Does Pesto Go Bad? Preserving Pesto Goodness

Have you ever rummaged through your fridge, looking for something to elevate your pasta or add a punch to your sandwich, only to discover a forgotten jar of pesto tucked in the back corner? That moment of culinary potential can be overshadowed by doubt—does pesto go bad? We’ve all been there, wondering about the freshness and safety of our food. In this guide, we’ll unravel the mysteries surrounding pesto’s shelf life, storage, and how to determine if it’s still good to use.

Does Pesto Go Bad?

Pesto, like other dishes, can indeed go bad. Pesto is a mixture of fresh basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, and salt. These ingredients, while delicious and aromatic, can spoil over time, impacting both taste and safety. Here are a few factors that contribute to pesto’s shelf life:

Does Pesto Go Bad

How Long Does Pesto Lasts?

The longevity of pesto varies depending on its type and how it’s stored. Let’s break down the shelf life of different types of pesto:

Homemade Pesto:

Homemade pesto is a delightful blend of fresh ingredients, often made in smaller quantities. When stored in the refrigerator:

  • Refrigerated Homemade Pesto: Homemade pesto can last in the refrigerator for approximately 5 to 7 days. However, it’s at its peak in terms of flavor and quality within the first few days.

Store-Bought Pesto:

Store-bought pesto, available in both refrigerated and non-refrigerated forms, comes with varying shelf lives:

  • Refrigerated Store-Bought Pesto: Once opened, store-bought pesto, when kept in the refrigerator, typically maintains its quality for about 1 to 2 weeks. Always refer to the packaging for the manufacturer’s specific recommendations.
  • Unrefrigerated Store-Bought Pesto: Unopened store-bought pesto, found in the non-refrigerated section of grocery stores, often retains its quality for a more extended period. It can last for about 1 to 2 months before opening. However, once opened, it should be refrigerated and used within the time frame recommended for refrigerated pesto.

It’s crucial to remember that these are general guidelines, and the freshness of pesto can be influenced by factors such as the quality of ingredients, preservatives used, and storage conditions.

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How to Store Pesto?

Proper storage is the cornerstone of maintaining the flavors and quality of your pesto. Whether it’s homemade or store-bought, here’s how to ensure your pesto remains fresh:

How to Store Pesto


Always store opened pesto in the refrigerator to slow down the spoilage process. The cold temperature helps in preserving the flavors and texture. Here’s how to go about it:

  • Transfer to Airtight Container: Once opened, transfer the remaining pesto to an airtight container. This prevents air exposure and maintains the integrity of the pesto.
  • Seal Tightly: Ensure the container is sealed tightly to avoid any air getting in, which can lead to discoloration and degradation of flavors.
  • Use Within 1-2 Weeks: Aim to consume the refrigerated pesto within 1 to 2 weeks for the best taste and quality. Check for any signs of spoilage before using it.

Olive Oil Layer:

Adding a thin layer of olive oil on top of the pesto can act as a protective barrier against oxidation and air exposure. Follow these steps:

  • Pour Olive Oil: After transferring the pesto to an airtight container, pour a small amount of olive oil on top, covering the entire surface.
  • Seal and Refrigerate: Seal the container tightly and refrigerate. The olive oil layer helps maintain the vibrant green color of the pesto.
  • Mix Before Use: Before using the pesto, gently mix the olive oil layer back into the pesto for an even consistency and flavor.

Unrefrigerated Store-Bought Pesto:

If you purchase pesto that doesn’t require refrigeration until opened, follow these steps for proper storage:

  • Cool, Dry Location: Store the unopened pesto in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Exposure to heat and light can degrade the quality and flavors.
  • Refrigerate After Opening: Once opened, transfer any unused portion to an airtight container and refrigerate according to the guidelines mentioned for refrigerated pesto.

Proper storage not only ensures the longevity of your pesto but also maintains its delightful flavors and vibrant green hue. Follow these steps to make the most of your pesto and savor its goodness in various dishes.

How to Tell if Pesto Has Gone Bad?

Ensuring your pesto is still fresh and safe to eat is crucial for an enjoyable dining experience. Here are the signs that can help you determine if your pesto has gone bad:

  • Smell Test: Fresh pesto has a distinctive, aromatic smell due to the basil and other ingredients. If your pesto has a rancid or off-putting odor, it’s likely gone bad and should be discarded.
  • Texture and Color: Healthy pesto should maintain a consistent green color and a smooth, slightly thick texture. If you notice any mold, unusual sliminess, or a change in color to a brown or dark green, it’s best to err on the side of caution and avoid consuming it.
  • Taste Check: Trust your taste buds. If the pesto tastes off, bitter, or has an unpleasant flavor, it’s an indication that it has spoiled and should not be consumed.

When in doubt about the freshness of your pesto, it’s safer to dispose of it. Using spoiled pesto can lead to foodborne illnesses and an unsavory dining experience. Always prioritize your health and enjoyment of your meals by ensuring your pesto is at its best before using it in your favorite recipes.

How to Freeze Pesto?

Freezing pesto is a fantastic way to extend its shelf life and enjoy the fresh flavors of basil throughout the year. Follow these steps to freeze your pesto effectively:

How to Freeze Pesto

  • Prepare Portions: Divide the pesto into manageable portions. Consider using ice cube trays, small containers, or silicone molds. This way, you can defrost only the amount you need for a particular recipe.
  • Fill Containers: Fill each compartment of the ice cube trays or containers with pesto, leaving a little space at the top to account for expansion during freezing.
  • Cover and Seal: Place a plastic wrap or airtight lids over the trays or containers to protect the pesto from freezer burn and odors.
  • Freeze: Put the trays or containers in the freezer. Once the pesto is frozen solid, usually within a few hours, transfer the pesto cubes or portions to a resealable freezer bag.
  • Label and Date: Don’t forget to label the bag with the date of freezing. This way, you can keep track of the pesto’s freshness.
  • Long-term Storage: Pesto can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 to 4 months. However, for the best flavor and quality, try to use it within the first 2 months.

When you’re ready to use the frozen pesto, simply remove the desired portion from the freezer and let it thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature. Once thawed, give it a gentle stir before incorporating it into your favorite recipes. Enjoy the taste of summer basil even during the colder months with your frozen pesto!


Can I freeze pesto in the original jar?

A: It’s not advisable to freeze pesto in the original jar as the expansion during freezing might break the glass. Transfer the pesto to freezer-safe containers or ice cube trays for efficient freezing.

Is brown pesto safe to eat?

Brown pesto indicates oxidation, which affects the flavor but usually isn’t harmful. However, if it has an off smell or taste, it’s better to discard it.

Wrapping Up

In the realm of culinary wonders, pesto holds a special place. While it does have a limited shelf life, proper storage and awareness of signs of spoilage can ensure you savor its vibrant flavors for as long as possible. Remember, trust your instincts and your senses—when in doubt, it’s best to err on the side of caution and bid farewell to a jar of pesto that has seen better days. Enjoy your pesto in its freshest form, and let your taste buds rejoice in its delightful essence.

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