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Can Tabasco Sauce Go Bad?

Tabasco is probably the only brand of hot sauce that’s available pretty much worldwide. But if you’re not a huge fan of hot sauce, going through an entire bottle might take quite some time. And the longer the sauce stays open in storage, the more often you think about its shelf life and whether or not it can go bad.

Same thing if a spare container sits in the pantry for a couple of years already. If it were ketchup, you would have probably discarded it by now. But it’s hot sauce that’s aged in wooden barrels, so it probably keeps for longer, right?

Bottles of Tabasco
Image used under Creative Commons from Angie Garrett

Even though pretty much everyone knows the brand Tabasco, first-time buyers come up with a bunch of questions, such as whether or not the sauce spoils and how long does it last after opening. And if you’re one of theme, or you would just like to learn a bit more about going bad, shelf life, and storage of Tabasco, this article is for you.

To start things off, we’re going to talk about spoilage of the pepper-derived sauce.

Can Tabasco Sauce Go Bad? How To Tell If It Is Bad?

For almost all food products, the answer to the question of whether or not it can go off is definitely yes. For Tabasco, I think the better answer is: probably.

Before you get the bottle, the mashed peppers are aged in barrels with vinegar and salt, both being powerful preservatives ([TA]). So the resulting sauce is not prone to spoilage, and can easily last a lot of time.

Even once you open the bottle, not much really changes. Granted, the sauce will darken over time, but that change is harmless, and its quality doesn’t change that much.

Plate of food flavored with Tabasco
(credit: Victoria Shes)

With that being said, Tabasco probably can spoil, especially if you leave it unsealed for a long time, or the bottle is leaky. So if its smell or flavor have changed significantly, or you noticed any signs of mold, toss out the rest. Please remember that chances of that happening are pretty slim.

If the sauce turned dark red or even somewhat brown, that’s okay and expected. The color change is caused by time and light exposure so you might need to a better job of storing the sauce next time around.

So you now know that Tabasco isn’t a perishable sauce. But that doesn’t mean that its flavor stays the same all the time. It gradually changes, and many people don’t find the sauce as good as it used to be after a certain period. Do we know how long is the period exactly?

Various hot sauce bottles
Image used under Creative Commons from kim siciliano

How Long Does Tabasco Sauce Last?

When it comes to an unopened bottle of Tabasco, the flavor of the sauce changes at a snail’s pace. The container keeps the outside world and pretty much every threat that comes with it at bay, so not much changes inside the bottle. So even though Tabasco comes with a best-by date on the label, you can easily keep it around past that date.

For the original red sauce, it’d probably be okay even 5 or 10 years past that date. For the new, flavored sauces that period likely won’t be as long, but an unopened bottle a couple of years past the date should still be both safe and flavorful.

Small bottle of Tabasco hot sauce
(credit: Erin Khoo)

Once you first open the sauce, the flavor change process speeds up a bit. It’s still very slow, and you probably won’t feel much of a difference anytime soon. But at a certain moment, you’ll notice that the taste is somewhat dull and you don’t quite like it. Or at least you don’t love it as much as you usually do.

For the original sauce, it might happen three to five years after opening. For the new flavored ones, it’s likely to happen sooner, one or two years after popping the seal. It’s difficult to tell, as everyone is different, and what seems perfectly fine for one will taste not nearly as fresh for another.

Nevertheless, more than once I read stories of people who use the same bottle for over 10 years and the sauce it still alright.

In short, all of the periods I’ve given you are very rough estimates. If your Tabasco has passed the date on the label, use your senses to make sure it’s still okay to use. Chances are, it stays alright for years, but it doesn’t hurt to make sure of that, at least every now and then.

And if you expect to hold onto that bottle of hot sauce for longer, make sure your storage practices are on point.

Bottle of Tabasco
(credit: Charles)

How To Store Tabasco Sauce?

You should store Tabasco like you store other sauces, such as Worcestershire or Teriyaki.

All an unopened container needs is a dark and cool place. A dark cupboard in the pantry or kitchen is perfect for that, just make sure it’s not near the stove or any other source of heat.

Once you open Tabasco, remember to keep it sealed tightly before putting back into storage. When it comes to where to store this hot sauce after opening, you have two choices. You can keep it where it was before, at room temperature, as it doesn’t require refrigeration to not go off. Or you can transfer the bottle in the fridge and keep it there.

Chilling Tabasco in the fridge will help retain its quality for longer, so that option is often recommended if you expect to keep the sauce around for years. What’s also important is that the flavored sauces benefit from cold temperature more than the original one since they include additional flavoring ingredients.

Long story short, keep unopened Tabasco in the pantry, and the opened one in the fridge if you can. But if space in the refrigerator comes at a premium, put the sauce in a dark cabinet and leave that space for products that require it.

(credit: Sara AlMutawa)

In a Nutshell

  • unopened Tabasco lasts years past the date on the label
  • once you open the bottle, the taste of the sauce starts to slowly alter; the flavored sauces deteriorate faster than the original red sauce
  • keep Tabasco at room temperature, once open you can refrigerate it to retain its quality for longer
  • refrigeration is especially helpful for the flavored sauces, the original one doesn’t benefit from low temperatures as much