Unless you’re a mustard connoisseur who consumes the spicy condiment like there’s no tomorrow, a bottle or jar will probably sit in your kitchen for months or even years. But how long does mustard actually last, and does mustard go bad?
Because all variations of mustard are simply a blend of spices mixed with an acid-based liquid, there’s nothing in them that can spoil. So technically, mustard can’t go bad. However, over time it does lose that essential flavor kick and will need replacing.
Most store-bought mustards have a shelf life of around two years when stored correctly.
Mustard Shelf Life And Expiration Dates
The best by dates on mustard only serve as a guide as to how long you can expect the quality flavor and normal texture of your mustard to last.
- American Mustard/Yellow Mustard – Unopened, this popular, mild mustard will last at least one or two years beyond its printed date, if stored correctly. After opening, it should last you about one year in the fridge.
- Dijon Mustard – Dijon will last a bit longer than other mustards due to the higher proportion of vinegar. You can expect it to stay good for two to three years beyond the best by date if unopened, and around one year when opened and stored in the fridge.
- Honey Mustard – This sweeter, more mild mustard blend will keep for two to three years in the pantry before opening and one to two years after opening, if stored in the fridge.
- Homemade Mustard – If you whip up your own batch, expect it to last only a day at room temperature, but anywhere from a week to a year in the fridge, depending on the storage method and recipe.
- Dry Mustard/Mustard Powder – Unopened, this will keep for one to two years in the pantry.
If you want the most flavorsome mustard with a bit of kick, look for expiration dates at least six months into the future. This way, you’ll ensure your mustard will stay tasty for longer.
Because it’s the protective properties of high-acid liquids like vinegar or wine that give mustard its long shelf-life, mild varieties with more vinegar will last longer than hotter mustards that are mixed with other liquids.
If you prefer your mustard to be at room temperature, expect that shelf life to reduce drastically. Most will stay at their prime for only one or two months before starting to lose flavor.
Packaging also plays an important role. If stored in a glass jar, mustard will last for two years. Plastic squeeze bottles will be good for around 18 months, whereas small sachets will only stay fresh for around six months.
SEE ALSO: How To Read Expiration Dates
How To Tell If Mustard Is Bad
Because mustard doesn’t contain ingredients that can go rancid, it is unlikely to go bad, but it does lose flavor. However, because the mustard blend is fairly simple, the flavor changes over time will not become unpleasant, they will only fade and lose their kick.
To help mustard stay good for longer, watch out for food contamination – use only clean utensils when scooping out your mustard and always keep the container tightly sealed when storing.
Here are some things to look out for as your mustard ages.
- Texture – Over time, mustard will dry out or separate. Giving it a stir will fix any separation issues and have your mustard as good as new. If your mustard has dried out too much, you can add a couple of tablespoons of vinegar or wine to bring it back to life. If there is only a dry lump at the bottom of your container, it’s probably too far gone – the acidic liquid that protected it is no longer effective and it may have spoiled – best to throw it out.
- Taste – As time goes by, mustard will lose its ‘zing.’ If you have an old jar, give it a taste test to see if it is still up to your standards.
- Smell – As with flavor, the aroma of mustard will fade over time. Any bad or sour odors may indicate that your mustard has become contaminated and needs replacing.
Does Mustard Need To Be Refrigerated?
Before opening, it’s fine to store all types of mustard in the pantry, as long as they are in a cool, dark area.
After opening, mustard doesn’t have to be refrigerated, but doing so will considerably lengthen its shelf-life and preserve those important and distinctive flavors.
- Dijon – or other wine-based mustards – is the exception. It is less pungent than many mustards and must be sealed and returned to the refrigerator after every use. Once it loses the pleasant, wine fragrance upon opening, it may be safe, but it doesn’t smell much like Dijon anymore.
- Vinegar-based mustards like yellow mustard can be stored in the cupboard without going bad, but they won’t retain their flavor and goodness as long as they would in the refrigerator.