Does Fish Sauce Go Bad?

Does fish sauce go bad? If you are unfamiliar with fish sauce, this is a popular seasoning used in Asian cooking. This condiment is made from fresh fish – usually salted anchovies or mackerel – that has been fermented for weeks to years. Usually, fish sauce is used to add depth and saltiness to a dish. In Southeast Asian cuisine, fish sauce is used in place of regular salt to season food.

Fish sauce is also used as a dip. Pure fish sauce does not go through re-extraction but the commercially sold fish sauce is usually re-extracted to refine the sauce into clear, reddish-brown liquid. The fermentation processes cause the fish to turn into a mushy, brown liquid. Now to answer the question whether fish sauce could ever go bad, technically, the sauce has already gone bad. Also, it is heavily salted, which stretches fish sauce’s shelf life even more.

Image used under Creative Commons from angelhsu

As long as the sauce is properly stored, it will keep for a long time in the pantry. It’s worth noting that fish sauce usually comes with a best-before-date, so use the product before the indicated date for optimal flavor. Use this guide to know more about the many types of food label terms.

How to Store Fish Sauce?

Storing Fish Sauce in the Pantry

Fish sauce is best stored in the pantry regardless if it’s been opened or kept unopened. Since the product contains copious amounts of salt, it has self-preserving properties that enable the sauce to keep for months on end. Still, fish sauce’s flavor will degrade over time. That’s why it’s so important to keep the bottle of fish sauce tightly sealed after every use. If the container is leaky or if it’s not tightly sealed, salt deposits will start building up, which may affect the quality of the sauce.

Keep the product away from sources of heat, light, and moisture to extend its shelf life. Store this product in a dark and cool place. The darker the storage area is, the better.

Storing Fish Sauce in the Fridge

Should you store fish sauce in the fridge? We don’t recommend storing fish sauce in the fridge because its pungent aroma might spread all over the refrigerator. But if the fish sauce is nearing its best-by-date, you may chill the product in the fridge to extend its shelf life. You can use the fish sauce’s original packaging when chilling it in the fridge, just make sure to keep the container tightly sealed after every use.

Image used under Creative Commons from Marco Verch

Shelf Life of Fish Sauce

When kept in the pantry, an opened container of fish sauce will keep for at least a year. It will keep longer if 1) the storage environment is ideal and 2) if the fish sauce’s container is kept unopened. When stored in the fridge, it should keep for at least six months. To enjoy the potency of the sauce, use it up right away.

How to Tell if Fish Sauce has Gone Bad?

It’s hard to tell if the fish sauce has gone bad because it has a pungent aroma as is. Still, a fresh bottle of fish sauce should be a clear reddish brown liquid that’s free from sediments. Unless there is a presence of mold growth, fish sauce that contains sediments should be safe to use. If the sauce has taken on an odd aroma, discard the product. If the fish sauce has been stored for years in the pantry and has turned a murky consistency, discard the product immediately.


Does fish sauce go bad? Fish sauce is a great seasoning and even better as a dip for grilled seafood and fried fish. Although this sauce has a long shelf life, it will not keep forever. You can extend the shelf life of fish sauce by storing it in the fridge as it nears its best-by-date as well as keeping the container sealed at all times.