How To Tell If Chicken Broth Is Bad – 6 Signs

Chicken broth really has plenty of uses, which is why professional chefs always have chicken stock ready and safely stored in the freezer. Unfortunately, we mere mortals can only wish to have our lives in control all the time like that and have chicken available whenever we need it. It’s worth trying, but then the question arises, how can I tell if my chicken broth is bad? 

chicken broth in a white bowl

Mold, abnormal consistency, and a sour smell can be good indicators that chicken broth has gone bad. Chicken broth should not stay in the refrigerator for longer than three to four days. If you leave it for longer than that, you will already notice that the smell and consistency have changed.

It is easy to make chicken broth, and knowing that it is enriched with vitamins and minerals is a nice little bonus. Nevertheless, it is also easy to forget and not store it the correct way, and then you will end up with a bad chicken broth. So, what can you do if that happens? Let’s see the most effective ways to identify if your chicken broth has gone bad or if it’s still safe to eat.

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How Can You Tell If Chicken Broth Has Gone Bad?

You can tell if the chicken broth is bad by looking at three things in particular: the consistency, the color, and the smell of the broth. There may also be some differences between homemade and store-bought chicken broth since some store-bought broth may contain preservatives to make the broth last longer. Here are the particular signs to look out for in each scenario.

Sign #1: Bacteria Bubbles Will Form On The Surface

When chicken broth, or any type of broth or soup, is going down, you may see some bacteria bubbles forming on the surface. These bubbles are caused by gas-producing bacteria like clostridium perfringens. The appearance of these bubbles is a sure sign that your chicken broth is not safe to eat anymore, not even if you re-boil it. It has already begun to decompose.

Note that not all chicken broth that’s gone bad will have these bubbles. If your chicken broth has bubbles, it is definitely bad, but if it doesn’t have bubbles, it could still be bad. You have to look out for the other signs as well.

That’s because the bubbles mostly form at higher temperatures. Heat will cause the bacteria to grow and release gas that reacts with starch and fats inside the broth. These starches and fats will form a layer that captures the gas, creating a thick layer of bacteria bubbles that will sit on top of your chicken broth.

It is also common to see bubbles if you added other ingredients to your broth while you were boiling it, like rice or beans, since these ingredients release more starch and can release additional gas into your chicken broth.

Sign #2: Bad Chicken Broth May Change Consistency And Appearance

This is one of the areas where store-bought chicken broth may differ from homemade. The type you buy from a store will generally be a clear yellowish liquid, while broth you made at home could have a cloudier appearance with some fatty content or other residues, depending on your ingredients.

Regardless, paying attention to how your chicken broth looks just after you’ve made it or bought it is crucial. If you notice that the consistency and appearance change, like a transparent yellow broth turning cloudy, it’s a good indication that your broth has gone bad (or is starting to).

Note that refrigeration will automatically change the consistency a bit since it will solidify the chicken fat. But the consistency and appearance should not change too much. A drastic change is always a bad sign.

Sign #3: Mold Will Grow On Your Broth

Mold usually shows itself in the form of grey, green, or white growth that often seems to be furry. If you open the container with your chicken broth and see any of this growth, either on top of the broth (usually accompanying the bacteria bubbles) or on the sides of the container or even floating in the broth itself, stay well away. It’s time to discard your broth for your own health’s sake.

Bacteria find an ideal breeding ground in temperatures between 40 and 1400F. If you store your broth at these temperatures, the bacteria will start to grow almost immediately. If bacteria are allowed to grow for too long, you will start seeing the results of that growth in the form of bacteria bubbles and mold.

Mold, in particular, requires moisture, heat, and darkness to grow, so chicken broth that wasn’t stored correctly makes an ideal breeding ground for it.

You can’t simply skim off the mold and bacteria bubbles and use the rest of the broth, either. Unlike fruit or vegetables, mold growth in chicken broth indicates that the bacteria have already spread throughout the broth, which is now completely ruined.

Sign #4: Swollen Or Broken Containers

This is true in the case of any air-tight sealed containers, but particularly with store-bought chicken broth. The same gases that cause the bacteria bubbles will build up inside the container and often cause it to swell, crack, or burst.

If your container is swollen or broken in any way, there’s a good possibility that your chicken broth is no longer safe to eat and should be discarded. You can take the chance and check for any of the other signs if you wish, especially if the container is broken, but it’s safest to throw it away.

Related: how to tell if cabbage is bad

Sign #5: Bad Chicken Broth Smells Rancid

A fresh chicken broth that’s still edible will smell like chicken and perhaps some other spices. It has a delicious smell (if you like chicken, that is). This changes completely when the chicken broth goes bad.

Instead of the mouth-watering chicken smell, you will get a sickeningly overwhelming chicken smell with strong sour and rancid undertones. This is because the organic material from the chicken has begun to decompose because of the bacteria contained in the broth.

If you get that sour, rancid, sickening smell, you should definitely not eat the broth anymore; not that you would probably want to eat it after getting a whiff of it. And don’t think you can boil away the bacteria. Boiling it will intensify the smell, and you will probably have to abandon your kitchen for a few hours until the smell clears.

Once the broth is spoiled to that extent, there is nothing good in it anymore. The nutritional content has been broken down, and it’s replaced by disease-causing bacteria. Stay well away.

Check for bad smells on other meat products as well, like ground turkey and pork.

Sign #6: The Taste Will Be Off

If, and only if, all of these factors appear fine, there could still be a possibility that the broth has started to go bad. It won’t be harmful yet if all the other factors appear to be fine, but it could ruin the taste that you are going for. At this point, you may choose to do the taste test.

Simply take a teaspoon and dip it in the broth. Taste that teaspoon coated in broth and determine if it tastes the way it should. If not, throw it away since it’s only a matter of time before it’s completely ruined.

Note that the taste test is entirely optional. If you find any reason to believe that the broth has already gone bad, like if it’s past its “best before” date, maybe it’s better not to take that chance. A small taste like that shouldn’t have any harmful consequences for you, but why take the chance?

Leftover Chicken Broth Recipes

If you have opened chicken broth in the fridge that needs to get used up (but isn’t bad yet) here are some recipes to try.

  1. Crockpot Garlic Parm Pasta (uses 2.5 cups chicken broth)
  2. Sausage Gnocchi Soup (uses 4 cups chicken broth)
  3. 4 Ingredient Potato Soup (uses 4 cups chicken broth)

If you only have a partial container of chicken broth (2 cups, for example) you can always substitute water for the rest of the broth. The flavor won’t be quite as good, but sometimes you have to make do with what you have, am I right?

More Questions About Bad Chicken Broth

How long does chicken broth last before going bad?

You can safely refrigerate chicken broth (below 400F) for three to four days or freeze it for two to three months. On the counter, it may go bad within 24 hours, depending on the climate and season.

Can you save or still use chicken broth after it’s gone bad?

You should never use chicken broth after it’s gone bad. Some of the bacteria may be killed when you re-boil it, but boiling temperatures don’t kill all bacteria. Is it really worth your health to take that chance?

Will store-bought chicken broth last longer?

It could, depending on how it was packaged and prepared. Some manufacturers will add preservatives and store it in aseptic containers to keep the chicken broth from going bad. This could make the broth last for up to a year. Always pay close attention to the “best before” date.


Chicken broth is an essential ingredients in many many recipes. There’s nothing more annoying than a partial container of chicken broth that has to be thrown out because it’s been left in the fridge too long. However, sometimes it has to be done when you find out the broth is bad. Good luck!

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