Hot sauce has become pretty trendy lately, and as a result, more varieties of hot sauce are available at the grocery store. With so many options to choose from, of course you’re going to try a few different types! Can hot sauce go bad and should you think twice before stocking up on a bunch of varieties?
Can Hot Sauce Go Bad?
Like all condiments, hot sauce can go bad, though it’s highly unlikely. As there are many different types of hot sauce, the shelf life depends on the ingredients, production method and packaging. Most commercially packaged brands of hot sauce contain mainly vinegar and chile peppers, which both act as natural preservatives. These highly acidic sauces can last for years, and in fact, for the most part, commercial hot sauces don’t really go bad. Once hot sauce has been opened, the quality will begin to degrade at a quicker rate, though the sauce should still be safe to consume for several years.
Hot sauces that have fruit or other flavors added have the potential to go bad at a far faster rate, and should be refrigerated. It’s best to follow the manufacturer’s instructions with flavored hot sauces.
Homemade hot sauce will have a significantly shorter shelf life, because it typically has fewer preservatives and less exact preparation methods. A fresh chile hot sauce that has not been boiled will only keep for about two weeks in the refrigerator. A cooked hot sauce that has been properly bottled can last in the refrigerator for around six months.
Signs that Hot Sauce Has Gone Bad
Most hot sauces come with a “best by” date printed on the bottom. This isn’t doesn’t indicate the expiration date, so much as a suggestion as to how long the hot sauce will still retain its quality. After this point, the flavor and level of spiciness may have diminished significantly.
Over time, hot sauce may darken and separate. While this doesn’t necessarily indicate spoilage, it is a sign that the quality is beginning to decline. As the bottle is used more, any buildup should be wiped off with a clean cloth, as this buildup can grow bacteria.
Any sign of mold, though unlikely, indicates that the hot sauce has gone bad, and should be discarded immediately. Any sour or otherwise unpleasant smell is another indication of spoilage, and the hot sauce should not be consumed.
How to Store Hot Sauce
Many commercial hot sauces have a low enough pH to be stored at room temperature. The low pH (high acidity level) means that bacteria and other harmful pathogens have an incredibly unlikely chance of growing in the sauce. This means that many commercial hot sauces can actually be kept in a cool, dark place for many years, even after they’ve been opened. Of course, you should always check the manufacturer’s instructions to be sure.
Refrigeration is not necessary for most brands of commercial hot sauce, though it can certainly help to preserve the quality of the hot sauce for a bit longer. Freezing commercially made hot sauce won’t necessarily be beneficial, as the shelf life of hot sauce at room temperature is so long.
Homemade hot sauce should be tightly sealed and stored in the refrigerator. So long as the hot sauce has a low enough pH, it can be canned in a hot water bath. Properly sterilized and canned jars of hot sauce should be shelf stable for up to a year, if kept in a cool, dark location (or in the refrigerator).
Homemade hot sauce that has not been canned in a water bath can keep for several months in the refrigerator. While it’s not worth keeping homemade cooked hot sauce in the freezer, as the shelf life will not really be extended, fresh hot sauce (uncooked) can be frozen for up to two months.