There’s an old bottle of tomato juice in your pantry. It’s there for some time already, and you’re wondering: how long does tomato juice last?
Perhaps the juice is already past the date on the label.
Can you drink tomato juice after its “expiration date?” And if so, how do you know if it’s bad or not?
If that’s the kind of information you’re looking for, you’re in the right place. Read on.
How Long Does Tomato Juice Last?
Unopened, store-bought tomato juice that’s sold unrefrigerated retains quality for about 3 to 6 months past the date on the label.
Once you open it up and keep it in the fridge, it’s best for 2 to 3 days, but it should stay safe for up to a week.
Commercially-bottled tomato juices are pasteurized and packaged in safe conditions. That means that, like OJ (here’s whether you should refrigerate orange juice or not) or apple juice, they easily last months past the date on the label, as long as they’re unopened.
The 3 to 6 months period I mentioned above is just an estimate, and you should treat it as such. Often, such juices are perfectly fine more than a year past their date.
Once you open the bottle, carton, or can, the sooner you’re going to finish the juice, the better. The difference in quality between tomato juice that’s open for three and four days will usually be negligible, though.
If your tomato juice sat in the refrigerated section and is labeled “fresh,” in most cases, it’ll last for 3 to 5 days, no matter if you open it or not. Make sure to read the label carefully if that’s the case.
Homemade tomato juice is best for 2 to 3 days. If you need more time, consider freezing it. Or juice the tomatoes in smaller batches and keep the excess tomatoes (here’s how long tomatoes last in the fridge) in the fridge.
|Tomato juice sold unrefrigerated, unopened||3 – 6 months past its date|
|Tomato juice sold unrefrigerated, opened||5 – 7 days|
|Tomato juice sold refrigerated||3 – 5 days|
|Homemade tomato juice||2 – 3 days|
How To Store Tomato Juice
Tomato juice sold unrefrigerated doesn’t need to be stored in the fridge until you open it up. All it needs is a cool and dark place. All other types, including open tomato juice, require refrigeration at all times.
Besides that, there are a couple of things worth remembering.
First, the juice should always be sealed when not in use. If you don’t plan on finishing the bottle, pour yourself a glass, and reseal the bottle.
If you buy tomato juice in cans, transfer the leftovers into a resealable airtight container. This way, the liquid is much better protected than in a half-open can.
Second, put the open carton back in the fridge as soon as possible.
That’s one of the habits that become second nature after you practice it for some time: grab the bottle, pour a glass or two, put it back in the refrigerator.
If the mentioned storage times are too short for you, consider freezing leftover tomato juice. You can use small containers or an ice cube tray like I did in my article on freezing orange juice. Please note that the texture of tomato juice will change slightly after thawing.
How To Tell If Tomato Juice Is Bad?
Discard tomato juice when:
- The unopened can or bottle is bulging, rusting, leaking, or noticeably dented (and wasn’t dented when you’ve bought it). If something happened to the container, always assume its contents aren’t safe to consume.
- The smell is off. After unsealing the container, give the liquid a good whiff. If there’s something wrong with the smell, you know the juice is off.
- The juice is discolored, or there’s mold on the surface or walls/neck of the bottle or carton. Seeing mold is never a good sign, and if it’s there, the juice isn’t safe anymore.
- The taste is off. Pour a small amount and give it a taste. If it’s fine, the juice is okay to drink.
- The juice sits open in the fridge for more than 10 days. If you’ve forgotten about the container in the refrigerator, and it sits there already for like 10 days, it’s better to play it safe and throw it out.
If your tomato juice comes in a carton, pour it all out and cut the carton open to make sure nothing funny is going on inside. Do that if the juice is past its date or sits open in the fridge for more than five days.
More often than not, your unopened and past-expiration-date tomato juice will be just fine. Perhaps a bit bland taste-wise, but that’s about it.
Last but not least, if you don’t feel comfortable drinking or using that old tomato juice, don’t be hard on yourself. It’s better to assume that it’s gone bad and pour it down the drain. Better to be safe than sorry.