How To Tell If Store-Bought Pasta Sauce Has Gone Bad

When you're craving a warm, hearty bowl of pasta but don't want to spend the time making a sauce from scratch, jarred pasta sauce is the way to go. All you need to do is boil your noodles, add your mix-ins, and pour in your sauce, and you're ready to dig in. But if you've ever taken advantage of these store-bought conveniences, you may have been left with a half-empty jar after dinner. Especially if you're only cooking for yourself or for you and your partner, sometimes the entire container simply isn't needed. So in this case, how can you tell if your leftover sauce is still safe to use at a later date?

According to, jarred spaghetti sauce should be used within four days after opening for the best quality. You'll want to store your leftovers in the fridge as soon as you're initially done using the sauce. But if you haven't opened your container yet, you can rest easy knowing it will last 18 months in your cupboard after you buy it.

How to examine and store your jarred pasta sauce

Although four days is typically a safe guideline to follow when deciding if your leftover jarred pasta sauce is still okay to eat, there are a few other signs that can clue you to whether or not your container is starting to go bad. You don't even have to look inside the jar to get a hint right off the bat that it may be time to toss it — if you open the lid and smell anything sour or just generally gross, you know it's past its prime. And if you spot any mold creeping up the edges of your container, or if you dare to taste a little and it doesn't live up to your expectations, you can get rid of the jar.

To keep your sauce in optimal condition in the fridge, avoid double dipping your spoons. That means that if you stick a utensil in the jar and then use it for something else, get a clean one if you need to go back in to get more marinara. And if the four days are up but you don't want to waste the rest of your sauce, you can freeze it in an airtight container, where it should last for about three months. Just make sure you thaw it before reusing it, and you can extend the shelf life of your leftover marinara long past the refrigerated guidelines.