Traditional bruschetta, Caprese salad, grilled chicken – they all taste even better with the magical touch of a beautiful ingredient: balsamic vinegar.
This rich, thick, dark liquid is made from grape must and wine vinegar. You’ll be surprised to know that traditional balsamic vinegar contains nothing but grapes and is aged for years! No wonder it’s expensive. But how long does balsamic vinegar last?
Balsamic vinegar lasts in the pantry for many years if you don’t store it poorly. It will remain safe indefinitely, but the taste will start to deteriorate after some time.
Usually, bottled balsamic vinegar comes with a “best by” date, which is around 3-4 years from the date of manufacturing. After that, it can stay in good condition for another 3 years, after which the quality will start to drop.
How Long Does Balsamic Vinegar Last – Does Balsamic Vinegar Go Bad?
Cooking shows on TV and YouTube often inspire us to stock some exotic ingredients. We use them for a couple of recipes that impress our family members. But then what? In most cases, these exotic ingredients sit in the pantry or the fridge – too pricey and elegant to be used daily.
The famous Italian condiment, Balsamic vinegar, is just like that. But how long can it last before going bad?
Balsamic vinegar is not your everyday flavoring agent. A delicate balance of “sweet and sour” will help whip up a restaurant-quality dish.
But what happens when it is not in use? How long can it sit in the pantry or refrigerator before it becomes unsafe for your consumption, and you have to throw this expensive condiment away? The answer is simple – balsamic vinegar does not go bad.
Like all packaged products, balsamic vinegar, too, comes with a date on the bottle. This date denotes that the balsamic vinegar will remain at the leak of its flavor and quality during this time.
This “best by” date is usually around 3-4 years from the date of manufacturing of the balsamic vinegar.
However, that doesn’t mean that once the date is crossed, the condiment is going to become unsafe for you to consume. In fact, balsamic vinegar can continue to retain its intense flavor for around three years past the “best by” date. After that, however, the quality starts to drop gradually.
Surprisingly, there are instances of traditional balsamic vinegar being passed down from one generation to another as a family heirloom! They stay good for several decades.
As for your simple, less expensive variants, you will still be able to use them for many years, even after three years have passed.
What happens to Balsamic vinegar after the “best by” date is crossed?
Honestly, as long as you keep the bottle cap secure and tightened, balsamic vinegar will be safe indefinitely, You have to leave the bottle uncovered for a long time for it to become unusable.
This is because of the acidic nature of balsamic vinegar. So don’t panic about the safety concerns.
Over the years, the quality of balsamic vinegar may eventually go down. It is normal for balsamic vinegar to change in color and texture.
It can become a little cloudy, and sediments may be formed in the vinegar. In fact, these changes may even occur within the ‘best by’ date of the product.
These are nothing but aesthetic alterations, and they don’t really change the flavor of balsamic vinegar. But after several years, you will notice that the intensity of flavor starts to fade.
So, the vinegar’s impact will not be the same anymore if it has been sitting in your pantry for many years.
To put it simply, balsamic vinegar can be safe for consumption for 5-10 years easily if you store it properly, even though the shelf life is only about 3 years.
But after it has crossed the shelf life, the taste of the balsamic vinegar will not satisfy you. It’s a good idea to taste the vinegar and see if you still like it or consider it usable. If you don’t, it is best if you choose to discard the item.
What is balsamic vinegar?
Balsamic vinegar is a kind of vinegar that appears much darker and has a much thicker consistency than regular white vinegar. It is a concentrated liquid made partially or entirely from grape must. Therefore, it adds rich layers of sweetness and sourness to different dishes.
Balsamic vinegar is made from grape must and is aged for years in a wooden barrel. However, the regular balsamic vinegar versions commonly available in the market at pocket-friendly costs are a little different from the authentic ones, and very far from the traditional ones.
Regular commercial balsamic vinegar does have a dark color, thick texture, and the acidic flavor of wine. That’s because they are often made from caramel, wine vinegar, and coloring agents. They also contain wheat starch, cornflour, guar gum, and other such texturizers and are aged for a few months.
Since grape must is reduced to make balsamic vinegar, the liquid has a more concentrated mix of tastes and a thick texture. Once upon a time, wood-aged vinegars used to be enjoyed by the ruling class of Emilia-Romagna, a Duchy ruled by the Estes family, as a drink with medicinal properties.
Interestingly, balsamic doesn’t have balsam. So, where does the name come from? “Balsamic” comes from the word, “balsamico”, or balm, a substance that has the power to soothe or heal. It was only after the 18th century that “balsamico” started referring to wood-aged vinegars, i.e., balsamic vinegar.
Traditional balsamic vinegar types present complex dimensions of rich flavors, with the sweetness and sourness that are characteristic of aged grapes must. They are made of freshly harvested white grapes. Even though balsamic vinegar is hugely popular in America, its origin is in Italy.
So, you will find many delicious Italian recipes that use the rich aroma and taste of balsamic vinegar. From reductions being spooned over grilled chicken to vinaigrettes in which you can toss a lovely salad, balsamic vinegar can enhance the flavor of dishes and give you something decadent.
Shelf Life of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar
Depending on the ingredients and the aging, balsamic vinegar’s shelf life will change. The traditional kind is made with grape must only, and is aged in a wooden barrel for 12/18/25 years.
It’s a richer and more expensive version of balsamic vinegar, which gets better with age, just like good wine.
You only have to use traditional balsamic vinegar sparingly because it is so potent in flavor. It is even passed down from one generation to the other.
So, you can say that traditional balsamic vinegar does not have a shelf life at all. In fact, most people have not even tasted real traditional balsamic vinegar.
In comparison, regular or commercially made balsamic vinegar is prepared in just a few months. Manufacturers use multiple additives to enhance the taste and smell and simulate the flavor and texture of the ‘real’ or traditional balsamic vinegar. These are available easily and are much cheaper.c
Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, the flavors of commercially-made balsamic vinegar deteriorate over time after the shelf life is crossed.
In fact, it is only regular balsamic vinegar that comes with a shelf life. Remember that the shelf life won’t change after the bottle is opened. In addition, crossing the shelf life of regular balsamic vinegar will not affect the safety of the condiment.
How To Store Balsamic Vinegar
Balsamic vinegar is naturally long-lasting and will not demand a lot of babysitting. All you have to do is store it properly – and pretty much forget all about it.
The first thing to remember is that balsamic vinegar must be kept in an opaque bottle to keep out light. Never buy balsamic vinegar that’s sold in a clear bottle as the light will affect the quality of the balsamic vinegar much more rapidly.
The same effect can be caused by heat. So, you must find a cool and dry place where you can keep the dark bottle of the balsamic vinegar.
It’s a good idea to store the bottle inside the pantry. There is no need to refrigerate it even after opening the bottle, as long as i is tightly closed.
After opening the bottle and using the balsamic vinegar inside, it is essential to put the cap back on and close it tightly.
If you leave the bottle open,t chances of getting contaminated will be much higher. As a result, its quality and safety – and not just its taste and aroma – will be compromised. While it’s hard for bacteria or mold to thrive in the acidic liquid, it would not be wise to take the risk.
How to Tell If Balsamic Vinegar Is Bad
Over time, balsamic vinegar may become a little cloudy and develop sediments. Even the taste and aroma may fade.
But none of these is a sign of the vinegar going bad or becoming unsafe, as long as you store the condiment properly with the cap replaced and the bottle kept in a cool dark place.
If you suspect that the balsamic vinegar has gone bad, check if your bottle of balsamic vinegar has gone bad by looking for mold.
It’s likely that balsamic vinegar’s acidic environment will not allow mold, but if you still find it, it’s a clear sign that the vinegar cannot be used and must be discarded.
If the balsamic vinegar does not have mold, but you still want to be extra sure, taste a small amount of it. Since it’s vinegar, it will obviously be acidic, with a touch of sweetness.
But if it is strongly pungent and harsh in taste and smell, the vinegar might be spoilt. You have to trust your senses in this case.
Balsamic Vinegar vs. Other Types of Vinegar
All types of vinegars differ in terms of taste, aroma, color, and consistency. While we mostly know about a few types of them, you will be surprised to know of all the variations of vinegar, all made from different sources. Apart from balsamic vinegar, other vinegars are:
- White Vinegar
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Wine Vinegar
- Rice Vinegar
- Malt Vinegar
- Cane Vinegar
- Beer Vinegar
- Coconut Vinegar
- Raisin Vinegar
Balsamic is often categorized under wine vinegar, but the two are not the same. Balsamic vinegar is aged for a longer time, and the consistency is much thicker.
Balsamic vinegar also consists of grape must and not wine. Even the commercial-grade balsamic uses wine vinegar and several other ingredients that give it a vibrant mix of sweetness and sourness.
How to Use Balsamic Vinegar
Balsamic vinegar has a beautiful balance of sweet fruitiness and acidity. Its multiple dimensions of taste and aroma make it perfect for astringent, salty, and sweet foods.
It adds an intricate flavor to the dishes. Because of its flavor, it is not used on a regular basis like other vinegars. Here’s how you can consume balsamic vinegar to boost the flavors of different foods:
Salad Vinaigrette or Dressing:
Balsamic vinegar’s sweet-and-sour balance perfectly complements astringent leaves. So, salads are often tossed in a light helping of plain balsamic vinegar used as a salad dressing.
Or you can use a vinaigrette that contains this rich vinegar. You can use it to make your boring salads delicious!
Balsamic vinegar works really well with fish, chicken, and steaks. So, you can make a delicious marinade or wet rub for your fish or meat using a balsamic vinegar base. It can be a simple preparation with nothing but olive oil, salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar for pleasant fruitiness.
Quick Dip for Snacks:
Balsamic vinegar can also make a beautiful base for a quick dip to accompany your fried snack or even plain vegetables. To whip up a light and healthy dip quickly, mix it with extra-virgin olive oil, and add your favorite herbs and seasonings. Serve it with some cut carrots or tempura-fried prawns!
As mentioned before, this fruity acetum teams really well with meat and fish. So, an interesting method of pairing the two can be by cooking a delicate sauce with balsamic vinegar.
Add it straight to the hot wok for a reduction that will create a decadent sauce for your fish, pork belly, etc.
Sometimes, balsamic vinegar is a great taste enhancer, all on its own, without being mixed with anything else. If you are not sure how to finish a savory dish and have no time for complicated sauces, you can just drizzle a few drops of this acetum to add an intense finishing touch to it.
Dip for Cheese:
Whether you’re a teetotaller who hasn’t experienced “wine and cheese” or looking for a new way to enjoy cheese and balsamic vinegar – pairing them might be a great idea. Splash balsamic vinegar on some hard aged cheese or dip the cheese in the condiment to enjoy a unique balance of tastes.
Dressing for Sweet Foods:
Balsamic vinegar also complements all things sweet, like fruits and berries. So, you can add some of this acetum to a bowl of fruits or fruit salad to enjoy a beautiful balance of sweet and sour tastes.
You can also add it as a dressing on vanilla ice cream or make a balsamic-berry sauce for panna cotta.
So you see, balsamic vinegar is extremely versatile, and if you are not sure how to use the bottle sitting in your pantry, it’s time to start experimenting!
Health Benefits of Balsamic Vinegar
Balsamic vinegar is not just sumptuous and flavorful. It can also be a healthy addition to your meals. Let’s take a look at the health benefits of balsamic vinegar:
- It has antiviral and antibacterial properties that can effectively treat infections and wounds.
- It is traditionally believed to have healing properties to alleviate body pain and lethargy.
- It has antioxidants called polyphenols to heal damaged cells and boost the immune system.
- Its antioxidant properties prevent cancer, heart disease, and inflammatory conditions.
- It is known to reduce the process of aging because of the antioxidant content.
- It improves metabolism by boosting the activity of pepsin, a digestive enzyme.
- It can curb hunger pangs and suppress appetite, thus keeping body weight in check.
- It can help in improving insulin sensitivity and control diabetes.
- It can be helpful in reducing the level of cholesterol.
- It is capable of helping people who suffer from frequent headaches.
- It has minerals that are essential in strengthening bones.
- It is helpful in preventing anemia and fatigue.
Thus, if you have been saving a good bottle of balsamic vinegar because of its price, you now have plenty of reasons to enjoy the acetum more often.
You may love the intense flavor of balsamic vinegar, but it’s likely you don’t use it every day. It’s not exactly priced for daily use, nor do the everyday recipes we eat at home call for something as fancy as balsamic vinegar. Don’t worry! Balsamic vinegar is not about to go bad anytime soon.
So, once you open a new bottle of commercially packaged balsamic vinegar, make sure to seal the bottle tightly to maximize the shelf life. You can keep it at room temperature, and it will not only stay at its peak throughout its shelf life of around three years but will also stay good for a few years after.
Even though the flavor of regular balsamic vinegar will start to change after the “best by” date, it will remain safe for consumption. You won’t even need to refrigerate balsamic vinegar. Of course, if you can lay your hands on traditional balsamic vinegar, it will last you your entire life.