A powerfully sharp and robust condiment, horseradish seems like it could last forever, but does horseradish go bad?
Ah, the tear-inducing, sniffle-making heat of pungent horseradish!
Horseradish boosts seafood when stirred into cocktail sauce, adds a lip-smacking finish to Bloody Mary drinks, and punches up rare prime rib when spooned over top or slathered onto a thick roast beef sandwich.
But it doesn’t last forever. It’s made with a plant, after all.
Now, the real question is how long does horseradish last? In a nutshell:
- Fresh horseradish root can be kept for months if stored and chilled properly, but for the average home cook, you can probably count on it being still good to use for 10 days.
- Prepared horseradish can be kept unopened in your cabinet for a year past the best-by date.
- Commercially-made horseradish sauce, cream-style horseradish sauce, and prepared horseradish when opened but kept cold, may still be good to use for over a month or so in your refrigerator, as long as it’s been tightly capped. It will lose heat and flavor over time, though.
As with all foods that require refrigeration, it’s important to not leave them out on the counter for longer than it takes to use them.
It’s not necessarily obvious when a jar of horseradish has been left out at room temperature for an hour and then put back in the fridge, but it shortens the shelf life considerably.
It may be why many foods go bad even BEFORE their expiration date—they’ve gone from cold to room temp and back several times.
Here, we take a longer look at what is horseradish, the differences between horseradish root, prepared horseradish, and horseradish sauce; how to tell if horseradish is bad, how to store all three of them, and what to look for when prepared horseradish goes bad.
Plus a recipe and steps to make your own horseradish is included below!
Whew, get ready for some hot stuff!
Horseradish, or popularly known as prepared horseradish, is a zesty condiment with a spicy-hot finish that tends to lightly “burn” the tongue.
What we know as “horseradish” comes from the horseradish plant, and we use its root to ultimately make prepared horseradish and from there, horseradish sauce.
Horseradish root is a part of the mustard family (Brassicaceae).
Prepared horseradish goes into cocktail sauce that accompanies cold shrimp: a simple mixture of ketchup (or Heinz Chili Sauce) and horseradish.
The more horseradish you use, the more pungent and hot it will be.
Without that horseradish heat, though, you’re just dipping shrimp into sweet ketchup.
Horseradish root famously goes into many commercially made horseradish sauces, accompanying roast beef sandwiches, slathered onto the French Dip, in a ramekin alongside prime rib, and more.
Prepared horseradish is often combined with other foods, such as green food coloring and mustard to get the color and heat of traditional wasabi.
If you’ve eaten sushi with a side of “wasabi” paste and pickled ginger, you may not be aware that most of that “wasabi” is actually green-colored horseradish to get the same kind of pungent kick.
Prepared horseradish vs horseradish
Imagine a scenario of prepared horseradish vs horseradish: The mother of both is horseradish root—horseradish in its purest form, straight out of the ground.
From that root, prepared horseradish is born: a hot, roughly hewn condiment made of shaved horseradish root, water, vinegar, and salt.
Then take prepared horseradish and TAME IT with oil, eggs, sometimes dairy, so it becomes a smooth and creamy sandwich spread or topping—horseradish sauce.
You get just a bit of the rear-up of pure horseradish, but still with plenty of flavor.
So how long is horseradish good for? It depends on which one we’re talking about.
Let’s keep going.
What’s the difference between horseradish and horseradish sauce?
You may have noticed that sometimes the word “horseradish” is used to mean a few different things.
Is horseradish the vegetable (root), the spicy-hot, simple condiment of prepared horseradish, or a creamy, smooth, off-white, less hot spread that contains prepared horseradish called horseradish sauce?
So it’s easy to confuse horseradish root or prepared horseradish with horseradish sauce because we tend to call it all “horseradish.”
Where’s the horse in it all, anyway? I haven’t met a single horse that loves to eat horseradish, either. From Sauce Magazine:
The name horseradish is believed to come from a variation of the German name for it, which is “meerrettich” meaning sea radish. The English were said to mispronounce the German word “meer” and began calling it “mareradish.” Eventually it was called horseradish.
Keep in mind that prepared horseradish is often made from the blend of grated horseradish root and distilled vinegar, but some manufacturers, like Beaverton’s, include other ingredients, such as salt, sugar, water, soybean oil, lemon juice, and sometimes eggs—so their brands of prepared horseradish land somewhere between simple prepared horseradish paste and horseradish sauce.
Prepared horseradish (the stuff you might see in a jar that looks like wet sawdust) is made from the horseradish root, which is covered in bark-like beige skin on the outside with a hot, peppery taste on the inside.
Prepared horseradish and horseradish sauce can be made at home or you can purchase some at your local grocery store.
Does horseradish go bad?
The Horseradish History website noted that “approximately 6 million gallons of prepared horseradish are produced annually in the United States.”
Now, the real question is how long does horseradish last?
Continue reading as we delve into horseradish’s warm and comforting heat!
Were you thinking about cleaning your kitchen?
And notice that jar of horseradish sauce that has been sitting in your fridge for a while.
Perhaps you’re wondering if it spoils just like other condiments?
As a plant-based product, horseradish also spoils.
And as it ages, its texture, look, and color will change regardless of whether the horseradish is handmade, bottled, or freshly produced.
They all go bad, whether you store them in the freezer, fridge, or kitchen cabinet.
So you must follow proper storage to keep them fresh and consumable.
The quality decreases when you chop fresh horseradish or open that new jar from the market.
But with the right storage, you can delay its spoilage.
From Bookbinder: Bookbinder’s [horseradish] products stored under refrigeration will retain their flavor and “heat” for an extended period of time. It is a matter of personal taste. As horseradish ages and is exposed to air, it will in time lose some of its heat.
But you can choose to prepare your own horseradish sauce if you don’t want to buy those preservative-filled jars.
You can make your own prepared horseradish with fresh horseradish root, then in turn make your own horseradish sauce.
Does horseradish root go bad?
Horseradish root expires just as the sauce does.
Yet, the timing is different for each one of them.
As soon as you peel and chop the roots, the quality and flavor of the radish will immediately begin to diminish.
As a result, it is advisable to consume or use them within a couple of days.
You will notice that they get soft and mushy as their potency wanes.
When they are subjected to heat and moisture, their color darkens or turns brownish.
The next time you purchase horseradish roots, be sure to only get solid roots that are free of mold and wrinkles.
How to tell if horseradish has gone bad
Let me tell you all the signs to look out for when checking your prepared horseradish sauce:
Check your homemade horseradish or store-bought sauce for signs of mold, changes in color, or a bitter taste.
They are no longer at their best if you notice any of these signs.
Furthermore, you may know it is beyond its prime when it no longer serves up the spicy flavor it was meant for.
If that’s the case, throw it away and choose to make new servings or buy a new bottle.
Plus, if you notice an unusual or off-odor, toss them away instead.
On the other hand, an off-odor, soft and mushy texture and the presence of mold are all indicators that a horseradish root has gone bad.
Also, if you see tiny black specks, these are a solid indicator that they are past their prime.
How long does opened horseradish last?
Opened jars of horseradish, kept chilled and not left out for too long at a time, should last a month or so after the best-by date shown on the jar.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably bought a small jar of prepared horseradish for one day of cocktail sauce.
Then it has been sitting in the door of your fridge ever since.
The best-by date has admittedly passed, maybe a month, maybe longer -cough- but you aren’t ready to buy a brand new jar yet.
Several months beyond its best-by date, a horseradish sauce will probably still be good to eat as long as it’s been refrigerated and stored with the cap on tightly.
That said, just know that even if it has no mold and doesn’t smell foul, it may have lost quite a lot of its heat and flavor.
So it may not be “bad” in the way that it could make you sick, it just may not taste very good.
From Kelchner’s FAQ:
Kelchner’s Horseradish Products will stay fresh for roughly 5 to 8 months from the time of production (assuming the product has been properly stored in refrigeration).
Opened jars will lose their heat and flavor faster and may only keep for 1-2 months in the refrigerator.
It is quite the same with hot sauce and mustard.
To begin, its best-by date reflects the manufacturer’s best guess as to how long it will keep its top quality.
However, it may still keep its freshness after the manufacturer’s expiry date.
Occasionally, it might last for another month or even longer.
It all comes down to the ingredients used and the storage conditions.
You may store them in the refrigerator to extend horseradish shelf life by two to three months.
An unopened jar of horseradish sauce may be stored in the cupboard for six to eight months after its best-by date.
If consistently kept in the refrigerator, an opened jar can be used for two months, just keep an eye out for signs of mold, rot, dryness, or turning sour. Discard if you see any of these signs that it’s expired horseradish.
Should I keep horseradish in the fridge?
When you’re looking at how long does fresh horseradish last, transfer your fresh whole horseradish to a poly bag and keep it cold (above freezing but below 40F) and it should stay usable for months.
How long does horseradish keep? All types of horseradish, whether the fresh root or the open bottles, should be kept chilled in the refrigerator for lasting freshness, heat and flavor.
When you open the bottle’s seal, immediately refrigerate it to prevent its exposure to heat and light, which can degrade its quality.
Refrigerating horseradish can help to maintain its flavor, heat, moisture, and color.
Homemade horseradish sauces, horseradish root, and other products with horseradish content are best refrigerated.
However, after harvesting, you must wrap it in plastic with holes or use a produce bag and store it in the refrigerator.
Much better if you have a root cellar with a steady temperature between 32 and 38 degrees F.
And making only what you need for your homemade horseradish sauce is preferable.
Once you grate, peel, and combine the horseradish with vinegar, it will lose its heat and pungent flavor quickly.
Therefore, grate only a small amount to prepare a sufficient amount of sauce.
Then, refrigerate any leftover sauce in a mason jar for about a week or two and freeze your cut horseradish root.
But if frozen for more than six months, it may lose its flavor.
Peeling the outer layer of the horseradish roots is an important step since the outer layer of the roots may cling to the flesh when frozen.
Alternatively, shred or grate the horseradish and then place in the freezer.
Grating them into little pieces makes it faster to thaw when you are ready to make your next batch of sauce.
How to store horseradish
Tips for storing prepared horseradish
It is necessary to store your horseradish properly to prevent spoilage, so here are some tips for storing horseradish root, prepared horseradish, and horseradish sauce.
Tips for storing prepared horseradish
Does prepared horseradish go bad? Yes. It’s made from a vegetable, so even though it’s often processed with an acid like vinegar or lemon, it will go bad (rot, mold, become flavorless or sour) eventually.
Keep unopened jars of horseradish in a cool, dry place, out of direct sunlight, and high heat.
After opening, the prepared horseradish will usually keep for a month or more, as long as it is kept cold.
From Huntsinger’s Farms:
Bottled horseradish is hottest the day it is ground. The colder the product is kept, the longer it retains its bite and fresh flavor. Highest quality horseradish is always found in the refrigerated section of your local grocer.
Also, it’s important to keep it well-sealed once you’ve opened it to preserve the flavor and potency.
Additionally, use clean cutlery to scoop out a portion of your horseradish sauce, and always ensure you have clean hands before touching the jar, especially around the lid.
Despite the fact that the vinegar component makes it tougher for microbes to permeate the sauce, you don’t want to give them a chance.
Tips for storing horseradish root
How long does fresh horseradish last?
Fresh horseradish root can be kept for several months if they are kept whole and placed in poly bags, and stored continuously covered and chilled between 33 F. to 38F.
More good advice from Huntsinger’s Farms:
A good quality root is clean, firm, and free from cuts and deep blemishes. The freshly peeled or sliced root and the prepared product are creamy white. Generally, the whiter the root, the fresher it is. When available, fresh roots will be found in the produce section.
Horseradish root can burn your hands, nose, and eyes, so it’s best to use gloves and even goggles to protect yourself before you begin processing the root.
And after handling the horseradish oil, don’t forget to wash your hands before touching your face or other foods.
Tips for storing horseradish sauce
How long does horseradish sauce last?
Keep unopened containers of horseradish sauce in a cool, dry place, out of direct sunlight, and high heat, and you can probably count on a jar of horseradish sauce to still be good to eat even a year after the best-by date.
But keep OPENED containers of horseradish sauce cold in the refrigerator, tightly capped, and always look for signs of mold (dark spots, splotches, or fuzzy areas) and a stinky, sour smell.
It is a standard practice to replace horseradish sauce every six months within a year, much like the other sauces and condiments.
Can I use horseradish after the expiration date?
Yes, just know that open containers of horseradish will expire faster than unopened containers.
Look for signs of spoiling before you eat any food that has been open in your refrigerator or pantry for any given time, even if it’s before the expiration date.
According to the USDA:
…if the date passes during home storage, a product should still be safe and wholesome if handled properly until the time spoilage is evident (Chill: Refrigerate Promptly).
Spoiled foods will develop an off odor, flavor or texture due to naturally occurring spoilage bacteria. If a food has developed such spoilage characteristics, it should not be eaten.
I recently found out that in America, the best-by date is a manufacturer’s inventory code to help stockers and distributors know when to pull items from shelves for the sake of QUALITY, not SAFETY.
Product dating isn’t even required by federal regulation unless it’s baby formula.
Just use your eyes to look for weird coloring or mold, your nose to sniff out an off odor, like a sour or rotten smell, and if it tastes odd or the texture is weird, even if it’s passed the first two tests, throw it out.
Containers of any food lose moisture over time if the lid isn’t on tight and that will affect the flavor, color and texture.
The bottom line
So we asked ourselves, Does horseradish expire? and the answer is always yes.
Even though it’s acidic with vinegar, even though it’s pungent and seems like bacteria would avoid even going near horseradish, it’s a delicious vegetable like all other produce and will eventually go bad.
Horseradish root goes bad, so ultimately, prepared horseradish and horseradish sauce will also go bad.
How To Make Your Own Horseradish In A Blender
It doesn’t get any hotter than freshly made horseradish! Make your own at home with a blender to help make quick work of it.
- Fresh, white horseradish root
- Cold water
- Ice cubes
- White vinegar
- Start this process in a room with lots of ventilation or with your stove’s vent hood to help avoid the very strong fumes, which can make you cry like an onion might.
- Avoid touching your eyes when handling horseradish root.
- Wash and pat dry the root.
- Peel the root with a vegetable peeler.
- Dice into one-inch cubes and add one cup of diced root to the blender.
- Add ¼ c of cold water and ¼ c of ice cubes to the blender.
- Top with the lid and process. Add more cold water a teaspoon at a time if the mixture is too thick.
- Add 3 T of white vinegar and ½ t of salt to the mixture in the blender.
- Store homemade horseradish in a glass container and refrigerated tightly closed for two weeks. Check for mold, dark spots or a sour “off” smell frequently before eating, since it’s prepared without preservatives.
- Store any remaining cut or diced horseradish root in a produce bag or zipper bag left open with a paper towel to help absorb moisture for up to five days. Or store in the freezer for up to six months.
- Vegetable peeler
- Sharp knife
- Cutting board
- Bowl scraper