Unveiling the Shelf Life of Gochujang: Does It Go Bad?

Does Gochujang Go Bad?

Gochujang is a popular fermented red chili paste native to Korea. It is known for its complex and delicious flavor that combines heat, sweetness, and savory notes. However, like any food product, gochujang can go bad if it is not stored properly or if it has passed its expiration date.

Understanding Gochujang

Gochujang is made from a combination of ingredients, including ground dried red pepper, fermented dry soybean powder, cooked sticky rice, malt, dark soy sauce, and sea salt. These ingredients are fermented for a minimum of six months, although some gochujang pastes can be fermented for up to five years to develop a richer flavor.

Factors that contribute to the shelf life of gochujang

The fermentation process and high salt content in gochujang contribute to its durability and shelf life. Fermentation allows the paste to develop complex flavors while increasing its shelf life. Salt plays a crucial role in inhibiting bacterial growth and aiding in the fermentation process.
Commercially produced gochujang may contain additional additives and stabilizers to extend its shelf life. However, even with these additives, gochujang still has an expiration date and requires proper storage to maintain its quality.

Storage and Shelf Life

Poorly stored or unrefrigerated gochujang has a higher risk of spoilage. It is recommended to store gochujang in the refrigerator at a temperature of 40°F (4°C) after opening the container. This will help maintain its freshness and quality. It is advisable to return the product to the refrigerator within 30-60 minutes after each use.
To maximize the freshness of gochujang, it is a good practice to transfer most of the paste to an airtight container and leave only a portion in the original jar for daily use. This reduces oxidative stress and helps preserve the paste’s natural flavor notes. It is important to keep the product tightly sealed to minimize exposure to air, which can cause the paste to oxidize and lose its flavor.

Signs of spoilage

There are several signs to look for to determine if gochujang has gone bad. These signs include changes in color, texture, smell, and taste.
Color: While gochujang may naturally darken over time due to aging and oxidation, any green, yellow, gray, or white hue in the paste should be closely inspected. It is important to inspect the entire sauce by moving the contents around, not just the surface layer.
Texture: Freshly opened gochujang paste has a thick and firm consistency. If the paste becomes runny or develops a layer of oil on top, it is a sign that it has gone bad. Inserting a spoon into the paste can help determine its viscosity. If the spoon stands vertically by itself, the gochujang is considered normal. If the paste runs off the spoon or the spoon falls to one side, other signs of spoilage should be checked.
Smell and taste: A foul odor is a clear indicator of spoiled gochujang. If there is a sour or unpleasant odor upon opening the container, it is best to avoid consuming the paste. In addition, gochujang should not have a bitter or overly sour taste. If the taste seems off, it is recommended to spit out the paste, rinse the mouth, and discard the container.

Expiration date and best before date

Gochujang products often have a “use by” date printed on the package. This date indicates how long the product will maintain its optimal flavor and quality. While properly stored fermented foods, including gochujang, will not necessarily spoil, they may lose freshness and flavor over time.
Some gochujang products may also have an expiration date, especially artificial gochujang paste products. It is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and observe the “use by” or “best by” date on the package.

Freezing Gochujang

Gochujang can be frozen at 0°F (-18°C) and generally remains edible as long as it is frozen. However, it is not recommended to freeze gochujang as its texture may change upon thawing. Repeated cycles of thawing and refreezing may also affect the quality of the paste.

Consumption of aged gochujang

An unopened jar of properly stored gochujang can remain edible for up to 24 months. After that time, however, the flavor and texture may not be as fresh as fresh gochujang, especially for commercial varieties. It is advisable to avoid consuming gochujang that has been stored beyond the recommended shelf life.


In summary, gochujang can go bad if it is not stored properly or if it is stored past its expiration date. Proper refrigeration is critical to maintaining the freshness and quality of gochujang. Signs of spoilage include changes in color, texture, odor, and taste. It is important to follow the manufacturer’s “use by” or “best by” date.
While gochujang can have a long shelf life, it is advisable to consume it within a reasonable time frame to enjoy its optimal flavor. Freezing gochujang is not recommended as it may affect its texture. If in doubt about the condition of gochujang, it is best to err on the side of caution and discard it to ensure food safety.


How long does Gochujang last?

Properly stored, gochujang can last up to 24 months, but its flavor and texture may deteriorate over time.

Can gochujang spoil before its expiration date?

Yes, gochujang can go bad if it is not stored properly or if it is used past its expiration date. Proper storage is critical to maintaining its freshness.

What are the signs that gochujang has gone bad?

Signs of spoilage include changes in color (green, yellow, gray, or white hues), texture (runny or oily consistency), odor (sour or unpleasant odor), and taste (bitter or overly sour taste).

Can I freeze gochujang to extend its shelf life?

Although gochujang can be frozen, it is not recommended as its texture may change upon thawing. Repeated cycles of thawing and refreezing may also affect its quality.

How should I store gochujang to keep it fresh?

It is recommended to store gochujang in the refrigerator at a temperature of 40°F (4°C) after opening. Place most of the paste in an airtight container and minimize exposure to air by sealing the container tightly.

Can I use gochujang after the expiration date?

It is advisable to follow the manufacturer’s “best before” or “use by” date. While properly stored gochujang may remain edible, its flavor and quality may not be as fresh as fresh gochujang, especially in the case of commercial varieties.