Tomato sauce and paste are two very important ingredients every pantry needs. With it, you can make delicious pasta, pizza, sandwiches, soups, and much more. Besides, spaghetti is always great when you don’t know what else to make! That’s why you might stock up on it whenever tomato sauce is on sale at the store.

If you buy too many cans, though, you might worry. Does canned tomato sauce go bad? Was buying a full cart of sauce a bad idea?

Let’s find out.

Fresh Tomato Sauce

Does Canned Tomato Sauce Go Bad?

Given enough time, all food items will start to go bad—yes, even Twinkies. Therefore, it stands to reason that canned tomato sauce does go bad eventually. The ingredients (namely preservatives) in the tomato sauce, quality of the packaging, and storage method all influence how long canned tomato sauce lasts opened and unopened.

Here’s the breakdown below:

How Long Does Tomato Sauce Last at Room Temperature?

The first question you should ask yourself is this: is the sauce homemade or store-bought? Many store-bought canned tomato pastes and sauces contain preservatives to extend the shelf life. Meanwhile, homemade canned sauces often do not.

Unopened Cans

At room temperature, an unopened can of tomato sauce can last about 18-24 months. Organic or homemade canned tomato sauce will stay good for about a year.


Store your unopened cans or jars of tomato paste in a cool, dark area. Try to keep the temperature stable (no more than 70F/21C), and do not expose the sauce to sunlight.

Opened Cans

Once the tomato sauce has been opened, you should never let it sit at room temperature for long. Opened cans of sauce need to be refrigerated. Use the opened portion within 5-7 days to get the best quality.

Keep in mind that homemade tomato sauce will only last about 3 days.

Regardless of the sauce being store-bought or homemade, it will spoil quickly once opened. Look for signs of it going bad even if it was only opened yesterday. You might notice the color of the sauce changing or maybe even mold forming. Throw it out.

Don’t wait to see it either. Just because the mold isn’t visible doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Consuming the toxins could be very detrimental to your health, so don’t take the risk trying to eat the old tomato sauce.

The simplicity of an empty jar with lid.

How Long Will Canned Tomato Sauce Last in a Mason Jar?

Have a creative evening and cook too much homemade tomato sauce? Don’t worry. You don’t have to use it all right away. When canned in a Mason jar, tomato sauce has a similar shelf life to metal cans. No, it doesn’t last forever. Expect peak flavor to remain for about 2 years after canning. Stored in a Mason jar, tomato sauce is edible for 5-6 years.

How Long Does Canned Tomato Paste Last in the Freezer?

You might be wondering if freezing your canned tomato sauce is the best way to keep it from going bad. You’re not wrong. Freezing tomato sauce will keep it fresher for longer. However, you can’t simply put the can that the sauce or paste came in directly in the freezer.

You need a freezer-safe can or glass jar for that. If you use a wide mouth glass jar, homemade tomato sauce will retain freshness for about 4 months. Avoid using a plastic container, since that will cause the sauce to lose flavor.

Store-bought tomato sauce can last for 12-18 months in a freezer-safe container.

How Long is Tomato Paste Good For After Expiration Date?

Many people do it—they rove through the pantry and find a dusty can of sauce well beyond the expiration date. You already know the answer to “does canned tomato sauce go bad?” Now, the question is if you should ignore caution and use that expired can of tomato paste or sauce.

Unopened and undamaged, a can of tomato sauce will last years beyond the Best By, Best Before, or Best If Used By date on the can or jar. These dates aren’t telling you when the product stops being safe to eat. Rather, it is an estimation of peak quality.

The color and texture of the sauce might change in the can after the Best By date, but it’s usually still safe to consume. As mentioned earlier, properly stored tomato sauce or paste is still edible 5 years later.

Of course, all that changes if the tomato sauce is expired and spoiled.

What Happens if You Eat Expired Tomato Paste?

Expired tomato sauce is generally still safe to eat. If you open the can and the sauce doesn’t smell bad or show other signs of spoilage (see below), or if the can hasn’t been damaged (rust, leaks, bulging), the contents can be used.

While the sauce won’t taste as good as it would when used within 18-24 months of packaging, you can consume it.

What Happens If You Consume Bad Tomato Sauce?

Although the acidity of tomatoes often makes it difficult for bacteria to grow, there have been cases of botulism—food poisoning—associated with spoiled tomato sauce. Whenever canned tomato pasta or sauce is improperly packaged or stored, the greater the chance of it going bad.

The symptoms of botulism can appear within 18-36 hours. Symptoms include vomiting, stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea. Additionally, you could have muscle weakness, double or blurry vision, and difficulty breathing.

Even if you don’t suffer from food poisoning, eating bad tomato sauce could lead to gastrointestinal discomfort. Save yourself the multiple trips to the toilet and toss the can if you notice anything off.

How to Tell Tomato Sauce Has Gone Bad

Sure, canned tomato sauce might last for 5 years unopened, but it does go bad. Whenever you open a can of paste, be on the look out for the signs that it’s gone off.

Discard the tomato sauce if you see:

  • A foamy or cloudy surface
  • Green patches on the surface of the sauce or paste
  • Foul smell coming from the sauce
  • Off-colors

If you see an unopened can of tomato paste or sauce that looks like it’s bulging, throw it away immediately. Bulging is caused by gases created by clostridium bacteria, which can cause botulism. Further, if a can is leaking or rusted, don’t consume the contents for the same reason.

How to Properly Store Canned Tomato Paste and Sauce

Hopefully, you know by now that the shelf life of canned tomato paste is influenced by storage. To help you get the longest shelf life out of your canned tomato products, here are some tips:

  • Put unopened canned sauces and pastes in a dark pantry or cupboard
  • Consume opened tomato sauce within 4-5 days for maximum freshness
  • Homemade product or ones without preservatives should be eaten as fast as possible—within 3-5 days
  • If you’re not going to use it after opening, throw it away immediately
  • Air-tight, freezer-safe containers or jars are the best for storing sauces in the fridge or freezer

Conclusion

Does canned tomato sauce go bad? You bet it does. Although tomato sauce and paste are designed to be more shelf stable, peak freshness lasts for about 18-24 months. When stored properly, canned tomato sauce can be eaten up to 5 years from the packaging date, though the texture might be off. That said, it could go bad within that time, so you should be on the lookout for signs of spoilage.

FAQs

1. How long after the expiration date can you eat tomato sauce?

Tomato sauce, canned or jarred, can be consumed up to 5 years after the expiration date. This, however, is dependent on the tomato sauce being properly canned, sealed, and stored in a cool, dark place. Otherwise, most tomato sauces are best consumed within 2 years.

2. How can you tell if tomato sauce is bad?

There are a few ways to tell if tomato sauce has gone bad. First, the smell. You will notice that it smells foul, like rot. Next, you will notice either green mold or a foamy surface on the sauce.

3. Can old tomato sauce make you sick?

Yes, old tomato sauce can make you sick, especially if it hasn’t been stored properly. Look for signs of spoilage (off-color, bad odor, and a moldy surface) before consuming. Keep in mind that, while rare, improperly canned or jarred tomato sauce has been affiliated with botulism.