HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


HUGE can of San Marzano tomatoes PAST expiry date!!! AHHH! [moved from Home Cooking]

What should I do!? I just realized that the 'best before' date was March 22/2012. Two questions:

1. Are they still safe to eat, and how can I tell?

2. What am I going to make with it?


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Canned tomatoes will be fine for years. Don't sweat the date, it's completely arbitrary on an item like this.

    Feature them in a basic tomato sauce; In olive oil, saute some sliced garlic and a little crushed red pepper, add tomatoes, bring to a simmer, toss in some fresh basil, serve over pasta, top with good italian Parmesean.

    1 Reply
    1. re: caviar_and_chitlins

      So simple but sounds so delicious! Thanks :)

    2. Best before dates are to protect the manufacturer.
      If you use it after that date they're not responsible for whats inside.
      Open the can, if they smell and look ok you can use them but I would
      only use them in cooking. Heat them up in a separate pot and check them again
      (taste once heated to a healthy simmer). If they taste ok them add them to whatever your
      making and enjoy. Dont add till you test the taste just to make sure you don't spoil a
      large batch of something.

      1. No. At midnight on March 22, 2012, the manufacturer remotely initiated, via an embedded chip, a chemical reaction that rendered those tomatoes so dangerous you really should dispose of them with a gloved hand and warn your neighbors of an impending explosion.

        Kidding. I ate some yogurt that "expired" two weeks ago. It was fine. Make your sauce and enjoy it.

        8 Replies
        1. re: Isolda

          Roast them...after roasting they will store pretty much forever in a jar in the freezer, and you can just tweeze a few out for pizza toppings, pasta add-ins, or mix-ins for goat cheese spread, cream cheese spread, soups, sauces...wherever you want to add a roasty tomatoey flavor. Drain them well, (make yourself a bloody mary with the tomato juice you drain off), arrange cut side down on a sheet pan, , pour over some olive oil and sprinkle with a big pinch of salt and a small pinch of sugar...roast at about 375 for half an hour, turn them over, and roast for about 20 minutes more. When they have noticeably darkened in color and look a little leathery they're done. You can sprinkle them at the the end with some minced garlic or basil or oregano if you would like.

          1. re: Isolda

            The tomatoes are absolutely safe. I would, and HAVE, staked my life on it. If a few YEARS have passed after expiry, there might be a bit of a metallic taste but still nothing dangerous. Toss any cans that bulge or that have rusty seams. I once "lost" an unopened yogurt in the back of the fridge for well over a year. It was fine and tasted like it was bought the previous day. As a friend said, sarcastically, "What's going to happen to yogurt - souring?"

            1. re: greygarious

              I can't remember how long I had the canned artichoke hearts .. when I opened it it was BLACK inside. Of course, I threw it out but have wondered if air got inside or if this what happens after a couple of years.

            2. re: Isolda

              hahaha your comment made my day!

              1. re: Isolda

                And do call the manufacturer's hotline. They'll confirm the impending danger and recommend that you discard ASAP and buy replacements.

                1. re: Isolda

                  Two coworkers regularly eat yogurt that is 3-8 months past the buy-by date. They're still alive.

                  1. re: LindaWhit


                    So do I.

                    Like any dairy product, by its nature, it will let you know visually and odiferously that it has turned. :-)

                    In the summer I buy whole milk vs. 2% or 1% as the milk fat levels keeps teh shelf life of teh whole milk good far longer if you have heat flucuations in your kitchem which affect your fridge at all.

                2. I would definitely use them to make a lovely marinara sauce with lots of fresh basil and parsley from my garden. Serve over penne and top with more fresh basil and some cubes of fresh mozzarella. Yum!

                  1. THIS is something that bugs me. A "best if used by" date does NOT mean contents are BAD after that date!! How BIG of a can? Like restaurant size or normal big can for everyday family use? When it comes to stuff in cans, about the only thing I look for are dents or bulging (even slightly) tops/bottoms. Made mistake of trying to open one that was only SLIGHTLY bulging and contents spewed all over the place. Now an EXPIRATION or sell-by date... another story... that's what you'd find on meat/poultry/fish in the supermarket. When I'm buying dairy, I'll look for containers with day the farthest into the future. The date you see on a carton of milk... if your milk goe BAD in less than 5 days or so... I'd return it.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: kseiverd

                      I bought it from Costco and it is big, definitely bigger than the ones that they sell in regular grocery stores. I don't know how I could have forgotten about it back there, but I'm glad you guys have reassured me! I'm usually really careful about this stuff because I feed my 1 year old and 2.5 year old almost everything I cook, so I like to make sure it is 100% safe.

                    2. Jeebus.

                      I have heavy cream in the fridge that has been around longer than that date. And it's just fine.

                      The Tomatoes are fine too.


                      A Good marinara sauce.

                      Sunday gravy.

                      Sausage and peppers.

                      Stuffed peppers.

                      Swiss steak.

                      Pot roast.

                      No need to fret.
                      They are fine.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: jjjrfoodie

                        "heavy cream in the fridge that has been around longer than that date. And it's just fine."

                        Expired dairy products "just fine" can change from morning to night.

                        1. re: FrankJBN

                          But you can usually tell when expired liquid dairy has turned. Clumps of heavy cream vs. pouring smoothly. The smell is a dead giveaway as well.

                      2. Unless there is obvious swelling of the can, they are probably just fine. But if you see a large can approaching expiration date, open it and put the contents into quart bags and freeze them. We do that with homongous cans all the time.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Father Kitchen

                          That is a great idea. I seriously can't use all of it up at one time so I am going to do this. I'll update you guys on what I discover once I open it!

                          1. re: maabso

                            no psychotic breaks, i take it?

                            1. re: alkapal

                              Perhaps the Zombie Apocalypse has started early upon the opening of this can of tomatoes?

                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                There are some hilarious comments on this thread. Keep them coming!

                        2. A great article from Eating Well on expiration dates......


                          1. I work in a Food Pantry and we would not worry about a March 2012 date on tomatoes. We have based this policy on info gathered from reliable sources such as the main Food Bank. The downside is that the flavor is not at it's peak. Is it a number 10 can?

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Berheenia

                              Very sensible response. I especially like the comment on flavor.

                              Instead of checking expiration date, checking food items with our nose and eyes might be a better approach. If expired and if the peak flavor is lost, wait a bit longer and, with the help of some microbes, umami might develop as decomposition takes place. Many delicacies we human enjoy eating now were discovered when someone ate certain "rotten" or "moldy" food a long time ago, yeah? .

                              Recently, a 7-episode Chinese TV program "A Bite of China" became a much-watched food show among Chiness both there (China) and here (U.S.). The videos are now on YouTube with English subtitles:

                              If you watch it, at 00:07-00:09 you will see one such delicacy: tofu completely covered with long, white mold. I heard the hairy tofu is dearly loved by those who have eaten it. I tried to grow mold on my tofu by covering it with straw. However, the straw obviously did not contain spores (killed by fugicide in the field?) and the tofu became spoiled by other microbes and had to be thrown away.

                              Even with medicines, what does the expiration dates mean? Reduced efficacy, maybe. The tube of antibiotic gel prescribed to treat my son's staph aureus infection on his eyebrow when he was born is still being used by me when needed. It seems to work just fine. The expiration date came and went long, long time ago - 37 years ago. Isn't that wild?

                            2. Oh for heaven's sake - they'll be just fine. In fact, if you had posted here saying they were "best before " March 22/2011 I'd STILL be telling you they were just fine. Canned goods have a MUCH longer shelf life than the government-required "best by" date on the can.

                              What are you going to make with it? What the heck did you buy them for? Surely you must have had a reason for buying them in the first place. Most folks use them to make terrific pasta sauce.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Bacardi1

                                The huge can was on sale for like 3.97 or something and I convinced myself that I would be able to make something out of it all. I just became a too intimidated to conquer the entire can! But I will probably open, and freeze portions like somebody mentioned.

                              2. In case you're interested, I used to buy nothing but the San Marzano tomatoes from Costco (Nina brand) because they were cheap and I thought that just because they were San Marzano tomatoes that they were automatically better than all the other tomatoes. Well, I read Cook's Illustrated's ratings of canned whole tomatoes and learned that I was wrong.

                                The second best canned whole tomatoes are Hunt's Whole Plum Tomatoes. They're cheap and you can find them at Wal-Mart. The number one rated canned whole tomatoes are Muir Glen Organic Whole Peeled Tomatoes. They're 50% more expensive ("organic" marketing) than the Hunt's which is why I don't buy them.

                                All of the San Marzano canned whole tomatoes were rated "Recommended with Reservations".

                                Based on what I learned, I tried the Hunt's Whole Plum Tomatoes and they were markedly better than the San Marzano canned tomatoes from Costco. The canned tomatoes from Costco are good, but the Hunt's are quite a bit better.

                                So, you may want to consider trying the Hunt's Whole Plum Tomatoes.

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: 1POINT21GW

                                  The Costcos I've been to in N. Cal don't carry those San Marzano cans. Are they canned in Italy and marked D.O.P.? I buy Ital brand, D.O.P. and they are markedly better than any other American canned tomatoes I've tried.

                                  1. re: walker

                                    Agreed. You need the D.O.P. designation for them to be true San Marzanos, I believe.

                                    1. re: 1POINT21GW

                                      Really good to know! Thanks for letting me know, I will try them. I still haven't opened the huge can yet; both kids had the flu and now I do too. Really craving some soup, tomato soup?

                                      1. re: maabso

                                        Have you tried Tyler Florence's roasted tomato soup? I love it; the recipe is on foodtv site. It calls for fresh tomatoes but I think it'd be almost as good with canned. It even tastes great sipped cold while standing with refrigerator door open!

                                        1. re: walker

                                          Thanks for the reminder of T. Florence's tomato soup recipe! Have a bunch of newly harvested tomatoes (we're actually getting tired of sliced tomatoes already). Soup it is! P.S. Grew my own San Marzanos last year--must be a terroir thing, 'cause my home growns just weren't anything special.

                                          1. re: pine time

                                            When I make this recipe, it takes much longer than the recipe takes for the oven time. I'll bet your home grown tomatoes are great. Since tomatoes don't do well in SF near the ocean, I buy the compari on the vine ones (all year round at Costco) and they taste great to me.

                                        2. re: maabso

                                          OPEN IT ALREADY

                                          make some of marcella hazan's otherworldy-delicious pasta sauce with just the tomatoes, butter and onion.

                                      2. I see the 'best before date' as a marketing gimic to get consumers to use their product more frequently. I'd use them just as if I purchased them yesterday. BTW - I'm using dry yeast that's been expired for years, still works fine cus I store it correctly.

                                        1. I'm intrigued by the HUGE part. I seem to recall reading somewhere that all San Marzanos with a DOP are packed in 28 oz. cans, by the regulations governing the DOP or something. Is that not true? 28 oz. is the familiar standard "large" can size for supermarket tomatoes. I myself have never seen them in any can size but 28 oz.

                                          If the above is true, and they are not in 28oz. cans, they may not be DOP San Marzanos, although that may not be such a big deal since some producers of the real thing apparently choose not to use the DOP. Anyway the "extra quality" of SM's has not always, shall we say, been apparent in blind tastings -- it's no doubt as much hype as reality.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: johnb

                                            So I have the can in front of me, and it reads: "La San Marzano di A. Romano... Choice Grade... 3kg... 6 lb 10 oz". I'm opening it now... Wish me luck!

                                          2. I finally opened the can. It was a disaster. The can sprayed all over my ceiling, walls, children and white furniture and to all of you who told me to open it, I will never forgive you. Ok just joking, it was FINE! I am going mostly by smell because I'm fasting for Ramadan and can't really taste it, but it is perfect. Thank you guys for your help! Off to make soup! Now to find a recipe...

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: maabso

                                              VERY nicely played, maabso! :-D

                                              But next time? Just post your first 3 sentences the next time, and wait about 15-30 minutes before you post your j/k remark. ;-)

                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                ;) Glad you liked that... Thanks LW for the tip... It would have been too funny to see peoples' reactions if I let them roast for a day or two!