Does Salsa Go Bad?

So you have an opened jar of salsa sitting in your refrigerator. How long has it been opened? Unknown – but long enough to be forgettable. Can you eat it? Does salsa go bad, really? Or is it more like hot sauce where it’ll keep for prolonged periods, no problem?

Before you go diving in with a spoon, get your facts. It could be the case that your salsa is no longer fresh and perhaps even spoiled. Yes, salsa does go bad, but the timing differs slightly between homemade and store-bought salsa, as well as an unopened jar vs. an open jar.

How long will homemade salsa last before going bad?

As long as it’s covered and refrigerated, fresh homemade salsa has a shelf life of between four to six days. This is the shortest of the bunch because fresh recipes often assume you are making your food to eat now, or at least in the next few days. There are fewer preserving agent ingredients in a freshly made salsa, so the shelf-life is fast.

You can freeze fresh salsa to extend the shelf life, but we only recommend this if your plan is to use the salsa as a mixing ingredient for future recipes, not as a stand-alone dip. The consistency definitely changes with freezing.

How long will store-bought refrigerated salsa last?

A little longer than homemade. Store-bought salsas that are picked up in the refrigerated section (this is different than the on-the-shelf room temperature jars) typically have preserving agents in them to extend the shelf-life of the salsa. Unopened with the airtight wrapper still intact and continuous refrigeration, these can last two weeks or slightly more.

When opened, as long as it’s refrigerated and covered, these store-bought salsas typically stay fresh enough to eat for about two weeks.

How long does store-shelf commercially-jarred salsa last?

Now here’s the jump, and it’s likely not a surprise. Airtight unopened store-bought salsa can stay fresh for over a year, even without refrigeration. These salsas are made to sit on shelves and in pantries for extended periods of time. How? Lots of preservative ingredients that keep the ingredients from spoiling. Even when opened, these canned salsa last a decently long time – a month and sometimes more, depending on the ingredients in the salsa.

How do you know if salsa has gone bad?

Use your senses. The smell may be unpleasant. The consistency of the salsa may be thicker. There may even be visible mold on the salsa. If so far the salsa checks out with no issues, take a tiny taste. If it’s extremely tangy and acidic, it’s time to pitch the salsa.

Even if the salsa passes the senses test, it may still not be up to snuff for use. A salsa doesn’t have to be bad to offer a poor eating experience. Older salsas tend to lose their fresh taste and consistency, so even if the salsa isn’t quite bad, it may be time to move on for a better taste.

Why does salsa go bad faster than hot sauces?

Two main ingredients of hot sauces – chili peppers and vinegar – act as preserving agents in the sauce, so even homemade sauces will offer decently long shelf-lives. Sure, many salsas share in these ingredients, but not to the same ratios. It’s not even close. The vinegar in hot sauce can be measured in cups compared to the teaspoons of vinegar you’d see in a salsa. The same is true for the hot pepper ratio – there are typically more hot peppers in a hot sauce than a salsa. Because of this, you can measure an opened hot sauce’s shelf-life in the months compared to the days typical of a salsa.

UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on May 21, 2021 to include new content. It was originally published on January 29, 2015.
  • I have had two restaurant size jars of salsa in my refrigerator for at least 4 years, they still taste good and no smell or mold in either jars, but when I open the refrigerator I notice them and wonder when should I discard them since they seems to be still good, have been eating it with no I’ll effect, can you help me with this problem, is it time to throw them out, bthank you

  • I have a jar of Tostitos salsa mild and the expiration date is impossible to know what it means. It says 102 C2 14:09, no clue what it means. Why do you make it impossible to read.
    Please explain what it means, I go to the store and like to know what the expiration date is.
    I won’t buy a product that is not clear about the dates

    • Hi there – I agree that’s a strange expiration date! I also don’t know what it means. You likely need to contact Tostitos for more information on their coding.

  • Just curious how long it would last after a power outage? At what threshold would you recommend throwing it out if it has been sitting in a fridge during an outage? Four hours? Six? Twelve? Or More?

    • During Power outages, save your whole fridge! a BLOCK.. not cubes, a block of ice sitting in a plastic shoe box can keep a fridge for days, but invest in a fridge thermometer and place it far from the ice, just to be sure.

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