Does Tabasco Go Bad? Do You Have to Refrigerate It?

This article is all about storage, shelf life, and spoilage of Tabasco. Learn how long the sauce keeps quality and if you need to refrigerate it after opening.

If you’re not big on hot sauce, a bottle of Tabasco can sit in your cupboards for months, if not years. And at a certain point, you start to wonder if Tabasco goes bad.

Or maybe you opened your first bottle and aren’t sure if you should place it in the fridge or not.

If that sounds familiar, this article is for you.

Read on.

Image used under Creative Commons from kim siciliano

Does Tabasco Go Bad?

Tabasco sauce doesn’t easily go bad because its main ingredients (vinegar, salt, and fermented tabasco peppers) make the sauce so acidic that it keeps any microorganisms from developing.

Of course, there’s a date printed on the bottle, but it’s about quality, not safety, and usually, you can use the hot sauce way beyond that date. That stays true even if you don’t refrigerate the condiment.

That said, Tabasco gradually darkens to dark red or even brownish, especially if you don’t refrigerate it. It makes some people worried about the safety of the sauce, but it’s nothing to worry about.

Let me explain.

Tabasco Browning

Fermented chili peppers (tabasco peppers are a variety of chili peppers) darken over time. That’s a natural reaction to oxidation and doesn’t make the sauce unsafe (I talk about it more in my article on hot sauce). Moreover, darkening has little impact on taste – you probably won’t notice any difference.

The longer you store the bottle after opening and the higher the temperature, the quicker the sauce changes color. That’s why I advocate storing Tabasco in the fridge if you don’t plan on finishing the bottle within a couple of months (more on that later).

In case you were wondering, the same thing happens to many other hot sauces (e.g., Sriracha) and even some BBQ sauces.

Having said that, it’s not like Tabasco cannot go bad. It’s pretty rare but definitely possible.

Let’s talk about how that might look like.

Various bottles of Tabasco sauce
(credit: Mike Mozart)

Signs of Spoilage

Signs of spoiled Tabasco include:

  • Mold. Moldy Tabasco is quite unlikely, but if you ever notice any furry action on the surface or near the cap, it’s time to open a new bottle.
  • Off smell. If your Tabasco stinks or smells “weird,” discard it.
  • Texture change. If the condiment is completely separated or the texture has drastically altered in any other way, it’s no good.
  • Bad taste. If everything about the sauce seems in perfect order, you can eat a bit (e.g., on a tortilla chip) to make sure. In almost all cases, the sauce will be fine. If it’s super old, it might taste a bit stale and lack some of that oomph, but that’s it.

Last but not least, if you’re not sure if your Tabasco is safe to eat, err on the side of caution. When in doubt, throw it out.

Note

Some flavors of Tabasco degrade in quality faster than others. The mild ones such as “Green jalapeno” or “Sweet and spicy” will most likely lose flavor much quicker than the quite-spicy original “Red pepper.” But they all should keep well past the printed date.

Tabasco Pepper sauce
(credit: Nicola Romagna)

Does Tabasco Sauce Need to be Refrigerated?

You don’t need to refrigerate Tabasco after opening, but it’s not a bad idea to do so. Refrigeration helps the condiment retain quality for longer and prevents it from darkening that quickly.

In other words, you don’t need to keep your half-open Tabasco bottle in the fridge.

Related: How Long Does Salsa Last in the Fridge?

Warning

Read labels. Some future Tabasco flavors might actually require refrigeration after opening.

The bottom line is: if you’re going to finish the Tabasco bottle within a couple of months of opening, leaving the condiment at room temperature is fine. But if you expect it to sit around for longer than that, it’s better to keep it in the refrigerator.

Tabasco Storage Dos and Dont’s

Whether you decide to refrigerate your Tabasco after opening or not, make sure the bottle is always sealed tight when not in use. And if you leave it at room temperature, keep it away from direct sunlight, and place it in a dark cupboard instead.

Next, keep the bottle’s cap clean. Like is the case for most condiments, that area is where a gross layer of crust tends to form over time. To remove it, use a damp paper towel and then wipe the area dry.

You don’t need to clean the cap every time you use the sauce (nobody got time for that), but try to do it whenever it starts to look gross.

Last but not least, shake up your older bottles of Tabasco sauce before using them. This helps bring back the potency of flavors, plus it takes care of the separation that happens over time.

How Long Does Tabasco Last?

 PantryFridge
Original Tabasco (unopened)Best-by + 1+ years 
Original Tabasco (opened) 6 months1+ years
Flavored Tabasco (unopened)Best-by + 1+ years 
Flavored Tabasco (opened) 3 – 6 months9+ months
Please note that the periods above and for best quality only.

The shelf life of Tabasco depends on the flavor and varies between 12 and 24 months. But no matter which one you choose, Tabasco easily lasts past the printed date.

Once you open the bottle, the sauce should retain quality at least until the printed date and possibly much longer.

Unfortunately, there’s no way of telling how long past the date on the label your Tabasco will keep quality. One thing’s for sure – you should think in months, not years.

Note

Generally speaking, the spicier the sauce (measured using the Scoville scale), the longer its shelf life is going to be.

In the end, it’s all about quality rather than safety – your Tabasco will stay safe to use way longer than it’s going to taste great. And it tastes great for quite some time.

Last but not least, check your out-of-date Tabasco for signs of spoilage (that I described above) any time you use it. It’s unlikely that it’ll spoil, but better safe than sorry.

“Expiration” Date

The date printed on the label is a best-by date, which is about the quality of the sauce, not its safety. In other words, it’s not an expiration date.

And since Tabasco isn’t prone to spoilage by any means, it keeps for months (if not years) past that date.

Of course, if you’re not comfortable using Tabasco that’s years past its date, feel free to open a new bottle.