad if it’s turned a darker greenish-brown, very pale, or a sickly yellow.
  • Texture – A little drying around the surface or near the lid is okay. Mustard often dries out or separates over time, but if it is chunky such that it doesn’t mix well, or if it is runny, or if you find a dry lump at the bottom of an opened or unopened jar, it’s time to toss it out.
  • Taste – Does it have a burning, bitter, or overly acidic taste? Time to get a new one.
  • Aroma – The aroma of mustard is one of the potent signs to check. If mustard smells rotten or sour, that’s a sign that bacteria are probably growing in it. An unpleasant odor is always a sign that it’s no longer edible. Time to discard it.
  • Mold – If mold is growing on the surface or even just on the lid, it’s gone bad. Bin it.

After exploring the signs of spoilage, it helps to know the shelf life of the different types of mustard. That way, you can plan to get fresh bottles before the current ones expire.

We’ll get into this later in the article when we find out how long mustard lasts after it’s been opened. It stands to reason that unopened mustard will naturally last longer.

Storage and Expiration of Mustard

Storing mustard correctly is the key to its longevity.

A cool, dark pantry works for unopened bottles, but once cracked open, the fridge is your best bet. The cold environment keeps the flavor punchy and wards off spoilage. But remember, even in ideal conditions, mustard won’t last forever. Over time, its vibrant taste can dull, and its smooth consistency may separate or become watery.

While mustard doesn’t spoil quickly, always keep an eye on its freshness.

Shelf Life of Mustard in the Pantry

Unopened prepared mustard can comfortably sit on your pantry shelf for a year or even longer without losing its zing. It’s thanks to the vinegar and spices, which act as natural preservatives.

However, once you break that seal, the clock starts ticking a bit faster. While it won’t spoil immediately, its flavor can begin to wane after a few months. For the best taste, try to use it up within a year. Remember: a cooler, darker spot in the pantry is your mustard’s best friend.

Keep it away from heat and direct sunlight to ensure it stays fresher for longer.

Duration of Mustard in the Fridge

Let’s check out the different types of mustard and how long they would last. We’ll consider open mustard and an unopened bottle of mustard.

  • Dry Mustard – It can last an indefinite time in the fridge and one to two years at room temperature.
  • Homemade Mustard – It can last a week to a year in the fridge, depending on the packaging and ingredients used. Lasts a day at room temperature! Its shelf life is essentially a function of the ingredients in it. Recipes made with a higher proportion of vinegar last a longer period of time.
  • Honey Mustard – One to two years in the fridge and two to three years if it’s unopened and left in the pantry.
  • Chinese Mustard – It can last a year in the fridge and one to two years if left unopened in the pantry.
  • Dijon Mustard – It can last a year in the fridge after it’s been opened, and because of its high vinegar base, two to three years at room temperature in the pantry.
  • American Mustard – It can last a year in the fridge after it’s been opened and one to two years after the best-by date if left unopened at room temperature in the pantry.

What’s the effect of packaging on the shelf life?

  • Glass Jar – Mustard stored in a glass jar can last for 2 years.
  • Plastic bottles – Mustard stored in plastic squeeze bottles can last for 18 months
  • Sachets – Mustard stored in sachets can last for about 6 months

It’s best to keep mustard in an airtight container where it’s not exposed to direct sunlight, such as in a kitchen cabinet.

And I suppose that the last thing you’ll like is bacterial growth, so use clean utensils such as a clean spoon when scooping from a mustard jar.

Curious about the difference between dry mustard and regular mustard? Unlike regular mustard, which you can spread, dry mustard is powdered mustard seeds, and it is purely mustard. There are no other ingredients added.

You’ll often find it next to other spices at the grocery stores. You can also buy the seeds. There are black mustard seeds. You can also find white and brown.

Prolonging Mustard’s Freshness

Want to maximize your mustard’s shelf life? It’s all about storage.

Keeping unopened mustard in a cool, dark place is step one. Once you’ve broken the seal, refrigerate it. This move not only keeps it fresher longer but also maintains its bold flavors. Another tip? Use a clean utensil every time. Introducing food particles or contaminants can reduce its lifespan.

Prioritize proper storage, and your mustard will reward you with longevity and zest.

Tips to Extend Mustard’s Shelf Life

As a general rule, always refrigerate mustard after opening to preserve the freshness and flavor. While not refrigerating most types of mustard will not cause them to spoil, it will lessen the flavor over time.

So, some types of mustard should be refrigerated to maintain their flavor.

However, you don’t have to refrigerate others. If the mustard does not have fruits or vegetables added, it has enough acid which serves as a preservative.

So, it can be stored in a cool and dry place for a month or two at room temperature.

But what’s not to like about ensuring that your mustard’s distinct flavors last for a long time? So, it’s better to refrigerate it. Gulden’s Mustard says to “Refrigerate after opening.”

And French’s Mustard advises that “Dijon and Horseradish mustards will lose their distinct flavors if not refrigerated, so we encourage refrigerating both.” But it says it’s okay to serve regular yellow mustard at room temperature if that’s what you like.

(By the way, French’s and Gulden’s were a tie at a taste test where 39 different types of mustard were tested).

Yellow mustard is mild mustard. Some folks believe that not refrigerating it makes it less tangy than it already is.

If you opt not to refrigerate, the best place to store mustard is away from heat and direct sunlight. But for the best quality, it’s ideal to refrigerate, after all, temperature changes affect mustard’s unique flavor.

In place of yellow mustard, you can use spicy brown mustard. It’s more textured and spicier.

Proper Storage Techniques for Longer Mustard Freshness

First up, always ensure the lid is tightly sealed. This simple step keeps unwanted moisture and contaminants out.

For unopened mustard, a cool, dry pantry away from direct sunlight is ideal. The consistent temperature and darkness help maintain its robust flavor.

Once opened, refrigeration becomes your mustard’s best ally.

Though it’s not strictly necessary thanks to mustard’s preservative properties, the cold environment of a fridge does wonders in keeping it at its peak for longer. Plus, it’s a safe bet to prevent any bacterial growth. If you’ve ever found water pooling atop your mustard, that’s separation – a common occurrence. A quick stir will bring it right back to its creamy consistency.

Final Thoughts

In this article, we learned some riveting facts about one of the common condiments: the highly versatile mustard. We learned how to keep it in good shape over time. We found out the conditions under which it’s okay to eat expired mustard.

Does it go bad?

Not really. But after about a year or two, it will lose some of the pungent flavor. But it could spoil if it has not been stored properly. We learned that the best option is to refrigerate it to retain the flavor of this ancient spicy condiment.

In all, it’s a wonderful condiment with health benefits, but you don’t want to consume too much mustard.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it okay to eat expired mustard?

It depends. If the mustard has been properly stored, and it does not exhibit any signs of spoilage, it is okay to eat it because mustard is usually safe to consume even after its best-by date.

Curious about the safety of leftover mustard? Mustard is a blend of spices and acid-based liquid such as vinegar and lemon juice.

This vinegar base is one of the reasons for its longer shelf life. So, it’s not easy for mustard to quickly go bad if it has been properly stored. But it does go bad, as we saw in an earlier section.

But just because it has “expired” does not mean that it can no longer be consumed.

Its best-by date is an estimate provided by the manufacturer regarding when its quality (flavor and freshness) would still be good. You can consume mustard in so many ways that you can even put it in hot sauce.

Now, the expiry date does not relate to the safety of the product. Strictly speaking, an expiry date indicates an estimated date by which a product is no longer safe to be consumed. And that’s not the case here.

Does Dijon mustard go bad if not refrigerated?

No, Dijon mustard does not go bad if it is not refrigerated. It is not made with ingredients that go bad, and vinegar is employed in it to preserve it. But refrigerating it helps preserve its flavor.

Once opened, it’s a good idea to store Dijon mustard in the fridge. If you do, it can last for a year past the best-before date (printed date.

But, if you prefer not to, you can keep it in a dry and cool place at room temperature in the pantry, where it can last two to three years past the best-before date. The flavor won’t be great, but it’s still safe to eat.

Photo which requires attribution:

Michigan Mustard by Jellaluna is licensed under CC2.0 and was cropped, edited, and had a text overlay added.

Jeff Campbell