Does Balsamic Vinegar Go Bad?

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This humble little condiment really goes a long way in elevating a dish. A rustic slice of warm bread can go from boring to amazing with just a little dip of balsamic vinegar. Balsamic vinegar gives your dish some extra zip, whether you are using it as a dip, marinade, dressing, or anything else. 

Balsamic vinegar originated in Italy and is basically flavored vinegar made from particular types of grapes. You’ll find a bottle of balsamic vinegar along with olive oil in most Italian restaurants. Balsamic vinegar has a sweet tangy flavor and goes well with vegetables, fruits, bread, and even pasta. While vinegar is found in almost all households, be it for cooking or cleaning, balsamic vinegar though not so much. But if you do have a bottle at home here are a few things to do to store it better, extend its shelf, and keep it fresher.

Despite how popular balsamic vinegar is, not everyone buys a bottle, and those that do, buy it so infrequently that it ends up rattling around in the kitchen cabinet or pantry. In that case, is it even worth buying it and does it go bad?

I would definitely recommend buying yourself a bottle of balsamic vinegar, not only is it packed with flavor to dress up your favorite salad or sandwich, but it almost never goes bad.

That’s right, balsamic vinegar doesn’t usually go bad, unless by some external contamination. Balsamic vinegar is so highly acidic that it is not possible for bacteria to grow and spread. Balsamic vinegar is good to use for years after opening, but it will at some point start losing flavor. So, it won’t be spoiled, but it is not going to have the best taste. 

How Long Does Balsamic Vinegar Last?

First, let me explain that there are two distinct types of balsamic vinegar available. One is the traditional balsamic vinegar that is aged in barrels for years and gets better with age and time. The other is the commercially available balsamic vinegar found in grocery stores and supermarkets, usually with some kind of additive to extend its already long shelf life. The store-bought, bottled balsamic vinegar, while it doesn’t necessarily spoil, does not get better with age, the quality in fact starts deteriorating. 

That being said, how long does balsamic vinegar last?

Whether opened or unopened, a bottle of balsamic vinegar will last for about 2-3 years after the best-by date. The best-by date is the date when the product reaches peak quality. After that, the quality starts declining. The balsamic vinegar still won’t be spoiled after this date, but there will be a significant change in taste.

Now, traditional balsamic vinegar that has been aged in wooden casks can last for up to 20 years. 

Bottled, store-bought balsamic vinegar will last for 2-3 years after the best-by date. Again, this depends on the brand and quality of the balsamic vinegar. Some bottles state they will last for 12 months, while others claim years of quality ahead. When you are purchasing your bottle of balsamic vinegar be aware of these discrepancies and go with whatever the bottle says in terms of shelf life and storage. 

Type of Balsamic VinegarPantry/Fridge
Traditional Balsamic VinegarUp to 20 years
Store-bought Balsamic VinegarBest-by date + 2-3 years

How To Store Balsamic Vinegar?

  • Now that we have seen just how long the shelf life of balsamic vinegar is, how do we store it so that it continues being fresh, flavorful, and usable. You would think that something that is this shelf-stable with such an impressive shelf-life would need lots of care and prep, but surprisingly, it doesn’t.
  • Balsamic vinegar can pretty much take care of itself. You need to do little to no work in ensuring its longevity.
  • The only thing you need to make sure of is that it is tightly closed. Balsamic vinegar almost always spoils because the lid or cap has not been closed, leading to impurities being introduced and in turn spoiling the balsamic vinegar. 
  • Balsamic vinegar can be stored in the fridge or pantry, it will not spoil.
  • Even an open bottle of balsamic vinegar can be stored in the pantry or kitchen cabinet. Only make sure that it is stored in a cool, dark place away from direct heat and sunlight. 
  • Whether you are looking at storing your balsamic vinegar in the fridge or pantry, just make sure the lid or cap is closed fully and tightly. 
  • Another thing to be aware of is temperature control and exposure to air. Neither of these is going to result in your balsamic vinegar going bad. But if your balsamic vinegar is constantly exposed to fluctuating temperatures and storage conditions, it will start to lose flavor quicker. 
  • Also, keep in mind that many of the balsamic vinegar sold in stores are not authentic and have lots of additives and preservatives that have not been aged much. These will have a similar shelf life as traditional balsamic vinegar, but the taste will not be the same.

Does Balsamic Vinegar Spoil and How To Tell If It Has Spoiled?

Honestly, there is very little chance of your balsamic vinegar going bad. Even if you have had it for years, or for a very long time after its best-by date, there is a good chance your balsamic vinegar is still fine, but you can be assured that it doesn’t have the flavor or taste that it should. 

If you are ever in doubt about how long you’ve had your bottle, then just throw it out and get a new one. 

But there are some instances when balsamic vinegar has gone bad and here is what to watch out for:

  • Smell: If your balsamic vinegar has a super rancid or off smell then throw it out. Balsamic vinegar generally smells sweet and vinegary, if that is not the case, then it has turned or is too old to be used.
  • Taste: Balsamic vinegar should taste sweet and acidic, even sour, but if it tastes bitter or harsh, then it is not fit to be consumed or cooked.
  • Texture: If you see any growth or other impurities in the balsamic vinegar it has definitely spoiled. If you see mold or some green or white spots floating on its surface it has spoiled.
  • Cloudiness: Sometimes the balsamic vinegar might seem cloudy with “sediments” at the bottom and lighter liquid on top, this is normal. This does not been the balsamic vinegar has gone bad, it just indicates that it has settled. Just shake the bottle before using it.

Do not consume balsamic vinegar if you think there is a chance it has gone bad or if it has lost quality and doesn’t have the taste and texture it should.

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