Does Canned Tomato Sauce Go Bad? Find Out Now

Canned tomato sauce can be used in many recipes; it is most commonly used when making spaghetti. In 2020 alone, it was found that around 221 million Americans purchased tomato sauce, and this number is expected to continue to increase. There is a good chance you have a can of tomato sauce sitting in your pantry right now. But, can the can of tomato sauce go bad if you leave it sitting for too long?

Canned tomato sauce can go bad. The shelf life of canned tomato sauce depends on the conditions in which it was stored. If you keep your tomato sauce in an unopened can or jar in the pantry, it can last for approximately two years. If you have opened your tomato sauce, it can last for around a week in the refrigerator and 18 weeks in the freezer.

Continue reading to learn more about the shelf life of tomato sauce. Also, continue reading to learn about the ways you can tell if your tomato sauce has expired as well as what happens when you eat tomato sauce that has expired.

Does Canned Tomato Sauce Expire?

Canned tomato sauce does expire after a certain period of time. This is similar to almost all other foods you may purchase as they can all go bad after a period of time has passed.

The primary reason that tomato sauce expires is due to the ingredients that are used to make the sauce. The primary ingredient that is used to make tomato sauce is, of course, fresh tomatoes.

These tomatoes are highly acidic which allows for the tomato sauce to last longer as the acidity helps to reduce the risk of bacteria growing. Bacteria growth is what mainly causes the sauce to expire.

However, tomato sauce can lose its acidity over time. This loss can get down to the point where bacteria can begin to grow in the sauce. Once this happens, the sauce will begin to spoil or expire and is no longer good for you to eat.

How Long Does Canned Tomato Sauce Last?

When you buy tomato sauce from the store, you may wonder how long it can sit before you have to throw it out as we tend to buy ingredients for recipes long before we plan on cooking them.

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When it comes to tomato sauce, there is no exact shelf life that can be used to determine how long you can keep your sauce before it should be thrown out. The way you store your tomato sauce is what primarily determines the length of time that it can sit.

There are three main methods that are used when it comes to storing tomato sauce.

In The Pantry

The most common way that tomato sauce is stored is that it is kept in the pantry. If you have not opened your tomato sauce, this is the best method to go about keeping it stored.

Tomato sauce, that is unopened, can be kept in the pantry for two years as long as it is properly stored in a can or jar. This method can keep your tomato sauce good for the longest, but you cannot keep your tomato sauce in the pantry after you have opened it.

In The Fridge

If you have opened the tomato sauce you have bought from the store, it is not advised that you keep it in the pantry. Once opened, you have a smaller time frame in which the sauce can still be eaten before it spoils.

When kept in the refrigerator, tomato sauce can last for around one week before it will need to be thrown away. You want to keep the sauce in an airtight container to prevent any cross contamination with any other items in the refrigerator.

In The Freezer

The freezer is another great place to store your tomato sauce after you have opened it. You want to keep the sauce that you place in the freezer in an airtight container that is safe to use in the freezer.

When kept in the freezer, your tomato sauce can last for approximately 18 months before it is no longer good to eat.

How Can You Tell If Canned Tomato Sauce Is Bad or Spoiled?

When your tomato sauce spoils or expires, it is best to throw it away. If you do not know if your tomato sauce has reached expiration, there are a few signs you can look for that will indicate that your tomato sauce should be thrown away.

Mold Growth

Mold is often a good indicator that something has spoiled. If you open your tomato sauce and see any signs of mold or slime/film that is covering the top of your sauce, it is best to throw the sauce away.

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While some may say that you can just scrape the mold off of the top of the sauce, it has still reached the point where it has expired, and you should not plan on using or eating this sauce.

Off Smell or Taste

Tomatoes traditionally have a taste that is sweet and tangy. When they have spoiled, they can give off a smell that is unpleasant. This smell can also be given off when tomato sauce has expired.

If you find that your tomato sauce still smells fine and there are no other signs that they have expired, you can take a small taste of the sauce. If the sauce tastes off, then it has expired and should be thrown away.

Signs of Gas or Bubbles

It is often the case that when tomato sauce spoils there will be gas and pressure that has developed inside the can or jar. This will cause the container to spurt liquid or foam when the can has opened.

It is also possible that this gas takes the form of bubbles. If you open your tomato sauce and notice bubbles moving to the top of the container, it has spoiled and should be thrown away.

Watery Consistency

When tomato sauce spoils, it can separate and develop a watery consistency. This consistency is a strong indication that the sauce is no longer good. It will have a bitter taste and should be immediately thrown away.

Darker Coloring

Tomato sauce traditionally has a vibrant, red coloring. This comes from the tomatoes that were used to make the sauce. Once it spoils, the tomato sauce has a much darker coloring which is a good indication that it should be disposed of.

Can I Use Canned Tomato Sauce That Expired?

As long as the tomato sauce does not show signs of spoilage, you can eat tomato sauce past the expiration date. When there are no signs of spoilage, tomato sauce can still be used and eaten, but you must be wary that it is still possible to be ill from eating the sauce.

Once the sauce shows signs of spoilage, you should not eat the sauce. This can be harmful to your health. Upon seeing any signs that your tomato sauce has gone bad, it is best to throw it away in order to prevent yourself from accidentally eating it.

What Happens If You Eat Spoiled Canned Tomato Sauce?

It is not safe to eat or use tomato sauce that has spoiled. There have been known cases of the consumption of expired tomato sauce causing people to develop food poisoning and botulism.

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Food Poisoning

Food poisoning is often caused by the consumption of food that is contaminated. It often comes from organisms, such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites.

While tomato sauce is good, the acidity of the sauce helps to prevent bacteria from growing. However, the bacteria is able to grow when the acidity of the sauce lowers. Some of this bacteria is known to cause food poisoning.

Some signs of food poisoning include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting


Botulism is a rare but serious illness. It is caused by a toxin that will attack your body’s nervous system.

Symptoms of botulism include:

  • Weakness of the muscles that control the mouth, throat, face, and eyes
  • Weakness of the neck, arms, legs, and torso
  • Weakness of the muscles that help you to breathe

Tips on Storing Canned Tomato Sauce

When storing canned tomato sauce, there are some tips that can help you to ensure that your sauce stays fresh for longer.

Some tips are:

  • Only store tomato sauce in the pantry if it is unopened
  • If your sauce is opened, store it in the refrigerator or in the freezer
  • Make sure that it is kept in an airtight container
  • Check for signs of spoilage before eating
  • Keep stored in an area that is cool and dry

Following these tips can ensure that your tomato sauce will last longer, and they can help to ensure that you do not eat spoiled tomato sauce.


Canned tomato sauce can be used in various dishes. We typically buy tomato sauce and store it to use sometime in the future rather than the day we buy it. We must be careful, however, because tomato sauce can expire and go bad.

If stored properly, tomato sauce can last unopened for two years in the pantry. Once it has been opened, it can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about a week and in the freezer for around 18 months.

There are some signs that let you know when your sauce has gone bad, such as mold, a watery consistency, and a bad smell or taste. If any of these signs are present, it is best to throw the sauce away as eating spoiled tomato sauce can cause food poisoning or botulism.