Does Hot Sauce Go Bad? How Long Does It Last?

logo by Editorial Staff | Updated on July 8th, 2022

Is it possible for the spicy sauce to go bad? 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 complement to any dish. It complements shrimp, chicken, salads, burgers, meatballs, and many other dishes.

person holding brown glass bottles

This spicy sauce may contain various components, but the most common are chilly peppers, vinegar, and salt.

Hot sauces from various 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 very 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 date. However, an opened bottle of hot sauce can be stored for three to six months after the expiry date.

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

How Long Does Hot Sauce Last?

Hot sauce has a good shelf life of at least 2 to 3 years and maybe more. This is your best estimate if you can’t find a “best by” or “best before” date on the packaging. This range varies greatly across manufacturers. The ingredients and techniques of preparation are the deciding factors.

Like other goods, a “best by” date denotes quality rather than safety. So, if it’s unopened and in excellent shape, use it.

It will be edible for at least a half year to a year after the suggested date. After that, however, expect a minor change in flavor. If something does not fulfill your expectations, it is always preferable to get a new bottle.

Once opened, hot sauce will remain fresh 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

There are several types of spicy sauces available on the market. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the question, “how long does spicy sauce last?” The actual lifetime is heavily influenced by the composition and preparation procedures (which vary by brand) and storage circumstances.

What are the ingredients in a hot sauce?

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

Vinegar keeps the spicy sauce from spoiling.

The capsicum in chili peppers does more than merely make them hot. According to studies, it possesses antibacterial properties, particularly against bacteria (along with other health advantages), including many diseases.

There have been several published research papers, the references that may be accessed on the internet. The only reason it isn’t employed 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 ill.

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

While the vinegar and chili peppers will help it last longer, the other ingredients will ultimately deteriorate. The more diluted the sauce becomes, the more cautious you must be.

Hot Sauces with Vinegar

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 spicy sauces are vinegar-based, contributing to their prolonged shelf life. Many commercial hot sauces are also highly cooked to kill hazardous germs and molds that grow in the bottles.

Hot sauce is normally pasteurized and hermetically sealed throughout the bottling process. This results in a bacteria-free, closed, airtight atmosphere. It’s also why when you open a fresh bottle of spicy sauce; you hear a small “pop.”

This is the sound of air entering the bottle fast and breaking the seal. Even vinegar-based sauces should be kept 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, damp conditions (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.

Fermented Spicy Sauces

Although vinegar-based sauces are popular, some people dislike the flavor or are sensitive to overly acidic meals. This is when fermenting might 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 how living, beneficial bacteria break down your foods into simpler chemicals. This results in the development of lactic acid, which aids in preserving the veggies.

However, these living bacteria are not destroyed during fermentation, which is one of the health benefits of fermented foods. Lactobacillus is a gut-healthy bacterium found during fermentation that can aid with digestion regulation.

What does this signify for fermented hot sauce storage? First, it shows that once you’ve reached the correct amount of fermentation, refrigerate. In the refrigerator, the process will continue, albeit at a considerably slower pace.

Furthermore, mixing the peppers after fermentation exposes the peppers to air, which encourages the growth of harmful bacteria and mold. Because oxygen is the enemy of a good ferment, keep your completed 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 spicy sauce last?

If a spicy sauce remains unopened, it may last up to two years. The spicy sauce may still be safe to ingest after two years, but the flavor may have changed and may no longer be as appealing. The optimum buy date for each hot sauce varies based on its constituents. Before ingesting, always verify the manufacturer’s best purchase 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 preservation. Hot sauces with a higher vinegar and salt content tend to keep longer than creamier sauces with mayonnaise or eggs. Hot sauces can stay twice to four times as long in the refrigerator as at room temperature.

How long will homemade spicy sauce last?

Due to the lack of preservatives and ingredients, homemade hot sauces do not survive as long as professionally created hot sauces. Depending on the components, most homemade spicy sauces have a shelf life of 90 days.

Use spice blends and granulated onion and garlic powders instead of fresh ingredients to extend the shelf life of your homemade spicy sauce. You may also extend the shelf life of your sauce by boosting the vinegar and salt levels.

Always ensure your containers have been adequately sterilized before keeping your sauce. To guarantee safe storage, use only glassware containers and sanitize them in boiling water for 10 to 16 minutes, depending on elevation, before adding your sauce.

Is it possible for the spicy sauce to spoil if it is not refrigerated?

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

Do hot sauce packets expire?

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

Furthermore, if the packet seems inflated or bloated, it is likely already spoiled.

What happens to the older hot sauce? 

While it depends on how you store it, the flavor of the spicy sauce will alter as it ages, but probably not in the manner 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 creators had in mind when they diligently tested recipes to create the ultimate hot sauce.

But that isn’t to argue that older hot sauce isn’t good or that it’s a weak sauce. So eat it guilt-free if you still appreciate the taste beyond the “best by” date! Also, remember that your sauce may become hotter as its chilies mature.

One quick tip: if your bottle of spicy sauce is a touch old, mix it up. Things that should be stirred around sometimes settle in the bottom, and a thorough shake can revive the bottle and bring tastes back to life.

So what about the “best by” date?

In recent years, there has been a lot of discussion regarding expiry dates and best-by dates and how they represent nothing regarding “good” food. We believe that most of these dates are arbitrary. So what is the first thing you should know? The dates that we are familiar with have nothing to do with safety.

Contrary to popular belief, the best by date does not show when an item is dangerous to consume. It’s simply a recommendation for when the item is at its “peak” freshness. There is no standard to determine these arbitrary dates; the manufacturer establishes them. Many foods, particularly spicy 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 indications of deterioration. Consume it if nothing unusual is found and you’re satisfied with the flavor. Use spicy sauce within the time limit specified above.

How Can You Tell if a Hot Sauce Is Bad?

The following are symptoms of rotten hot sauce:

  • Mold. It is past its prime if mold on the surface or the sauce has a moldy odor.
  • Unpleasant odor. There isn’t a single type 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 natural (more on that in the following section), but any other substantial changes are not. Throw away everything that disturbs you about the texture or look.
  • Unappealing. If everything appears in order, but the sauce tastes awful, reject it for quality reasons.

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

My spicy sauce became a different color. Is it harmful?

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

How To Store Hot Sauce

Hot sauce, in general, may be kept at room temperature. Hot sauce contains a high degree of acidity, which aids in its long-term preservation. So, unless the label says otherwise, you may store your spicy sauce in the pantry or a kitchen cabinet 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 the store-bought spicy sauce. If you opt to produce your spicy sauce at home, keep it in the refrigerator, ideally in an airtight container with a cover.

How do you keep your hot sauce perfectly fresh?

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

Refrigerate the 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 might refrigerate 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), store it in a cold, dark spot. You’re exposing your spicy sauce to a lot of light and heat if you store it out in the open straight 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 capsules

The crusty gunk on a hot sauce lid isn’t just unsightly; it may also reduce the shelf life of your sauce. In addition, bacteria are more likely to develop in this environment since it is more exposed to air and food. Simply cleaning the cap after using your spicy sauce should work, but you may need a clean, damp sponge for messier caps.

Don’t take a dip

Yes, the spicy sauce is fantastic. Yes, we intend to use it to cover our food. However, we strongly advise against dipping food immediately into a bottle of spicy sauce. The things we’re most inclined to dip in hot sauce (such as chicken wings) degrade faster than spicy sauce and may infect the entire batch.


Hot sauce does not deteriorate readily, and the best by date is included to show how long the hot sauce will keep its optimum quality. Inspect it for signs of deterioration before eating it, and you should be OK. Read the labels on shop-bought spicy sauces to see whether you should store them in the pantry or refrigerator.


Editorial Staff

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