hot sauce

Hot Sauce Shelf Life: Can It Go Bad?

If you love a challenge, drizzling hot sauce over your dish gives ultimate excitement. Experimenting with different kinds of hot sauces is so much fun.

In no time, you have a few opened bottles of hot sauces. At this point, you’re wondering: Does hot sauce go bad?

While shelf life is not really a concern for chili heads, it may take months to finish off a bottled hot sauce if you only use it once in a while. Hence, the question: how long can you keep hot sauce after opening?

Fear not as you’re about to find the answers to your curiosity. In this article, we take a closer look at hot sauce’s shelf life, storage conditions, and signs of hot sauce going bad. If that’s what you’re looking for, read on!

How To Store Hot Sauce

Hot sauce refers to an endless variety of sauce prepared with chili peppers, mainly jalapeno, habanero, chipotle, cayenne, and many more. Other ingredients greatly vary but mostly include salt and vinegar. The most popular hot sauces are tabasco, sriracha, Louisiana-style, to say the least.

Store-bought hot sauce is typically shelf-stable. Hence, storage is easy and straightforward. Keep an unopened jar or bottle in a cool, dry area, out of the heat and light. It’s similar to storing other condiments such as mustard, ketchup, or BBQ sauce.

As usual, your pantry is the perfect spot, but, your kitchen cupboard or cabinet is also a great option. 

Does hot sauce need to be refrigerated after opening?

Once opened, you have two options for storage: inside and outside the fridge.

Keeping hot sauce on the dining table should be okay with frequent use. You’ll probably finish it in a few weeks or months.

However, if you use it only once in a while, refrigeration is vital in preserving its freshness. That’s why most brands such as Frank’s RedHot and TexasPete always remind you to keep the sauce refrigerated. Meanwhile, Tapatio clearly says that its hot sauce doesn’t require refrigeration.

Either way, practicing good hygiene is as important. Always close the cap tightly after each use. Furthermore, only use a clean spoon or cutlery to scoop the sauce.

Sometimes there’s a little amount of sauce left around the mouth of the container. Such a mess attracts bacterial growth. Hence, clean it when you see it.

It’s common to use hot sauce as a dipping sauce. If you have remaining sauce, never pour it back to the container. That’s a big no-no.  

How Can You Tell If Hot Sauce Goes Bad?

As with other condiments, hot sauce also goes bad. When kept for too long or with improper storage, here comes the point when you have no option than throwing it out.

Let’s start by checking the container. If you have an unopened jar or bottle that looks damaged, such as swollen or leaked, don’t use it. Chances are the sauce has already spoiled and is no longer edible.

Hot sauce also degrades in terms of quality. Once opened, exposure to air and moisture speed up the oxidation process and result in a darker appearance. While it’s not always a bad sign, it may affect the flavor.

The longer you keep it, the more likely it loses its flavor and heat. At this point, as long as no other spoilage symptoms are found, hot sauce should be fine to eat. However, it may not give the same kick as a newly opened sauce.

Speaking of common spoilage signs, you can always rely on your senses. Always have a thorough look at visual signs, smell, and taste.

If you spot black spots (other than the chili seeds) or molds, it’s time to say goodbye. Other indications are off-smell (like something being fermented) and altered taste.  

How Long Does Hot Sauce Last?

Hot sauce typically has a decent shelf life, at least 2 to 3 years, and possibly longer. If you can’t find a “best by” or “best before” date on the package, this is your best guess. This range differs significantly between producers. Ingredients and preparation methods are the determiners.

As with other foods, a “best by” date indicates quality rather than safety. Thus, as long as it’s unopened and in good condition, feel free to use it.

You can expect that it is still edible for half a year to a year after its recommended date. However, you may expect a slight difference with the flavor. If this doesn’t meet your standard, it’s always better to get a new bottle.

Once opened, hot sauce retains its freshness for 6 months with pantry storage and much longer with continuous refrigeration.

Hot sauce (unopened)Best by date + 6 to 12 months
Hot sauce (opened)6 months1 to 12 months

There are so many varieties of hot sauces in the market. There is no one-fits-all answer to “how long does hot sauce last.” The actual lifespan largely depends on the formulation and preparation methods (hence, differs by brands) as well as storage conditions.


Is it okay to eat expired hot sauce?

Be sure to check for signs of spoilage before use. As long nothing suspicious is spotted, and you’re happy with the taste, feel free to eat it. Try to use hot sauce within the recommended time frame above.

Does hot sauce go bad if not refrigerated?

According to the USDA’s FSIS and Cornell University via Food Keeper, it is okay to keep hot sauce at room temperature. However, if you plan to keep it for a much longer period, refrigeration is highly recommended.

Do hot sauce packets go bad?

Yes, going bad is also inevitable for sauce packets. Whether intentionally or not, we all have those packets of hot sauce from fast-food restaurants. Common traits of spoilage are similar to bottled hot sauce.

Additionally, if the packet looks swollen or bloated, chances are it’s already spoiled.

How long does homemade hot sauce last?

It depends on the ingredients, recipe, and storage. Generally, it is fresh for at least a week or two in the fridge, possibly much longer.

You can usually find an indicated shelf life of the sauce in the recipe. If not, you can always get back to the earlier guideline on telling the commonalities of hot sauce going off.

Final Thoughts

Hot sauce is just one of the many other condiments to keep at home. It is shelf-stable and has a fantastic shelf life. However, just like most foods, going bad is inevitable.

Unless hot sauce is your everyday sauce, refrigeration is highly preferred to keep the freshness much longer. As time goes by, the heat might not kick anymore, and it’s better to let it go.

While the former situation is more preferential, it’s not the case for a spoiled sauce. If hot sauce smells and tastes off, or grows molds, there’s no safer option than tossing it out.

Up Next: How Long Does Worcestershire Sauce Last?

hot sauce goes bad

*Photo by AndreySt/depositphotos

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