Hot sauce is a kitchen staple for both home cooks and takeout addicts. At any given moment, your refrigerator door is probably holding a few half-used bottles of your favorite brand.
While hot sauce isn't the priciest item, you don't want to be throwing it out when you don't need to.
But how long does the beloved condiment actually last? Here's how often you should replace your hot sauce, according to food experts.
Hot sauces have a long shelf life because many of them are vinegar-based, says Elizabeth Balkan, a director at sustainability organization Reloop North America. "Think of it as a pickle," she says. "Vinegar acts as a preservative so your hot sauces are going to last much longer."
And if you keep your hot sauces in the fridge, as opposed to in a cabinet, they will last even longer, Balkan says.
Many hot sauces will have expiration dates on the bottle, says Kate Merker, chief food director at the Good Housekeeping Institute. Still, you don't want to dispose of perfectly good hot sauce because of a sell-by date. "A vinegar-based hot sauce can likely last somewhere around four years," she says.
One way to instantly tell if your hot sauce has gone bad is to look at the cap, Merker says: "I would say it's time to ditch your hot sauce if you open the cap and there is any mold."
Another way to tell if your hot sauce needs to be replaced is to conduct a sniff test. If the contents smell "funky and fermented," it's probably time to throw the bottle out, Balkan says.
But, because most hot sauces are made with vinegar, what you currently have in your fridge is probably OK to eat, she adds: "I can't think of a scenario when hot sauces go bad in my kitchen."
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