If you’re not big on hot sauces, a bottle of Tabasco can sit in your cupboards for months or even years. At a certain point, you inevitably start to wonder if Tabasco sauce goes bad. Especially when the date approaches the suggested shelf life of the sauce. Or maybe your Tabasco turned slightly brown, and that made you wonder if it’s still okay to eat. Either way, even if you’re not a fan of fiery-hot things, it’s time to learn a bit about storage, shelf life, and going bad of Tabasco.
Image used under Creative Commons from kim siciliano
How To Store Tabasco
You should store Tabasco pretty much the same way you store BBQ sauce. That means an unopened bottle should site in a cool place, away from direct light. A cupboard or cabinet in the pantry or the kitchen are the best choices.
Once you open the bottle, the best place to keep the sauce is the fridge, especially if you’re using it sparingly and it will sit there for at least a few months. Many people don’t bother with refrigerating Tabasco after opening, and that’s okay if you store it for a couple of months. Generally, the bottles that are stored in the fridge maintain their flavor and color better than those kept in a kitchen cupboard. That’s especially true for regions with hot summers. The choice is up to you really, but to get the best results the fridge is the way to go.
Now let’s touch upon some of the fancier varieties of Tabasco sauce. They contain extra ingredients such as fruits, vegetables, mustard, and other condiments. Most of those fancier varieties actually require chilling in the fridge. So if it’s not the Original Red Sauce Tabasco, check the label to make sure if it needs refrigerating. Or as a rule of thumb just chuck it into the fridge, it will be fine there.
It is worth noting that crusting often occurs around the very top of the bottle. This is a prime area for the buildup of bacteria over time. Clean off this area with a dry paper towel if you plan on consuming the Tabasco sauce over a period of several months or years.
Last but not least, go ahead and shake up your older bottles of Tabasco sauce. This often helps to bring back the potency of flavors and particles that have either gone dormant or sunk toward the bottom of the bottle. Plus it takes care of the separation that happens over time.
How Long Does Tabasco Sauce Last
Many people assume that Tabasco sauce will be good for years after its purchase date. Some even assume that it will last forever. The truth is that Tabasco sauce can last for years, whether opened, unopened, unrefrigerated or refrigerated. However, it will not last forever in good quality. While it will not spoil or become dangerous to consume, it will lose significant flavor over time.
Take a look at the date that is printed on the Tabasco sauce bottle. You’ll likely find a production date instead of a best-by date. If you see a string of numbers that reads 04122015, this means that the bottle was produced on April 12, 2015. While each type of Tabasco sauce will not last the same amount of time, the original variety typically holds its flavor for five years. Other varieties like Habanero tend to lose their flavor in about two years. Chipotle Pepper and Green Jalapeno Pepper Tabasco sauce begin to lose their flavor after only a year and a half. Check with the label for how long your variety lasts in top shape.
You can still consume Tabasco sauce beyond the above referenced time frames thanks to its vinegar and chili peppers. The acid in the vinegar and the capsaicin in the chili peppers act as important preservation agents that prevent the growth of bacteria. Basically, you can consume Tabasco as long as you find the taste of the sauce right. If it’s not that good anymore, throw it out.
|Original Tabasco (unopened)||5 – 10 years|
|Original Tabasco (opened)||5 years +|
|Flavored Tabasco (unopened)||18 – 24 months|
|Flavored Tabasco (opened)||18 – 24 months|
Please note that the periods above and for best quality only.
How to Tell When Tabasco Sauce has Gone Bad
An important thing to remember when it comes to Tabasco is that it darkens as it ages and that’s perfectly normal. Direct sunlight even speeds up that process. However, darkened Tabasco isn’t by any means spoiled and it should basically taste the same as usual. It is natural for chili peppers to become darker as time progresses. Other ingredients such as mustard are often included in Tabasco sauce, and they also darken over time.
As I mentioned earlier, Tabasco doesn’t really go bad in a way it’s unsafe to eat. But similarly to sauces such as Worcestershire or Teriyaki, it only maintains its best quality for so long. That time frame depends on the variety of Tabasco you have. The original one keeps the flavor for the longest, while the others have a shorter period of peak quality. The deterioration of quality means the texture of the sauce will become slightly more clumpy, the aroma won’t be that fresh, and it might lose some of its oomph.
Nevertheless, odd things happen to food, so if your Tabasco has an off smell, there’s some sort of organic growth inside the bottle or the taste is plain awful, throw it out. It’s unlikely to happen, but if you feel there’s anything wrong with your sauce, discard it. If everything seems to be okay with the sauce, but the taste doesn’t quite hit the spot, you should discard it for quality purposes.