Does Mustard Go Bad? – Everything You Need To Know

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Mustard is one of the top three condiments in the world. It tastes great as a topping or dressing for burgers, sandwiches, hot dogs, and so much more.

Unless you consume mustard on a daily basis, you’re likely to find a half-used jar sitting in your fridge. If that is the case, it is good to know the shelf life of mustard and whether it goes bad or not.

So, does mustard go bad? Yes, mustard can go bad. Mustard products often don’t have expiration dates and can last a long time if they are unopened and stored properly. However, Mustard still can begin to spoil with enough time

Read on to find out how long mustard lasts, how to tell if it has gone bad, how its flavor and consistency change over time, and much more:

Does Mustard Go Bad?

If you notice closely, you will see that mustard comes with a best-by date on its packaging instead of an expiration date. The best-by date is an indicator of quality after which, although it may not spoil, it won’t retain its taste and consistency.

The older the mustard gets, the less flavorful and pungent it will be.

The flavor, which is created by crushing and smashing mustard seeds, loses its punch and the other ingredients mixed with the seeds may begin to separate.

If your mustard is just old, it will likely still be safe for consumption, although it won’t be as flavorful.

It is designed to last a long time and will be perfectly usable even if you forget it in your fridge or pantry.

Spoiled mustard, on the other hand, can make you sick upon consumption.

The most common reason for mustard going bad is bacterial contamination caused by improper handling and storage.

How To Tell If Mustard Has Gone Bad?

There are a few ways to tell if your mustard has gone bad, regardless of the best-by date.

All you have to do is examine it closely and notice any changes in its color, odor, texture, or flavor, or look for the appearance of mold:


The easiest way to tell if mustard has gone bad is by looking at its color. It is perfectly normal for a slightly darker layer of mustard to appear on the surface after some time has passed, but if all of it becomes brown or extremely pale, it is usually a sign that it has gone bad due to bacterial growth and is not safe to eat.


Mustard has a strong, instantly recognizable odor, and any changes in it may indicate spoilage. Give it a good whiff and if it smells sour or rotten, it is best to discard it and not risk your health eating it.


Mustard tends to dry out and separate over time, which is perfectly normal. All you have to do to fix it is to stir it to bring it back to its normal consistency.

However, if you notice lumps forming at the bottom of the container or see that the liquid is separating from the other ingredients, and it doesn’t fix when you mix it, you must toss it out immediately.


As a general rule, you mustn’t eat any food with moldy growth as it is an indicator of it being spoiled.

The most common places to find mold in a jar of mustard are in the seal or at the bottom, so be sure to take a close look before eating it.

It is not enough to remove the moldy part and eat the rest. Since mold grows on a microscopic level, there’s no way for the naked eye to know how much it has spread.

Therefore, it is better to be safe than sorry and discard the moldy mustard entirely.


Spoiled mustard will have an odd taste and is usually the final check to see if it has gone bad. It is best to look for changes in its appearance and odor before giving it a taste test.

However, if you see no apparent changes, you may try it to see if it still tastes good. If the mustard tastes bitter or overly acidic, it is unsafe for consumption, even if the other features remain unchanged.

How Long Does Mustard Last?

Mustard can be found in several different types and flavors. Despite the different brands and recipes, mustard is always made using variations of mustard seeds, spices, citric acid, and vinegar.

Both citric acid and vinegar are natural preservatives and are used for canning and food preservation.

They prevent spoilage and stop the growth of pathogenic bacteria. 

Because of these ingredients, unopened mustard can stay in the pantry for a long time and still be safe to consume. However, once opened, it is advised to keep it refrigerated to prolong its life.

The average shelf life of mustard is up to 2 years, but this is dependent on several factors such as the type of mustard, the storage conditions, and the packaging that it is kept in.

Here is a summary of the most popular types of mustard and how long they last:

Yellow mustard

Ranking first in the US, yellow mustard is a popular condiment that is commonly paired with ketchup as a topping for burgers and hot dogs.

Unopened yellow mustard can last for 1 to 2 years in the pantry at room temperature, while opened yellow mustard lasts up to 1.5 years in the refrigerator.

Dijon mustard

With a high proportion of vinegar that gives it a more acidic flavor, Dijon mustard tastes great in sandwiches and cuts through rich ingredients such as ham and cheese.

Unopened Dijon mustard can last for 2 to 3 years in the pantry at room temperature, whereas opened Dijon mustard lasts up to 1 year in the refrigerator.

Honey mustard

Instead of the usual tangy and spicy flavors, honey mustard combines sweet and tangy ingredients that work great as a dip and marinade.

Unopened honey mustard can last for 2 to 3 years in the pantry at room temperature, whereas opened honey mustard lasts up to 1 to 2 years in the refrigerator.

Dry mustard

Dry mustard, also called ground mustard, is made by grinding dry mustard seeds. It is commonly used to season sauces, dressings, salads, meats, and other foods, and also to make mustard paste.

It can last for 1 to 2 years in the pantry at room temperature and an indefinite time in the refrigerator if stored properly.

Does Homemade Mustard Spoil Faster?

Yes, compared to storebought mustard, homemade mustard spoils faster and can last for only 1 day at room temperature.

If kept in the refrigerator, it can last from a week up to a year depending on the ingredients and storage conditions.

The reason for this is the absence of preservatives that are there in store-bought mustards. Keeping that in mind, homemade mustard must immediately be stored in the fridge or freezer.

If left on the kitchen counter, not only will it lose its flavor but also start separating much faster.

The general lifespan of homemade mustard is quite short; however, some well-made ones that are properly stored can last up to a year.

Spoiled Vs Expired Mustard

The difference between spoiled and expired mustard is very simple.

Spoiled mustard means that the product doesn’t taste good, look appealing, or smell like it should smell. It has gone bad and must not be consumed as it could be a potential health risk.

Expired mustard, on the other hand, is mustard that is past its best-by date. It hasn’t technically “expired” but is just not at optimal quality.

The best-by date on the packaging is an estimation by the manufacturer of the product of when it should be consumed for the best taste, texture, and overall quality.

It doesn’t indicate that the mustard will go bad by that date, but that it will most likely lose its freshness and taste.

You can safely eat mustard that is past its best-by date, but eating spoiled mustard can make you sick. 

Tips For Storing Mustard

Mustard usually has a long shelf life and is one of those foods you can forget in your pantry or fridge without worry. It may, however, go bad if it is not stored or handled properly.

There are a few simple tricks to follow to make sure your mustard will last long enough without you having to throw it away:

  1. For unopened mustard, pick the right spot in your pantry to store it until the moment you are ready to open it and use it. The ideal place is a dry, dark corner away from direct sunlight, heat sources, and humidity. You may also keep it in the kitchen cabinet where you would keep other dried foods such as flour and spices.
  2. The best way to lengthen the shelf life of mustard is to put it in the refrigerator after opening as the colder temperature slows down the growth of mold and other bacteria. It is best to maintain a consistent temperature since constantly going from cold to hot, and vice versa, could lead to changes in texture and taste.
  3. Make sure to seal the container properly in between uses and before putting the mustard back in the fridge. Not only will this reduce bacterial growth but also prevent the mustard from absorbing other odors from the fridge.
  4. Always use clean utensils to scoop out the mustard onto your plate. This is very important since contamination with other foods is the primary cause of mustard going bad. Never use your fingers or dip food directly into the jar. Take out a small amount on a plate and use it for dipping.
  5. To avoid contamination altogether, we recommend using a squeezy bottle. Most manufacturers sell their mustard in these convenient bottles which are super easy to find. You can also buy empty squeezy bottles from the store and use them to keep your homemade mustard.
  6. When stored in the fridge, mustard tends to dry out over time. This doesn’t mean that it has spoiled. All you have to do is give it a quick stir and add a little vinegar if necessary.
  7. If you notice the ingredients separating, you can fix the issue by mixing the mustard with a spoon until you get a creamy, homogenous mixture.
  8. If you have leftover mustard on your plate, do not put it back in the jar as you will risk spoiling the whole batch. It is best to discard it or use it in some other way. To avoid wastage, try to take out only a small amount of mustard at a time and refill if you feel the need.

Best Ways To Use Mustard Before It Spoils

If you have mustard sitting in your refrigerator for a while and you’re afraid it’ll lose its flavor and texture soon, you can use it in a variety of ways before it goes bad.

The best and most common use for mustard paste is obviously on hot dogs. Pair it with some ketchup or use it on its own for a punch of flavor.

The good news is that mustard is incredibly versatile and can be used as more than just a condiment. It can be used as a salad dressing, glaze, marinade, or dipping sauce.

If you’re looking for ideas for using your leftover mustard before it goes to waste, here are our top suggestions:

  • Vinaigrette – you can mix some mustard with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, and salt to prepare a delicious vinaigrette to enjoy with your fresh salad.
  • Roasts – herby mustard makes a flavorful rub for grilled chicken, pork loin, turkey breast, or lamb meat and gives it a nice crust.
  • Pasta – you can add acidity to your pasta sauce by adding a few spoons of grainy mustard. This works best for cream-based sauces.
  • Mashed potatoes – everyone has their special recipe for mashed potatoes. Some like to add a bit of mustard to cut through the richness. You may even sprinkle bits of bacon on top for texture.
  • Fish – mustard pairs wonderfully with sturdy fish like salmon and tuna. You can brush a little mustard paste on salmon fillets before broiling them or on tuna before searing.
  • Butter – just like you can mix garlic with butter to make garlic butter, you can blend a bit of mustard with butter and create a delicious topping for your toast or roasting your vegetables.
  • Eggs – a key ingredient for making deviled eggs, you can also use mustard for creating a delicious sauce for poached eggs.

Related Questions

Now that you know all about mustard and whether it goes bad, here are a few additional questions we thought you might have:

Can you freeze mustard?

Yes, you can freeze mustard, although doing so doesn’t make much sense since it already has a pretty long shelf life. If you must freeze it, do it in small amounts as large quantities of mustard may become hard and brittle.

You can flash freeze it on a baking sheet, aluminum foil, or in an ice cube tray, and transfer it into an airtight container or freezer-safe bag.

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