Mustard Shelf Life: Can It Go Bad?

A kitchen essential, mustard seeds are the basic spices for cooking, pickling, and, of course, mustard sauce.

These tiny round seeds are used mainly in Indian, Western cooking, and everywhere else. Mustard is definitely one of the most popular condiments all over the world.

Every now and then, we find mysterious, forgotten foods from the back of the cupboard. This time, it is a bottle of mustard that catches your attention. It looks good, but it has passed the date. Does mustard go bad?

And what about mustard seeds? Is it okay to use mustard seeds that have been around for a while, for cooking or maybe pickling?

Either way, fear not! In this article, we take a closer look into mustard’s shelf life, its storage, and signs of going bad, so stay on this page. No matter whether it is a bottle of mustard seeds or mustard sauce, we got you covered!

Storage Methods

Mustard seeds are edible seeds of mustard plants from the Brassicaceae family. It is closely related to wasabi, broccoli, horseradish, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage.

Just a little note, to avoid confusion in this article, “mustard” refers to the mustard condiment. Let’s start with the storage for mustard seeds.

How To Store Mustard Seeds

Storing mustard seeds, either whole or ground, is similar to storing other spices. We all love spices. They make our kitchen smell vibrant and delicious.

A dedicated shelf or rack is what everyone needs in the kitchen. If you have a spice rack or drawer, that’s where a bottle of mustard seeds belong to.

If you don’t have one, place it in a cool, dry area, away from moisture, heat, and sunlight. With frequent usage, a cupboard or cabinet seems an ideal place, or anywhere that is not near a stove, window, sink, or dishwasher.

Another tip is to use a dry, clean measuring spoon instead of directly sprinkling the seeds into a steaming pot. Excess moisture is a real enemy for ground mustard that causes the seeds to get clumpy.

How To Store Mustard Sauce

We know there are a bunch of mustard sauces in the store. Whether it is yellow mustard, Dijon mustard, whole-grain mustard, this spicy condiment is typically a shelf-stable item. It means we can safely keep it at room temperature, whether open or unopened.

Keep mustard in a cool, dry place, away from heat and moisture. Your pantry or cupboard will do the job. Or just leave it on the dining table if it is your compulsory condiment at all times. That’s easy to grab, and shelf life won’t be a concern, as it’s probably finished in a few months.

As much as it is tempting, avoid double-dipping! Use a clean spoon or utensils to take out the sauce. Don’t forget to tightly close the bottle after each use!

Does mustard need to be refrigerated after opening?

Mustard is not perishable. Therefore, storage at room temperature is sufficient. However, refrigeration preserves the flavor better, especially for Dijon mustard.

If you are not a regular user, refrigeration is a good idea rather than keeping it in the pantry.

How To Tell If Mustard Seeds Go Bad

Like all other food items, mustard also diminishes in quality and can eventually go bad. Let’s start with mustard seeds.

Dried spices like mustard seeds are a durable item. But, keeping the seeds that are already a decade in the pantry is not a good idea. Chances are, the seeds are not potent anymore. Smell and taste a tiny amount. If it no longer gives that pungent kick, better grab a new bottle.

When exposed to air and moisture, ground mustard can get clumpy and hard. To fix this, loosen it up by tapping the bottle or with a chopstick.

A worse scenario is that moisture gives ground seeds a chance to grow molds. If this is the case, don’t bother keeping it any longer.

How To Tell If Mustard Sauce Goes Bad

Now, what about Dijon mustard and the rest? Let’s start with inspecting the package. If you have an unopened jar or a bottle that looks damaged, swollen, leaking, etc., don’t use it. The sauce has likely spoiled.

With old mustard, although it may not spoil, the quality drops over time particularly when it’s stored at room temperature. The common signs of degrading quality are drying out, weak flavor, and darkened color. Don’t worry, as these situations can be fixed.

With dry mustard, add a spoonful or two of vinegar and stir well. If your mustard has separating liquid, give it a quick stir to fix the consistency. With less kicking mustard, that’s your call to keep it or toss it.

But, if the mustard smells off, tastes bitter, or develops molds, that’s a reason to toss it out!  

How Long Does Mustard Last?

Dried spices like mustard seeds don’t spoil as fresh produce does. But, they lose their aromatic profile as time goes by.

Whole and ground mustard seeds are pretty durable. They last for at least 3 to 4 years for whole seeds and 2 to 4 years for ground seeds, subject to proper storage conditions.

Mustard sauce typically lasts for 18 months when packaged in squeezed tubes, and up to 24 months in a glass jar.

A bottle of mustard seeds carries a “best by” or “best before” date on the label—likewise, mustard sauces. With ideal storage, you can expect them to stay in prime quality until this date and possibly longer.

Once opened, mustard retains its freshness for 1 to 2 months at room temperature and up to a year if continuously refrigerated.

Homemade mustard doesn’t last very long, and the shelf life depends on the recipe, usually to a week to several months.

Mustard TypesPantryRefrigerator
Mustard seed (dried, ground)2 to 4 years
Mustard seed (dried, whole)3 to 4 years
Mustard sauce (unopened) Any type (Dijon, yellow mustard, whole-grain, honey mustard, etc.)18 to 24 monthsor,best by + 1 year
Mustard sauce (opened) Any type (Dijon, yellow mustard, whole-grain, honey mustard, etc.)1 to 2 months1 year
Homemade mustard1 week to 6 months

The periods above are general estimates. Some mustards may last longer or shorter. The actual shelf life depends on the preparation method and storage condition. As always, check for signs of spoilage before use.


Does mustard go bad if not refrigerated?

No. Mustard won’t spoil if left out due to vinegar content that makes it shelf-stable. However, refrigeration helps maintain the flavor better.

Is it okay to eat expired mustard?

The expiration date on the label is for quality purposes rather than a safety date. As long as mustard is not spoiled, feel free to eat it.

Can you freeze mustard seeds?

Freezing is not recommended as it doesn’t extend the shelf life of dried seeds. If the bottle is removed from and into the freezer repeatedly, the flavor and aroma will suffer due to the condensation process.

Is mustard gluten-free?

Mustard sauces are typically made with mustard seeds, vinegar, wine (for Dijon mustard), spices, and other ingredients. These ingredients are naturally gluten-free. But, this is not enough to guarantee that mustard is always gluten-free.

When it is produced in a facility that also produces other products containing gluten, cross-contamination is possible. Thus, always check the allergen information on the label or reach out to the manufacturer for further details.

Final Thoughts

Mustard, both the seeds and sauces, is inseparable from our kitchen. Knowing the proper storage is crucial to keep their aromatic profile. Both are shelf-stable items that do not require refrigeration. However, refrigeration helps to preserve the flavor up to a year after opening.

Mustard seeds, either whole or ground, keep pretty well, for 2 to 4 years. Although the seeds are rarely going bad, the flavor diminishes as time goes by. If you spot signs of molds, discolorations, off-odor, and bitter taste, better to discard any leftovers.

Up next: Substitutes For Dry Mustard Powder

mustard shelf life

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