The thing I hate most about store-bought pesto, and other refrigerated foods, is the size of the package.
Most of the time, a single container is more than I need for a single prescription. That leaves me with a half-open jar in the fridge that I have to remember to use.
And there comes a time when the dreaded question arises: does the pesto go bad?
If you want to know more about the shelf life, storage, and spoilage of pesto, this article is for you. In it we cover both the store-bought and homemade variety. That means we’ve got you covered if you’d rather make this sauce yourself.
How to preserve pesto
There are two types of pesto available in the market. The former is sold unrefrigerated, while the latter is kept in the refrigerated section of the store. The same goes for other sauces and dips.
Let’s start with the first. Unrefrigerated pesto usually comes in jars or cans. Since it keeps at room temperature in the store, you can also store it at room temperature, as long as it’s not open.
Make sure it is in a cool, dry place, away from sunlight and heat sources. Sunlight and temperature changes will not cause it to spoil in the container, but the quality after opening may not be very good.
Once the container is opened, make sure that it is always tightly closed and that it is stored in the refrigerator when not in use. If the pesto comes in a can, pour it into an airtight container before refrigerating.
The second variety of commercial pesto is the one that is sold refrigerated. Storing it isn’t rocket science: as soon as you get home with it, you put it in the fridge and keep it there.
Once the container is opened, always keep it tightly closed. If the original container cannot be closed tightly, pour the pesto into a small food container.
When it comes to homemade pesto, you should always keep it in the fridge and tightly closed. If you expect to keep it in the fridge for a few days, add a little olive oil on top before putting it in the fridge. This way it will retain its quality for longer.
Can pesto be frozen?
If you want to extend the shelf life of the pesto, you can freeze it.
Keep in mind that freezing the pesto may cause a slight change in texture upon thawing. The quality of this sauce after thawing depends on the ingredients used to make the pesto and when it was frozen.
Also, remember that in some dishes the altered texture will blend well, while in others it will be noticeable.
In short, you have to do some testing to find out if your pesto freezes well and how it works in your favorite dishes.
As for how to freeze pesto, try freezing it in ice cube trays. So you can easily defrost the amount of sauce you need.
How long can you keep pesto in the freezer, you ask? Buitoni recommends only 30 days, but obviously, pesto in the freezer won’t go bad. However, its quality will degrade over time, so the sooner you use it, the better.
How long does the pesto last?
Once again, let’s start with the shelf life of commercially packaged pesto sold unrefrigerated.
It usually comes with an expiration date on the label. The sauce, as long as you leave it unopened, can easily keep for a few weeks or even months after that date. Of course, it won’t keep as good as hot sauce, but it’s not like it will go bad a day or two after the date on the label.
Once the jar or can is opened, you can keep the sauce between 7 and 10 days.
As for store-bought pesto sold in the refrigerated area, in most cases it has an expiration date on the label. Unopened sauce should retain good quality for perhaps 5-7 days after that date. Sometimes it stays fresh longer, but it’s not certain.
Once the container is opened, you should finish it within 5-7 days. Non-refrigerated pesto tends to contain more preservatives than the refrigerated variety, so it also keeps longer after opening.
Homemade pesto lasts 4-5 days in the fridge. Homemade pesto does not usually contain preservatives, so nothing prevents it from spoiling, which is why it lasts so little.
Of course, it would be ideal if you took a mortar and pestle and whipped up fresh pesto for each dish. But as we all know, it’s an unrealistic scenario.
|If you want to make a larger batch, see the freezing instructions above.|
|Pesto (sold unrefrigerated, unopened)||Expiration + 1 – 3 months|
|Pesto (sold unrefrigerated, opened)||7 to 10 days|
|Pesto (sold refrigerated, unopened)||Expiration + 5 – 7 days|
|Pesto (sold refrigerated, open)||5 – 7 days|
|Pesto (homemade)||4 – 5 days|
Please note that the above timeframes are rough estimates.
How to know if pesto is bad
There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to bad pesto.
Of course, there are the usual suspects, like mold or any other organic growth. Look for them both on the surface of the sauce and inside the container.
The second classic sign of spoilage is the smell of rot. If the sauce doesn’t smell fresh as usual, it’s past its prime, and you should throw it away.
Next up are basil leaves. If they have changed color from green to brownish, this is a good indicator that the pesto should be discarded.
If everything in the sauce seems fine, nothing should be wrong. Try a small amount and decide based on that if it’s good enough to use. If not, discard it.
Last but not least, remember that pesto goes bad quickly. If you’re wondering if it’s edible, it usually means no. Trust your senses and toss the sauce if so.
The same happens if it stays in the fridge for a long time, like more than a week in the case of homemade pesto. Even if everything seems to be going well with it, it is better to play it safe and throw it away. The first signs of spoilage are hard to spot, so assuming it’s already spoiled is the right choice in this case.