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Does Canned Pumpkin Go Bad? How To Keep It As Fresh As Possible + Tips

T’is the season for pulling out all those pantry items for baked goods, so let’s talk about if canned pumpkin goes bad!

Because canned pumpkin does go bad, we will look at how long you have until it spoils, how to store it for optimum flavor, how to freeze and thaw pumpkin puree, and more.

When the autumn breeze fills the air and this much-awaited season is fast approaching, pumpkins slowly make their way into people’s homes and pantries. 

Whether it’s pumpkin pies, carved pumpkins, pumpkin-scented candles, or canned pumpkins, people embrace the season of pumpkins. 

And why not?

Fall is the harvest season for pumpkins, so why not take advantage of the abundance. 

And while excited home cooks think of all the best pumpkin recipes, we stock up on canned pumpkin because it’s more convenient to grab a can from the cupboard for any type of pumpkin-based dish or drinks.

People think canned pumpkins are made from, well, pumpkins. 

I hate to burst your bubble, but they’re not really made from the pumpkins we start plunking down on every porch come September.

People mostly don’t know that canned pumpkins are made from squash, which still belongs to the pumpkin family. 

But don’t feel betrayed by this information because the Food and Drug Administration still allows companies to label these canned goodies as “pumpkins.”

After all, they are often made from butternut squash, which tastes the same.

The FDA claims that both canned squash and canned pumpkins use firm shelled, properly matured, golden fleshed, and are sweet varieties of either squashes or pumpkins, which are reduced to a pulp by cutting, steaming, washing, and stemming. 

Whether it’s made of real pumpkin or not, the most important thing is that cooks and homeowners store pumpkins properly so it doesn’t go bad, especially if you need to whip something up for the family. 

Plus, we’ll also share some tips on how to store canned pumpkin!

Table Of Contents

Does canned pumpkin go bad?

Yes. 

Canned pumpkin is a natural food product, and even though canned foods have a long shelf life, if any air gets in the can, or it’s been opened and transferred to another container, canned pumpkin does go bad.

And if it’s been unopened on the shelf for years, you might find the quality and taste of it is not good enough to eat any longer.

So does canned pumpkin go bad?

The answer is YES, it does, especially if you’ve already opened it!

Store unopened cans of pumpkin in a cool, dry place, stored where it can’t be dented or pierced.

Although unopened canned pumpkin can be stored for about three years, this is the safest way to eat these products with the highest quality possible.

However, as per Libby, one of the top pumpkin canning distributors in the USA, most of its products are sold with a “best-by” date and have a shelf life of 900 days or more than 2 years

The color, flavor, smell, or texture may change when the pumpkin has spoiled.

However, in most cases, it will still be safe to consume if there are no signs of spoilage.

Always look for signs of spoiled pumpkin: mold, a sour or “off” smell, or changed colors (edges may look dehydrated if left uncovered for too long).

  • From Libby’s (a major canned-food brand): Opened canned pumpkin will last in the fridge for about 1 to 2 days. 
  • From USDA.gov: Low-acid foods like this one will last 3 to 4 days in the fridge.

Removing the purée from the can and transferring it to an airtight container is advisable, then label it with the date.

How to tell if canned pumpkin has gone bad

As mentioned, an opened can of pumpkin lasts up to 4 days (for best quality) in the fridge.

On the other hand, homemade pumpkin purée doesn’t have any preservatives so it’s safest eaten within 2 days, but you can keep it fresh in the freezer for up to 3 months. 

As advised, transferring the purée to an airtight container is better to make it last longer. 

Meanwhile, an unopened canned pumpkin also goes bad if the can is rusting, swelling, or leaking, regardless of the expiration date stated on the can. 

Here are some ways to tell if canned pumpkin is still safe to eat. Don’t eat it if you experience:

  • Mold – Mold can’t always be seen in its early stages, but you can usually smell it. Look for tiny dots of “fuzz,” which indicate that decomposition of the food has already begun. This should always be the first thing you must check if you think your canned pumpkin isn’t safe to eat. If there is organic growth such as mold, then you must discard it. 
  • Color – While pumpkin turns a darker brown when exposed to the air, it should be uniform in color as well as texture. Mold can create swirls of pink, black, white or green along the edges and the top of punkin puree. However, some homemade pumpkin purée contains overcooked skin or rind, which also changes the texture of the purée.
  • Smell – Sour, spoiled, yeasty, “off” smell. It’s easy to tell if the canned pumpkin isn’t safe to eat. You only take one sniff and if it smells “funny” or sour, then discard it. 
  • Taste – Some unopened canned pumpkin could be expired for a few years already, so use all of the above methods to help determine if it’s safe to eat before taking one small taste from a clean spoon. 
  • Shelf life – Check the label’s best-by or expiration date for unopened cans of puree. For leftover canned pumpkin that’s been transferred to a container, check the freshness with the four methods above.

How long does canned pumpkin last?

Canned pumpkin can last for years or just days, depending on different factors such as storage, handling, and if the can is opened or not. 

If there are no signs of damage to the can or spoilage, here’s what the experts say about how long canned pumpkin lasts:

  • From Libby’s (a major canned-food brand): On the other hand, opened canned pumpkin will last in the fridge for about 1 to 2 days. 
  • From USDA.gov: Low-acid foods like this one will last 3 to 4 days in the fridge.

Check the label’s best-by, best-before, or expiration date for the best quality of unopened canned pumpkin. If the label is missing, don’t use the contents:

  • If the can is bulging or swollen
  • If the can has deep dents with sharp edges
  • If the can is leaking
  • If there’s mold or rust around the rim on either end
  • If the expiration or best-by date exceeds five years

If you open the can and the pumpkin smells sour or off, shows mold in or around the puree, has rust on the inside of the can, is discolored, or has no flavor, discard and do not use it.

Can I use expired canned pumpkin?

Most canned products, in general, will always have a “best-by” label, which will then indicate the date for how long you have to eat it safely.

However, this is only a manufacturer’s estimate of when a can of pumpkin will remain at its highest quality. 

Although it’s good to follow this, it’s also better to consider other factors.

Reasons to NOT use a can of expired canned pumpkin:

  • If the can is bulging or swollen
  • If the can has deep dents with sharp edges (see photo of can above for an example of a deep dent)
  • If the can is leaking
  • If there’s mold or rust around the rim on either end
  • If the expiration or best-by date exceeds three years

Some food enthusiasts argue that you can still use a canned pumpkin even after the expiration date as long as it’s properly stored and the can is undamaged.

Use the checklist above to help you determine if it needs to be discarded, then once opened, check for any signs of spoilage:

If you open the can and the pumpkin smells sour or off, shows mold in or around the puree, has rust on the inside of the can, is discolored, or has no flavor, discard and do not use it.

Otherwise, it’s better to be safe than sorry and just discard the can without using what’s inside.

How long does canned pumpkin last in the fridge?

Once you store the canned pumpkin in the fridge, expect it to be at its optimum texture and flavor for about 2 to 4 days after you’ve opened it. 

The USDA recommends that you don’t keep unopened cans in the refrigerator for long-term storage:

“It is best to store unopened commercially canned foods in a cool and dry place (such as in a cupboard). Metals can corrode and rust in moist environments. However, you may store them in the refrigerator for a short period of time. For best quality use closed canned fruits within 18 months.”

Since canned pumpkin consists of a preservative called sodium benzoate, this helps prevent bacteria from growing on food while in the can, but it will spoil over time once air touches it.

Can you freeze canned pumpkin?

Yes, you can freeze canned pumpkin, but you have to take it out of the can first. 

If you think you can’t consume your canned pumpkin within 2 to 4 days after opening and keeping it in the refrigerator, you have the option to freeze it. 

But it’s best to freeze it right away, the same day that you opened it, so when it’s thawed, it’s as fresh as possible.

Instructions for freezing leftover canned pumpkin:

  • If you will be using it all at once when thawed, scrape the open can of pumpkin into a freezer-safe baggie or plastic container with lid. Label with date and freeze immediately. If using a baggie, gently flatten (removes air and freezes faster), and freeze immediately (see photo below).
  • If you might be using only a portion of the thawed leftover canned pumpkin, transfer the canned pumpkin into a muffin tray or ice cube tray, slide it into the freezer, let them freeze solid, then pop them out into separate freezer-safe baggies or containers with a lid and place, label with the date, and put these back into the freezer. Take them out one pack at a time for your recipes.
  • If freezing in a mason jar, leave at least an inch at the top to make room for expansion.

Store in the freezer for up to three months for best flavor and texture when thawed.

How to defrost frozen pumpkin

When you’ve taken your pumpkin out to thaw, the clock starts over again: Once it’s fully defrosted, your puree should still be good for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator, minus the day(s) it stayed open in your refrigerator beforehand.

No matter how you’ve stored your canned pumpkin, always watch for mold, an “off” smell that makes you pull your face away from the container, or odd coloring.

Thawing canned pumpkin purée is easy and can be done in various ways. 

Instructions for defrosting leftover pumpkin purée:

  • Transfer the frozen pumpkin purée to the fridge the night before you want to cook or consume it. It should thaw overnight and be ready the day after. If you froze puree in ice cube trays or muffin tins, these should thaw within four hours in the fridge.
  • You may also defrost the frozen pumpkin purée in the microwave, especially if you want to use it in big batches, by placing it in a microwaveable bowl and setting your microwave to defrost setting.
  • The last method of defrosting frozen pumpkin purée is by submerging the airtight bag in lukewarm water. However, use the pumpkin immediately after thawing it via this method.

How to store opened canned pumpkin

If you think you’ll use the canned pumpkin within 4 days, remove it from the can and keep your leftover canned pumpkin cold until you take it out for your pumpkin pie or pumpkin muffins. 

While I’m guilty of putting an occasional can back in the fridge, or just using a cover like this one, it’s best to transfer soft foods like this to a covered or airtight container to keep them from absorbing fridge smells and to help the flavor and texture stay good to eat.

While it is safe to keep food cold in an open can, per the USDA, doing so can affect the flavor and texture. The USDA suggests using it within four days.

Here are all of the reasons why you shouldn’t leave opened pumpkin in the can:

  • Leaving cans of food uncovered dry out quickly, affecting the texture of the food. The refrigerator is notorious for dehydrating foods, especially the colder it is.
  • An open can of food can absorb the smells in the fridge, which can affect both the flavor and aroma of the canned food. 
  • While more prevalent in home-canned foods, there is some concern about using foods from damaged cans, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Here’s how to store leftover open cans of pumpkin:

Supplies to gather

  • Opened canned pumpkin puree
  • Airtight or covered container
  • Refrigerator

Instructions for storing opened canned pumpkin in the fridge:

  1. Transfer the canned pumpkin to a covered container. 
  2. Put the container with purée in the refrigerator. 
  3. Keep it refrigerated and use within 4 days for best quality. 
  4. Don’t keep foods out on the counter longer than needed for serving.

And oh, some of our recipes from 15 Pumpkin Puree Dessert Recipes feature canned pumpkin, so don’t sleep on this one!

The bottom line

If you’re still asking, “does canned pumpkin go bad,” it’s high time you take these tips and try them out to get ready for the autumn season. 

It’s always best to transfer leftover canned pumpkin out of the can and into covered containers and use it up within a couple of days. 

Got some canned pumpkin you want to put to good use? Here are 13 Pumpkin Soup Recipes you’ll have fun looking through!

How To Store Opened Canned Pumpkin

How To Store Opened Canned Pumpkin

It’s best to transfer leftover canned pumpkin into separate covered containers so it doesn’t dehydrate and absorb fridge flavors. Here’s how to do it.

Ingredients

  • Opened can of pumpkin
  • Small scraper/spatula
  • Covered or airtight container
  • Refrigerator

Instructions

  1. Using the rubber scraper, transfer the canned pumpkin to an airtight container. 
  2. Put the covered or airtight container with purée in the refrigerator. 
  3. Keep it refrigerated and use within 4 days for best quality.

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