You bought cocktail sauce to accompany a seafood dish that you wanted to try. Now, a couple of weeks later, it’s still in the fridge. Does the cocktail sauce go bad?
Or perhaps you found an old bottle of Heinz cocktail sauce that is past the date on the label while you were cleaning and organizing the pantry. It’s a month or two past its expiration date, but you suspect it’s still usable. Should you throw it away or give it a try?
If either of these sounds familiar to you, you’re in the right place. Below we review the storage, expiration and spoilage of cocktail sauce. If this is what you were looking for, keep reading.
How to store cocktail sauce
Cocktail sauce is usually a combination of other sauces, such as ketchup, horseradish, tabasco, or Worcestershire (WIKI). This mixture is usually accompanied by lemon juice or garlic to give it more flavor. With an assembly like this, you don’t have to be a food technology graduate to know how to store it.
For store-bought cocktail sauce, you can keep an unopened bottle in your pantry or kitchen cabinet. Make sure it’s out of direct sunlight, and that’s it.
Once the bottle is opened, there are two options: refrigeration and storage at room temperature. The former is a much better option for preserving quality longer (FK). The second only makes sense if you know that you are going to finish the bottle shortly. Regardless of which option you choose, remember to keep the bottle tightly closed.
Should cocktail sauce be refrigerated after opening? Yes, if you care about quality and don’t plan to finish it in a week or two.
When it comes to homemade cocktail sauce, always keep it in the fridge.
|To keep the sauce’s heat and flavor longer, consider storing the bottle upside down (KH).|
How long does cocktail sauce last?
Once again, let’s start with the commercially bottled cocktail sauce. The shelf life of an unopened bottle typically ranges from one year (FK, VCE) to one and a half years (LFF). Fortunately, you don’t need to remember it, as there is certainly an expiration date on the label.
What if your unopened bottle of cocktail sauce is past that date? Chances are, like many other seasonings, it can still be eaten. Open it and check if it shows signs of deterioration (more on that later).
Once the bottle is opened, the seasoning retains its quality for about a month in the pantry (VCE) or six months in the fridge (FK, VCE). That doesn’t mean it goes bad after that period, but you may find that the flavor of the sauce lacks spiciness or is off.
When it comes to homemade cocktail sauce, there is no telling how long it will last. There are hundreds of recipes out there, each with a unique set of ingredients and proportions. Also, the sauces you mix to make your shrimp, crab or lobster sauce may or may not contain preservatives. That also affects the service life.
In short, it is best to make the amount you need for a dish. If you have any left over, try to use it in a week or two for the best flavor and food safety.
|Cocktail sauce (unopened)||Preferred consumption + 1 – 3 months to obtain the best quality|
|Cocktail sauce (open)||1 month||6 months for best quality|
|homemade cocktail sauce||12 weeks|
Please note that the periods indicated are only estimates.
How do you know if the cocktail sauce is bad?
Sometimes the consistency of the cocktail sauce becomes gelatinous. If that happens, there is nothing to worry about; the sauce is fine. It is a natural reaction between horseradish roots and the pectin in tomatoes. Usually, you can fix the texture by stirring the sauce well (KH).
The gelatinous sauce problem occurs more often in mixes that are low in artificial preservatives. That means it’s a good thing if it happened to yours.
As for actual spoilage, you should look for the usual suspects.
- mold (white pits or fuzz on the surface), or other changes in appearance
- off or altered odor
- Bad taste
In general, as with many other condiments, if your cocktail sauce looks and smells good, it’s usually okay to use. The worst that can happen (realistically) is that the flavor is little or almost non-existent. If so, you should discard the sauce for quality reasons.
Last but not least, if your cocktail sauce is very old, like it’s two years past its expiration date or has been open for over a year, it’s time to throw it away. It may still be edible, but it most likely will not taste good.
- VCE Virginia Cooperative Extension: Consumer Food Storage Guidelines
- FK FoodKeeper App: Cocktail Sauce
- LFF Louisiana Fish Fry: Frequently Asked Questions
- KH Kelchner’s Food Products: Frequently Asked Questions
- WIKI Wikipedia: Cocktail sauce