Does Hot Sauce Go Bad

Some people love hot sauce and cannot get enough of it. Others hate it and never buy or use it. And there’s a third type of people: those who neither love nor hate it and only use it if a recipe calls for it. If you belong to the third group, chances are there’s a half-open bottle of hot sauce sitting in your fridge for quite some time already. After a few months, whenever you see the bottle, the question “does hot sauce go bad?” comes back to you. If you’d like to learn a bit more about storage, shelf life, and if hot sauce can go bad, read on.

Bottle of hot sauce
Image used under Creative Commons from Veganbaking.net

How To Store Hot Sauce

There are a lot of brands of hot sauce out there, and the list of ingredients for each one is slightly different. Of course, the base of each one is chili peppers, but the rest is pretty much up to the producer. Fortunately, the storage guidelines are similar for all of them, and quite similar to similar products like Tabasco sauce and sriracha (a variety of hot sauce). You should keep an unopened bottle in a cool and dark place, away from sunlight and sources of heat. The pantry or a cabinet in the kitchen that’s away from the oven are the best choices.

Once you open the bottle, keep it sealed tightly when not in use. When it comes to whether the condiment requires refrigerating after opening or not, it depends. Generally, many brands, like Texas Pete, inform that you don’t need to keep their sauce in the fridge after opening. Same thing for Tapatio hot sauce and lots of others. However, like the producer mentions on Frank’s RedHot FAQ, keeping the sauce chilled will help it retain the freshness and quality for longer. Plus some brands actually require you to refrigerate the sauce after opening. Always check the label for guidelines specific to your hot sauce.

Last but not least, a few words about food hygiene. I know that sometimes we’re lazy and would prefer to dip our chicken wings or fries directly in the bottle. Unfortunately, that’s a sure-fire way to transfer contaminants and bacteria into the container. And that might result in the condiment spoiling, so don’t do that. Also, look out for a crust that often forms on the cap. This can be an area where bacteria can start to grow. Always clean the cap if it gets messy.

How Long Does Hot Sauce Last

Like for Tabasco, it’s really difficult to tell how long hot sauce will last. It loses its freshness and heat much quicker than it actually goes bad. That means you’re more likely to toss it out for quality purposes than because it has actually gone bad.

Of course, many brands put a “best-by” or “best if used by” date on the label. That date is a rough estimate of how long, at the very least, the sauce will retain its freshness. An unopened bottle of hot sauce easily lasts months, if not years past that date. That’s because both chili peppers and vinegar (present in most hot sauces) happen to be great preservatives.

Once you open the bottle, it will easily retain its taste for a few months if stored at room temperature, and much longer if you refrigerate it. Again, it’s impossible to say for how long your hot sauce will taste great. All we can do is to come up with some estimates.

Pantry Fridge
Hot sauce (unopened) Best by + 2 years
Hot sauce (opened) 3 – 6 months 2 years

Please note that the periods above are for estimates an for best quality only. How sauce will definitely last longer if stored properly.

How To Tell If Hot Sauce Is Bad?

The first thing you should remember is that hot sauce often becomes darker over time. That’s a natural reaction of chili peppers and isn’t a sign that the condiment has gone bad.

Like I already mentioned, it’s unlikely that your hot sauce will go bad in a way it’s unsafe to eat. However, if you notice anything off about the sauce, like any signs of mold on the surface or the neck of the bottle, foul or fermented smell, or odd taste, discard it. Same thing if you’re even questioning its safety. The fact that you’re not sure it’s safe anymore is a good enough sign that the condiment is past its prime and you should throw it away. Better safe than sorry.

If you already store the sauce for an extended period and everything about it seems fine, give it a taste. As previously mentioned, the flavor and smell of hot sauce degrade slowly over time so your three-year-old sauce won’t taste as good as a brand new one does. But if it tastes good enough, feel free to continue using it. Otherwise, discard it and open another bottle.