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Can Soy Sauce Go Bad?

Soy sauce is a popular condiment (extremely popular in Asian cuisine) and quite a few people want to know if it can go bad. That’s a great question because there are quite a lot of people who claim that it can’t go bad. Are they right? Not entirely – the chances of soy sauce going bad within a few years after buying are pretty small though.

Soy sauce is loaded with sodium (just like other soy-derived product: miso paste) and such environment isn’t a good place for any microorganisms to develop. That’s why it technically should be safe to consume after many years (provided it was stored properly), but it won’t necessarily be of best quality.

Do you want to learn more about storing and shelf life of soy sauce? If so, read along!

Chicken wings and soy sauce
(credit: rick)

Storing soy sauce

As long as the bottle of soy sauce is unopened, the pantry seems to be the best place to store it because there’s both cool and dry in there. After the bottle is opened, you can either store it in the pantry or transfer it into the fridge.

If you’ll use the sauce within a couple of months, storing it in the pantry is sufficient. If you’d like to, however, store it for a longer period of time, consider keeping it in the fridge. This way it will remain of great quality for longer.

After opening the bottle, remember to always keep it sealed tightly, so any contaminants won’t be able to find their way into the sauce.

Dipping sushi in soy sauce
(credit: Luigi Pozzoli)

Shelf life of soy sauce

If you’d take a look at the label on the bottle, you’d probably find a ‘best by’ date, which is a pretty good starting point. As long as the bottle in unopened, it’s said that its quality should remain at its best for about three years.

After opening the bottle, the sauce should be tasty for about a year or two (of course depending how long it was stored before opening). So as long as the date on the label isn’t drastically shorter, stick to those dates.

After the mentioned period of time the sauce won’t go bad (provided it was stored properly), but it’s quality might not be that great, even though it would be safe to consume. The quality deteriorates slowly over time, so a fresh soy sauce is always better than one stored for 3 years.

Fish and soy sauce
(credit: Agto Nugroho)

How to tell if soy sauce is bad

If the sauce will be stored without its cap on, some impurities might find their way into the bottle and start to grow mold (there would need to be quite a lot of them to do that though). That’s probably the only way sauce might go bad in a way that it won’t be safe to eat.

If a bottle of soy sauce wasn’t stored properly, or you aren’t sure how it was stored, there are few things you can do to make sure if it’s still fine or not.

Basically, look for any impurities or signs of mold in the sauce (you might want to pour the contents of the bottle into a glass to make sure what’s in it). Another thing to consider is the smell of the sauce. If it’s off, discard it. Last thing – you can taste it if. If you’re not satisfied with the quality, trow it away.

As you should know by now, soy sauce can go bad, but it’s very unlikely to happen. If stored properly, it would be safe to consume for many years, but it’s recommended to use within 2 to 3 years because its quality deteriorates over time.