Here’s all about the storage, shelf life, and spoilage of pesto. Learn how long pesto lasts and how to tell if yours is still okay to eat.
The thing I hate the most about store-bought pesto is the container size.
More often than not, a single container is more than you need for a single recipe. That leaves you with a half-open jar sitting in the fridge, and soon enough, you start wondering: how long does pesto last?
After a few days, you find a way to use that leftover pesto, but first, you need to know if it’s safe to use. That’s when you ask: how do I tell if pesto is bad?
If so, you’re in the right place. But before we get into the nitty-gritty, we need to briefly talk about the two types of pesto available. I’ll keep this section brief, but it’s important to understand the rest of the article.
Two Types of Pesto
There are two types of pesto available on the market: one that’s sold refrigerated and one that’s not.
The mass-market pesto is usually sold in unrefrigerated jars that sit near other pasta sauces in the grocery store. These have long shelf lives and can stay safe for up to two weeks after opening. That’s usually thanks to the preservatives added to keep the sauce safe for longer.
The second type is pesto sold in refrigerated jars or containers. This variety usually doesn’t contain any preservatives, has a pretty short storage time of a few weeks tops, and you need to eat it within a few days of opening.
Knowing the distinction, let’s get into the info you’re looking for.
How Long Does Pesto Last?
|Pesto (sold unrefrigerated, unopened)||Best-by + 1 – 3 months|
|Pesto (sold unrefrigerated, opened)||7 to 14 days|
|Pesto (sold refrigerated, unopened)||Use-by + 5 – 7 days|
|Pesto (sold refrigerated, opened)||4 – 7 days|
|Pesto (homemade)||3 – 4 days|
Pesto sold unrefrigerated lasts for a few months beyond the printed date and for 1 to 2 weeks refrigerated after opening. Refrigerated pesto lasts for a couple of days beyond the use-by date and 4 to 7 days after opening the jar or container.
Those are the rough estimates that work well for most pesto products out there.
As you can imagine, the periods depend on the brand, so it’s best to read the label to learn about the official recommendations.
What’s certain is that shelf-stable pesto lasts months without refrigeration. So it’s not a stretch to assume it’ll still be pretty good for a few months beyond the date on the label.
For refrigerated pesto, these come with a fairly short storage time of up to a few weeks and must be refrigerated at all times. The short “shelf life” also means these won’t last that long beyond the printed date. All that you can expect is a couple of days.
Open pesto requires refrigeration and lasts for 4 days up to 2 weeks, depending on the type and brand. Shelf-stable pesto typically contains preservatives, which help the sauce keep quality for 7 to 14 days, while refrigerated pesto is usually preservative-free and lasts for 4 to 7 days.
Of course, the storage period varies between brands, so the above is only a rough guideline you can work with if there’s no specific info on the label.
Pesto sold unrefrigerated often contains preservatives, which make it safe to eat for more than a couple of days after opening. In some cases, that period is even up to two weeks, but there are others with a much shorter storage time of 5 days or less.
(Again, read the label for details.)
For homemade-style pesto sold refrigerated, the storage time is typically a bit shorter, between 4 to 7 days, depending on the brand. And if there are no specifics on the label, go with the standard 4 days of storage for perishable products.
(The same guideline works for shelf-stable pesto too.)
Homemade pesto lasts for 3 to 4 days in the fridge. Self-made pesto usually doesn’t contain any preservatives, so nothing is preventing it from going bad, hence the short period.
Of course, it would be ideal to take a mortar and a pestle and whip up fresh pesto for every dish. But as we all know, it’s an unrealistic scenario.
How To Tell If Pesto Is Bad?
Discard your pesto if there’s any mold or other organic growth, if it has changed color from green to brown or black, or if it gives off a sharp or “funny” smell. You should also discard it if it’s open and has been refrigerated for more than a few days beyond the recommended storage time.
That’s the gist of it. Next, let’s talk about each one in a bit more detail.
For starters, while mold growth (or any other type of organic) is possible, it isn’t particularly common for pesto. This is because pesto contains quite a lot of oil, and oils and other high-fat products don’t easily grow mold.
What’s much more likely to happen is that the whole sauce will turn brown or start to smell sour. If either is the case, that pesto is as good as gone.
If your pesto looks and smells okay, taste it. That will tell you if the flavor is good enough to use. If the flavor is sour or sharp, that pesto is going rancid, and you should toss it.
(And if you’re not quite sure the sauce is okay, err on the side of caution and discard it.)
Finally, take note of how long your pesto sits in the fridge after opening. If the label says it’s good for 5 days and yours is there for over a week, it’s time to move on.
How To Store Pesto
Unrefrigerated pesto usually comes in jars or tins. Since it sits at room temperature at the store, you can store it at room temperature too, as long as it’s unopened.
Make sure it’s in a cool and dry area, away from sunlight and heat sources. Some sunlight and temperature changes won’t make it go bad in the container, but the quality after opening might not be that great.
Once you open the container, make sure it’s always sealed tightly and sits in the fridge when not in use. If the pesto comes in a tin, pour it into a sealable container before refrigerating.
The second variety of commercial pesto is the one that’s sold refrigerated. Storing it is not rocket science: the moment you get home with it, you put it into the fridge and keep it there.
Once you open the container, keep it always sealed tightly. If the original container isn’t sealable, pour the pesto into a small food container.
When it comes to homemade pesto, you should always keep it in the fridge and sealed tightly. If you expect to keep it in the refrigerator for a few days, add some olive oil on top before chucking it into the refrigerator. That will help it retain quality for a bit longer.
Can You Freeze Pesto?
If you would like to extend pesto’s shelf life, you can freeze it.
Please note that freezing pesto might result in a slight change of texture after thawing. The quality of this sauce after defrosting depends on the ingredients used to make the pesto and when it was frozen.
Also, please remember that in some dishes the altered texture will blend in well, while in others it will be noticeable.
In short, you need to do some testing to figure out if your pesto freezes well and how it works in your favorite dishes.
When it comes to how to freeze pesto, try freezing it in ice cube trays. This way you can easily thaw as much of the sauce as you need.
How long can you store pesto in the freezer, you ask? Buitoni recommends for 30 days only, but obviously, pesto in the freezer won’t spoil. Its quality will degrade over time, though, so the sooner you use it, the better.
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