Does Salsa Go Bad?

Who doesn’t like salsa? It goes well not only with tacos and nachos, but you can add it to pretty much anything. Even though it’s such a versatile food, sometimes a half-open jar sits in the fridge for weeks or even months on end. Does salsa go bad?

There are hundreds of choices when it comes to store-bought salsa and at least just as many recipes for homemade one. Some of the salsa jars sit in the refrigerated aisle, while the rest is stored at room temperature. It’s easy to get confused about how to store each variety of salsa and how long does it last. In this article, we will go through the most popular options, where to keep them and for how long they are safe to eat. If you’d like to learn a bit more about salsa, read on.

Lemon Pepper Mahi Mahi with Pineapple Salsa
(credit: TheBusyBrain)

How To Store Salsa

Since the storage guidelines are slightly different for each type of salsa, we will go through each of them individually.

Let’s start with store-bought salsa that’s sold unrefrigerated. That means something like the popular Tostitos Salsa Con Queso. You can buy it in either a jar, a bottle, or a can. Before you open such salsa, you can store it similarly to mayo. That means it should sit in a cold and dark place, away from sources of heat. The pantry or a kitchen cabinet away from the oven are among the best choices. Once you open the container, you should store it sealed tightly in the fridge. If the dip came in a can, please transfer the leftovers into an airtight container so they won’t dry out.

For commercially bottled salsa that’s sold in the refrigerated aisle, the storage guidelines are even more straightforward. You should always keep it in the fridge. It’s no surprise since pretty much everything you buy in the refrigerated section requires refrigerating.

Homemade salsa, like homemade BBQ sauce, or pretty much any dip you whip up yourself, requires refrigeration.

When it comes to freezing salsa, most producers don’t recommend it. The texture will slightly change after defrosting. However, if salsa is only one of the ingredients in the sauce in a cooked dish, it’s worth giving freezing a try. The slight texture change of salsa shouldn’t be that noticeable if it’s only a part of the sauce.

Last but not least, please remember that practicing proper food hygiene is quite essential, especially when it comes to dips. If you don’t expect to use the whole jar of salsa in a single sitting, serve a couple tablespoons in a bowl. I know using the original container is more convenient and doesn’t require cleanup, but dipping fries, chips, or any other food in the jar is a sure way of transferring bacteria and contaminants to the sauce. And often it will result in it going bad prematurely.

How Long Does Salsa Last

Similarly to storage, the shelf life of salsa depends on how it was produced and sold. One thing to keep in mind is that salsa contains a bunch of perishable ingredients. So unlike mustard or ketchup, salsa won’t last that long after opening. Even if it’s the store-bought unrefrigerated variety.

Once again, let’s start with the commercially bottled unrefrigerated kind. Such salsa usually comes with a best-by date on the label. That date is a rough estimate, and since the product is most likely pasteurized and cooked, an unopen salsa can last a few months past that date. Once you open the bottle, it can sit in the fridge for only a few weeks, up to a month.

Store-bought refrigerated salsa most often comes with a “use by” date. As long as you keep it unopened, it should easily last like 5 days past that date. It’s a rough estimate, of course. Once you open the container, you should finish it within 5 to 7 days. Of course, these periods don’t add up. If you open a container that’s 5 days past the use-by date, don’t expect it to retain good quality for another week.

When it comes to homemade salsa, it’s obviously best if you whip up only as much as you use in a single sitting. But if you would like to save some time and prepare a batch of pico de gallo or another salsa in advance, it can sit in the fridge for like 5 days. It depends on the ingredients you use, so check if the suggested storage time came with the recipe.

Pantry Fridge
Salsa (sold unrefrigerated, unopened) Best-by + 6 months
Salsa (sold unrefrigerated, opened) 1 month
Salsa (sold refrigerated, unopened) Use-by + 5 days
Salsa (sold refrigerated, opened) 5 – 7 days
Salsa (homemade) 5 days

Please note that all periods above are rough estimates.

How To Tell If Salsa Is Bad

Let’s start with the obvious signs that salsa has gone bad. These include signs of mold or any other organic growth on the surface or inside the container, foul or off odor, or sour taste. If you notice any of the signs, discard the salsa. If everything seems to be in perfect order, the salsa is probably okay to eat. Give it a taste and decide based on that if it’s good enough to use. If it’s not, throw it out for quality purposes.

As usual, there are a couple more things to remember when it comes to going bad of salsa. First is the usual reminder: if you’re not sure it’s okay to eat it, play it safe and discard it. Second, remember that salsa is more prone to spoiling than other condiments like BBQ sauce, or mustard. That means if you store a half-open jar of refrigerated salsa in the fridge for over two weeks, it’s better to get rid of it, no matter if it seems edible and tastes fine.