How Long Does Pasta Sauce Last In The Refrigerator After It's Opened?

Food safety experts share their tips for proper storage and more.

Jarred pasta sauce is one of our favorite pantry staples to elevate dinner in a hurry, whether it's a weeknight-friendly chicken parmesan, Italian sandwich, or a hearty spaghetti casserole. While many recipes call for an entire jar, halving a recipe or whipping up a quick pasta dinner for two may leave you with some leftover sauce to use later in the week, but its shelf life may not be as long as you'd expect.

We asked two food safety experts, Britanny Saunier, executive director of Partnership for Food Safety Education, and Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, FAND, award-winning nutrition expert and Wall Street Journal best-selling author of Diabetes Create Your Plate Meal Prep Cookbook, to answer all our pasta sauce-preserving questions for ensuring safe and delicious meals again and again. From understanding the shelf life of opened pasta sauce to safe storage and signs that your sauce has gone bad, you'll be a food safety pro in no time.

Jarred Pasta Sauce
Getty Images

How Long Does Pasta Sauce Last in the Fridge?

Saunier recommends following the FDA's Food Keeper app guidelines for jarred spaghetti sauce. She says that, in general, leftovers should be eaten, discarded, or frozen within four days, giving you plenty of time to find out what to do with the remaining contents of a bottle of Rao's. This guideline is also true for homemade marinara or other pasta sauces.

However, that unopened jar of pasta sauce does in fact have a shelf life. Amidor advises tossing out a bottle if it has sat in your cupboard for more than 18 months, has any dents, has rust, or has swollen. Even after a year, it's worth checking the smell and taste before using.

How To Safely Store Pasta Sauce

Amidor says that pasta sauce should be stored in the refrigerator upon opening at 40°F or below. And, so long as it has been transferred to the freezer within four days of opening, leftover pasta sauce can be frozen if you don't have an immediate use for it. According to Barilla, it can be frozen for up to three months, but it's best practice to cool, portion it into a container or freezer bag, and label the date before placing the remaining sauce in your freezer.

When it comes to storing homemade pasta sauce, it's important to find an airtight container or jar to keep it in for proper preservation, according to Pasta Evangelists. This way, your scratch-made Sunday sauce will be able to last as long in the fridge as the store-bought stuff and can easily be frozen when meal-prepping.

If you're only using a portion of pasta sauce for a recipe and intend to refrigerate the rest for future use make sure to use a clean spoon or other utensil to ladle the sauce from the jar. A utensil used for cooking or stirring other foods can transfer food particles into the pasta sauce causing it to spoil more quickly, even if refrigerated.

How To Tell If Pasta Sauce Is Bad

Thankfully, it's pretty easy to tell if your pasta sauce has gone bad. Amidor says that the old adage, "when in doubt, toss it out" is always a good rule of thumb, but there are three particular things to look out for. First, if the sauce smells off or the taste doesn't seem right, she says you should toss the leftover sauce immediately. Also, if you notice any mold on the inside of the container, it is no longer safe to eat.

"Although mold itself doesn't necessarily cause harm, it does contain mold toxins, which can make you ill," says Amidor.

Now that you're fully equipped to use leftover pasta sauce properly, it's time to start cooking! Transform the remainder of that jar into an easy, satisfying dinner that the whole family will love or jazz it up with one of our pro tips for even-better spaghetti.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long do other jarred sauces stay fresh in the refrigerator?

    While pasta sauce stays fresh for about five to six days after opening, sauces that contain dairy, such as Alfredo, are best used within three or four days.

  • What is the shelf-life of unopened pasta sauce?

    Unopened tomato pasta sauce in a jar can last 12 to 18 months if properly stored. Keep the pasta sauce at room temperature in a pantry or cupboard.

Was this page helpful?
Southern Living is committed to using high-quality, reputable sources to support the facts in our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we fact check our content for accuracy.
  1. FoodKeeper.

  2. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Leftovers and food safety.

  3. Barilla. How to store pasta sauce.

Related Articles