Have you discovered an old bottle of balsamic vinegar? You don’t need to be a culinary connoisseur to know how prized this stuff is.
But, before mixing it into your salad dressing, you might wonder whether it is safe to consume old vinegar. Does balsamic vinegar go bad? Read on to learn more.
Does Balsamic Vinegar Go Bad?
Balsamic vinegar does not go bad. The store-bought variety has a sell-by date but this only relates to quality. If it goes past this date, it does not mean that the vinegar is spoilt.
Even though balsamic vinegar can go for a long time without spoiling, its quality will gradually deteriorate. Vinegar that is five years past its sell-by date will likely not taste as nice and fresh as one that is just a few months old since its purchase date.
Proper storage will go a long way in ensuring that balsamic vinegar retains peak freshness and nutritional value for as long as is possible. We’ll get into that in a bit but first, let us learn more about the shelf life of this popular vinegar.
How Long Does Balsamic Vinegar Last?
Stored in the right conditions, both traditional and commercially produced balsamic vinegar can last indefinitely. Traditional balsamic vinegar is pure with no added preservatives. This type, like wine, is usually preserved for many years and only gets better with age.
On the other hand, commercially produced balsamic vinegar, which is the one we buy from the stores, contains added preservatives to make it shelf-stable. This type can also last for years but the difference is that its quality may wane with time.
Stored at room temperature, balsamic vinegar can last 3-5 years past its sell-by date. Past this date, the vinegar’s flavor and color might begin to change but it will remain safe to use.
We will talk about storage in a bit but generally, it is best to store your vinegar in a cool, dry, and dark place to preserve its quality for longer.
Unlike many other condiments we use around the house, vinegar does not need refrigerating or freezing to extend its shelf life. Even after opening it, you can just store it in the pantry or cabinet and it will still be good to use for years.
Good quality balsamic vinegar is not cheap. But, if yours has sat in the pantry for more than 5 years, consider replacing it with a new bottle if you are serious about the taste, flavor, and overall quality of your balsamic salad dressing.
Balsamic Vinegar Shelf Life
|Unopened balsamic vinegar|
Opened balsamic vinegar
3- years past the sell-by date
5 Tips To Tell If Balsamic Vinegar Has Gone Bad
If your prized bottle of balsamic vinegar has sat on the shelf for a couple of years now, you might wonder whether it is still good to continue using.
The good news is that this type of vinegar does not go bad in the sense of becoming stale or rotting. When we talk about vinegar going bad what it means is that it is past its peak quality.
There are several things you can check to tell if balsamic vinegar has gone bad i.e. has lost its quality.
1. Sell-by date
At the risk of stating the obvious, the first thing you want to check is the sell-by date for a hint of how fresh your vinegar might be. As mentioned, balsamic vinegar is at its peak quality 3-5 years past its recommended sell-by date. After this, your vinegar will not taste as nice and fresh as expected and it might be time to replace it.
2. Condition of the bottle
Balsamic vinegar should be stored in a dark glass bottle with a tight seal. You should never buy balsamic in a clear glass bottle as it would have been exposed to light and its quality drastically altered.
You should also check the seal. If it is broken or loose, air, moisture, and likely other contaminants entered the bottle and it is safe to assume that the condiment is no longer fresh or even safe to use.
Fresh balsamic vinegar has a glossy, deep brown color. With time, the vinegar might develop a haziness that will slightly alter its color. This is nothing to worry about and is not a sign of spoilage.
However, if the vinegar is improperly stored, for example, if it is stored in direct light or heat for a long time, it might lose its rich color and take on a light brown tinge.
Tasting will give you a pretty good sense of the quality of your vinegar. Before using it in your recipes, pour a small amount in a tablespoon and taste. At its peak, balsamic vinegar will have a tangy and acidic taste with notes of sweetness. If it is too acidic, it might not be a good idea to continue using it as you risk ruining your recipes with too much tanginess.
5. Check for mold
Balsamic vinegar is highly acidic and mold will generally not thrive in such an environment. However, the presence of other contaminants and moisture can encourage the development of mold especially around the opening of the bottle where the seal sits. If you notice mold, it is best to discard that bottle and buy a new one.
3 Tips To Store Balsamic Vinegar
Now that you know how to check if balsamic vinegar is still of good quality, let’s take a look at tips to store the vinegar and extend its shelf life.
1. Keep it away from light
Light and heat are the two worst enemies of balsamic vinegar. There is a good reason why makers of pure traditional vinegar keep this stuff in cool wood casks that are impenetrable to light.
Direct light will break down the chemical composition of the vinegar thereby drastically lowering its quality. Heat also has the same effect on balsamic vinegar.
We strongly recommend storing your vinegar in a cool, dry, place such as the pantry or a kitchen cabinet. Just be sure that the cabinet is not above the cooker, oven, or other sources of heat.
2. Store in the right container
Your balsamic vinegar should come in a dark glass bottle as opposed to a clear one. It is best to store the condiment in its original dark bottle, to keep light from interfering with the quality of the vinegar. Ensure that the bottle is tightly sealed to keep moisture and other contaminants away.
Some stores like to display their artisan vinegar close to the window. It is best not to buy balsamic vinegar stored this way because the direct light has definitely tampered with the quality of the vinegar.
3. Avoid refrigerating
It might be tempting to stick that beautiful bottle of balsamic vinegar in the fridge to keep it fresher for longer but that is not a good idea. This variety of vinegar stores very well at room temperature even after opening it.
Refrigeration can cause water to condense inside the bottle, which will, in turn, dilute the vinegar or worse create a breeding ground for mold. In the fridge, the vinegar might also pick up the flavors of surrounding foods thereby messing up the vinegar’s taste and aroma.
As you can see, storing balsamic vinegar is quite easy. As long as it is kept in a clean, dark, and sealed glass bottle and is stored in a cool and dry environment, your prized vinegar can retain peak freshness for years.
The Risks of Consuming Expired Balsamic Vinegar
Technically, balsamic vinegar does not expire. As long as it has been stored under the right conditions, you can use it past its best-by date, which is often confused with the expiry date. The best-by date is the manufacturer’s recommended date for how long the vinegar will retain peak quality.
So, you will not get sick from using balsamic vinegar that has gone past its best-by date in and of itself. However, if harmful contaminants find their way into the bottle, they might pose a health risk.
In particular, avoid consuming anything that has mold on it. Mold will very rarely grow in vinegar but if it happens, you should discard the condiment. Some molds are dangerous and can cause respiratory illness and symptoms of food poisoning such as diarrhea, stomachache, and fever.
Can You Freeze Balsamic Vinegar?
The short answer is ‘yes’ you can freeze balsamic vinegar but this is completely unnecessary and not the best use of freezer space.
Balsamic vinegar stores very well at room temperature even after it is opened and freezing or refrigerating does nothing to add to its flavor, color, aroma, or shelf life.
On the contrary, the extremely low temperatures in the freezer will easily ruin the quality of pure balsamic vinegar. You’d need to thaw the vinegar and that temperature difference will alter the vinegar’s profile.
Overall, while you can technically freeze balsamic vinegar, doing so does more harm than good. Even if for some reason you have a bulk supply of the stuff, you can store it in a cool, dry, and dark pantry without worrying about it going bad.
Balsamic vinegar is one of the hardiest condiments in your kitchen. You can use that old vinegar without any serious risks to your health. Just store it in a cool, dark, and dry place in a tightly sealed, dark glass bottle and it will keep fresh and serve you for many years to come.