How Long Does Beef Broth Last? Does It Go Bad?

Here’s all about the shelf life, storage, and going bad of beef broth (both store-bought and homemade). Learn how long it lasts after opening the can, how to store the leftovers, and how to tell if it’s spoiled.

Got a beef broth can that’s well past the printed date? Does beef broth go bad?

Or maybe you’ve got some leftovers and you need to know by when you have to use them. How long does beef broth last in the fridge?

If either sounds familiar, or you’d like to learn a thing or two about beef broth, you’re in the right place. Read on.

Table of Contents

Beef broth
Image used under Creative Commons from fishermansdaughter

How Long Does Beef Broth Last?

 PantryFridge
Canned beef broth (unopened)Best by + 3 – 6 months 
Canned beef broth (opened) 4 – 7 days
Homemade beef broth 4 days

Beef broth has a shelf life of about 12 to 24 months and typically stays good for at least a couple of extra months. After opening, you can refrigerate it for 4 to 7 days, depending on the brand’s recommendation.

If that’s not long enough, you can easily freeze the leftovers, which I will cover in a minute.

That’s the overview of the shelf life of beef broth.

Next, let’s dive into details.

After Opening

Open beef broth lasts 4 to 7 days in the fridge, depending on the seller’s recommendations. After that period, the broth is no longer safe to eat, and you should discard it.

Of course, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the broth is spoiled if stored for more than 4 to 7 days, but it’s no longer safe, and that’s a good enough reason to discard it.

When it comes to the storage period, go with whatever the label says. Usually, the recommendation will be four days, as that’s the official guideline for storing perishable leftovers.

But some brands sell their broth with a slightly longer storage time, and if that’s the case, enjoy those couple of extra days. Or play it safe and stick with the 4-day rule. Up to you.

Once again, instead of trying to squeeze the most out of refrigeration by storing the broth for an extra day or two, it’s better to freeze it. This way, the broth will last much longer, and you don’t have to rely on hope.

Homemade

Homemade beef broth lasts about four days in the fridge. After that period, it won’t necessarily spoil, but you should consider it unsafe to eat and discard it for safety reasons.

If you’ve cooked a big pot of beef broth and don’t want the leftovers to go bad, it’s best to freeze them as soon as possible. That’s how I go about broth that I know I won’t use within the next couple of days.

Similarly, about four days is how long soup made with beef broth lasts.

After Expiration Date

Canned and boxed beef broth typically retains quality for at least three to six months beyond the date on the label. Of course, there’s no way to tell precisely how long an unopened beef broth lasts after the “expiration” date, but those three to six months are a reasonably safe assumption.

As you might imagine, every seller recommends using their broth before the printed date. But that doesn’t mean the product will go bad a day, a week, or even a month later. Canned goods tend to last months or even years beyond their dates, and beef broth is no different.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that in 3 years, the broth will be as good as it is today, but it most likely will be perfectly safe to eat. Assuming that the can or box is still intact and there’s no bulging, swelling, or rusting.

The easiest way to go about it is to check the printed date and ask yourself if you’re comfortable using that broth. If not, toss it and call it a day.

But if you are, examine the can or box carefully, and if there’s nothing suspicious going on, open it up and see what’s inside. Then check it against the spoilage signs I list in a later section of the article.

Beef and barley soup
Beef and barley soup (credit: jeffreyw)

How To Tell if Beef Broth Is Bad?

Discard beef broth if:

  • There’s something wrong with the can or box. If it’s leaking, bulging, or the can has started to rust, assume the broth is no good. Of course, you cannot be sure that it has spoiled, but it’s better to err on the side of caution in this case.
  • It smells off. Beef broth has a pleasant, meaty aroma (combined with the aromatics and herbs used in making it) if it’s fresh. So if yours gives off a sour aroma or simply smells “funny,” it’s gone.
  • It’s opened for too long. If your beef broth is opened for longer than 4 to 7 days (depending on the brand’s recommendation), it’s no longer safe to drink. Again, it’s not necessarily spoiled, you can’t be sure it’s not, either. I sometimes store broth for an extra day or so, but that’s my limit.
  • The taste is off. If everything else is okay, it’s time to take a small sip and assess the flavor. If it has changed and is sour, “funny,” or otherwise off, the broth is spoiled. Broths tend to develop an off smell before their flavor changes, so it’s pretty unlikely to find one that tastes bad but smells alright.

Those are the typical spoilage signs for beef broth.

Now, what if there’s a white layer on the surface or some white particles floating in your broth?

In almost all cases, that will be fat separated from the broth and solidified. That’s a common occurrence and nothing to be worried about. You can skim it if you like, or leave it be – it’ll liquefy when heated.

For homemade beef broth, it’s also normal for the liquid to be cloudy and for some sediment to sit on the bottom. Unless you’ve filtered it using a cheesecloth or something similar, of course.

If it’s stored-bought, however, there most likely shouldn’t be any particles floating in the broth, so that might be a sign that something is wrong. But before you toss the broth, read the label to ensure the brand doesn’t say sediment is okay.

If you’d like to read more, check out my article on the spoilage signs of chicken broth. Both broths are quite similar in that manner.

Beef broth noodle
Beef broth noodle (credit: LWYang)

How to Store Beef Broth

Storing beef broth is pretty much the same as storing chicken broth or bone broth.

When it comes to store-bought unopened cans of beef broth, you should keep them in the pantry, where it’s cool and dry. If you don’t have access to one, a cupboard in the kitchen will do too.

Once you open the tin, you should keep the leftovers sealed tightly in the fridge. To seal it you can pour the broth into a mason jar or an airtight container. Or if you don’t have a good container on hand, a plastic wrap and a rubber band is a rough and ready solution.

When it comes to homemade beef broth, its place is in the refrigerator.

There are also companies that sell frozen broth. Brodo is one such company. If you buy one of these, follow the storage guidelines that the company provides. In the case of Brodo, you get the broth either cold or partially frozen, and you need to either refrigerate it or refreeze it.

Soup made with beef broth
Image used under Creative Commons from snowpea&bokchoi

Can You Freeze Beef Broth?

You can freeze both homemade and store-bought beef broth. You can even buy it frozen. To freeze beef broth, you need to portion it based on your needs and place the portions in the freezer.

Here’s how to freeze beef broth:

  1. Portion the broth. Large containers or freezer bags work great if you need the broth to cook soup. But if you want to sip on yours or use it to make a pan sauce, small containers, a muffin tin, or an ice cube tray are all excellent options.
  2. Divide the broth. Pour everything into the containers you choose.
  3. Freeze. Place everything in the freezer.
  4. (If using a muffin tin or ice cube tray) Transfer frozen cubes into a freezer bag and return to the freezer. Once the cubes are frozen solid, transfer them to a freezer bag and back in the freezer. This way, they take up less space, and you free up the equipment.

That’s it – short and simple.

Beef broth retains quality in the freezer for at least 3 to 4 months but can sit there for much longer, like half a year or more.

(It stays safe to use indefinitely, assuming it doesn’t defrost due to a power outage or the like.)

You can defrost beef broth:

  • In the fridge. Leave the broth in the fridge for 1 to 3 hours for cubes up to 24 hours and more for large containers. The only downside of this method is that it takes quite a while.
  • On the stove. Remove the frozen broth from its container (e.g., after placing it in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes, so the sides defrost) to a pot or pan. Then defrost it on the stovetop on low heat. Keep an eye on the pot so that the broth doesn’t burn.
  • In the microwave. Transfer the frozen broth to a microwave-safe container (if it’s not in one already), and nuke it in 30- to 60-second increments on defrost or low setting. Once there’s some liquid in the container, stir it after every increment to speed up the process and avoid having some of the liquid cooked while the rest is still frozen.