Pasta sauce is an essential item in nearly every kitchen; it’s the cornerstone of a classic pasta dish, and it’s also one of the more confusing things to store correctly.

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Pasta sauce typically comes in a jar that’s too large for a single person to use in one pasta dish but just large enough for the average-sized family. If you’re in a single household or a house with many mouths to feed, you may find that there’s often a large amount of pasta sauce that isn’t getting used during a given meal. That begs the question— how long does pasta sauce last in the fridge?

The answer to your question isn’t specific. It varies depending on the type of sauce you’re using, whether it’s homemade, how cold your refrigerator is, and how long the sauce was left sitting out before it was correctly stored. However, experts tend to follow a similar guideline for proper food storage to prevent food poisoning and keep your dishes tasting their best.

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How Long Does Pasta Sauce Last in the Fridge?

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Experts say that pasta sauce can last for 3 to 10 days once its opened and you can store in the fridge for later use.

Most shoppers rely on the “Best By” or expiration date on a food item to get an idea of when to toss it out. Most people don’t know, though, that the expiration date is more of a reference to how long the quality of the food will taste good and less about the actual safety of the item. The confusion surrounding those labels results in a significant amount of food waste at home.

It makes sense why there isn’t a clear, universal understanding of these labels: food often sours at individual rates. While the label is typically an indicator from manufacturers on how long the food will remain at its quality and taste level, that doesn’t mean the item has necessarily “gone bad.”

One homeowner may find that if they haven’t opened their pasta sauce jar, it could remain safe even after the expiration date. A different household can discover that, with the same pasta sauce jar, if someone opened the jar and left it on the counter for several hours, it can go bad long before the expiration date even rolls around.

Types of Sauces

Specific ingredients in your preferred kind of pasta sauce can affect exactly how long that sauce stays safe to eat. For the folks wondering— How long does spaghetti sauce last in the fridge?— the answer from experts ranges about three to ten days. Tomato-based sauces, like a spaghetti sauce, are generally pretty acidic. That acidity helps prevent new bacterial growth.

If the tomato sauce has already been cooked or heated, expect three days of safe leftover eating, at maximum. If you did not heat the sauce, it could last a bit longer. Eventually, bacteria and mold will form in the tomato-based sauce, but you could potentially have close to two weeks of shelf life in your fridge if you store the food carefully.

If you’re cooking with a dairy-based pasta sauce, like alfredo, expect a shorter shelf life for leftovers. Consider eating your alfredo pasta sauce in three days or less after opening. If it has been heated, try to eat it as soon as possible.

Safe Storage

To safely store your sauce, be sure to put it in the fridge as soon as possible. If you let your homemade or store-bought sauce sit on the counter for several hours before storing it, it can grow bacteria quicker than if it’s stored immediately.

When reheating your sauce, keep in mind that it’s only safe to reheat your sauce once after making it. According to the CDC, if your food is continually fluctuating in temperature, it could allow bacteria to multiply. Experts also recommend that you keep your refrigerator temperature at 40°F or below for optimal food storage.

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Other Alternative Methods of Preserving Spaghetti Sauce

If you are hoping to store your pasta sauce for a longer time, consider putting it in the freezer. Shift your pasta sauce to a freezer-safe container and place it in an icebox. You can freeze most pasta sauce safely for several months. Thaw your spaghetti sauce in the fridge when you’re ready to cook with it again.

How to Tell if Pasta Sauce is Bad

There are a few tell-tale signs that your pasta sauce has taken a turn for the worse. If you notice that your tomato pasta sauce has darkened significantly in color or thickened, it’s a sign that it’s reaching a point of getting spoiled.

The smell and color will be major indicators of whether a milk-based sauce has gone rotten. Like milk, you may notice a sour smell once it has spoiled, or its color will darken.

An important note; a quick way to spot spoiled food is mold. If your sauce has any mold at all, do not eat it. Throw it all away.

Signs of Food Poisoning

Sometimes, even with careful attention, a person can still fall victim to food poisoning. If you’re concerned that you or a loved one is experiencing food poisoning, there are several symptoms to watch out for, per the CDC.

NauseaDiarrheaVomitingFever

You may experience the side effects of food poisoning for up to several days after eating the compromised food. Experts recommend resting and drinking plenty of fluids to combat the effects of these symptoms. If you start to feel or see more extreme side effects, like a high fever or blood in your stool, contact a doctor to prevent any serious long-term health effects.

Related: Marinara Sauce vs Tomato Sauce Comparison

Final Thoughts

Several factors significantly influence how long does pasta sauce last in the fridge. However, the general rule to follow for any cooked sauce is about three days. Opened yet unused sauce can typically last a few days longer than that. Leftovers are safe in fridge storage for just a few days and, after that, it’s best to toss them out.

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Your eyes and nose will be your biggest helpers here; if your food starts to look or smell questionable, the safe option is just to discard that pasta sauce.