Nothing adds an extra kick of delicious flavor to your meal like your favorite hot sauce. They taste great on everything from chicken wings to pizza and everything in between.
There are so many flavors to choose from that you can have a different hot sauce for every day of the week if you want.
One of the most common questions that comes up about hot sauce is whether it needs to be stored in the pantry or the refrigerator.
Everyone is going to have their preference, but today I want to share whether it’s safe to keep your hot sauce in the cupboard or not.
So, does hot sauce need to be refrigerated? The answer depends on the type of hot sauce and how long it typically takes you to eat an entire bottle. If the hot sauce contains little or no sugar and lots of vinegar and you eat it within a couple of months, then it is generally safe to keep in the pantry.
Keep reading for tips on stashing your favorite sauces.
A Couple Notes on Hot Sauce Freshness
Before you pop the lid on your sauce and pour it over your meal, you will want to make sure it hasn’t spoiled. There are a couple of ways to tell if your sauce is still fresh and safe to eat.
Hot sauces will often darken naturally over time. This darkening doesn’t mean that they have gone bad and it shouldn’t impact the sauces’ flavor either.
If your hot sauce has a weird smell that isn’t its normal vinegary, spicy scent then chances are it has gone bad and you would be safer to throw it away and open a new bottle.
This generally won’t happen unless the sauce is a few months old, but a quick smell test is always a safe bet!
Next, take a look at your actual sauce and at the lid to make sure there is no mold or obvious signs of spoilage.
Things like dark spots or green, white, or blue mold are signs that you should throw your sauce away to prevent illness.
There also may be a crust of hot sauce that builds up around the top of the bottle as you use it.
In order to keep bacteria from colonizing and growing there, give your bottle a quick wipe down with paper towel every so often to keep it fresh and safe.
If your sauce doesn’t have any of these signs of spoilage, then you should be safe from getting sick.
Does My Hot Sauce Go In the Fridge? Brand By Brand
Storage advice varies based on ingredients. Let’s look at what’s inside our familiar favorites.
1. Tabasco Original Red Sauce
Tabasco brand of hot sauce might be one of the most famous and most common hot sauces in kitchens across America.
It has a very small ingredient list and is made from aged red Tabasco peppers, distilled vinegar, and sea salt and it contains no pepper solids.
Since there isn’t any sugar or other ingredients that can promote bacterial growth, it can be stored in the pantry for a couple of months after opening without going bad.
You will want to make sure it is kept out of direct sunlight and tightly sealed after each use.
If you want to keep your hot sauce longer than a few months and preserve the color and texture, then you may want to pop it in the fridge.
While it won’t go bad or be unsafe to eat if kept in the pantry, it may not be its best quality after a couple of months.
For the other types of flavored Tabasco sauces, certain options such as the Sweet and Spicy Sauce and the Habenaro Pepper Sauce should be refrigerated after opening since they contain higher amounts of sugars and fruit purees, which can feed the bacteria causing the sauces to spoil quickly.
Final Verdict: It will keep for a couple of months in the pantry. For best quality and longer shelf-life, store in the fridge.
2. Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
Another contender for most delicious and popular hot sauce in North America is definitely Frank’s Red Hot Sauce. It has another simple ingredient list that contains aged cayenne red peppers, distilled vinegar, water, salt, and garlic powder.
While you won’t need to refrigerate this hot sauce to prevent spoilage, the Frank’s website recommends that you pop it in the fridge if you can to help maintain its signature flavor.
However, it will be fine stored in a pantry for up to the best before date if properly sealed and kept out of direct sunlight.
The company also says that the sauce will stay fresher for several weeks after the best before date stamped on the bottle if you keep it in the fridge.
Again it depends on whether you prefer room temperature or chilled hot sauce and how quickly you tend to go through a bottle.
There are a couple of their other signature hot sauces that they do recommend refrigerating after opening to prevent spoilage.
If you purchase their Frank’s Red Hot Sweet Chili Sauce or their Frank’s Red Hot Slammin’ Sriracha then make sure you refrigerate after opening.
Final Verdict: Safe to store in the pantry. To keep the product fresher for longer, store it in the fridge.
3. Cholula Hot Sauce
Cholula hot sauce is a delicious option for a slightly different flavor profile from either Tabasco and Frank’s hot sauces. It uses a blend of arbol and piquin peppers combined with the standard vinegar and salt plus garlic and a few extra spices.
It is made in Mexico from a family recipe that has been handed down for generations. To honor their Mexican roots, the hot sauce is named after the oldest inhabited city in North America.
You may have noticed that there is no sugar on their ingredient list which means that Cholula hot sauce is safe to be kept in the pantry.
The company recommends that you consume it within six months of opening the bottle for peak flavor and freshness.
Like the other sauces on our list, popping it in the fridge can help maintain its color and flavor for a longer period of time. So you can store it in or out of the fridge depending on your preference and whether you will eat the whole bottle within six months.
For the other delicious flavors of Cholula hot sauce such as Sweet Habanero, Chili Lime, and Bold Jalapeno you may want to store them directly in the fridge after opening.
These flavors contain sugar, so they may be more prone to spoilage.
Final Verdict: Cholula hot sauce is safe to keep in the pantry for up to six months after opening. If you want to extend the shelf life, you can keep it in the fridge.
4. TRUFF Hot Sauce
This next hot sauce on the list is definitely for those looking for a more sophisticated and upscale hot sauce.
Even the TRUFF bottles look expensive and set the expectation for a high-quality, delicious hot sauce experience.
The ingredient list on this hot sauce includes red chili peppers, vinegar, organic sugar, garlic, salt, black truffle, organic agave nectar, olive oil infused with black truffle essence, lycopene and glycerin (for color), organic cumin, and xanthan gum.
As you can see, this hot sauce contains two different types of sweeteners: organic sugar and agave nectar.
Since sugars can feed the bacteria that cause food to spoil, you will want to refrigerate this hot sauce after opening. The company recommends refrigeration since they don’t use any preservatives.
They also have a hot sauce made with white truffles instead of black truffles that includes some coriander as well. Just like the sauce above, it will need to be refrigerated after opening.
You can buy full-size or mini bottles of their hot sauce, which makes them perfect to take with you on the go!
Final Verdict: Keep your TRUFF hot sauce in the fridge to prevent spoilage.
5. Tapatio Hot Sauce
This staple hot sauce was created in 1971 and has risen through the ranks to become about as popular as Frank’s Red Hot Sauce and Tabaso Original Red Sauce.
It’s a relatively mild hot sauce with a piquant flavor that is beloved by everyone from hot sauce newbies to pepper aficionados.
The ingredient list for Tapatio is pretty standard and includes water, red peppers, salt, spices, garlic, acetic acid, xanthan gum and sodium benzoate as a preservative.
While it doesn’t share the types of red peppers used, they provide a nice mild spiciness to the sauce.
Since you are now well-versed in what you need to look for in terms of a hot sauce that needs to be refrigerated or not, you can probably tell from the ingredient list that this sauce can be kept in the pantry.
The addition of sodium benzoate as a preservative makes it even more shelf-stable than some of the other sauces on this list. As long as it is well-sealed and kept out of direct light it will be safe to eat straight from the cupboard.
The company also states that it doesn’t need to be refrigerated, but that if you choose to do so it won’t negatively impact the flavor in any way.
As we’ve seen, refrigeration can help preserve the freshness for longer so it might be a good option if you don’t tend to go through it quickly.
Final Verdict: Tapatio hot suce is perfectly safe stored in the cupboard.
6. Homemade Hot Sauce
Deciding whether to keep your homemade hot sauce in the fridge can be a little trickier since there are so many different styles and ways to make your sauce from scratch.
Take a look at the ingredient list in your recipe and if it contains sugar then you will likely want to refrigerate it.
I also tend to err on the side of caution with homemade hot sauce. Since commercial hot sauces are made in a food safe environment and stored in sanitized bottles and jars, they are less likely to be contaminated during production.
When making a sauce in your own home it is unlikely you have a completely safe and sterile environment.
That means that different bacteria or contaminants can get into your sauce during the cooking process. These unintentional additions can set your sauce up for spoilage.
The exception to this rule is if you have gone through the process of sterilization and proper canning of your hot sauce.
In this case, if your hot sauce is properly sealed it can be shelf-stable for about a year. Once opened, it is still safest to store it in the fridge just in case.
When you refrigerate a product it slows down the production of bacteria that can cause the product to spoil, which means it will stay safe and fresh for longer.
When it comes to your homemade sauce, refrigeration is going to be your safest bet.
Final Verdict: Since your kitchen isn’t as sterile as a hot sauce plant, err on the side of caution and put your homemade sauce in the fridge for safety and freshness.
Does Chili Sauce Need To Be Refrigerated?
Unlike most hot sauces which are generally a thin, liquidy texture, chili sauces tend to use the whole pepper and sometimes include extra ingredients such as sugar.
A couple of the most popular types of chili sauce that you may be familiar with are sriracha and Thai sweet chili sauces.
Does Sriracha Chili Sauce Need To Be Refrigerated?
For a sriracha-style chili sauce, you don’t have to store it in the fridge because most of the ingredients, such as chilies, garlic, vinegar, and salt, are resistant to bacterial growth.
Bacteria are what cause your food to spoil and become unsafe to eat.
That means so long as you keep it tightly sealed and stored in a cool, dry place it should be fine unrefrigerated. Here’s a great article on how to store Sriracha.
Like the hot sauces above, the shelf life can be extended if you store it in the fridge. Some sites state that unrefrigerated chili sauce will stay at peak freshness for about a month if stored in the pantry.
You can extend that high quality to six to nine months if you store it in the fridge.
So whether you refrigerate or not depends on how much space you have in your fridge versus your pantry and how quickly you plan to use your chili sauce.
Does Thai Sweet Chili Sauce Need To Be Refrigerated?
When it comes to Thai sweet chili sauce, it’s a different situation because it has a much higher amount of sugar in it to give you that spicy-sweet taste that is so delicious.
Sugar is a favorite food of bacteria and can promote spoilage, making your sauce unsafe to consume.
For the best results when it comes to a Thai sweet chili-style sauce, you are going to want to store it sealed in the refrigerator to prevent it from going bad.
Properly sealed and stored it can last up to a year in the fridge. Just check for signs of mold to make sure it is safe to eat.
Hot sauce is one of the most delicious condiments you can add to your meals. Properly storing your hot sauce can help to keep it fresher for longer and prevent it from going bad.
If your hot sauce contains sugar or you made it from scratch, err on the side of caution and store it in the fridge. Otherwise, you can safely keep it in the pantry for a couple of months.
Whatever hot sauce you choose is sure to add an extra zing to your meal and wake up your taste buds!
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