Summer may be half over, but our love of putting condiments on foods extends year-round. And that particularly goes for mustard, second only to ketchup in our book (we will happily debate you on this, so long as you don’t even think about saying you prefer relish).
But as lovers of all things dipping sauce, we’ve naturally got a few questions. Like, does mustard need to be refrigerated? (For that matter, does ketchup need to be refrigerated?) And is it safe to eat at room temperature—or, dare we say, after sitting in the hot sun all day at a BBQ?
We did some digging and, like most of life’s important questions, the answer is: It’s complicated.
Does mustard need to be refrigerated?
Like we said, the answer isn’t so simple. Do you have to refrigerate mustard? No, you do not. However, should you refrigerate mustard? If you want to maintain the optimal flavors, then yes.
According to the official website for French’s Mustard, “Dijon and Horseradish mustards will lose their distinct flavors if not refrigerated, so we encourage refrigerating both.”
Gulden’s Mustard is not quite as verbose on their website, but they deliver the same message: “Refrigerate after opening.”
However, French’s does go on to say that for regular yellow mustard, it is totally cool to serve it at room temperature if that’s your preference. Yellow-mustard purists (if such people exist) may notice slightly less tangy notes, but we imagine said purists probably wouldn’t dream of defying the optimal preserving method.
Is it safe to eat room temperature mustard?
Bet you can guess the answer at this point: Yes, it’s OK to leave your mustard sitting out before serving it. Per French’s, “There are no ingredients in mustard that spoil.” That’s a huge relief, especially considering the number of room-temperature packets of mustard we’ve used over the years on baseball game hot dogs.
This means that leaving a bottle of mustard out on the picnic table while you enjoy an afternoon of burgers, dogs and fun in the sun is A-OK.
What is the shelf life of mustard?
Because regular mustard won’t actually spoil, many brands label their bottles with a “Best By” date rather than an “Expiration Date.” What’s the difference? Well, an expiration date indicates the point at which ingredients will begin to go bad, potentially even posing a health risk to those who consume the product. But a “Best By” date simply gives you a sense of when the flavor and fresh taste will begin to decline.
According to French’s, “The product will generally maintain good flavor quality for two to three months after that date, if refrigerated. While refrigeration will help maintain flavor, it's not necessary to refrigerate if you prefer to consume your mustard at room temperature. The recommended shelf life from the date of manufacture of French's Mustard is 18 months in a squeeze bottle, and 24 months in a glass jar.”
So where does that leave us?
It’s clear that the choice to refrigerate or not refrigerate is 100 percent yours. And while you may sacrifice flavor if you don’t keep the bottle in the fridge, this clearly won’t be a problem if you’re a household that goes through condiments on the faster side. #NoJudgment.