Does Oyster Sauce Go Bad?

Have you bought a bottle of oyster sauce for a recipe that called for it? Half a year later, the sauce still sits in the fridge. Does oyster sauce go bad?

Or perhaps it’s your first time using oyster sauce, and you’re not sure if you need to refrigerate it after opening, or not.

If either sounds familiar, you’re in the right place. In this article, we will go through storage, shelf life, and expiring of this thick brown sauce often used in Asian-style dishes. Let’s dive in.

Oyster sauce in a white bowl
Oyster sauce in a white bowl

How To Store Oyster Sauce

I’m pretty sure you’re familiar with condiments such as soy sauce or vinegar that don’t require refrigeration after opening. Well, oyster sauce isn’t quite the same, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

For starters, you should keep the unopened oyster sauce in a cool and dark place (GD). A cupboard in the kitchen or a shelf in the pantry will do the trick.

Now to the tricky part: do you need to refrigerate oyster sauce after opening? The best answer I can give you is: you probably should.

Golden Dragon Sauces say on their website that refrigeration of their products is recommended, but not necessary (GD). Cold temperature simply helps to preserve the quality of the condiment for longer. Other brands, like the popular Maekrua, slap a big label that says “refrigerate after opening” on the bottle. That makes it pretty clear that you should keep the sauce in the fridge.

All in all, oyster sauce won’t go bad if you leave it after opening at room temperature for a couple of days, or even weeks. But the quality will degrade much faster, so unless you plan on finishing the bottle soon, refrigeration is the way to go.

Bottle of oyster sauce
Bottle of oyster sauce

How Long Does Oyster Sauce Last

The shelf life of this viscous sauce made with oyster extract depends heavily on the producer and the quality. Like with many other things in life, the better the quality, the longer it lasts.

Oyster sauces usually have a shelf life of about 18 to 24 months unopened (GD, FK), and the numbers are quite similar across the board. You can find out how long yours should keep for by finding the best-by date on the label. The quality comes into play once you first open the bottle.

How long is oyster sauce good after opening? FoodKeeper app says you should finish the bottle within three to six months (FK), and that’s good enough for pretty much all oyster sauces out there. If yours is one of the high-quality ones, it should retain quality for much longer, up to a year, or maybe even more (GD).

In short, if you’re not sure about the quality of the sauce, try to finish the bottle within half a year for the best flavor.

PantryFridge
Oyster sauce (unopened)Best-by + 3 – 6 months for best quality
Oyster sauce (opened)3 – 6 months for best quality

Please note the periods above are estimates only.

How To Tell If Oyster Sauce Is Bad?

You probably know that telling spoiled sauces from safe-to-eat ones is often tricky. Sure, there are some sure signs that your oyster sauce is done for, such as the presence of white or green fuzz on the surface, or an off smell. But often things aren’t as cut and dry as we would like.

Oyster sauce darkens and its flavor gets stronger over time. If it’s too strong for your liking, and merely using less sauce in your dishes doesn’t cut it, feel free to discard it. Granted, the sauce isn’t bad by any means, but it’s pretty much useless, so there’s no point in keeping it around.

Another thing worth knowing is that the sauce is thickened in the production process, often by cornstarch (WIKI). And if it gets to the point that water starts to separate on the surface, that means the condiment is old. And giving it a good stir (like you do with yogurt) won’t fix the texture issue. If that’s the case, get rid of it.

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