A while back, we answered the common question, “does hot sauce go bad?” In that post, we recommend refrigerating your hot sauce to extend its shelf life. But does hot sauce need to be refrigerated? And more importantly, if it’s not, will it blow up like a nuclear bomb?
The truth is, it depends on the sauce’s ingredients, source, and how quickly you use it. Well, that and your aversion to random explosions.
Does Hot Sauce Go Bad if Not Refrigerated?
Yes, any open hot sauce bottle will eventually go bad if it’s not refrigerated. Of course, it will eventually go bad even if it is refrigerated. It just might spoil a little bit faster sitting out in the open.
Except for honey, all food eventually spoils. It could be days, months, or decades, but there comes a point with all food when it will no longer be ideal or safe for human consumption, regardless of how it’s stored.
Which Hot Sauces Need to Be Refrigerated?
Not all hot sauces are created equal. That’s because not all hot sauces are made the same. Unlike condiments like mayonnaise, which almost always has the same base, hot sauces vary wildly in terms of ingredients.
This variation is one of the things that makes hot sauce so exciting (and is why so many people have dozens of different bottles of the stuff), but it also means you need to treat each one differently in terms of whether or not you should refrigerate it.
Homemade Hot Sauces
If you’re making your own hot sauce, good for you! We love sharing hobbies with people! But even if your homemade hot sauce has a vinegar base (which spoils more slowly), we highly recommend keeping it in the refrigerator.
The hot sauces you buy in a store have gone through rigorous testing to ensure that they’ll be safe if stored according to the recommendations on their packaging. Homemade sauces don’t go through that level of testing, and unless you really know what you’re doing, homemade hot sauces could be more susceptible to mold and other spoilage.
Hot Sauces with a Fruit Base
And yes, tomatoes are a fruit. If your hot sauce has a base of or contains pieces of tomatoes, carrots, mangoes, pineapples, other fruits, or chili oils, you should keep them in the refrigerator. Those ingredients spoil more quickly than vinegar-based hot sauces when left out.
With that in mind, we do recommend keeping opened bottles of Secret Aardvark in the refrigerator.
Hot Sauce You Won’t Finish in a Few Weeks
Okay, this is more of a personal opinion. Technically, a hot sauce with a vinegar base is probably fine being stored in a cool, dark pantry for a year, if not longer. And some people swear that keeping hot sauce in the refrigerator will kill the flavor.
Keeping any hot sauce in the refrigerator, even if it technically doesn’t need to be there due to spoilage risk, slows the oxidation processes.
Will Hot Sauce Blow up if Not Kept Cool?
Now, the question we’ve all been waiting for: Will hot sauce explode if it’s not refrigerated?
Here’s a little science. You know that tomato fruit we mentioned? If left out in the sun long enough, that – and other real-food ingredients that make up a bottle of Aardvark – will ferment. Fermentation causes the formation of gas…and gas will expand inside our plastic bottle to the breaking point. We’re talking about a frothy, spewing fermentation volcano! Pop goes the cap and out blows the sauce.
Of course, we’re talking extremes here, as in the bottle sitting in direct sun for long periods. But better safe than sorry. Keep it in the fridge or the cooler….and do not try this experiment at home! You don’t want sauce flying through the air anywhere near your eyes, hands, or other sensitive parts.
For more advice on keeping your hot sauce fresh and spoilage-free, read our article Does Hot Sauce Go Bad?