Does Soy Sauce Go Bad?

If you’ve found a bottle of soy sauce that’s a few years old, you’ve probably asked yourself the question “does soy sauce go bad?”.

Fortunately for you, your soy sauce is probably fine. It contains a lot of sodium, so it’s difficult for any microorganism to develop and grow in such kind of salty environment.

The taste of the sauce, however, will slowly deteriorate over time. If you store it properly, it will retain its freshness and flavor for quite some time, though.

If you’d like to learn more about storage, shelf life, and signs of going bad of soy sauce, read on.

Kikkoman gluten free soy sauce
(credit: fotoosvanrobin)

How To Store Soy Sauce

While your bottle of soy sauce is unopened, you should store it in a cool, dry area. The pantry seems to be the best place to store the unopened soy sauce.

Once you open the bottle, you should store it either in the pantry or the fridge. If you store it in the refrigerator, it will retain its taste for longer. If you plan to use the whole bottle within a couple of months, feel free to keep it in the pantry.

Tip

Please remember that the bottle should always be sealed tightly.

Fish, soy sauce, garlic, and lemon slices
(credit: Agto Nugroho)

How Long Does Soy Sauce Last

Soy sauce, and other soy sauce-based condiments like teriyaki sauce, last quite a long time.

Even though soy sauce won’t go bad for a long time, it has a “use-by” or “best-by” date on its label. That date informs you how long the product should be at its best quality (according to the manufacturer’s data). That means that after that date the product should start to slowly lose its quality, and its flavor won’t be as good as if is was fresh.

Once you open the bottle, manufacturers recommend that you should use this salty condiment rather quickly. The term “quickly” differs between brands and it typically falls between a month and up to six months.

That being said, soy sauce stays safe to use years after the “best by” date. By safe to use I mean it won’t make you sick or anything, just its taste might be slightly weaker. As already mentioned earlier, to retain its flavor for longer, you can store the soy sauce in the refrigerator.

 PantryFridge
Soy Sauce (Unopened)“Best by” + 2 years“Best by” + 2 years
Soy Sauce (Opened)“Best by” + 6 months“Best by” + 1 year

Please note that the dates above are approximate and are for the best quality. Soy sauce will easily last months and years longer.

Variety of sushi, and three bowls of soy sauce
(credit: Florian Metzner)

How To Tell If Soy Sauce Is Bad?

As mentioned on the Kikkoman’s website, soy sauce won’t spoil “as long as no water or other ingredients have been added”. That means that keeping it closed tightly pretty much prevents it from going bad.

If you notice that the smell or taste of this condiment starts to alter slightly, you have a choice to make. You can either keep on using it (it’s still safe to use) or decide to get rid of it for quality reasons. If you go with the former, make sure to taste your dishes before serving, as they might need a bit more soy sauce than they usually do.

You already know that soy sauce is unlikely to spoil unless tampered with. Unfortunately, I can’t assure you that it will be good forever. If your soy sauce smells off, throw it away. It probably isn’t spoiled so eating it won’t do you any harm, but it might ruin your dish, and you don’t want to take any chances on that.

If you noticed that the bottle wasn’t sealed, or some contaminants got inside the container, these are good enough reasons to discard it. Same thing if you notice anything about the sauce that’s not right. If that’s the case, it’s better to trust your gut and get rid of the sauce.

Dipping sushi in soy sauce
(credit: Luigi Pozzoli)

Soy Sauce FAQ

Does soy sauce go bad if not refrigerated?

No. Soy sauce, even after opening, does not require refrigeration. If you store it in the fridge, it will retain its taste for longer, but that’s about it.

Is soy sauce gluten-free?

Traditional soy sauce contains gluten because wheat is one of the main ingredients in soy sauce. Many brands offer gluten-free soy sauce, that’s very similar in taste to the traditional one. Because of that, if you’re allergic to gluten, make sure to check the bottle before buying. As an alternative to soy sauce, you can choose tamari sauce, which usually is gluten-free (check the label).