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

Here’s all you need to know about the shelf life and storage of chicken broth. Learn how long chicken broth lasts, how to store it, and how to tell if it’s spoiled.

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

Sounds familiar?

If so, this article is for you. 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.

Table of Contents

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

How Long Does Chicken Broth Last?

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

Store-bought chicken broth comes with a shelf life of one to two years and usually keeps for at least 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.

Pouring soup
Pouring soup

After Opening

Once you open the store-bought chicken broth, you should refrigerate it and use it within 3 to 4 days before it goes bad. 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.

Will the broth always go bad after those four days? Not necessarily, but that’s about how long it stays safe to use. 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, bone 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, including storing homemade soups (say your chicken noodle or lentil soup).

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?

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

Unfortunately, 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, especially if it’s a can.

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?

Main article: How to tell if chicken broth is bad?

Discard your chicken broth if:

  • The container is not intact. If the can or box is leaky, swollen, or the can is rusty, the broth is no longer safe to consume. You can’t be sure it’s bad, but you can’t be sure it’s okay to use either.
  • The broth smells off. Whether the chicken stock smells sour, “funny,” or otherwise “off,” it’s a sure sign of spoilage. The broth is no good if it doesn’t pass the smell test.
  • It’s opened for more than 4 days. As you already know, perishable leftovers last for about 4 days. And that’s about how long your opened or homemade chicken broth lasts. Again, it’s not for sure the broth is bad, but it’s definitely no longer safe.
  • It tastes bad. If the can is intact, the broth isn’t smelly or opened for more than four days, chances are it’ll taste fine. But still, you should take a small sip or two just to confirm that.

Next, remember that a white layer of fat on top of refrigerated chicken broth is normal, especially if we’re talking about homemade broth.

A bit of sediment on the bottom and some cloudiness are also okay for homemade chicken broth.

Other than that, if there’s anything concerning, say, mold growing on top of the fatty top layer, trust your gut and toss it. Better safe than sorry.

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

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 them.

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.

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

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.