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

You found an expired canned or boxed chicken broth in your pantry, and you’re not sure if you can use it or not. Does chicken broth go bad?

Or maybe you just returned the leftovers in the refrigerator, and you’re wondering how long does chicken broth last in the fridge.

Most store-bought chicken broths last for at least a year of their production date, but once you open the can, all you’ve got is a couple of days. If you need more than that, freezing the leftovers is your best bet.

If you’re interested in learning more about spoilage, shelf life, storage, and freezing of chicken broth, you’re in the right place.

Let’s get right into it.

Note

While broth and stock, in theory, are different, most brands use the term interchangeably. I do the same in this article.

Vegetable soup based on chicken broth
Vegetable soup based on chicken broth

How Long Does Chicken Broth Last?

Store-bought chicken broth comes with a shelf life of one to two years and usually keeps for an extra half a year past its date. Once you open the can or box, it keeps for about 3 to 4 days.

Homemade chicken broth is pretty similar to an opened can and keeps for about 3 to 4 days as well.

If you need more time than that, freezing is a possibility.

That’s the gist of it. Let’s get the details.

 PantryFridge
Canned chicken broth (unopened)Best by + 6 months 
Canned chicken broth (opened) 3 – 4 days
Homemade chicken broth 3 – 4 days
Pouring soup
Pouring soup

Unopened

Unopened chicken broth typically has a shelf life of 12 to 24 months and easily keeps for 6+ months past the printed date.

The cans and boxes are sealed and safe from the outside environment, so as long as you store them properly and nothing terrible happens, they should last well past the labeled date.

More on how long is chicken stock good after expiration in a moment.

In The Fridge

Once you open the store-bought chicken broth, you should use it within 3 to 4 days. That’s the official USDA recommendation.

Some brands suggest a slightly longer storage period of up to 7 days, but most stick to the 3 to 4 days rule of thumb.

You can sometimes get away with letting the broth sit in the fridge for an extra day, but more than that feels like playing with fire to me.

Again, if those few days aren’t long enough for your needs, consider freezing the leftovers.

Note

The same storage time suggestions apply to beef broth and vegetable broth.

Tomato soup with chicken and pasta
Tomato soup with chicken and pasta

How Long Is Homemade Chicken Stock Good For?

Homemade chicken broth stays good for 3 to 4 days in the fridge, the same as store-bought broth keeps after opening.

It’s also the same period that’s suggested for storing all sorts of leftovers that require refrigeration.

In my experience, homemade chicken broth can keep for up to 5 days. On the sixth day, it often starts to give off a foul smell, and that’s a sure sign it’s no longer safe to use.

How Long Is Chicken Broth Good After Expiration?

Boxed or canned chicken broth should keep for at least an extra six months past the printed date.

Truth be told, there’s no way to give you an exact period. Those six months that I recommend are just a safe estimate, and many other websites recommend even longer periods.

If you store the container properly, it should stay safe to eat for at least a couple of years past its date.

Obviously, sellers always suggest you should eat their product before the date on the label for the best quality and so on.

For me, it’s more about what you’re comfortable with.

If you see an unopened boxed chicken broth that’s seven months past the printed date, and you’re like: “looks good, let’s get cooking,” then by all means, use that broth.

But if you have one that’s three months after the best-by date, and you’re like: “nope, let’s get this thing out of here,” then it’s perfectly okay to discard it.

Warning

Before using an out-of-date chicken broth, always look for the signs of spoilage. I cover them extensively in the next section.

Homemade chicken broth
Homemade chicken broth, notice the cloudiness

How to Tell if Chicken Broth Is Bad?

While store-bought chicken broth comes with quite a long shelf life, it doesn’t last forever. And once you open it, it becomes unsafe to eat within a couple of days.

When checking if your chicken stock is still okay to use, consider the following:

Storage Time

If your chicken stock is way past the date on the label, or sits in the fridge for like a week already, discard it.

It isn’t necessarily spoiled, but it’s no longer safe to eat, and that’s a good enough reason to pour it down the drain.

For a detailed discussion on how long after the “expiration” date you can use chicken stock, check the section on shelf life.

Check the Container

If there’s anything wrong with the can or box, like it’s leaking, rusting, or swelling, discard it.

Again, none of these necessarily mean the chicken broth is bad, but using it is risky. And there’s no point in getting sick after ignoring obvious signs that something is wrong.

Cabbage soup with potatoes and chicken
Cabbage soup (based on chicken broth) with potatoes and chicken

Appearance

Chicken broth, especially homemade, grows a thick layer of fat on top of the liquid after being refrigerated for a day or so. That fat should be creamy white, without any discolorations or mold.

If you notice anything weird going on on the surface of the fat or the broth itself, discard it. Scooping the “spoiled” fat and using the rest is a bad idea.

Next, let’s set some expectations on how the liquid should look like.

Store-bought broth should be clear and without any sediment on the bottom (unless the label says otherwise). On the other hand, homemade chicken broth will probably be quite cloudy and possibly with a lot of sediment on the bottom (unless you strain it).

Sometimes, the broth might thicken after cooling and become jello-like. That happens pretty much only in homemade chicken bone broth, and it’s a good thing.

If there’s something “funny” about your broth, and it doesn’t match the above description at all, assume that it’s bad and discard it.

Fat on chicken broth surface
Fat on homemade chicken broth surface, perfectly normal

Give It a Whiff

If your chicken stock smells sour, off, or “funny,” it’s time for it to go.

In my experience, the most common sign of spoiled chicken broth is the off smell. The aroma change is usually quite clear, and if that’s the case, pour it down the drain.

Now, if everything up to this point seems to be okay, it’s time to taste it.

The Taste Test

This one is as simple as it gets: you drink a small sip or two of the broth and decide if it’s good enough or not.

95 out of 100 times, it will be just fine if it smells good. But if it tastes off for any reason, err on the side of caution and throw it out.

How To Store Chicken Broth

An unopened canned or boxed chicken stock should sit in a cool and dry place. The pantry or a cupboard in the kitchen are perfect for that.

Once you open the container, seal the leftovers tightly and refrigerate. The same applies to homemade chicken broth.

While boxed chicken broth is easily resealable, the canned version isn’t. If that’s what you have, you can transfer the leftovers into an airtight container, mason jar, bottle, or a lidded pot. Either will get the job done.

Last, leave the fat on top of the liquid.

If you tend to discard the thick layer that forms after refrigerating broth leftovers, leave it intact. It helps protect the broth and keep it nice and fresh for longer.

Chicken Broth Sold Frozen

There are brands like Brodo or Bonafide Provisions that sell frozen broth. The packages are shipped frozen and delivered cold or partially frozen.

For such broths, you should adhere to the company’s recommendation for storage.

In most cases, that means freezing the broth once it arrives and defrosting it in the fridge when you’re ready to use it.

Creamy broccoli soup based on chicken broth
Creamy broccoli soup based on chicken broth

Can You Freeze Chicken Broth?

You can freeze both store-bought and homemade chicken broth. Even the producers such as College Inn or McCormick say you can freeze their broths no problem.

Here’s how:

  1. Choose packaging. If you plan on making a chicken soup from that broth, a container or a couple is a good option. But if you usually need just a tablespoon or two of the broth for a sauce, gravy, or to add some extra flavor, an ice cube tray is a much better option.
  2. Pour the broth into the containers or ice cube trays.
  3. (If using an ice cube tray) Put the tray in the freezer and leave it there until the cubes freeze solid. Then transfer the frozen broth cubes into an airtight container or freezer bag.
  4. Put everything in the freezer.

When it comes to how long the chicken broth can sit in the freezer, most sellers recommend 2 to 3 months for the best flavor. Of course, the broth should stay perfectly fine for a lot longer.

When you need to thaw the chicken broth, place it in the fridge and leave it there overnight. The broth should be defrosted in the morning.

If you’re short on time, you can defrost it on the stovetop on low heat. Just remember to be near the pot and stir it now and then so that it doesn’t burn.