Can hot sauce go bad or not? Can you eat hot sauce after it has passed its expiration date? Can you freeze hot sauce? Here’s a quick reference guide with all the answers.

Hot sauce is a tasty addition to any food. It goes well with salads, shrimp, chicken, meatballs, burgers, and much more.

This hot sauce can be made with various ingredients, but the most common are vinegar, chilly peppers, and salt.

Hot sauces made from various species of chili peppers have varying degrees of heat, as measured by the famous Scoville Scale. The renowned capsaicin is the hottest chili pepper on the scale.

Hot sauces are highly acidic, which allows them to last for a long period.

So, what is the bottom line?

An unopened bottle of hot sauce can be stored for up to two years after the best by date. However, an opened bottle of hot sauce can be stored three to six months after the expiration date.

Hot sauces can usually be stored at room temperature, although keeping them in the fridge will keep them fresher for longer.

What is the shelf life of hot sauce?

Hot sauce has a good shelf life of at least 2 to 3 years and possibly more. If you can’t find a “best by” or “best before” date on the package, this is your best guess. This range varies greatly across manufacturers. The ingredients and methods of preparation are the deciding factors.

Like other foods, a “best by” date denotes quality rather than safety. So, as long as it’s unopened and in good shape, go ahead and use it.

It will be edible for at least a half year to a year after the recommended date. However, you should expect a minor change in flavor. If something does not meet your expectations, it is always preferable to get a new bottle.

Once opened, hot sauce will keep its freshness for 6 months in a pantry and much longer if refrigerated continuously.

Tabasco sauce typePantryFridge
Unopened, original5 to 10 years/
Opened, original1 to 2 weeks5 years
Unopened, flavoredUp to two years/
Opened, flavoredOne week1.5 to 2 years
HomemadeOne week2 to 3 months

“How long does hot sauce last?” The actual lifespan is heavily influenced by the formulation and preparation methods (which vary by brand) and storage conditions.

What are the ingredients?

red chili on red ceramic bowl

It is well known that vinegar and chili peppers can be used as natural preservatives. Vinegar is a preservative used in the home and food business due to its high acetic acid concentration and low pH. Vinegar contains acetic acid, which kills bacteria and prevents food spoiling. So, in addition to improving the flavor of your sauce, adding common vinegar serves as an excellent preservative.

The capsicum in chili peppers, it turns out, does more than merely make them hot. According to studies, it possesses antibacterial properties, particularly against bacteria (and other health benefits), including several diseases.

There have been several published research studies, the references to which may be accessed on the internet. In fact, the only reason it isn’t used as a preservative more frequently is because of its heat. So, given your hot sauce contains vinegar and some form of chili pepper, a splash or two on those juicy hot wings is unlikely to make you sick.

Now that we’ve covered the basics let’s move on to additives. The basic rule is that the more artisanal your hot sauce, the more likely it will spoil. Hot sauces combined with fruits or vegetables, for example, are less likely to last as long as your normal serrano-based sauce.

While the vinegar and chili peppers will help it last longer, the other ingredients will eventually deteriorate. A good rule of thumb to follow is that the more diluted the sauce becomes, the more cautious you must be.

Vinegar hot sauces

Vinegar has a high acidity level and is a natural preservative. As a result, most DIY hot sauce recipes include 30-50 percent vinegar on the ingredient list.

Most store-bought hot sauces are also vinegar-based, contributing to their prolonged shelf life. Many commercial hot sauces are heated to high temperatures to kill harmful bacteria and molds that form in the bottles.

Hot sauce is normally pasteurized and hermetically sealed throughout the bottling process. This results in a bacteria-free, closed, airtight environment. It’s also why when you open a new bottle of hot sauce. You hear a little “pop.”

This is the sound of air entering the bottle quickly and breaking the seal. Even vinegar-based sauces should be stored in the refrigerator after breaking the seal.

We have stored several vinegar-based sauces out of the refrigerator for months without trouble (for example, Tabasco (70 percent vinegar), Cholula, and Frank’s RedHot), although this is not usually recommended.

Keeping sauces at room temperature encourages the growth of bacteria and molds, which thrive in warm, moist environments (like inside your hot sauce bottles). As a general rule, vinegar-based sauces keep longer, but they should still be kept in the fridge for safety.

UNKs original hot sauce

Fermented hot sauces

Although vinegar-based sauces are popular, some people dislike the flavor or are sensitive to overly acidic foods. This is where fermenting can come in handy. While lactic acid is formed during fermentation, the sauces are frequently less harsh than those made with white or apple cider vinegar.

Fermentation is the process by which live, beneficial bacteria break down your foods into smaller molecules. This results in the formation of lactic acid, which aids in the preservation of the vegetables.

However, these live bacteria are not killed during the fermentation process, which is one of the health benefits of fermented foods. Lactobacillus is a gut-healthy bacteria found during fermentation to aid digestion regulation.

What does this signify for fermented hot sauce storage? It means that you should refrigerate once you’ve reached the desired amount of fermentation. The process will continue in the refrigerator, albeit at a considerably slower pace.

Furthermore, blending the peppers after fermentation exposes the peppers to oxygen, which encourages the growth of harmful bacteria and mold. Because oxygen is the enemy of a healthy ferment, keep your finished hot sauces in the refrigerator!

Always use a high-quality pH meter to test the pH of your homemade fermented hot sauce.

How long does unopened hot sauce last?

In general, if a hot sauce is unopened, it can last for up to two years intact. After two years, the hot sauce may still be safe to ingest, but the flavor may have changed and may no longer be as appealing. The best by date for each hot sauce varies depending on its ingredients. Before ingesting, always check the manufacturer’s best by date.

When opened, how long does hot sauce last?

When opened, hot sauces have a shelf life ranging from a few months to a few years, depending on the ingredients and storage method. Hot sauces with a higher vinegar and salt content tend to last longer than creamier sauces with mayonnaise or eggs. Hot sauces can stay twice to four times as long in the refrigerator as they do at room temperature.

How long will homemade hot sauce last?

Due to the lack of preservatives and the types of ingredients used, homemade hot sauces do not last as long as professionally created hot sauces. Most homemade hot sauces have a shelf life of 90 days, depending on the ingredients.

Fresh vegetables can have a shorter shelf life. Instead of fresh ingredients, use spice blends and granulated onion and garlic powders to extend the shelf life of your homemade hot sauce. You can also extend the shelf life of your hot sauce by increasing the vinegar and salt levels.

Before storing your hot sauce, always be sure that your containers have been adequately sterilized. To ensure safe storage, use only glassware containers and sterilize them in boiling water for 10 to 16 minutes, depending on your elevation, before adding your hot sauce.

Does hot sauce go bad if not refrigerated?

It is safe to keep the hot sauce at room temperature, according to the USDA’s FSIS and Cornell University via Food Keeper. However, chilling is strongly advised if you intend to preserve it for an extended period.

Do hot sauce packets go bad?

Yes, sauce packets will inevitably go bad. We’ve all had those packets of hot sauce from fast-food restaurants, whether on purpose or not. The features of spoilage are comparable to those of bottled hot sauce.

Furthermore, if the packet appears inflated or bloated, it has probably already spoiled.

What happens to older hot sauce?

While it depends on how you store it, the flavor of hot sauce will change with time, but probably not in the way you’d think.

First and foremost, there is a rationale behind the “best by” date. If you eat your hot sauce before that date, you’ll enjoy the flavor that the hot sauce’s makers had in mind when they tirelessly tested recipes to make the ultimate hot sauce.

But that isn’t to argue that older hot sauce isn’t good or a weak sauce. Eat it guilt-free if you still appreciate the taste after the “best by” date! Just keep in mind that your sauce may become hotter as the chilies age.

One quick tip: if your bottle of hot sauce is a touch old, shake it up. Things that should be mixed around sometimes settle in the bottom, and a good shake can revive the bottle and bring flavors back to life.

What about the “best by” date?

In recent years, there has been a lot of discussion regarding expiration dates and best-by dates and how they don’t represent anything when it comes to how “good” food is. To be honest, we believe that most of these dates are arbitrary. What is the first thing you should be aware of? The dates that we are familiar with have nothing to do with safety.

Contrary to popular belief, the best by date does not indicate when a food is not safe to eat. It’s simply a recommendation for when the food is at its “peak” freshness. There is no standard in place to determine these arbitrary dates; the manufacturer simply sets them. Many foods, especially hot sauces, taste great and are safe months and years after the apparent “best by” date.

Is it safe to use expired hot sauce?

Before using, inspect for signs of spoilage. Feel free to eat it as long as nothing unusual is found and you’re satisfied with the taste. Use hot sauce within the time limit specified above.

How can you tell if a hot sauce is bad?

person holding white labeled bottle

The following are signs of spoiled hot sauce:

  • Mold. If there is mold on the surface or the sauce has a moldy smell, it is past its prime.
  • Foul smell. There isn’t a single flavor of hot sauce that smells the same, but if yours smells yeasty, fermented, or otherwise odd, dump it.
  • Changes in appearance. The darkening and browning of hot sauce are normal (more on that in the following section), but any other significant changes are not. Throw out anything that disturbs you about the texture or appearance.
  • Off taste. If everything appears to be in order, but the sauce tastes awful, throw it away for quality purposes.

Last but not least, err on the side of caution if you’re not sure if your bottle of hot sauce is still safe to eat. Better to be safe than sorry.

My hot sauce turned a different color. Is it bad?

No, not always. This, once again, boils down to the contents in the bottle. Some of what you may perceive is the darkening of chili peppers themselves over time. Other ingredients, such as mustards, darken over time as well. That doesn’t make them terrible. Again, the taste may change from what you remember, most likely being hotter.

How to store hot sauce

Hot sauce, in general, can be stored at room temperature. Hot sauce has a high acidity level, which aids in its long-term preservation. So, unless the bottle says otherwise, you can keep your hot sauce in a kitchen cabinet or the pantry even after you’ve opened it, as long as it’s kept away from heat and direct sunlight.

Refrigerating hot sauce will help it keep its quality for a longer period.

Of course, this also applies to store-bought hot sauce. If you opt to produce your hot sauce at home, keep it in the refrigerator, preferably in an airtight container with a lid.

How do you keep your hot sauce fresh?

Even though your hot sauce contains fruits and vegetables, there are some things you can do to keep it from going bad, such as refrigerating it, keeping the cap clean, and limiting its direct contact with food.

Refrigerate your hot sauce

Many hot sauces advertise that they do not need to be refrigerated after opening. That is correct! You can keep a bottle on the table if you finish it within a few months of opening it. However, you may want to try refrigerating it anyhow. Some people believe that refrigerating hot sauce kills the flavor, while Frank’s RedHot’s website FAQs claim that keeping the sauce refrigerated keeps it fresher for longer.

If you don’t want to refrigerate your sauce for any reason (hey, we don’t judge), keep it in a cool, dark spot. You’re exposing your hot sauce to a lot of light and heat if you store it out in the open right next to your oven, just beneath a window that receives that nice morning light. And, while “light” and “hot” are fantastic attributes to have in a hot sauce, they are bad things to expose your hot sauce to.

Clean your caps

The crusty crap on a hot sauce lid isn’t just unsightly; it may also reduce the shelf life of your sauce. Bacteria are more likely to grow in it since they are more exposed to food and air. Simply cleaning the cap after using your hot sauce should do the trick, but for messier caps, you may need to use a clean, wet sponge.

Don’t dip

Yes, hot sauce is fantastic. Yes, we intend to use it to coat our food. However, we strongly advise against dipping food straight into a bottle of hot sauce. The things we’re most inclined to dip in hot sauce (such as chicken wings) degrade faster than hot sauce and may contaminate the entire batch. We’re not even going to get into the issue of double-dipping (we think the science is in on that one).

The final word on hot sauce

Hot sauce does not spoil readily. The best by date is included to show how long the hot sauce will retain its best quality. After the expiration date, it is usually safe to eat hot sauce. Simply inspect it for signs of spoilage before eating it, and you should be OK.

Read the labels on store-bought hot sauces to see whether you should store them in the pantry or directly in the refrigerator.

If you’re going to buy some hot sauce soon, you might want to know what the best hot sauces are. There is so much to pick from!