Does Fish Sauce Go Bad? Answered (2023)

Bought a bottle of fish sauce only to forget all about it after the first use? There is a chance that it is still usable. Whether it is okay depends on a few factors, which I will get into shortly.

But, Does fish sauce go bad if unopened?

If you have an unopened bottle of fish sauce in the pantry, it will last a year after the best-by date. For opened bottles, you are looking at 3 to 6 months in the pantry. The same, when refrigerated, will last a little over a year.

How Long Does Fish Sauce Last?

The shelf life of fish sauce depends on the best-by date and storage conditions. It will change based on whether you have opened the bottle. 

1. Unopened Bottles

Unopened bottles should be of top-notch quality after a year past the best-by date. So you are looking at more or less 3 to 4 years of shelf life. 

Fish sauce bottles usually come with a ‘best-by’ date mentioned on them. That lets you know the shelf life of the product, more specifically, how long it will retain its freshness. The sauce has no perishable ingredients. It has a high sodium content and will last months and years past the best-by date. 

different brands of fish sauce

2. Opened Bottles

Once opened, it will be in good quality in the pantry for 3 to 6 months. Upon refrigeration, it is increased to about a year. 

Fish sauce rarely goes bad if you are worried about food safety. But I can say that its quality will take a hit over time. The flavor will gradually become milder after storing it for a long time. While it is impossible to know when to expect that shift in change, it helps to be aware of the average shelf life.

How to Store Fish Sauce?

The method you follow while storing fish sauce is integral to its shelf life. It is a preserved condiment, and you will not find many ways to store it.

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fish sauce

1. In the Pantry

The storage method is more or less the same for fish and oyster sauce. Keep the bottle in the pantry or kitchen cupboard if it has not been opened. But make sure you store it in a cool and dry place. The bottle should be away from light sources, heat, and humidity. Maintaining a consistent temperature can prolong its shelf life.

Fish sauce is mostly stored in the kitchen. This makes it easy to use. The bottle must be sealed well every time you use it. This helps avoid bacteria growth. The bottle cap can be susceptible to mold growth. Double-check for such growth and keep the environment clean at all times.

Also Read: Does Chicken Broth Go Bad?

2. In the Refrigerator

If you have an opened bottle of fish sauce that you use quite often, toss it into the fridge. This helps lengthen its shelf life by a lot. Always seal the bottle properly and refrigerate it after use. This ensures it retains its quality and flavor. 

This way, you look at more than 12 months of shelf life. When the bottle is close to expiration, you can choose other unconventional methods. You can mix it with tamarind concentrate and try a makeshift Worcestershire sauce.

How to Know If Fish Sauce Has Gone Bad?

There are a few ways to gauge if your fish sauce is still edible or if it is time to toss it out. Look out for signs of mold, yeast, odor, or change in texture. While they aren’t rampant, one or many of these could happen if stored improperly. 

1. Foul Odor

You will notice an off smell when the fish sauce has expired. The easiest way to understand this is to take a whiff. If anything smells off, it is time to toss the bottle out without hesitation.

2. Mold or Yeast

It is best tossed out if you see black, green, or white moldy spots forming either on the rim or inside the bottle. Fish sauce can be susceptible to mold and yeast growth if stored improperly. Make sure you do not let it come in touch with hot or humid areas. 

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Are there clear crystal formations at the bottom of the bottle? Don’t worry, it is just salt sedimentation. This is not a sign of rot or spoilage. The same goes for cloudy particles. These are just proteins created during protein precipitation. If you change up the storage place, the temperature change causes this. But worry not, it makes no dent in the quality of the fish sauce.

3. Color

Fish sauce is usually reddish-brown or brownish-yellow in color. With time, it becomes darker. But it is not a cause for worry. This discoloration is a natural part of the process. It will not impact the quality of the sauce.

All in all, it is rare for fish sauce to go bad. If it looks and smells okay, the last hurdle is the taste. Do a taste test, and if it seems fine, you are good to go. But the moment it seems unsafe, it is best to throw it out.

Why Avoid Spoiled Fish Sauce?

The ill effects of consuming spoiled fish and fish sauce are not yet studied thoroughly. Having said that, food poisoning is still a very real possibility. If you consume a lot of spoiled fish sauce, you can experience various food poisoning symptoms. 

adding sauce to fish

It could be anything from stomach cramps to gastrointestinal issues. You might also have vomiting, nausea, fever, and diarrhea. Make sure you toss fish sauce out when it seems- well- fishy.

Also Read: Does Yogurt Go Bad?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1. What should fish sauce smell like?

Ans. Fish sauce tastes fishy, salty, sweet, and funky. Without this integral condiment, most Asian recipes we relish today would not exist. It might not smell the most impressive, but add some to any recipe, and you are good to go.

Q2. Which sauce is high risk for food poisoning?

Ans. There are a few sauces that are commonly associated with cases of food poisoning. You will be happy to know the fish sauce is not usually one of them. In this category of sauces prone to causing food poisoning, aioli, mayonnaise, and hollandaise are of note. 

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Spreads like egg butter and desserts such as tiramisu and mousse are a close second. Drinks such as high-protein smoothies and eggnogs are also prone to food poisoning.

Q3. Is it OK to use expired fish sauce?

Ans. If stored over a long period, fish sauce might show discoloration and change in taste. Fish sauce is good to go unless you notice some odor or formation of mold and yeast. If your fish sauce seems odd, it is best to be on the side of caution and throw it out.

Q4. Can you get food poisoning from expired sauce?

Ans. Usually, food sauce does not cause harm, even if it is expired. You should avoid it because of the lacking flavor and quality. But in some cases, you could risk food poisoning if you consume expired fish sauce. If consumed, bacteria, yeast, and mold can cause severe food poisoning symptoms.

Q5. Does fish sauce go bad if not refrigerated?

Ans. If your bottle of fish sauce is unopened, there is no need to refrigerate it. If opened, it is best refrigerated. But if you plan to exhaust the bottle within 3 to 6 months, you can also keep an opened bottle in the pantry. It is only important to store it in the refrigerator if you do not plan to use it for months.

The Bottom Line

Fish sauce will last as long as you put effort into making it last. I have noticed it does not take much to keep it healthy. Just keep it out of reach from humidity, heat, and light sources. Remember, cool and dry are ideal conditions. 

That aside, fish sauce should last you a long time. You do not typically need to worry about it going bad anytime soon after buying it. Make sure you buy recently manufactured ones, and you should be good to go. Keep checking for signs of spoilage, and if something seems awry, toss it out.

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Melissa Baker

Melissa Baker

I am a food lover and the founder of FoodQueries. I have years of experience when it comes to food. I have been cooking since childhood and I know a thing or two about storing, cooking and freezing food in the right way.