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The Hot Sauce Lover’s Guide to Keeping it Fresh
When hot sauce is fresh and tasty—like on wings, mac and cheese, and avocado toast—it’s our favorite condiment to dive into. But when hot sauce goes bad, it crosses all the way over to the dark side with some gut-wrenching funkiness. While true chili-heads regularly run through their hot sauce so fast, expiration isn’t even in the equation, occasionally, you lose a bottle in the back of the cabinet or get your hands on a few too many choices and can’t quite eat your way through them in time. No worries, we’ve got you covered. Don’t let a good hot sauce go bad; check out these tips to keep your hot sauce fresh (and know when it’s time to let it go).
Does Hot Sauce Go Bad?
Yes, all hot sauce can go bad at some point. First things first: Check that expiration date and trust the food scientists. If that date is long gone, it’s time to move on.
Even if hot sauce isn’t technically expired, it can still go bad. Always start with the sniff-test—just take the top off and give it a good whiff. A weird smell is a surefire no-go. If you’re in the clear smell-wise, give it a glance: Any change in texture (think lumps, bumps, and gunk) or visible mold are your red flags that something’s gone wrong.
If you’ve determined that your hot sauce has gone bad, chuck it in the trash (or check out these unusual non-food ways to use hot sauce) and order yourself some fresh flavors to fill your fridge. Never take your chances on a questionable condiment; trust us, it’s just not worth it.
How Long Does Hot Sauce Last?
Most hot sauces have a pretty considerable shelf life because their main ingredients, vinegar and peppers, serve as natural preservatives. Your hot sauce’s shelf life depends on a few factors, like whether it’s stored in the fridge or the pantry, whether it’s been opened, and whether it contains certain fresh ingredients. Here are some quick guidelines to sum it up:
- A simple hot sauce made with just vinegar and hot peppers lasts the longest. Unopened hot sauce usually lasts at least three years in the pantry, even longer in the refrigerator (though you should always defer to the expiration date—it’s there for a reason!).
- An open bottle of hot sauce typically stays fresh in the refrigerator for about a year, or in the pantry for about six months. Just keep the cap clear—that crust that can build up is a breeding ground for bacteria.
- The fancier your hot sauce, the shorter the shelf life. When you stray from the classic vinegar+pepper recipe and start including ingredients like vidalia onions or fresh fruit, the sauce loses its staying power so be sure to use these flavors first before they go to the dark side.
How Can I Keep Hot Sauce Fresh?
Well, first of all, make sure that the hot sauce bottle cap is on tight. If you start seeing little black dots, that’s mold. Gross, we know, but we just had to warn ya. Routinely rinsing off or scrubbing the inside of the bottle cap should do the trick to keep away that gunk.
Don’t ever dip directly into the jar. It will spoil the hot sauce a lot faster than you’d like. As tempting as it is to dip your chicken wing right into the bottle, please only pour the hot sauce on your food.
Don’t lick the hot sauce bottle or cap. Yes, we mean it. We’ve all got bacteria, so keep that away from the hot sauce.
Store your hot sauce accordingly. If you haven’t opened it yet, place it in the back of your pantry to make sure its shelf life doesn’t get shortened by direct sunlight.
When you just can’t wait and have already opened the hot sauce, refrigerate it immediately. Yes, hot sauce should be refrigerated after opening. Just because restaurants leave their hot sauce out doesn’t mean you should—they’re constantly changing their bottles out for new, fresh ones so it’s not quite the same.