Is boxed beef broth still good after expiration date?

When it comes to food safety, many people rely on expiration dates printed on packages to determine if a food is still safe to eat. However, when it comes to store-bought boxed beef broth, the expiration date may not tell the whole story. This article will examine whether boxed beef broth is still good to consume after its expiration date has passed.

What do expiration dates on boxed beef broth mean?

The expiration date printed on a package of boxed beef broth is not actually an expiration date. Rather, it is a “best by” date, which indicates when the broth will be at peak quality and flavor. Manufacturers determine these dates by testing the shelf life of their products under various storage conditions.

A broth’s shelf life considers how long it takes for the quality and flavor to noticeably diminish. It also factors in food safety risks. However, boxed broths typically last well beyond their “best by” dates, especially if they have been properly stored.

How long does unopened boxed beef broth last past its date?

Properly stored, unopened boxed beef broth will maintain best quality for approximately 1 to 2 years past its “best by” date, but remains safe to consume after that. An unopened, shelf-stable product is sterile until you open it, so the broth inside is not at risk of spoilage.

As long as the packaging remains intact, commercially packaged beef broth has an indefinite shelf life. Look for any swelling, punctures, or leaks that could compromise the sterile seal and allow bacteria or moisture in before opening. As long as the packaging is in good condition, the beef broth inside should be safe no matter how long it has been sitting in your pantry.

Does opened boxed beef broth expire?

Once opened, boxed beef broth has a more limited shelf life compared to when it is unopened. Exposure to oxygen and potential contaminants when you open the packaging makes the opened broth more susceptible to spoilage.

Opened boxed beef broth will typically stay fresh for:

  • Refrigerator: 7 to 10 days past the “best by” date
  • Freezer: 2 to 3 months past the “best by” date

Proper storage is important for maximizing the shelf life once opened. Keep opened boxed broth refrigerated at 40°F or below and frozen at 0°F or below. Packaging should be tightly sealed or repackaged in an airtight container.

How to tell if opened boxed beef broth has spoiled

Although beef broth can last for a while past its date, it won’t last forever. Here are some signs that opened boxed beef broth has gone bad and should be discarded:

  • Appearance changes: Undesirable changes include mold growth, sliminess, or separation of liquids.
  • Off odors: Rotten, sour, or unpleasant odors indicate spoilage.
  • Off flavors: The broth tastes unpleasantly tangy, bitter, or acidic.
  • Fizzing or bubbling: Fermentation causes carbonation.
  • Discoloration: Drastic color changes like unnatural darkening or graying.

If your opened boxed beef broth displays any of these red flags, it is best to err on the side of caution and throw it out. With home canned or prepared broths, also watch for malformed lids or leaking jars.

Is expired boxed beef broth dangerous to consume?

Foodborne illnesses from spoiled, expired boxed broth are highly unlikely. Microbes generally cannot grow in the concentrated salt and preservatives in commercially packaged beef broths.

Dry broths and bouillon cubes are very low risk, even years after expiration. The low moisture content does not allow for microbial growth. With canned or cartoned boxed broth, botulism is a rare but potential risk if the packaging has been severely compromised.

While drinking rancid, expired broth may cause unpleasant stomach upset in some cases, it is not life-threatening. Nonetheless, the degraded quality, taste, and nutrition make it not worth consuming long after its prime.

Tips for storing boxed beef broth to extend shelf life

Proper storage can help extend the shelf life of boxed beef broth, keeping it fresher for longer after the printed date. Here are some storage tips:

  • Buy broth with latest expiration dates possible, and use older boxes first.
  • Store unopened boxes in a cool, dry place like a pantry.
  • After opening, transfer broth to a tightly sealed container and refrigerate.
  • Freeze extra portions in air-tight containers or bags.
  • Don’t store broth cans/cartons in hot places or direct sunlight.

Shelf life by format

The format of the boxed beef broth affects how long it lasts past its date when properly stored:

Format Unopened shelf life past “best by” date Opened shelf life past “best by” date
Cans 2 to 5 years 1 week (refrigerator)
Cartons/aseptic boxes 9 to 12 months 7 to 10 days (refrigerator)
Boullion cubes/granules Indefinite 1 to 2 years

How to use expired boxed beef broth

If you find yourself wondering what to do with older boxed beef broth or broth that is past its prime freshness, all is not lost. Here are some safe ways to use up expired boxed beef broth:

  • Cook dried beans or grains: The broth adds flavor as it gets absorbed into the dish.
  • Make gravies and sauces: Whisk broth into pan sauces, gravies, or roux for added flavor.
  • Use in place of water: Substitute broth for water when cooking rice, oatmeal, grits, couscous, etc.
  • Simmer vegetables: Boost flavor of boiled, roasted, or sauteed vegetables.
  • Make soups and stews: Build depth of flavor in soups, chilis, braises, and stews.
  • Cook meats: Use as cooking liquid or make into pan sauce for chicken, beef, pork.

The concentrated broth helps impart savory flavor into dishes, even if it is past its prime. Avoid using rancid or bad smelling broth that could negatively impact taste.

Can expired boxed beef broth make you sick?

Consuming expired boxed beef broth is very unlikely to make you sick. Properly processed and commercially packaged broths are designed to prevent hazardous bacteria growth thanks to:

  • Thermal processing: Heat treatment kills pathogens during manufacturing.
  • Low moisture content: Pathogens need available water to survive and multiply.
  • Low pH: The acidic environment inhibits bacteria as well.
  • Preservatives: Added ingredients slow spoilage.
  • Salt: High sodium content is antimicrobial.
  • Packaging: Prevents recontamination after processing.

As long as the packaging remains intact, the beef broth inside should be safe. Any microbes that could make you ill cannot grow under the conditions inside the sealed packaging.

In the rare instance a package has been severely compromised, botulism is a potential risk. Seek medical care immediately if experiencing symptoms like blurred vision, difficulty swallowing, muscle weakness, or trouble breathing after consuming beef broth. Botulism poisoning is extremely rare from any store-bought foods, however.

Signs of spoiled beef broth

Watch for these warning signs that opened boxed beef broth has spoiled and may be unsafe to consume:

  • Mold growing on surface
  • Cloudy appearance
  • Visible sliminess
  • Separation of liquid and solids
  • Strong, unpleasant sour odor
  • Rotten egg, sulfurous smell
  • Fizzing, bubbling, or fermentation
  • Drastic color change

If you observe any of these red flags, do not consume the broth. The changes indicate unwanted bacteria or microbial growth. Discard broth immediately if it shows these signs of spoilage.

What to do with unused boxed beef broth

To avoid wasting unopened beef broth that you won’t use in time, here are some options:

  • Donate: Local food banks may accept unexpired shelf-stable foods.
  • Repurpose: Use broth that’s past peak quality in cooking as detailed above.
  • Compost: Unused broth can add nutrients to compost piles if not donated.
  • Trash: As a last resort, safely discard in garbage if other options are unavailable.

Try using up older broth to reduce food waste. With proper storage and caution, most expired boxed beef broth can be safely consumed or repurposed in various dishes.


Can you get food poisoning from expired beef broth?

Food poisoning from expired boxed beef broth is highly unlikely. Proper processing and packaging prevent microbial hazards. The product would be long spoiled before becoming potentially dangerous to consume.

How long is unopened beef broth good for after expiration date?

Unopened, commercially packaged beef broth remains safe and edible for 1 to 2 years past its printed “best by” date when stored properly in a cool, dry pantry. The unopened broth stays sterile until you open the packaging.

What happens if you drink bad beef broth?

Consuming rancid or spoiled beef broth can potentially cause unpleasant digestive upset in some cases. Symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or stomach cramps may occur. However, it is not life-threatening to ingest bad broth.

Can you use expired beef broth in cooking?

Yes, using expired boxed beef broth in cooking applications is perfectly safe. The broth still provides flavor and moisture in things like gravies, sauces, soups, braises, grains, and more. Avoid using broth with mold, unpleasant odors, or other signs of significant spoilage.

How can you tell if opened broth is still good?

Inspect opened boxed beef broth for changes in appearance, odor, color, or texture. Signs it may be spoiled include mold, cloudiness, sliminess, strange odors, fizzing, or curdling. If none of these red flags are present, the opened broth is likely still safe to consume or cook with.

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