Does the tabasco go bad? Does it have to be refrigerated?

This article is about the storage, expiration and spoilage of Tabasco. Learn how long quality sauce keeps and whether you need to refrigerate it after opening.

If you don’t like hot sauce, a bottle of Tabasco can sit in your cupboards for months, if not years. And at a certain point, you start to wonder if the Tabasco is going bad.

Or you may have just opened your first bottle and aren’t sure if you should put it in the fridge or not.

If that sounds like you, this article is for you.

Keep reading.

Tabasco sauce

Does the tabasco go bad?

Tabasco sauce does not go bad easily because its main ingredients (vinegar, salt, and fermented Tabasco peppers) make the sauce so acidic that it prevents any microorganisms from growing.

Of course, there is a date printed on the bottle, but this is about quality, not safety, and you can usually use the hot sauce long after that date. This is true even if you don’t refrigerate the seasoning.

That being said, Tabasco does gradually darken to a deep red or even brownish color, especially if you don’t refrigerate it. This makes some people worry about the safety of the sauce, but nothing to worry about.

Let me explain it to you.

tabasco browning

Fermented chiles (tabasco is a variety of chili) darken over time. It’s a natural reaction to oxidation and doesn’t make the sauce unsafe (more on that in my hot sauce article). Also, darkening has little effect on flavor: you probably won’t notice any difference.

The longer you store the bottle after opening it and the higher the temperature, the faster the sauce will change color. That’s why I recommend keeping Tabasco in the fridge if you don’t plan to finish the bottle in a couple of months (more on that later).

In case you were wondering, the same goes for many other hot sauces (eg Sriracha) and even some barbecue sauces.

That said, it’s not that Tabasco can’t go bad. It’s pretty rare, but definitely possible.

Let’s talk about how it could be.

several bottles of tabasco sauce 5

signs of deterioration

Signs of spoiled Tabasco include

  • Mold. It’s pretty unlikely that Tabasco will get moldy, but if you ever notice any lint on the surface or near the cap, it’s time to open a new bottle.
  • Bad smell. If your Tabasco stinks or smells “funny,” throw it away.
  • texture change. If the seasoning is completely separated or the texture has been drastically altered in any other way, it’s not good.
  • Bad taste. If everything in the sauce seems to be in perfect order, you can eat some of it (for example, on a piece of tortilla) to make sure. In almost all cases, the sauce will be fine. If it’s very old, it may taste a bit stale and lack some flavor, but that’s about it.

Last but not least, if you are not sure if your Tabasco is safe to consume, err on the side of caution. When in doubt, throw it out.

Some Tabasco flavors degrade in quality more quickly than others. The milder ones, like the “Green Jalapeno” or “Sweet & Hot” will lose flavor much faster than the rather hot original “Red Pepper”. But they should all be preserved well beyond the printed date.
tabasco pepper sauce

Does Tabasco sauce need to be refrigerated?

You don’t need to refrigerate Tabasco after opening it, but it’s not a bad idea to do so. Refrigeration helps the seasoning retain its quality longer and prevents it from browning as quickly.

In other words, you don’t have to keep that half-opened bottle of Tabasco in the fridge.

Read the labels. Some future Tabasco flavors may require refrigeration after opening.

Bottom line: If you’re going to finish your jar of Tabasco within a couple of months of opening it, leaving the seasoning out at room temperature is fine. But if you expect it to stay longer, it’s better to keep it in the fridge.

Do’s and don’ts with Tabasco

Whether or not you decide to refrigerate Tabasco after opening it, make sure the jar is always tightly closed when not in use. And if you leave it at room temperature, keep it out of direct sunlight and place it in a dark cabinet.

Then keep the bottle cap clean. As with most condiments, this area tends to develop a thick layer of crust over time. To remove it, use a damp paper towel and then dry the area.

You don’t need to clean the plug every time you use the sauce (no one has time for that), but try to do it whenever it starts to look gross.

Last but not least, shake old Tabasco sauce bottles before using them. This helps restore the potency of the flavors, and also takes care of the separation that occurs over time.

jars of tabasco pepper and green pepper

How long does Tabasco last?

Fridge Pantry
Original Tabasco (unopened) Keeps best + 1+ years
Original Tabasco (open) 6 months 1+ years
Flavored Tabasco (unopened) Expiration + 1+ years
Flavored Tabasco (opened) 36 months 9+ months

Please note that the above periods are only for the best quality.

The expiration of Tabasco depends on the flavor and varies between 12 and 24 months. But whichever you choose, the Tabasco easily lasts beyond the printed date.

Once the jar is opened, the sauce should retain its quality at least until the printed date and possibly much longer.

Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing how long after the date printed on the label your Tabasco will retain its quality. One thing is for sure: you should think in months, not years.

In general, the spicier the sauce (as measured by the Scoville scale), the longer its shelf life.

In the end, it’s more about quality than safety: your Tabasco will remain safe to use much longer than it will taste good. And it tastes great for quite a while.

Last but not least, check your expired Tabasco for signs of deterioration (which I have described above) each time you use it. It’s unlikely to go bad, but better safe than sorry.

Date of Expiry

The date printed on the label is an expiration date, which refers to the quality of the sauce, not its safety. In other words, it is not an expiration date.

And since Tabasco is not prone to spoilage in any way, it will keep for months (if not years) after that date.

Of course, if you don’t feel comfortable using Tabasco that is years past its expiration date, feel free to open a new bottle.

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