Does Hot Sauce Go Bad? When To Toss Your Sauce

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Last Updated on August 6, 2021
Annabelle

Annabelle Watson

Annabelle is an experienced food writer and editor. She focuses on common sense, easy to replicate recipes formulated to help keep things fresh and exciting while fitting into her day to day life as a wife and mother.

Does Hot Sauce Go Bad? When To Toss Your Sauce

Image Courtesy: Jennifer Longaway

Whether you enjoy small dabs of hot sauce in your meals or slathering it on everything, you know how a little heat can spice up your meal. Hot sauce can add varying levels of flavor, pizazz, and heat to any food, which is why they are a go-to among cooks and outdoor grilling enthusiasts. 

These spicy sauces are a popular condiment, giving you plenty of brands and flavors to choose from to accommodate your taste buds. From large corporate brands to smaller-batch company selections, you’ll never run out of delicious options. But once you get them home, you may wonder whether your hot sauces will ever go bad.

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1. Can My Favorite Hot Sauce Go Bad?

chili sauce

The short answer to the question, does hot sauce go bad, is yesEventually, all hot sauces go bad. How soon, however, depends on several factors, including ingredients and storage. 

While many sauces contain the reliable preservative, vinegar, its inclusion can only do so much. Perishable ingredients, such as onions and tomatoes in the sauce, may go bad sooner, ruining the hot sauce.

2. What Are Those Dates on the Packaging?

Jalapeño

Image Courtesy: Lauren Topor

Hot sauce packaging, whether plastic or glass, is usually stamped with one or two dates. These have different meanings and determine whether you keep it a little longer or discard the sauce right away without a sniff or taste.

Reading the food label where it says the “Sell by” or “Use by” dates alert you to the freshness but do not mean the sauce will spoil by that time. Instead, the overall taste may begin to dull. As long as you and family members are satisfied with the remaining flavor, add it to food and enjoy.

An expiration date, however, is the recommended last day the hot sauce is safe to consume. Now is the time to toss it out.

3. Which Ingredients Will Last Longest?

bell pepper

Image Courtesy: CityMama –Stefania Pompo

How quickly a hot sauce spoils often depends on the ingredients. A variety of these ingredients can be in your favorite sauce, or it may only be two or three.

Vinegar and peppers are the main ingredients in most hot sauces. These two serve as preserving agents. With vinegar’s high acid and the peppers’ capsaicin, a natural sterilizer, bacteria are kept at bay for as long as possible.

Any additional ingredients are what you need to monitor. The more ingredients, the higher the likelihood of spoiling in less time. The addition of vegetables, like onions and tomatoes, or sweet fruits, such as pineapple and peaches, can invite bacterial growth or mold that overwhelms the preserving agents, making them obsolete.

4. What are the Signs of Hot Sauce Gone Bad?

When it’s time to clean out your fridge, you may find a favorite jar of hot sauce hidden behind leftover spaghetti and a juice carton. This forgotten sauce may light up your taste buds and even send you outdoors to light up that grill. Before pouring it on your meal, look for signs it’s gone bad.

Appearance: The most common sign a sauce is bad is the sight of fuzzy mold spots on the surface. If you notice what appears to be pepper flakes throughout your hot sauce, proceed with caution. These could be mold colonies taking over. Slight discolorations aren’t a sure sign of spoiling but could show the sauce is losing its freshness. Once a bottle or jar is opened, exposure to oxygen can cause a natural fading of the sauce colors. Chili peppers and garlic also darken as they age, but this doesn’t always mean they have gone bad.
Smell: If all looks well on the surface, it’s time to do a smell test. If any smell seems off to you, take heed. Rotten or sour smells are sure signs it is time to scrap your sauce.
Taste: When appearance and smell aren’t alerting you to spoilage, do a taste test. When it hits your taste buds, be on the lookout for anything that seems unusual or slimy. If so, you have your answer, so spit it out and toss it because you don’t want to get food poisoning

When in doubt, throw it out!

5. How Long Will Unopened Hot Sauce Last?

When asking does hot sauce go bad, a lot depends on whether it has already been opened. The highest quality hot sauce can sit on your pantry shelf for up to five years. This depends, however, on storage conditions. If kept in a cool, dry spot, the sauce will last the longest.

6. How Long Will Open Hot Sauce Last?

sauce

When it comes to an open bottle of hot sauce, its longevity will depend on how you store it. In most instances, it will last up to three years.

7. What Can I Do To Keep Hot Sauce Fresh Longer?

If you know that your favorite jar of hot sauce will sit for a while or prefer to keep the best on hand for family cookouts, here are a few things you can do to help it stay fresh.

Thoroughly clean caps after each use. It’s easy for bits of ingredients to crust up on the cap, so be sure to clean it thoroughly after each use before tightening it back on the bottle. The crust can build up bacteria if left unattended.
Store in the refrigerator. The less heat and light exposure, the better. Once open, always store your hot sauce in your refrigerator. If this isn’t an option, keep it in a cool, dark place.
Avoid dipping. Pour or dab sauce onto your meal and avoid dipping food into the bottle of sauce. Contaminating the insides of the bottle can lead to faster spoilage.

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