Gochujang is a staple condiment in Korean cuisine, adding a bright pop of spicy, sweet, and umami flavor to dishes like bibimbap, bulgogi, stews, and more. This thick red chili paste is made from a mixture of chili powder, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans, and other seasonings.
But if you've ever had a jar or tub sitting unused in your fridge for a while, you may wonder - does gochujang go bad? How long does this versatile Korean condiment really last?
While gochujang can last quite a while thanks to its salt and fermentation, it does have a shelf life. Read on to learn everything you need to know about how long gochujang lasts, how to tell if gochujang has gone bad, and the best storage methods to keep it fresh.
What Is Gochujang?
Let's start with the basics - what exactly is gochujang? Here's a quick primer:
- Gochujang translates to "chili paste" in Korean. It's a thick, pungent red condiment that forms the backbone of many Korean dishes.
- Traditional gochujang contains a mixture of chili powder, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans, salt, and seasonings like garlic and ginger.
- The ingredients are mixed together and then left to ferment in large pots outdoors for months or years to develop complex flavor.
- Thanks to the fermentation process, gochujang boasts a unique blend of spicy, sweet, and umami flavors. The chili powder brings the heat, the rice adds sweetness, and the soybeans impart a savory umami kick.
- In Korea, gochujang is used in everything from bibimbap sauce and meat marinades to stews, soups, and dipping sauces. It's a versatile condiment that brings a touch of bright, bold flavor.
Now that you know what gochujang is made of, let's look at how long it actually lasts.
How Long Does Gochujang Last Unopened?
An unopened container of gochujang has an impressively long shelf life. Here's a breakdown:
- Commercially packaged gochujang can last 1-2 years past the printed expiration date if stored properly in a cool, dry pantry.
- The fermentation process and high salt content act as natural preservatives, slowing spoilage.
- Over time, the color may darken slightly and flavors continue to develop, but the gochujang remains safe to eat.
- For best quality, use gochujang within 2 years of purchase. But even afterward, unopened gochujang is often still fine.
- If you see any signs of spoilage like mold or an off smell upon opening, discard it. Otherwise, your unopened gochujang is likely still good!
So feel free to stock up on this useful condiment - as long as you store it properly, an unopened jar can last for ages in your pantry.
How Long Does Opened Gochujang Last?
Once opened, the shelf life of gochujang is reduced due to oxygen exposure but it still keeps for quite a while:
- Refrigerate opened gochujang to extend its shelf life. Proper storage is key!
- An opened container will last 6-12 months past the printed date, or about 1 year from when it was first opened.
- For best quality and flavor, use within 3-4 months of opening.
- Always store opened gochujang in an airtight container in the fridge. Limiting air exposure prevents mold growth.
- If refrigerated and sealed properly, opened gochujang lasts longer than most condiments thanks to the salt, fermentation, and acidity.
The takeaway? An opened jar of gochujang keeps for up to a year in the fridge. But for maximum flavor and freshness, use within a few months.
How To Tell If Gochujang Has Gone Bad
Gochujang has a relatively long shelf life if stored properly. But here are some signs that indicate your gochujang may have spoiled:
- Change in texture - Fresh gochujang should have a thick, sticky paste-like texture. If it becomes runny, thin, or watery, it has likely gone bad.
- Mold growth - Any fuzz, white spots, or colorful growth means the gochujang is spoiled. Discard it immediately.
- Strange odor - Opened gochujang has a pleasant fermented smell. An overly sour, rotten, or rancid odor means it's gone off.
- Off taste - Small taste test if you're unsure. Rancid, bitter, or very sour flavors indicate spoilage.
- Discoloration - Gochujang naturally darkens over time. But extreme lightening, green/blue/white mold, or vivid orange shades signal it's gone bad.
- Separation - A little separation of chili oil is normal but excessive oil pooling or watery layering means spoilage.
So inspect your gochujang carefully before use. Any of the above signs generally mean it's no longer safe to consume. When in doubt, throw it out!
How To Store Gochujang Properly
Storing gochujang correctly is key to extending its shelf life and preventing premature spoilage. Follow these tips:
- Once opened, refrigerate gochujang in an airtight container. The cold temperature keeps it fresher for longer.
- Limit air exposure as much as possible - air can cause faster fermentation. Seal tightly.
- Store opened gochujang towards the back of the fridge, where the temperature is most consistent.
- For unopened gochujang, store it in a cool, dark pantry away from heat and light.
- Avoid freezing gochujang if possible - freezing can negatively affect the texture.
- Use a clean spoon each time you scoop gochujang to avoid cross-contamination.
- After opening, transfer gochujang to a smaller container if you won't use it quickly to limit air exposure.
Proper refrigeration and minimal air exposure will keep your gochujang tasting fresh for many months past opening!
How long does homemade gochujang last?
Homemade gochujang has a slightly shorter shelf life - about 6 months refrigerated. The flavors are best within 2-3 months.
Can you freeze gochujang?
You can freeze gochujang, but the texture may suffer after thawing. Freeze in an airtight container for up to 2-3 months for best quality.
What happens if you eat expired gochujang?
Eating spoiled gochujang can potentially cause foodborne illness. Stick to gochujang that's within its expiry and shows no signs of spoilage.
Does gochujang need to be refrigerated?
An unopened container doesn't need refrigeration. But once opened, gochujang must be refrigerated and kept sealed to last.
Can mold be scraped off gochujang?
No - any mold means the gochujang is spoiled and unsafe to eat. Discard the entire container if mold is present.
With proper storage techniques, both opened and unopened gochujang can retain quality and flavor for 1-2 years. Refrigerate opened gochujang, limit air exposure, and watch for signs of spoilage.
A well-kept jar of gochujang can stay deliciously fresh for many months past its expiration date or opening thanks to the natural preserving powers of fermentation and salt.