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Does Mustard Go Bad and How Tell if it has Spoiled

Ever have condiments, like ketchup and mustard, just sit in your fridge for months on end? And then when you finally have a need for them, you reach in to grab the bottle only to realize it’s already expired? Well, just because it’s past its “best before date” does it really mean that it’s gone bad? Nobody wants their hotdog ruined by nasty mustard! Fortunately, there are some easy ways to tell when it’s time to throw the bottle of mustard out.

Mustard typically lasts up to two years after being bought, and one year after the “best by” date on the label. After being opened, mustard generally is still good for up to a year if refrigerated. If kept at room temperature, it may lose some flavor depending on the type of mustard it is.

“Best by” labels aren’t always accurate, and wasting a perfectly good bottle of mustard is money down the drain. The trick is finding out how to tell if your mustard has gone bad, and how to store it properly to last as long as possible.

If you love Spicy Mustard, Colman’s is my favorite. Photo by Spicy Trio

The Best Way to Store Mustard

The best way to store unopened mustard is to keep it sealed tight, so that no other bacteria can penetrate the lid, and at room temperature.

Unlike other foods, when put in the freezer, mustard neither benefits nor is harmed by a change in temperature.

Refrigeration or freezing doesn’t extend the expiration date. However, it is recommended that you store opened mustard in the fridge to help keep the mustard from spoiling faster and keep the flavor intact.

What Happens to Mustard Past Expiration?

Mustard just doesn’t taste as good once it’s old. The older the mustard, the less flavor and pungency you’ll be able to taste.

The flavor of the mustard oil, which is created by smashing mustard seeds, diminishes over time, and other ingredients mixed with it begin to separate.

Although the average time mustard lasts is up to two years, there are some exceptions depending on the type of mustard.

For example, horseradish mustard should be stored in the fridge to preserve its distinctive flavor and the same goes for strong flavored mustards like Dijon mustard. The chart below shows some of the different types of mustard and their average expiration dates, depending on how they are stored.

Shelflife of Different Mustard Types

 Room Temperature, UnopenedRefrigerated, After OpeningFreezer
Dijon2 to 3 years1 year8 to 12 months
Honey2 to 3 years1 to 2 years8 to 12 months
Yellow1 to 2 years1 year8 to 12 months
Chinese1 to 2 years1 year8 to 12 months
American1 to 2 years1 year8 to 12 months
Dry1 to 2 years1 year6 to 12 months
Course Ground1 year1 year8 to 12 months
Homemade1 day1 week to 1 year6 months
Dry powder3 – 4 years3 – 4 years3 – 4 years
This table highlights the shelflife of different types of mustard under various storage conditions, which include: room temperature, refrigerated, and frozen

Signs That Mustard Has Gone Bad

Most of us have heard, “when in doubt, throw it out!” There is no point in trying to use bad mustard, or any other spoiled food, so here are some signs and tips to tell when mustard has gone bad.

  • The ingredients begin to separate. First, the liquid will gradually move towards the top, leaving the thicker, more solid ingredients at the bottom. If caught early, it can be fixed by simply stirring or shaking the bottle until it looks normal again. But, if even after stirring, the ingredients don’t mix together in to a single mixture, it’s a sign that the mustard is probably too old and should be thrown out.
  • It smells strange. Although some people would argue that mustard always smells strange, it shouldn’t smell super sour. This could mean that something is molding.
  • Mold: As a general rule, nothing should be eaten if it is moldy! The most common places to find mold are in the seal or at the bottom, so be sure to take a close look before applying mustard on that bread!
  • Color distortion. Usually, if the mustard’s color changes, it is not a big deal. The older the mustard, the less of a vibrant yellow it will be. If it has no other problems with it, the bottle is still fine to use. However, if the mustard starts to turn a really dark color, it might be time to throw it out.
Infographic created by Spicy Trio highlighting 4 ways to detect if your mustard is starting to spoil
Infographic displaying 4 signs that your mustard is going bad. Created by Spicy Trio, feel free to share or use but please link back to us.

Can Old Mustard Make You Sick?

Just like any other food, spoiled mustard can make you sick, but old mustard is usually fine. Mustard is designed to be able to be forgotten in the pantry for weeks at a time and still be perfectly usable.

If you are allergic to mustard, the most common side effects of eating it are itchiness, skin rash, congestion, and/or hives. In extreme cases, you could go into shock.

The Difference Between Expired and Spoiled Mustard

Spoiled mustard means that the product should not be consumed. After mustard has spoiled, it does not taste good, look appealing, or smell right. Mustard could then possibly be a health risk to eat, so it’s best to avoid.

Expired mustard may not be at its best, but should be checked for spoilage. In reality, there really is no way for manufacturers to tell the exact date a product will spoil, so the expiration date is added as a suggestion. The “best by” date on the label is an estimation by the manufacturer of when the product should be consumed for the best taste, and it is not necessarily a indication that it will go bad by that date.

Does Mustard Spoil if not Refrigerated?

Eventually, yes, mustard would spoil if it is not refrigerated. The best way to lengthen the time before it spoils is too put it in the fridge after opening. Closed and sealed mustard is fine to store at room temperature, but I would suggest putting it in the fridge after the first use.

Mold and other bacteria will take much longer to grow if they are in cold areas, and it is best to store mustard in places that do not have a lot of temperature swings. Similar to chocolate, if mustard is constantly going from hot to cold, it could turn to a weird texture and not taste as good.

Can Mustard Kill You?

Anything consumed too fast and in too large an amount could kill you, but the likelihood of someone eating so much mustard that they die is extremely low. Even people allergic to pure mustard or mustard seeds will likely not die if they consume mustard because it is diluted by other ingredients, like vinegar or other oils.

How Long Does Powdered Mustard Last?

Powdered mustard, which is really just smashed up mustard seeds, lasts up to four years. Mustard is kept this way to store and preserve the flavor for long periods of time, as well as to use as an ingredient in cooking.

Does Homemade Mustard Spoil Faster?

Yes, homemade mustard spoils faster. Right after making homemade mustard, it should immediately be stored in a fridge or freezer that is less than 40° Fahrenheit. If left on the counter, the mustard will not only lose flavor, but it will also begin separating at a faster rate.

Depending on the recipe, the average time that homemade mustard is usable is about two weeks. Without the presence of preservatives that are put in store-bought mustards, homemade mustard’s lifespan can be quite short. Some well-made mustards can last a year if sealed properly and refrigerated.

How to Use Up Mustard Before It Spoils

If you have mustard that has been sitting in your fridge for a while, you might be wondering how you could use it all up. The good news is that mustard is not just a condiment you add to bread, but it’s actually quite versatile and can be used for many things. Here are some ways you can use your mustard before it gets spoiled:

  • Salad dressing
  • Glaze
  • Marinade
  • A dipping or cooking sauce

If you’re looking for inspiration, here are three recipes that use mustard:


As a general cooking rule, anything and everything spoils eventually. The five senses are the best tools to use to determine if there is something wrong with your food. Trust your eyes and nose to be able to rule out whether the mustard you forgot about, that’s been sitting in the fridge for months, is worth keeping.