How long does a jar of cranberry sauce last once opened?

Cranberry sauce is a popular condiment that is commonly served alongside turkey and other foods during holiday meals like Thanksgiving and Christmas. But if you don’t finish the whole jar, you may be wondering how long that cranberry sauce will last in the fridge once opened.

Quick Answer

An opened jar of cranberry sauce will usually last about 1 month past its “best by” date if stored properly in the refrigerator. The high acidity and sugar content helps prevent bacteria growth and spoilage.

How Long Does Opened Cranberry Sauce Last?

An unopened jar of cranberry sauce can be stored in a pantry for up to 1 year. However, once opened, cranberry sauce has a shorter shelf life. Here is how long cranberry sauce lasts when stored in the refrigerator after opening:

  • Canned Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce: 1 to 2 months
  • Canned Jellied Cranberry Sauce: 1 to 2 months
  • Homemade Cranberry Sauce: 1 to 2 weeks

The shelf life depends largely on the ingredients and preparation method. Commercially canned sauces last longer because of preservatives and higher acidity. The jellied form also lasts a bit longer than homemade sauce.

Whole Berry vs Jellied

Both canned jellied and whole berry cranberry sauce will last about 1 to 2 months after opening when stored in the refrigerator. Jellied sauce may last a little longer thanks to the gelatin helping to inhibit mold growth. But both have a similar shelf life.

No matter what form of cranberry sauce you have, keeping the jar refrigerated and tightly sealed after opening will help prolong its shelf life.

How to Tell if Opened Cranberry Sauce Has Gone Bad

Watch for the following signs that opened cranberry sauce has spoiled and should be thrown out:

  • Mold development
  • Liquid separating from the solids
  • Bubbles or froth on the surface
  • Changes color or darkening
  • Sour smell
  • Unpleasant taste when sampled

Discard cranberry sauce immediately if you notice any of these signs of spoilage. Do not taste cranberry sauce if extensive mold is present.

Mold Growth

One of the most common signs of spoiled cranberry sauce is mold. You may see fuzzy spots or filaments start to develop on the surface. Mold can vary in color but is most often green, white, or black. If any mold is visible, it’s best to throw out the sauce.

Liquid Separation

Separation of liquid from the solids is another indication your cranberry sauce has gone bad. Properly thickened sauce should have a uniform gel-like texture. If you see watery liquid pooled at the top or the sauce looks very runny, it likely spoiled.

Bubbles or Froth

Bubbles or frothy foam building up on the surface can signal fermentation. This is caused by yeasts or bacteria breaking down the sugars and producing gas as a byproduct. Cranberry sauce that has begun fermenting should not be eaten.

Color Change

While slight color variation is normal based on ingredients, cranberry sauce that has turned brown or shows darkening likely means it’s expired. An extreme loss of the bright red-orange hue indicates oxidative browning and spoilage.

Sour Odor and Taste

Cranberry sauce that smells unpleasantly sour or vinegar-like has spoiled. An excessively acidic or offensive taste when sampled is also a warning sign not to eat it.

How to Store Opened Cranberry Sauce

To get the most shelf life out of opened cranberry sauce, proper storage is key. Here are some tips for storing cranberry sauce once opened:

  • Refrigerate in a covered container immediately after opening
  • Ensure lid fits tightly so no air gets in
  • Use plastic or glass containers instead of cans
  • Avoid repeatedly dipping utensils into the sauce
  • Keep sauce away from cross-contamination from raw meats
  • Do not store for over 2 months

The refrigerator temperature should be set to 40°F or below. This prevents bacteria growth. And limiting air exposure by using an airtight lid helps block mold.

Transfer to a Container

For best quality, transfer leftover cranberry sauce to a plastic container or jar rather than leaving it in the original can. The metal can is prone to corrosion over time after being opened. And dipping utensils into the can also introduces bacteria.

Use plastic containers or Mason jars that have an airtight lid to prevent air exposure. Glass offers the benefit of being nonporous so stains do not absorb into the material.

Freeze for Long Term Storage

For storage beyond 2 months, you can freeze leftovers. Cranberry sauce can be frozen in an airtight container or freezer bag for 4 to 6 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before using.

Freezing prevents mold growth and slows down undesirable chemical changes. But freezing may affect the texture slightly, making it softer once thawed.

Can You Refrigerate Cranberry Sauce Before Opening?

Unopened canned cranberry sauce can be stored in the pantry. But is it ok to refrigerate unopened jars? Refrigerating before opening can extend the shelf life.

Unopened cranberry sauce can be kept in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 years past the “best by” date printed on the label. The cool temperature helps slow down chemical changes that affect flavor, color, and quality over time.

Once you open the jar, the countdown for using the sauce within 1 to 2 months begins. So refrigerating an unopened jar lets you prolong how long it lasts overall.

Can You Freeze Unopened Cranberry Sauce?

Freezing unopened cranberry sauce is another storage option to extend the shelf life.

If freezing before the “best by” date, cranberry sauce can usually be frozen for up to 1 year. Make sure jars are tightly sealed before freezing.

Freezing stops the sauce from undergoing quality changes. Thaw in the refrigerator before opening the jar.

How to Use up Leftover Cranberry Sauce

Try these ideas for using up cranberry sauce if you have leftovers that are approaching expiration:

  • Add to baked goods like muffins or bread
  • Swirl into yogurt, oatmeal, or cottage cheese
  • Use in pancake or waffle batter
  • Fill crepes or pancake rolls
  • Blend into smoothies
  • Top waffles or ice cream
  • Stir into apple pie filling
  • Mix into rice pilaf or wild rice
  • Make a glaze for meat like chicken, pork, or turkey
  • Blend with cream cheese for a dip or spread

Cranberry sauce can add tart flavor and moisture to a variety of baked goods, breakfast dishes, appetizers, sandwiches, salads, dressings, and more. Get creative with repurposing leftovers into both sweet and savory recipes.


Does canned cranberry sauce go bad?

Yes, canned cranberry sauce does eventually go bad. Unopened canned sauce lasts about 1 year past the “best by” date. Once opened, it lasts about 1-2 months in the refrigerator.

Can you eat cranberry sauce after expiration date?

It’s not recommended to eat cranberry sauce more than 1-2 months past the printed expiration date, even if it’s been stored in the fridge. The quality and safety start to decline after this time. Discard if you see signs of spoilage.

Can cranberry sauce make you sick?

Spoiled cranberry sauce that contains mold or bacteria can make you sick. Stomach issues like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are common symptoms. Serious illness is unlikely in healthy adults but higher risk for the elderly, infants, pregnant women, and those with weak immune systems.

How do you store an opened can of cranberry sauce?

Transfer opened cranberry sauce to a plastic or glass airtight container. Make sure the lid seals tightly. Refrigerate immediately at 40°F or below. Write the date opened on the container and use within 1-2 months.

Does jellied cranberry sauce go bad faster than whole berry?

No, both whole berry and jellied cranberry sauce have a similar shelf life when properly stored. Jellied sauce lasts about 1-2 months in the fridge after opening, which is the same duration as whole berry sauce.


Enjoying leftover cranberry sauce requires proper storage. An opened jar will typically last about 1-2 months in the refrigerator when stored in an airtight container. Follow the recommended refrigerator temperatures and watch for signs of spoilage. Cranberry sauce can also be repurposed in a variety of creative ways to use up what remains. With proper handling, you can safely enjoy the tart flavor of cranberry sauce even after the holidays are over.

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