Does Fish Sauce Go Bad? [Shelf Life, Storage, Spoilage]

Here’s all about the shelf life, storage, and spoilage of fish sauce. Learn how long fish sauce lasts, if you need to refrigerate it, and when to toss it.

You bought a bottle of fish sauce, used it a few times, and put it in storage. Now a few months have passed, and you’re not sure if you can still use it. Does fish sauce go bad?

Or maybe it’s your first time buying fish sauce, and you’re wondering whether you should refrigerate it.

Of course, there are many uses for fish sauce in Southeast and East Asian cuisine, where it’s a staple. But unless you’re into that cuisine or do some digging for recipes, chances are you’ll store your fish sauce for months. And that’s what this article will help you with.

Read on.

Steamed fish with vinegar sauce
Image used under Creative Commons from angelhsu

How to Store Fish Sauce

All an unopened bottle of fish sauce needs is a cool and dry place away from sunlight and heat sources. After opening, you can leave fish sauce at room temperature, but it typically retains quality better if refrigerated.

As you can tell, storing fish sauce is quite similar to storing teriyaki or cocktail sauce.

Since this condiment contains copious amounts of salt (like soy sauce), it won’t go bad if you leave it at room temperature for a day or a week. Or a month, for that matter.

RelatedDoes Soy Sauce Expire?

That said, refrigeration helps fish sauce retain quality for longer, so storing the leftovers in the fridge is also worth considering.

So, what option should you choose?

Does Fish Sauce Need to Be Refrigerated After Opening?

Fish sauce doesn’t need to be refrigerated after opening, but if you’d like it to retain good quality for more than a couple of months, storing it in the fridge is the better choice. If you finish the bottle within a few weeks to maybe half a year, you can leave it at room temperature.

That’s the bottom line on whether you should refrigerate open fish sauce.

That said, various brands have different recommendations. For instance, Red Boat Fish Sauce recommends the fridge for the best quality but also mentions that leaving the sauce at room temperature is also okay.

Now, no matter where you put the bottle, make sure it’s always sealed tightly and doesn’t sit in direct sunlight.

Vegan Frühlingsrolle
Image used under Creative Commons from Marco Verch

How Long Does Fish Sauce Last?

Fish sauce (unopened)Best by + 1 year 
Fish sauce (opened)3 – 6 months12+ months

An unopened bottle of fish sauce should easily retain quality for a year after the best-by date or 3-4 years after bottling. After opening, fish sauce should keep good quality for about 3 to 6 months at room temperature, or for at least a year if you refrigerate it.

Of course, it will most likely keep its freshness for much longer than that.

Many bottles of fish sauce come with a best-by date. That date informs you how long the product should retain its freshness and flavor. Of course, since fish sauce doesn’t include any perishable ingredients and is high in sodium, it will easily last for months or even years past that date. Because of that, some producers don’t put any dates on the label beside the bottling date.

Even though fish sauce rarely goes bad in terms of food safety, its quality degrades over time. That means that after storing it for a long time, one day you might notice that the flavor is milder and the taste is lacking.

As usual, it’s impossible to tell when that will happen, especially because you’re the one to decide it’s not good enough to use.


Fish sauce isn’t the same thing as oyster sauce. There are similarities, but these are different products.

Pouring sauce on fish
Pouring sauce on fish

How to Tell If Fish Sauce Is Bad?

Toss your fish sauce if there are any signs of mold or yeast on the surface of the sauce or neck of the bottle, if the condiment smells off, or if the color or texture has changed noticeably. Neither of these is particularly common, but if either happens, it’s a good sign your fish sauce is done for.

In other words, fish sauce going bad isn’t a likely occurrence. If the condiment both looks and smells okay, taste it and decide if it’s good enough to use. As with any other food, if you’re not quite sure its safety, discard it.

Now, let’s discuss a couple of situations where people might think the condiment is bad, but it’s not.

First is the presence of clear crystals on the bottom of the bottle. Those crystals are sea salt, and the formation of those is a natural process and doesn’t affect the quality of the condiment.

Second, sometimes some particles or clouds float in the sauce. Those are proteins that formed in the process of protein precipitation. It’s a natural process that occurs when the fish sauce has been exposed to changes in temperature. As with the one above, it’s harmless and doesn’t affect the safety or quality of the product.

Rotten Records: Share Your Snap!

Caught some food past its prime? Upload your photo to “Rotten Records” and help others spot the signs of spoilage. Every image makes our food community safer and more informed!

Similar Posts