Does Balsamic Vinegar Go Bad? How Long Does It Last?

logo by Editorial Staff | Updated on November 3rd, 2022

The short answer is:

Balsamic vinegar never spoils. Because the high acid liquid condition is unfriendly to bacterial development, a properly kept container can survive indefinitely. However, its highest quality does not last long, and your balsamic vinegar will ultimately lose taste.

Balsamic Vinegar

If you don’t use balsamic vinegar daily, it will sit in your cupboard for a long time. However, because it is used in small amounts, the issue “does balsamic vinegar go bad?” arises frequently.

If you use this condiment to make balsamic vinaigrette dressings and don’t eat a lot of salads, that bottle can remain in your cabinet for months or even years.

I know this since I have one that has been open for over three years, and I still use it occasionally. And, surprise what, the vinegar tastes exactly like it should and does an excellent job of adding a little sharpness and sweetness to salad dressings.

Continue reading to discover more about storage, shelf life, and whether or not balsamic vinegar may rot.

What Exactly Is Balsamic Vinegar?

Balsamic vinegar originates in Emilia-Romagna, a northern Italian area. To this day, a bottle must be manufactured in this historic location to be certified as a true balsamic vinegar. However, the once-isolated local pride has now reached individuals worldwide.

Balsamic vinegar is made from squeezed Trebbiano and Lambrusco grapes, often known as grape must. This reduction procedure yields a thick syrup known as Mosto Cotto. The material is then matured in various wooden barrels for at least 12 years and up to 25 years or more.

This entire procedure results in rich, silky vinegar. It features sweet and tart grape aromas mixed with the oak barrels’ dark, muted undertones. Because of its acidic nature, vinegar is self-preserving and frequently too harsh an environment for germs to flourish.

Balsamic Vinegar Varieties

Before we proceed, you need to be familiar with the wide varieties of balsamic vinegar. This will come in handy later on, I swear.

Classic balsamic vinegar comes in two varieties:

  • Tradizionale Aceto Balsamico di Modena DOP
  • DOP Reggio Emilia Tradizionale Balsamico

First, it’s the “authentic” balsamic vinegar, aged for years and costs an arm and a leg.

Second, Aceto Balsamico di Modena IGP, also known as Modena Balsamic Vinegar. It’s far less expensive than the “genuine” one, but it’s still high-quality. So in terms of quality and pricing, this is the middle brother of the three.

Finally, there’s the inexpensive grocery store balsamic vinegar. It’s the cheapest of the three, but it’s still significantly more expensive than white vinegar.

Its quality isn’t fantastic because it’s essentially a knockoff of the “genuine thing,” but it suffices in most families. So if you’re like me, you’ll most likely buy this one.

This whole branding and “authenticity” saga may remind you of another commodity with similar issues: parmesan cheese.

If your bottle says nothing about being a classic balsamic vinegar or mentions Modena, it’s the low-quality type.

Advantages for Health

Balsamic vinegar, like other beverages, offers several health advantages.

It will Help You Lower Your Cholesterol

This is the finest vinegar for maintaining or lowering cholesterol and, as a result, lowering the risk of having blocked arteries. The antioxidants in vinegar aid in the reduction of harmful cell formation.

Beneficial to Your Digestive System

Acetic acid is a key component in balsamic vinegar. Probiotic microorganisms are present in acetic acid. This retains food and promotes proper digestion while also enhancing intestinal health. Some people also report that the vinegar helps them feel full for lengthy periods, preventing them from overeating.

Aids in Cancer Risk Reduction

The antioxidants in vinegar have been shown to boost your immune system—this aids in preventing inflammation and developing potentially fatal illnesses such as cancer.

To Lose Weight

Hello to everyone concerned about their weight. Balsamic vinegar, like other vinegar, has anti-obesity properties. In addition, probiotic microorganisms, as mentioned above, make you feel fuller.

Furthermore, vinegar is fat-free, unlike other flavoring agents such as mustard, butter, and mayonnaise. With that stated, don’t get me wrong: it’s not a magic wand for your weight problems, but when utilized correctly, it can lead to weight reduction.

Enhances Blood Circulation

The presence of grapes in the vinegar is beneficial to your body. This is because grapes prevent platelets from aggregating, which prevents cardiac arrest.

It Has Anti-Aging Properties.

Antioxidants promote cell growth, which slows the aging process of your skin. Additionally, the acetic acid, antibacterial agents, and antioxidants make your skin appear clearer while improving your complexion.

It Has the Potential to Control Your Insulin

Because it is anti-glycemic, persons with insulin resistance who ingest it experience insulin sensitivity, lowering their risk of diabetes.

It’s Beneficial for Pain Relief

Where are the people who suffer from mild headaches and migraines? It’s time to start using natural treatments to relieve aches and pains and avoid putting too many drugs in your body. For example, balsamic vinegar relieves pain while also treating infections and wounds.

How to Tell whether Balsamic Vinegar Is Good

Before we get into how to judge the quality of balsamic vinegar, it’s crucial to understand that different grades or degrees of quality are appropriate for different applications.

For example, one that hasn’t been aged long or was mass-produced commercially may still work well in salad dressings, but it’s probably not what you’d want to serve with cheese and fruit.

In some sense, it’s similar to picking a wine. If you’re adding it to simple home meals, you can get away with buying a bottle for a few dollars, but if you’re serving to impress, you’ll want an original high-quality Italian variation.

As previously said, one of the simplest ways to verify quality is to do aging checks. This includes inspecting the viscosity, inspecting the color, and doing a tasting test. The older it is, the thicker, darker, and sweeter it will be.

However, some producers may use chemicals to give their inferior balsamic vinegar the appearance of an aged type. To avoid this, search for authenticating marks, such as a Denominazione di Origine Protetta (DOP) stamp. 

The word translates to “Protected Designation of Origin,” which signifies that the product was not only manufactured by local craftspeople but also using traditional techniques. In addition to the stamp, bottles of balsamic vinegar that fulfill the specifications will be numbered and have a distinctive seal.

Because only producers allowed to use the stamp may use the word “traditional,” seeing the words “Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale” on a bottle guarantees authenticity and quality. It may also say “Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena” or “Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia” to indicate if the vinegar was made in Modena or Emilia-Romagna.

Finally, conventional procedures require the balsamic vinegar to be matured for at least 12 years; however, some are aged for more than 150 years. Although age alone does not indicate quality, it is an excellent indicator.

While buying a good bottle of balsamic vinegar without the DOP mark is possible, it is by far the quickest and easiest to tell.

How Long Will Balsamic Vinegar Last?

Anyone should have a bottle of balsamic vinegar in their kitchen because of its numerous health advantages. However, because the two types of balsamic vinegar contain different components, their shelf life differs greatly. Let’s go through each type in depth.

Balsamic Vinegar (Traditional)

Traditional balsamic vinegar is made from grape must that has been fermented and acidified in oak barrels for 12 to 25 years. This process is similar to that of manufacturing aged wine or whiskey. And because traditional vinegar is made entirely of grape must, it has characteristics identical to these liquors.

This implies that under the right circumstances, you may keep traditional balsamic vinegar for as long as feasible. Its taste becomes even richer and deeper with age. Some of the most exquisite traditional balsamic vinegar can survive for over a century.

Balsamic vinegar is traditionally aged in the same way that wine is.

Balsamic Vinegar (Modern Commercial Balsamic Vinegar)

Unlike traditional balsamic vinegar, commercial balsamic vinegar contains extra components that reduce the production time from about 20 years to only a few months. This is why the current kind will not endure as long as the original.

Though it is still safe to drink commercial balsamic vinegar beyond its expiration date, the quality has deteriorated. Check the “Best-by” date on every contemporary balsamic vinegar bottle. This is normally three years after the date of manufacture, and it is the best time to use it.

This vinegar kind does not go bad after the “Best-by” date. However, its quality would deteriorate gradually. This cannot be detected in a day or two. However, if you wait another year, the difference will become clearer.

That is why, for the finest flavor, you should change your balsamic vinegar every five years.

The table below summarizes the shelf life of two distinct types of balsamic vinegar.

Traditional Balsamic Vinegar20+ Years
Commercially Prepared Balsamic Vinegar“Best by” + 3 years

Is it necessary to keep balsamic vinegar refrigerated?

Although refrigerating balsamic vinegar is an option, it is not required and is not in the best storage condition.

Colder temperatures can induce taste changes over time, while humidity might condense the container, diluting the vinegar.

If you usually use it for salads, you could prefer it cold, so storing it in the fridge isn’t a big deal. However, it’s best to store it at room temperature in the pantry for making sauces and marinades.

Is it possible to store balsamic vinegar on the counter?

Yes, you may store balsamic vinegar on the counter for up to two years after opening. Make sure the bottle is never exposed to direct sunlight and that it is always well sealed. It should not be kept in a bottle with a spout; it should be firmly closed.

Balsamic vinegar does not need to be refrigerated, but it can benefit from it. It extends the shelf life beyond two years by keeping the liquid at a very low temperature.

Why do I see olive oil and balsamic vinegar on tables outside?

Poor management is primarily to blame for the presence of olive oil and balsamic vinegar bottles on restaurant tables, even outside. You’d be shocked how many individuals, especially in areas with many customers, misunderstand their condiments and how they should be stored.

Despite the tinted glass, direct sunshine ferments the vinegar more and readily breaks it down. The glass is intended to guard against accidental exposure rather than continuous exposure. The same is true with olive oil.

It’s worth mentioning that true balsamic vinegar is available at just a few establishments. Most people use a kind that is a knockoff. Balsamic vinegar comes in various legitimate brands, none of which are inexpensive.

Flavored colored wine vinegar that has been sweetened with brown sugar is served on the table. This is true for many restaurants, especially if they are not expensive enterprises enjoying their food.

How to Determine Whether Balsamic Vinegar Is Bad

Balsamic vinegar does not spoil if properly stored and cared for. In addition, balsamic vinegar does not deteriorate unless the bottle is open and pollutants enter.

If you kept it under dubious conditions, or if it was left open for an extended period, it’s best to be safe and dispose of it.

If something is wrong with the drink, such as a change in color or flavor, discard it. Such problems are extremely improbable, yet they might occur.

Cloudy vinegar is typical and may still be used safely.

As previously stated, professionally manufactured balsamic vinegar gradually deteriorates in quality over time. That implies that it won’t taste the same in a few years. If this occurs, the vinegar is still safe to consume, but you should discard it for quality reasons.

If you discover that it just tastes passable after creating your favorite dressing, it’s usually time to cut your losses and get a new bottle of balsamic vinegar.

Is it OK to use cloudy balsamic vinegar?

Yes. There’s no need to be concerned or mistake it for spoiling. You may either strain it through a coffee filter or ignore it.

The “mother of vinegar” is the cloudiness or sediment at the bottom of the bottler. It is generated by the vinegar’s harmless microorganisms, which means your vinegar is organic, unrefined, and completely safe to use.

What Does It Mean When the Flavor of Vinegar Decreases?

The second point is about the vinegar’s flavor. Although the vinegar will not spoil, you may notice that it has lost its original, rich flavor. This is likewise natural, but it serves as a “warning sign” that you shouldn’t rely on a single open bottle of balsamic vinegar for too long. After two or three years, the quality of an opened vinegar bottle will gradually decline, and you won’t be able to appreciate your favorite condiment fully.

What Effect Does Temperature Have on Balsamic Vinegar?

Heat will not spoil the vinegar, but if you continue to expose it to sunshine or heat, it will evaporate quicker, causing it to lose much of its quality. It will still be functional, but it will no longer taste or have the same quality as when it was first made.

On the other hand, cold does not suit the vinegar and might cause it to spoil, rendering it worthless. This is why you should never place an opened bottle of balsamic vinegar in the refrigerator. It can quickly spoil it by preventing it from going through its natural evaporation process.

As you can see, the greatest thing you can do for your bottle of balsamic vinegar is to keep it in the dark spot, keep the ambient temperature at bay, and correctly shut the container.

Can you use balsamic vinegar after it has passed its expiry date?

Yes, but only if properly stored. First, check to see if it has any weird odor or flavor. While it is not required, producers typically include “best before” or “expiration date” on the label.

This date estimates how long a bottle of balsamic vinegar will keep its optimal quality. Although it is still safe to consume after the expiry date, there may be a decline in quality, such as flavor and taste.

Can mold grow in balsamic vinegar?

It is extremely unlikely, yet it is still conceivable. The acidic nature of balsamic vinegar creates an inhospitable environment for mold development. When it is not properly kept, pollutants might infiltrate the bottle.

What Are the Health Consequences of Using Old Balsamic Vinegar?

The general agreement is that consuming outdated balsamic vinegar should not cause major health problems. We haven’t discovered any evidence of such hazards, likely due to balsamic vinegar’s long shelf life. As a result, the odds of it becoming so terrible that it may damage you are slim (unless, in cases of incorrect storage, you’ll know you’re looking at a nasty condiment).

Such items have such a long expiration date that they are unlikely to go bad, let alone create any health risks. Furthermore, most well-treated vinegar can be used for years after expiration. But, of course, if you notice or smell something strange, it’s better to avoid using it.

What Is the Best Way to Store Balsamic Vinegar?

Now that you know how to tell if balsamic vinegar is still good, let’s look at how to store it and extend its shelf life.

1. Keep it out of direct sunlight.

Balsamic vinegar’s two worst enemies are light and heat. So, producers of genuine traditional vinegar store it in cold oak barrels that are impervious to light.

The chemical content of the vinegar will be broken down by direct light, resulting in a significant reduction in its quality. Heat has the same impact on balsamic vinegar as it does on wine.

We highly advise keeping your vinegar in a cold, dry location, such as the pantry or a kitchen cabinet. Ensure the cabinet isn’t directly above the stove, oven, or other heat sources.

2. Keep it in the Proper Container

Your balsamic vinegar should be packaged in a dark glass container rather than a clear one. To prevent light from interfering with the quality of the vinegar, keep the condiment in its original dark bottle. Ensure the bottle is properly sealed to keep moisture and other impurities out.

Some retailers choose to place their handmade vinegar near the window. However, it is advisable not to buy balsamic vinegar stored in this manner since the direct light has surely harmed the vinegar’s quality.

3. Do Not Refrigerate

It may be tempting to place that lovely bottle of balsamic vinegar in the refrigerator to keep it fresher for longer, but this is not a smart idea. Even after opening, this vinegar keeps quite well at room temperature.

Refrigeration can cause water to condense within the container, diluting the vinegar or creating a breeding ground for mold. Also, in the fridge, the vinegar may pick up the scents of nearby items, diluting the vinegar’s taste and aroma.

As you can see, keeping balsamic vinegar is rather simple. Your cherished vinegar can keep its optimal freshness for years if stored in a clean, dark, and sealed glass bottle in a cold and dry atmosphere.

What is the shelf life of balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing?

The “best by” date on the store-bought balsamic vinaigrette dressing is the best method to understand how long the dressing’s shelf life is.

Most store-bought dressings contain several additional ingredients to ensure that the dressing lasts and does not separate. As a result, the shelf life is usually at least 12 months, often much longer.

After opening the dressing bottle, store it in the refrigerator and use it within a few months. The worse the quality, the longer the bottle is left open.

It all relies on the components you choose when making homemade salad dressing with balsamic vinegar. It will survive for weeks if you use vinegar, olive oil, and spices (but separate within hours). If the recipe calls for vegetables, try to utilize them within a few days.

Because homemade salad dressing tastes best when fresh, make only as much as you need for a single meal.

What Is the Best Way to Use Balsamic Vinegar?

Balsamic vinegar is excellent poured over grilled or roasted meats, a cheese platter, or salad, but there are many more ways to utilize it. In reality, with all the foods and beverages you can make using balsamic vinegar, it seems difficult to keep a bottle for a year, many alone three to five years.

Other applications include:

  • It may provide a rich flavor when braising beef, pig, or lamb.
  • To prepare a tasty dipping sauce, combine chopped parsley, minced garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a touch of salt. It goes well with crusty baguette bread. This will, without a doubt, leave your tummy aching for more food.
  • When combined with rosemary, sage, garlic, and salt, balsamic vinegar may aid in marinating your meats.
  • Because it provides a rich floral flavor and acidity to cocktails and mocktails, as well as other non-alcoholic drinks, this vinegar is the finest choice.
  • You may add vinegar to your soups or stews while cooking them.
  • You may produce syrup by running the vinegar through a sieve over low heat. This thickens and decreases the glazing. Drizzle it over your cooked vegetables.
  • Some people drizzle it over rich vanilla ice cream to use it as a topping for ice cream.

The usage listed above is not the most common one that people are aware of. Most people buy vinegar, use it for salad dressing and marination, and then leave it in storage for months/years, forgetting they have it. Then, after a while, they return to their stores and question if it is still fresh.


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