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Does Relish Need to Be Refrigerated? (The USDA Weighs In)

Relish is a vinegar-based condiment that consists of chopped pickles, onions, green peppers, and other vegetables. It is usually served as a side dish with hamburgers or hot dogs but can also be eaten alone on crackers or bread. 

According to USDA standards, unopened relish does not need to be refrigerated. However, it should be kept in a cool dark place where it will last for up to 2 years. After opening, it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one year.

Relish contains vinegar, which acts as a preservative; however, after some time outside the refrigerator, the acidity levels decrease and allow bacteria to flourish in these conditions. We’ll discuss how long relish can be refrigerated, the common shelf lives of different relishes, and how to tell if they’ve expired.

How Long Does Relish Last Unrefrigerated?

Well! The answer depends on whether it is opened or unopened. The shelf life of an unopened can is more than an opened can.

Unrefrigerated jar of relishShelf life
Store-bought and unopened2 years
Store-bought and opened1-3 months (if stored properly) 
HomemadeAbout a week
Source: USDA

Relish is often found unrefrigerated in the grocery store, but after you take it home and open it, it is recommended to store it in the refrigerator.

Relish will typically last for two years at room temperature as long as it is unopened. An open jar of relish at room temperature will only last for a few days before showing signs of spoilage.

However, homemade relish without any preservatives is hard to last longer without refrigeration. It may last only for a few days.

If you open an unrefrigerated jar of relish and find that it is discolored or emits a foul smell, then toss it out because these are signs that the product has spoiled and should not be consumed. 

How to Properly Store Relish

At first glance, relish may seem like a reasonably simple condiment to store. After all, it is simply vegetables and spices mixed together in a jar. However, there are several things that you can do to make sure that your relish stays fresh as long as possible without going bad.

The best way to store relish is in a tightly sealed jar in the refrigerator. This will ensure that your favorite pickled condiment stays fresh and flavorful for as long as possible. 

The acidity in vinegar helps preserve the taste and consistency of pickles. To keep them safe for longer periods, store your vinegary relish at room temperature if unopened, or put it into a cold fridge when you’re not going to use it quickly – like on an upcoming camping trip!

How Long Does Relish Last Once Opened?

As long as your condiments have been appropriately handled during distribution, they will last quite some time on store shelves before opening them, so there’s no need to worry about having too much at home! If any jar appears cloudy or smells bad when opened – discard immediately. 

Relish can last for around one year once opened, as long as it is stored in the refrigerator. If you notice that the relish is discolored or emits a foul smell, then toss it out. 

To properly store relish, ensure that whatever container it is stored in is air-tight. This is especially important for homemade relish. Air-tight Tupperware containers for vacuum sealed mason jars make for excellent ways to store relish. The best containers to store homemade relish in are glass canning jars, which you can find in supermarkets.

The Relish Canning Process Keeps it Fresher Longer

The canning process for relish is very similar to pickling. During the canning process, vegetables are submerged in vinegar and then heated up for an extended period of time. It’s important to note that when you are heating relish during the canning process, it is crucial not to overheat it so as not to kill any probiotic bacteria essential for digestion.

This is very important because if you are heating up your relish too much, then it can become inedible. Relish is an acidic product with a below four-point five pH, so any heat will render this product less appetizing and potentially dangerous to ingest.

If the lids on jars start popping off or the contents begin leaking out after canning, it’s time to put them in the refrigerator and eat them as soon as possible. If a hot relish is not refrigerated or cooled down properly before storage, your chances of getting food poisoning increase dramatically.

It also should be mentioned that when you are canning foods such as vegetables like cucumbers and carrots at home, there is a higher level of risk involved than if these products were commercially canned. In addition, this process does require more attention to detail, which means it might take some practice for beginners who want to try their hand at this hobby.

Storing Homemade Relish


Canning, the process of heating and sealing food in jars for preservation purposes, is a hobby that has been around for many years. It’s not surprising because it provides an opportunity to put up fruits or vegetables you enjoy eating when they are at their peak freshness.

When it comes down to making relish recipes, there are two types: hot packed and raw packed. The difference between these methods lies within the processing time required by each type after being placed into jars with lids on them.  

  • Raw-packed relish recipes are not processed in a water bath canner. 
  • Hot-packed relish has shorter processing times than raw, so it is essential to follow the recipe instructions carefully when preparing any homemade relish.

Homemade relish will typically last anywhere from six to nine months. This depends on how well the food is kept following canning and how tightly lids seal. To ensure your homemade relish lasts as long as possible, be sure to use clean utensils and equipment, as well as follow proper canning procedures. 

When you are finished making your relish, allow the food product a few minutes outside of hot water before removing it from jars with tongs. This will prevent burns due to steam escaping the lids too quickly.

If there is no vacuum suction on any of your jar lids or rings at all after opening them, store those items without their respective contents for future use in other recipes that require freshness, such as soups or stews! 

Relish keeps very well even when opened so long as everything has been processed properly. 

Shelf Life of Sweet Relish Vs. Dill

Sweet relish is best when used within a year, as it starts to lose its flavor and become overly sweet. Sweet relish is made of cucumbers, sugar, and vinegar that can go bad if it isn’t stored properly. 

On the other hand, Dill relish is best consumed within nine months to one year of opening as it starts to lose its flavor quickly after being opened. Dill has a very distinctive taste due to dill weed mixed with finely chopped onions, celery seed, or salt, which can spoil if not stored properly.

Refrigeration of these condiments is not required if they are unopened but is suggested because canning them properly requires heat processing that renders them.

Sweet relish is typically sold in jars or cans, while dill relish is often found in bottles. Store both types of relish the same way – keep them tightly sealed and stored at room temperature (or below) for up to one year.

Does Relish Go Bad in the Fridge?

Relish needs to be kept in the refrigerator after opening. This will help to keep it from spoiling and tasting bad. It is best kept in the refrigerator for up to a year after you open it.

Relish does go bad, even when refrigerated. If your relish smells funny when opened, then you know that it has gone bad and should be thrown away immediately! Discoloration can also be a sign that your relish is expired.

If your relish has expired, it is best to throw it away. You can also follow this rule of thumb – if your relish smells funny, then you should not eat it, even if the expiration date isn’t reached yet! If your relish changes color or starts to smell funky after opening, then that means that bacteria has entered into the jar and spoiled the product.

Eating Relish After its Expiration Date 

There is nothing worse than opening a jar of relish and finding out that it has gone bad. You may have the best of intentions when you purchase your favorite condiment, but after some time in the fridge, it becomes so unappetizing that you must toss it. 

While unopened relish should still be alright to consume after its use-by date, it is not recommended. Using relish after its expiration date can potentially cause food poisoning.

Contracting food poisoning could be possible by consuming expired foods if they are contaminated or spoiled, but it’s not always likely. One in six Americans get sick with symptoms like fever and nausea due to this bacterium at least once per year; some develop diarrhea which can make you dehydrated quickly.

How to Tell if Relish Has Gone Bad

A good way to tell if a jar of relish has gone bad is by smelling it. If the smell is sour, that means that the product has not been stored properly and bacteria have developed, which can lead to food poisoning. Make sure you store your jars in a cool area away from light, so they don’t spoil more quickly!

Relish has a long shelf life, but there are some tell-tale signs that it’s gone bad. One sign is if the relish becomes slimy or moldy in appearance. The best way to know if your relish has gone bad is to examine the color, consistency, and odor. If it smells sour or spoiled, the chances are that the flavor will be unpleasant as well.

Eating bad relish will harm your health just as eating any other rancid food item. It may cause digestive problems and lead to food poisoning, so it’s vital that you know how to identify when the time is right to throw it out. 

Tips for Keeping Relishes Fresher, Longer

Sliced ​​or chopped vegetables and fruit are preserved using one of three methods. Most include sugar or vinegar as a basic component, with other ingredients added for flavors, such as spices that provide savory qualities when cooked together at higher temperatures, like black pepper and cloves. 

To keep your relishes fresher for longer:

  • Store preserves in a cool dark place with moisture-relative humidity below 75%. 
  • Exposure to light or heating will affect their color and shorten its shelf life. 
  • Write label information on how long it has been stored since opening, along with its name for easy reference when you eat them! 
  • Store in the refrigerator once opened.
  • Be sure to follow the proper canning procedures for homemade relish
  • Store unopened relish in a cool, dry place at room temperature. 

The shelf-life of a jar of relish depends on the ingredients used to create the condiment. Relishes are typically made with pickles, peppers, and onions. The vegetables used in a relish have varying shelf lives, so it is important to know how long each ingredient lasts before using them for this recipe. 

In general, any prepared food that has been canned or frozen will last longer than fresh produce items that have not been preserved through those methods. However, there are some specific tips and tricks that can get the most out of even your preserved foods. 


Relish is one of those foods that can be served as a side dish with hamburgers and hot dogs, eaten on crackers or bread alone, or even used in other recipes to add some spice. The best thing about this condiment? It won’t go bad for up to 12 months after you open it! 

If you want your relish to taste fresh and flavorful during its long shelf-life, be sure to store opened jars in the refrigerator. Opened jars of relish will last for up to a year in the refrigerator, while unopened jars will last up to two years at room temperature. Be sure to refrigerate your opened jars, as once they’re open, they won’t keep at room temperature for more than a day or two.

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For more, don’t miss How Long Do Sauce and Condiment Packets Last? | What to Know.