Why Does Mayo Smell Like Vinegar? Can Mayonnaise Go Bad?

mayo smells like vinegar

Mayonnaise is one of the kitchen staples that are loved by people of all ages.

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While some people use it regularly with all the food, others only use it from time to time.

If you are in the second group, at least once you worry that the opened mayo jar in the fridge has gone bad since it has a vinegar smell and the color has changed a bit.

 This article will provide you with a bit more knowledge about mayonnaise: how to know if it is spoiled, why it has a strange smell and how to store this staple properly.

Keep reading to find out.

What does mayonnaise smell like?

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Mayo is a condiment made from vegetable oil, egg yolk, and vinegar.

Mayo has a characteristic odor that can be described as pungent or strong.

It also has an “overly tangy” taste to it with a slightly sweet flavor.

The color of mayonnaise ranges from white to light yellow depending on the type of eggs used and the amount of added sugar (or other substances).

Why does my mayo smell like vinegar?

It’s a common misconception that mayonnaise should smell like vinegar.

In fact, it should have the scent of eggs and be free from any sour or acidic notes.

If you’re noticing odd odors coming from your mayo, then there is likely something wrong with its composition.

This is a question that many people ask themselves when they open their refrigerator and notice the pungent scent.

Mayonnaise typically smells good, so why does it sometimes smell like vinegar?

It’s safe to say that most people don’t know the answer to this question, but there are some logical explanations as to what might cause the change in odor.

The first possibility is that you have old mayonnaise stored in your fridge or pantry.

Mayo tends to go bad after about three weeks of sitting out at room temperature.

So if your container of mayo has been around for longer than that then it could explain the sudden change in aroma and taste.

The second explanation is that you may have accidentally mixed up the old mayonnaise with a new one.

As mentioned before, fresh-made mayo typically has a slightly sweet taste but after sitting for too long that sweetness will turn into an acidic flavor.

The third possibility is that there might be something wrong with your sense of smell or taste buds which could cause changes in the flavor and aroma of food.

There are also some foods that can change the odor or taste, like strong spices such as garlic, onion powder, curry powders (especially turmeric), cumin seeds and peppermint extract.

What makes mayonnaise smell like vinegar?

Eggs, mustard, salt, vinegar or lemon juice, and oil are the main ingredients of this thick, creamy sauce.

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That’s why it has a strong egg smell and a bit of vinegar smell.

However, if the smell is so strong like acidic or putrid, you need to check the mayo jar thoroughly since it is a sign of the mayo being off.

According to The Spruce Eats, commercial mayo is loaded with acid and preservative in order to extend the life of the mayo jar.

That’s why when it’s not stored properly, the strong smell is caused by the acid, and it doesn’t always mean your mayo is spoiled.

How to know if mayonnaise go bad?

Besides smell, the bad mayo will be identified by other signs such as texture, the container, or the color.

1. Container

The mold or spores on the neck of the jar or on the surface of the mayo inside is one of the obvious signs of organic growths inside your spoiled mayo jar.

2. Color

If the mayo becomes yellowish or brownish, and there is a noticeable darker shade, then the mayo quality has gone down and you need to think twice before using it for your salad or sandwiches.

3. Texture

There are also changes in the texture when mayo is off.

If you notice separated layers at the jar top, or there are liquid collected at the depression left by the spoon after you have taken a spoonful mayo, then it’s time to discard the mayo.

Is it safe to eat mayonnaise that smells like vinegar?

Whether the vinegar smell caused by the acid in commercial mayo, or caused by spoiled mayo, it is no longer appetizing to eat.

That’s why it is not recommended eating strong smell mayo, even when it hasn’t gone bad yet.

The spoiled mayo even causes food poisoning.

Some common symptoms are stomach pain, nausea, vomit, or diarrhea.

How to avoid vinegar smell in mayonnaise?

Store your food properly is the best way to have it last for a longer time and avoid it from getting that unpleasant odor.

For store-bought mayonnaise, the rules are pretty simple:

1. Store in a cool, dry place

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Mayo needs to be stored in a cool and dry place and away from light and heat.

Heat encourages the faster deterioration in mayo.

That’s why pantry, kitchen or fridges are the best place for preserving mayonnaise.

If your pantry is above the oven or in a sunny place, you should consider moving it to a darker spot for better food storing purposes.

2. Seal tightly after use

Seal the mayo jar tightly after every use is also a way to avoid contaminants from getting in and destroy the mayo quality.

3. Refrigerate once opened

Once the mayo is opened, the preservatives are no longer fully covering the mayo surface.

Thus, you should store it in the fridge instead of pantry, to avoid it from going bad very quickly.

The above rules are applied for the commercial mayo only.

About the homemade mayo, you should only store it in the fridge, and only use it within 4 days after making it.


Mayonnaise is the perishable food that not only makes the simple foods look better but also makes them tastier and more fun.

However, the moment you wonder whether the mayo jar or the leftover salad and sandwiches in your fridge have gone bad, better safe than sorry, just throw it out.

We hope that you can have all the best food experiences with mayonnaise after reading through the tips above!

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