Does Tomato Paste Go Bad?

Do you know what’s the worst thing about tomato paste? It’s the fact that most recipes call for only a tablespoon or two of it.

You open a can of tomato paste, add as much as you need for the dish you’re preparing and put the rest into the fridge. And you promise yourself that later that week you will use the rest.

A week or two passes by, you stumble upon that half-opened can and wonder: does tomato paste go bad?

I know the feeling of throwing out unfinished tomato paste as well as the next person. That’s why I decided to learn a bit about storage, shelf life, and going bad of tomato paste.

I found a few useful tricks along the way and am happy to share them with you. If that sounds interesting, read on.

Tomato paste in hand

How to Store Tomato Paste?

Tomato paste usually comes in one of three types of containers: cans, glass jars, or tubes.

When it comes to storage guidelines, they are basically the same for each.

As long as the container is unopened, keep it in a cool and dry place, away from heat sources. And if it’s a glass jar, remember that it shouldn’t sit in sunlight.

The pantry or a kitchen cabinet is the natural place to store tomato paste. Just make sure the cupboard or shelf isn’t near the oven or a radiator.

Tomato paste in a jar
Tomato paste in a jar

Once you open the container, the tomato paste should be tightly covered and put into the fridge when not in use.

While sealing glass jars or tubes is not an issue, cans are more tricky.

You can seal those with cling wrap or a plastic bag and a rubber band. Or transfer the remaining paste into an airtight container or a glass jar.

Tip

If possible, go with a container or a jar. Those options produce less waste than cling wrap or plastic bags.

Of course, as you already know, tomato paste doesn’t last that long. Fortunately, with only a bit of extra work, we can prolong its shelf life for months.

Adding tomato paste to chicken broth
Adding tomato paste to chicken broth

Can You Freeze Tomato Paste?

Freezing tomato paste is definitely an option.

The downside is that the quality degrades slightly once you defrost the paste. Fortunately, tomato paste is most often used in cooked dishes, where that minor change is hardly noticeable.

While you can transfer the remaining paste into a freezer-safe container and chuck it into the freezer, there is a better way. Enter freezing in ice cube trays.

Freezing in ice cube trays is easy and requires little work and cleanup. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Transfer the paste into the tray.
  2. Put the tray into the freezer and leave it there for a few hours until the cubes are solid.
  3. Take the tray out of the freezer and transfer the cubes into a freezer bag. Add a label with name and date if you like.
  4. Put the freezer bag into the freezer.

Simple, right? It takes little time and all you need to do after the whole process is to wash the ice cube trays.

Cooked tomato soup
Cooked tomato soup

Going this way has two benefits:

  • You can defrost as much as you need without thawing the whole thing
  • If you’re using the paste in a recipe cooked on the stove, often you can skip thawing
Tip

If the ice cube trays are too small, you can always use a muffin tray instead.

Tomato soup with macaroni and cooked chicken
Tomato soup with macaroni and cooked chicken

How Long Does Tomato Paste Last

All kinds of tomato paste come with a best-by date.

Like other condiments, such as bbq sauce, the unopened paste will easily last months past the date on the label.

Of course, if you store it for a really long time, it might not be that great quality-wise, but unless there was something wrong with the container, the paste will be safe to eat.

Tomato paste jar: date on the lid
Tomato paste jar: date on the lid

Once you open the container, the time the paste stays fine for is different depending on the container.

Canned tomato paste stays fine for about 5 to 7 days in the fridge, provided it is tightly sealed. Tomato paste in a glass jar usually stays in good shape for a day or two longer.

Still, both periods aren’t impressive by any means, so if you need the paste to last longer, there are two options. The first is to freeze it (use the method I described above). The second is to buy tomato paste in tubs.

Opened tomato paste tubs last in good quality for a pretty long time, typically about 45 days.

Tip

Tomato paste tubs are usually quite expensive. If you want to get more bang for your buck, go with cans or jars and freeze the leftovers.

 PantryFridge
Tomato paste (unopened)Best by + 6 months 
Canned tomato paste (opened) 5 -7 days
Tomato paste in a glass jar (opened) 7 – 10 days
Tomato paste in a tube 45 days

Please note that the periods above are for best quality only. Opened tomato paste will likely last a bit longer, but the quality might not be that great.

An open can of tomato paste
(credit: Marco Verch)

How To Tell If Tomato Paste Is Bad?

Mold growth is probably the most obvious sign of spoilage for tomato paste. If there’s mold anywhere in the container, discard it.

Warning

Any visible discolorations on the surface of the paste could be mold too. It’s best to get rid of it in that case too.

An off odor is another typical sign that the paste has gone bad.

If the paste starts getting watery, it’s likely still safe to consume, but throwing it out is (probably) the way to go. Its taste won’t be that good, and you don’t want to mess up a perfectly good spaghetti with meatballs with unpalatable tomato paste.

If everything is in perfect order, the paste is most likely safe to eat. Give it a taste and decide if it’s still good enough to use in your recipe.

Tip

Humans have pretty good intuition when it comes to noticing unsafe food. If something tells you that the paste has gone past its prime, trust your gut and get rid of it.