In the course of running a hot sauce shop, the question of whether or not to refrigerate hot sauce has been one of the more frequent inquiries. The answer depends on a number of issues, and when in doubt, check the label. But otherwise, here are some guidelines.
When to refrigerate hot sauce:
If you're going to finish a sauce within a few weeks, it should be ok not to refrigerate it. My everyday go-to sauces have a permanent place on my table, and I prefer them not to be cold.
If you don't think you will finish a sauce within a few weeks, refrigerate it. Even if the label doesn't say to, refrigeration will slow oxidation, preserving the color and flavor of the sauce for much longer.
Homemade sauces should always be refrigerated unless you know what you're doing in terms of food safety and preservation.
Some sauces should never be refrigerated, such as Pure Evil, which will solidify in the fridge. If this is the case, it will say so on the label (it's pretty rare).
Always refrigerate chile oils, fruit based chutneys, tomato based salsas and sauces with low vinegar content.
How long does sauce last?
- According to StillTasty.com, open bottles of hot sauce will last 5 years in the fridge, and unopened bottles of sauce will last 5 years in the pantry. But if it takes you that long to finish, it can't be a very good sauce, right?
What about 'Best By' dates?
- Expiration or 'Best-By' dates are not legally required, and they are generally a manufacturers best guess as to when their product will be freshest, not an indiction of when it will go bad. If your sauce is past it's Best By date, it's probably fine so long as it looks and smells ok. For more on Best By dates, check out this John Oliver video: