Understanding Mustard Shelf Life: Everything You Need To Know

Does mustard go bad? – All you need to know

Mustard is a popular condiment enjoyed around the world, known for its tangy flavor and versatility. Whether used as a topping or dressing for burgers, sandwiches, hot dogs, or other dishes, mustard adds a unique kick to our meals. But when you find yourself with a half-used jar of mustard in your refrigerator, it’s natural to wonder about its shelf life and whether it might go bad. In this article, we will take a closer look at mustard spoilage, including its shelf life, signs of spoilage, and proper storage methods.

Does Mustard Go Bad?

The short answer is yes, mustard can go bad. While mustard products typically do not have expiration dates, they can still spoil over time if not stored properly. The shelf life of mustard depends largely on whether it is unopened or opened. Unopened mustard that is stored properly can last a long time without spoiling. However, even unopened mustard may eventually begin to deteriorate and lose its flavor and consistency.

Signs of spoiled mustard

To determine if your mustard has gone bad, there are several signs to look for:

1. Color

Color changes can indicate spoilage in mustard. While it is normal for a slightly darker layer to appear on the surface of the mustard over time, if the entire jar turns brown or extremely pale, it is a sign that bacterial growth has occurred and the mustard is no longer safe to eat.

2. Odor

Mustard has a distinctive and strong odor. Any sour or rotten odor indicates spoilage and consumption of such mustard may pose a health risk.

3. Texture

Over time, mustard can dry out and separate. While some separation is normal, if you notice lumps forming at the bottom of the jar or the liquid separating from the other ingredients, this is a sign of spoilage and the mustard should be discarded.

4. Mold

The presence of mold is a clear indication of spoilage. Mold can appear on the surface of the mustard, particularly around the seal or at the bottom of the jar. It is imperative to discard the entire jar if mold is present, as it can spread on a microscopic level, making it impossible to determine the extent of contamination.

5. Taste

Spoiled mustard tastes off. If the mustard tastes bitter or overly acidic, even if there are no other apparent changes, it is unsafe for consumption.

Shelf life of mustard

The shelf life of mustard varies depending on the type, storage conditions, and packaging. Here is a summary of the shelf life of some popular types of mustard:

1. Yellow Mustard

Yellow mustard, often paired with ketchup as a topping for burgers and hot dogs, can last up to 1 to 2 years when unopened and stored in the pantry. Once opened, it can last up to 1.5 years when refrigerated.

2. Dijon Mustard

Known for its tart flavor, Dijon mustard is a popular choice for sandwiches and pairing with rich ingredients such as ham and cheese. Unopened Dijon mustard can last 2 to 3 years in the pantry, while opened Dijon mustard can last up to 1 year when refrigerated.

3. Honey Mustard

Honey mustard, with its sweet and tangy flavor, is often used as a dip and marinade. Unopened honey mustard will keep in the pantry for 2 to 3 years, while opened honey mustard will keep in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 years.

4. Dry Mustard

Dry mustard, also known as ground mustard, is made by grinding mustard seeds and is commonly used as a condiment. It will keep for 1 to 2 years in the pantry at room temperature and indefinitely in the refrigerator if stored properly.

5. Homemade Mustard

Homemade mustard, which lacks the preservatives found in store-bought varieties, has a shorter shelf life. When stored at room temperature, homemade mustard will keep for only 1 day. However, if stored in the refrigerator, it can last from a week to a year, depending on the ingredients and storage conditions.

Spoiled vs. expired mustard

It is important to distinguish between spoiled and expired mustard. Spoiled mustard refers to mustard that no longer tastes, looks, or smells as it should. Consumption of spoiled mustard may pose a health risk and should be avoided. On the other hand, expired mustard refers to mustard that has passed its expiration date. Although it may have lost some of its freshness and flavor, it is still safe to eat, especially if it has been properly stored and shows no signs of spoilage.

Proper storage of mustard

To extend the shelf life and maintain the quality of mustard, it is important to store it properly. Here are some tips for storing mustard:

1. Unopened mustard

Unopened mustard can be stored in a cool, dry pantry out of direct sunlight. Be sure to keep the jar tightly closed to prevent moisture and air from entering, which can accelerate spoilage.

2. Opened mustard

Once opened, mustard should be refrigerated to prolong its freshness. Transfer the mustard to a tightly sealed container or use the original jar with the lid securely closed. Refrigeration helps slow the growth of bacteria and preserves the flavor and quality of the mustard for a longer period of time.

3. Homemade Mustard

If you have made homemade mustard, it is important to store it in a clean, airtight container in the refrigerator. Homemade mustard lacks the preservatives found in commercial varieties, making it more susceptible to spoilage. Always check for signs of mold or off odor before using homemade mustard and discard if there are any signs of spoilage.

Bottom line

In summary, mustard can go bad over time if not stored properly. While unopened mustard has a longer shelf life, opened mustard should be refrigerated to maintain its freshness. It is important to check for signs of spoilage, such as changes in color, odor, texture, mold growth, or off-flavor. If any of these signs are present, it is recommended that the mustard be discarded to avoid potential health risks. By following proper storage practices, you can enjoy the tangy flavor of mustard in your favorite dishes while ensuring its quality and safety.


How long does unopened mustard keep?

Unopened mustard can be kept for a considerable period of time, from 1 to 3 years, depending on the type of mustard and storage conditions.

Can mustard go bad if it’s stored in the fridge?

Mustard can still go off if it is stored in the cupboard for a long time. While unopened mustard will last longer in the fridge, it is recommended that opened mustard be refrigerated to maintain its freshness.

What are the signs that mustard has gone bad?

Signs of spoiled mustard include a change in colour (brown or extremely pale), an off odour, separation of the liquid from the other ingredients, the presence of mould and an unpleasant taste.

Is it safe to eat expired mustard?

Yes, it is generally safe to consume mustard after its sell-by date as long as there are no signs of spoilage. However, the flavour and quality may deteriorate over time.

How should homemade mustard be stored?

Homemade mustard should be stored in a clean, airtight container in the fridge. It contains no preservatives and is therefore more susceptible to spoilage. Always check for signs of mould or off odour before using homemade mustard.

Can eating spoiled mustard make you sick?

Yes, eating spoiled mustard can pose a health risk due to bacterial contamination. It is important to throw away any mustard that shows signs of spoilage to avoid possible illness.