Does Hot Sauce Actually Need To Be Stored in the Refrigerator? We've Got the Spicy Truth

To refrigerate or not to refrigerate, that is the question.

More often than not, the way you organize your kitchen looks very much like what your parents did when you were growing up. Childhood nostalgia is sneaky like that. The same goes for how you store food. That's why it might come as a shock to learn the truth about 7 Things You Should Refrigerate (But Probably Aren't) and 10 Things You Shouldn't Store in the Refrigerator, Even If You Think You Need To. It leads to the question: What else have you been storing wrong your whole life?

On the list of things that feel illegal (but actually are not) is that most condiments don't actually need to be stored in the refrigerator. Ketchup? You might have watched your mother religiously store her Heinz in the fridge, but then why do the ketchup bottles in restaurants never seem to move? That's because ketchup doesn't actually need to be stored in the refrigerator over a relatively short period of time, thanks to shelf-stable ingredients. It's a matter of preference, and it applies to many condiments like barbecue sauce and mustard, too.

Hot Sauce Bottles
Getty Images/Julien McRoberts

What about hot sauce?

Hot sauce does not, in fact, need to be refrigerated after opening, either. Due to a relatively high concentration of both vinegar and salt, most hot sauces are impressively shelf-stable. For that reason, you might notice that instead of an expiration date, some hot sauce bottles provide a "best enjoyed by" date. While some brands are more conservative in timeline (Cholula recommends enjoying for up to six months after opening), others span longer (Tapatío extends that best-by date to two years). Tabasco is aged for up to three years in oak barrels before it even hits the market and has been reported to have a shelf life of five years. Louisiana Hot Sauce also has a shelf life of five years.

The one caveat is that storing condiments in the refrigerator does drastically lengthen their lifespan, preserving the color and flavor better for longer than when kept in your pantry. For those who have a light hand and will be keeping hot sauce bottles around for a very, very long time, the fridge might be best. Typically, your pantry is sufficient and highly recommended by those who don't prefer putting cold sauce on a hot meal.

Next time you're cracking open a bottle of hot sauce to go with your collard greens, remember that it's all preference where it gets put after dinner. Mama might not have known best.

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