How Long Does Tomato Paste Last?

Tomato paste is a versatile ingredient that adds depth and richness to various dishes. Whether you’re using it as a base for a homemade pasta sauce or adding it to stews and soups, tomato paste can elevate the flavor of your culinary creations. 

However, like any other food product, tomato paste has a limited shelf life. In this blog post, we will explore the shelf life of unopened tomato paste and provide insights into determining if it’s still safe to use.

What is the Shelf Life of Unopened Tomato Paste?

Unopened tomato paste typically has a long shelf life. The exact duration can vary depending on various factors, including the packaging and storage conditions. Generally, canned tomato paste can last up to two years when stored properly in a cool, dry place. 

It’s important to note that the shelf life mentioned here refers to the period during which the tomato paste retains its optimum quality and flavor. After this time, the quality might gradually decline, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it becomes unsafe to consume.

Can I Use Tomato Paste Past Its Expiration Date if It’s Unopened?

Many food products, including tomato paste, are labeled with an expiration date or a “best by” date. This date guides the period during which the product is expected to be at its peak quality. However, it’s important to understand that expiration dates are not strict safety indicators. In the case of unopened tomato paste, if it is past its expiration date but the can or packaging is still intact and the paste shows no spoilage (which we will discuss later), it is generally safe to use.

That being said, if the tomato paste is significantly past its expiration date or you notice any signs of spoilage, such as a bulging can, off smell, or unusual texture, it’s best to discard it to avoid any potential health risks.

Is It Safe to Consume Unopened Tomato Paste After the “Best By” Date?

Yes, it is usually safe to consume unopened tomato paste after the “best by” date as long as there are no signs of spoilage. The “best by” date indicates quality rather than safety. 

Tomato paste is a low-acid food, which means it has a higher resistance to bacteria growth than other perishable items. However, remember that the quality and flavor might deteriorate over time, so it’s always a good idea to check the product before using it.

How Can I Determine If Unopened Tomato Paste is Still Good to Use?

When assessing the quality of unopened tomato paste, there are several factors to consider:

  • Packaging: Examine the can or packaging for any signs of damage, such as dents, bulges, or rust. Damaged packaging can compromise the integrity of the product and increase the risk of spoilage.
  • Appearance: Unopened tomato paste should have a deep red color. If you notice any discoloration, such as dark spots or mold growth, it’s a clear sign that the paste has gone bad and should be discarded.
  • Texture: Tomato paste should have a thick and smooth consistency. If you observe any separation, clumps, or a watery texture, the paste has deteriorated and may no longer be suitable for use.
  • Odor: Give the tomato paste a sniff. It should have a pleasant, tomato-like aroma. Detecting any off or foul smells strongly indicates that the paste has spoiled and should not be consumed.

By considering these factors, you can make an informed decision about the quality of unopened tomato paste and whether it’s still good to use in your recipes.

Are There Any Signs That Unopened Tomato Paste Has Gone Bad?

While unopened tomato paste has a long shelf life, it can eventually spoil. Here are some signs that indicate unopened tomato paste has gone bad:

  • Bulging cans: If the can appears swollen or bloated, it’s a sign that bacteria or other microorganisms have contaminated the paste, causing it to ferment and release gases.
  • Off smell: If the tomato paste emits a foul or rancid odor, it indicates spoilage. The smell might be moldy, sour, or simply unpleasant.
  • Mold growth: If you notice any mold growth on the surface of the tomato paste, it’s a clear sign that it has spoiled and should not be consumed.
  • Unusual texture: If the paste has developed a slimy or gritty texture, the quality has deteriorated, and it’s best to discard it.

If you encounter any of these signs, it’s crucial to exercise caution and dispose of the unopened tomato paste to avoid the risk of foodborne illnesses.

Can I Freeze Unopened Tomato Paste to Extend Its Shelf Life?

Freezing unopened tomato paste is not recommended. The water content in tomato paste can expand when frozen, causing the can or packaging to burst. Instead, storing unopened tomato paste in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight is best.

Can I Store Unopened Tomato Paste in the Refrigerator?

It’s not necessary to refrigerate unopened tomato paste. As long as it’s stored in a cool, dry place, such as a pantry or kitchen cabinet, it can maintain its quality for an extended period.

Can I Use Unopened Tomato Paste That Has Been Stored for Several Years?

While unopened tomato paste can have a long shelf life, following the expiration date on the packaging is recommended for the best quality. 

Tomato paste stored for several years may have deteriorated in flavor and quality. It’s advisable to assess the packaging, appearance, texture, and odor before using it.


Unopened tomato paste can last considerably, maintaining its quality and flavor. However, paying attention to signs of spoilage before using it is essential. You can determine if the tomato paste is still good by checking the packaging, appearance, texture, and odor. If you notice any spoilage, it’s best to avoid caution and discard the product to ensure food safety.

Remember, it’s always better to be safe than sorry when in doubt. Enjoy cooking with fresh and high-quality tomato paste to enhance the taste of your favorite dishes.

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