Tabasco sauce is the perfect condiment for all sorts of foods. It has become a favorite in the United States as well as most parts of the world. Tabasco sauce is sold in over 160 countries across the globe. Yet many of us buy a jar of Tabasco sauce and only use a few drops every couple of months. Some only use half a bottle or so in an entire year. The question begs, “How long is Tabasco sauce really good for?”. Below, we examine this question and offer some advice to prolong the life of Tabasco sauce.
Image used under Creative Commons from kim siciliano
Tabasco Sauce Lifespan
Many people assume that Tabasco sauce will be good for years after its purchase date. Some even assume that it will last forever. The truth is that Tabasco sauce can last for years, whether opened, unopened, unrefrigerated or refrigerated. However, it will not last forever. Tabasco sauce does eventually expire. While it will not spoil or become dangerous to consume, it will lose significant flavor over time.
Take a look at the date that is printed on the Tabasco sauce bottle. You’ll likely find a production date instead of an expiration date. If you see a string of numbers that reads 04122015, this means that the bottle was produced on April 12, 2015. While each type of Tabasco sauce will not last the same amount of time, the original variety typically holds its flavor for about five years. Other varieties like Habanero tend to lose their flavor in about two years. Chipotle Pepper and Green Jalapeno Pepper Tabasco sauce begin to lose their flavor after only a year and a half.
You can still consume Tabasco sauce beyond the above referenced time frames thanks to its vinegar and chili peppers. The acid in the vinegar and the capsaicin in the chili peppers act as important preservation agents that prevent the growth of bacteria. If you are the frugal type, go ahead and keep using your old hot sauce even if it was opened years ago. It won’t hurt you but it likely won’t taste fresh.
How to Tell When Tabasco Sauce has Gone Bad
Tabasco sauce darkens as it ages. However, this is not a good indicator that the product should be tossed. It is natural for chili peppers to become darker as time progresses. Other ingredients such as mustard are often included in Tabasco sauce and they also darken over time. You will notice that the taste is different as the months and years pass by. If you have a bottle of Tabasco sauce that is a year old or older and you do not care for the taste, trash it. The poor taste is the only true indicator that the Tabasco sauce is beyond its prime.
If your Tabasco sauce has an expiration date, treat it as an estimate of when the flavors will lessen. You can almost always continue to use Tabasco sauce beyond the expiration date if you are willing to accept its lack of flavor. However, you should not feel bad about throwing your old Tabasco sauce out. One jar costs merely a couple dollars.
Prolong the Life of Tabasco Sauce
A word to the wise: Refrigerate the fancier varieties of Tabasco sauce that contain extra ingredients like fruits, vegetables, mustard and other condiments. These added ingredients increase the risk that the Tabasco sauce will eventually “turn”. Go ahead and shake up your older bottles of Tabasco sauce. This often helps to bring back the potency of flavors and particles that have either gone dormant or sunk toward the bottom of the bottle. Some actually prefer to wait a while to consume their Tabasco sauce as the heat generated by chili peppers increases as the product ages.
It is worth noting that crusting often occurs around the very top of the bottle. This is a prime area for the buildup of bacteria over time. Clean off this area of the bottle if you plan on consuming the Tabasco sauce over a period of several months or years. Also, check your bottle’s instructions for storage directions. Some must be stored in the refrigerator to preserve their quality while others can be stored in the pantry.