What Does Bad Tomato Sauce Really Taste Like?

We’ve all been there. You’re making your favorite pasta dish and you go to grab your batch of homemade tomato sauce or your favorite store-bought stuff, only to find that it’s expired or just too old.

straining tomato seeds from the fermented tomato pulp
straining tomato seeds from the fermented tomato pulp

You give it a sniff and it smells okay, and it looks normal, but that won’t really tell you anything. Sometimes spoilage is subtle, and your sauce is passing the test of your nose and eyes.

You don’t want to just go for it and dump it on your pasta. Now is the time for the moment of truth, the taste test. But what does bad tomato sauce taste like?

Spoiled tomato sauce will have a sour, metallic, or foul taste to it, however it might appear. Spoilage is usually accompanied by a distinctly sour odor as well.

You don’t want bad tomato sauce to ruin your meal, and you definitely don’t want you or yours to get sick with a bad case of food poisoning.

There is a lot more to know about properly assessing old or questionable tomato sauces, so keep reading to find out more.

What Causes Tomato Sauce to Spoil?

Tomato sauce, like most food, will spoil over time. This is because of the growth of mold, bacteria, and yeast.

These can cause your sauce to change color, develop a fuzzy surface, emit an off-putting smell, or change in taste.

The main cause of tomato sauce spoilage is actually due to:

  • improper tomato sauce canning
  • improper storage methods
  • leaving an opened can in storage for too long

If not canned correctly, sealed airtight or stored in a cool, dark place, your tomato sauce will go bad much faster.

How Long Does Tomato Sauce Usually Last?

If unopened and properly stored, commercial tomato sauce can last up to two years. Once opened, it should be used within five to seven days for the best quality and safety.

Homemade tomato sauce that has been canned can last for up to one year, or a little longer if bagged and frozen.

How Can You Tell Tomato Sauce Has Gone Bad?

It can be hard to tell when tomato sauce has gone bad. If you’re not sure, it is better to throw it out. However, there are some signs that your tomato sauce may have spoiled.

  • The color may have changed, appearing darker than usual
  • The texture may have changed, appearing thinner or runnier
  • There may be mold blooms growing on the surface
  • The smell may be off, smelling sour, metallic, tangy, or rancid
  • The taste may be off, possibly tasting sour, metallic, or nasty

If you see any of these signs, it is best to discard the sauce.

Will Spoiled Tomato Sauce Always Look Different?

Not necessarily. Tomato sauce that has gone bad may not always look different, especially if it is only slightly spoiled. However, there may be some subtle changes in color or texture.

tomato pulp and seeds starting to ferment in glass jar

Will it Always Smell Different?

Usually, but not always. A noticeable change in odor is usually the best way to tell if your sauce has gone bad. If it smells sour, metallic, or tangy, it is probably time to discard it.

Will Spoiled Sauce Always Taste Off?

Again, it will usually, but not always. If your sauce has any of the aforementioned off-tastes, it is definitely time to say goodbye to it.

Will Thorough Cooking Make Bad Sauce Safe?

This is a common question asked by those in possession of questionable sauces. If your sauce is only slightly bad, cooking it thoroughly will usually make it safe to eat, but it won’t help the flavor, I promise.

However, if your sauce is moldy or too far gone, cooking it will not always make it safe and you should discard it.

Keep in mind, that some bacteria produce toxins that make you sick, not necessarily the bacteria itself. Many such toxins, like the infamous botulism toxin, are not destroyed by most cooking processes.

Again, when in doubt throw it out!

What Should You Do if You Eat Bad Tomato Sauce?

Eating bad tomato sauce can cause food poisoning. The bottom line is that you don’t want to play around and take a chance with stuff that is too far gone.

The symptoms of food poisoning can include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and cramps, diarrhea, headache, fever, and chills.

If you experience any of these symptoms after eating bad tomato sauce, obviously you should seek medical attention immediately.

But what about if you eat some dodgy sauce and then nothing happens? Well, hooray for you since you will probably be fine.

Keep in mind that it can take bacterial infections some time to manifest, so even if you don’t get sick right away stay on alert for a day or two and consult a doctor if you are concerned, particularly if you have other issues or conditions that could complicate things.

How Can You Keep Sauce from Spoiling?

The best way to keep your tomato sauce from spoiling is to use it up in a reasonable period of time.

Most folks are guilty of using a portion of their sauce and leaving it to languish on the door of the fridge for weeks, then months, before finally pulling it out to face the grisly truth.

But if you have a fresh or partial batch of sauce that you want to keep, you have a couple of options.

You can store it in the fridge for up to a week, maybe two, or you can freeze it for longer-term storage.

To freeze tomato sauce, let the sauce cool completely before to prevent ice crystals from forming which will degrade the quality.

Then pour the sauce into freezer bags or reusable containers, leaving about an inch and a half of headspace at the top to allow for expansion as it freezes.

Label and date your sauce, then pop it into the freezer where it will keep for about a year.

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