Can You Use Expired Curry Paste? (Yes, here’s how to be safe)

Food expiration dates can be quite tricky! While some choose to eat food after the expiration date, others worry about getting sick. But what about that unused jar of curry paste sitting in the back of your fridge or cabinet? Can you use expired curry paste?

I checked it out, and here’s what I found:

Most curry pastes last well beyond their expiration dates, especially when they are unopened. Even opened and refrigerated curry paste will last well beyond its expiration date. However, the flavor will not be as strong as a fresh jar. 

Let’s take a closer look together.

Is food terrible after the expiration date?

To answer this question, we need to understand a few things about the dates printed on food packages. There are, in fact, two main types of dates used to describe the condition of foods on their packaging: “best before” and “use by.”

Let’s start with “use by.” These are the dates you need to pay the closest attention to. If you have something with a “use by” date printed on the packaging, this refers to food safety; it means that you need to use the food by the date printed on the package.

These foods are usually prone to bacteria growth over time, and they need to be kept in the refrigerator to slow the growth.

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Yogurt
  • Meat
  • Cheese
  • Diced fruit and vegetables

On the other hand, “best before” dates refer to the quality of the food that’s labeled. Food that has gone beyond its “best before” date isn’t dangerous; they may just not taste quite the same.

Packaged dry foods often use “best before” dates. These foods tend to lose flavor or change in texture – like going stale – over time.

  • Canned foods (vegetables, beans, soups)
  • Dried pasta
  • Cereal
  • Chips and crackers
  • Cookies
  • Soft drinks

Now, we all know that these dates aren’t always reliable; we’ve all cheated a little and eaten things after their expiration dates. If you have handled your food well, it is likely to last for a time beyond its expiration date. (source)

To determine if something has truly gone wrong, you will need to look for other signs of spoilage before consuming to make sure you don’t get sick. Here are a few examples.

  • Sour smelling milk
  • Changes in color in meat and poultry
  • Mold or yeast growth
  • Unusual variations in flavor and texture

If anything seems questionable, it may be best not to take the chance and throw it out.

Is it OK to eat expired curry paste?

There isn’t one tried and true answer to this question. It will totally depend on how it was stored, and the overall quality and condition of the paste itself after the expiration date has passed.

Unopened paste kept in the pantry or cabinet is generally safer (and better) to use past the expiration date than paste that has been opened and refrigerated.

No matter how it was kept, though, you should look for any signs that the paste has been compromised. This includes broken seals, separation of oil and solids, and any sort of mold growth. At that point, it’s best just to throw it out.

If you do not see any of these telltale signs of expiration, and the paste has been unopened, you are welcome to give it a try. Be sure to taste it first before you put it into your dish. It’s highly likely that it may have lost some of its flavor and potency over time.

How long does curry paste keep?

All food items perish with time.

The tricky thing is knowing until when they are safe for consumption. Dates printed on the packaging, as we already discussed, aren’t necessarily trustable. The FDA is simply required to print dates on packaging based on storage in ideal conditions.

You really need to understand when to look for, using those printed dates as a guideline for when you should be a bit more cautious instead of using it blindly.

The first thing you need to consider when asking if your curry paste (and really any food for that matter) is still good is whether or not it has already been opened.

Most expiration dates printed on packaging refer to a product that has been kept in ideal conditions and has not been opened yet. Once the seal is broken, your food will be exposed to outside elements, which can start the degradation process.

With curry paste in particular, if it has been packaged and stored in ideal conditions, unopened jars can last for several years. This is where you would rely heavily on the printed expiration date.

As mentioned in one of my recent articles, it is best to keep your unopened curry paste in a cold or mild-temperature room with low levels of humidity, like a pantry or cabinet with a door.

What makes curry paste go bad?

High humidity can compromise the quality, even if it is still sealed. Heat and moisture conditions create the perfect environment for bacteria to grow.

On the other hand, once the curry paste has been opened, the expiration date changes. This doesn’t necessarily mean it will go bad quickly (if it is stored correctly); it simply means that the quality will start to go down quicker.

Once a jar of curry paste has been opened, even when it is stored in the refrigerator, you can expect that it will remain at its best flavor for the next two weeks. Its flavor will start to decline, and you can expect it to taste stale and less flavorful four weeks after opening.

The kind of container it is stored in can also make a difference. Curry paste maintains its quality best over time in a glass jar. Plastic containers can often leach plastic into the paste, or they may absorb some of the color and flavor of the curry paste itself.

How long does Thai curry paste last, once opened?

When you are referring to curry paste, it is usually always Thai curry, not Indian. There are some very distinct differences between the two, as described in a recent article.

Most notably, that article gets into why most curry pastes and powders don’t actually use the leaves of the curry plant. Just click that link to read it on my site.

Besides the type of spices used in each, Indian curry usually starts with a blend of powdered spices, including most, if not all, of the following:

  • Coriander
  • Cumin
  • Turmeric
  • Cayenne chili powder
  • Fenugreek
  • Cardamom
  • Cinnamon
  • Garam masala

Thai curry, on the other hand, begins with a paste. There are several types of Thai curry, but the base ingredients usually include:

  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Lemongrass
  • Galangal (Thai ginger)
  • Chili peppers

Because Thai curry is more “liquid” based, it will eventually go bad once it is opened. The question is, when?

As we mentioned previously, Thai curry paste – once it is opened – tastes best within two weeks, but it will keep for at least a few months. Its flavor will still be decent, and the quality will remain much the same.

If my curry paste is expired, should I add more to increase flavor?

This is a comprehensible question when you consider that curry paste loses its flavor over time. However, it is not so easy to answer.

If your curry paste is past its date and you notice that the flavor is a bit different, but there are no signs of spoiling, you are welcome to try to add more paste to increase the flavor. You need to be aware that this may not necessarily change anything or give you the results you are looking for.

Changes in flavor don’t necessarily mean that the flavor is weaker, which would mean that it could be fixed by adding more. This could be possible, but it could also be that the flavor itself has changed altogether. Some ingredients may just not taste the same as they did when they were fresh.

So, basically, yes, if you add more expired curry paste, it will likely increase the flavor. It may not be the flavor you are expecting. It will just taste like a more robust version of the expired paste rather than what the curry should taste like if it were fresh.

Hopefully, now you know if you can use expired curry paste!

As with most packaged food items, you cannot solely rely on expiration dates to tell you when your food will taste its best. You need to use your own discretion, looking for signs of spoiling so that you don’t make yourself sick.

In most cases, your curry paste will be fine beyond its expiration date. It just may not taste the same, losing its flavor or just changing altogether into something that’s not quite what you are expecting in your dish.

Jeff Campbell

Jeff was a leader for Whole Foods Market for over 2 decades and is now a recovering foodie. When he's not spending time in the kitchen, he can usually be found with his wife & 3 daughters, he can usually be found practicing martial arts, making music, or blogging on his other sites. Click to learn more about me

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