Does Tabasco Go Bad? (And How Long Can It Last)

Does Tabasco Go Bad

A popular condiment at restaurants and home, Tabasco is made from tabasco peppers from Avery Island in Southern Louisiana. Starting in 1868, it is now sold worldwide. Tabasco comes in several other flavors, including habanero, chipotle, sriracha, and Trinidad scorpion (yikes!), as well as sweeter flavors. It is non-GMO, gluten-free, and kosher. If you have a bottle in your pantry you may be wondering, does Tabasco go bad?

Tabasco can go bad. It’s made from vinegar, tabasco peppers, and salt, combined to make it last quite a long time.  There is a “best-buy” date on the label, but that is a guideline for quality and is said to last a year past hat date. The original Tabasco has a shelf life of five years, depending on storage methods. 

Let’s explore whether that old dusty bottle of Tabasco in the back of the pantry or refrigerator is still safe to eat, how to store Tabasco for maximum shelf life, and some hot sauce alternatives. Ready to dig in?

Does Homemade Tabasco Sauce Go Bad?

Some people make their own Tabasco sauce.  With only three ingredients, it’s not hard.  Homemade Tabasco sauce has a much shorter shelf life – about one week in the pantry or two to three months in the refrigerator.

Does Tabasco Go Bad Over Time?

Tabasco contains peppers that can darken over time; they may turn a darker red or brown.  This is a natural process when exposed to air, and you probably won’t notice any difference in taste.  Storing Tabasco in the refrigerator will slow down this discoloration.

Microorganisms have trouble forming in Tabasco because the combination of vinegar, salt, and peppers is very acidic.  Separation can occur over time, but this is natural as well.  If you shake the bottle and the ingredients do not meld back together, it’s a sign of age.

Tabasco can go bad over time, and there are some things to look for.

How Can you Tell if Tabasco has gone Bad?

There are signs to look for that might indicate it’s time to toss the bottle and get a new one:

  • Look at the bottle. Some separation is natural, but the ingredients should meld together again when you shake the bottle.  If they do not, or the texture does not look normal, it’s time for a fresh bottle.  If you don’t seal it up properly after each use, it may get crumbs or other bacteria in the bottle that could alter the contents.  Mold may appear in the form of black dots; mold may also cause gases to build up in the bottle.
  • Smell the contents. Toss the bottle if it has an odd odor or doesn’t smell quite right.
  • Taste it. Tabasco won’t make you sick, so taste a tiny drop.  It might lack some bite or taste a bit stale if it is old.  Up to you, but you might invest in a fresh bottle.

How to Properly Store Tabasco Sauce

  1. Tabasco can be stored in the pantry or refrigerator. The fridge could extend its life by nine months to a year or more.  If you plan to use it more quickly, refrigeration is unnecessary and will not change the quality.
  2. If you keep it in the pantry, store it in a dark cupboard. Light will change the product’s color and speed up the aging process.
  3. Make sure the bottle cap is clean and sealed tightly. Dried Tabasco can dry on the bottle and cap, inviting bacteria and affecting the seal.  Air will also speed up the aging process.
  4. Shake the bottle before you use it. Natural separation can occur, but it should not affect the taste.

Does Tabasco Go Bad After Opening?

Unopened Tabasco will last up to 5 years.  It does have an expiration date, but this is for optimum quality as determined by the manufacturer.  In general, unopened Tabasco is good for one year or more past this date.  When you open Tabasco, air, light, and natural bacteria in the air can sneak in and start to degrade the product. It is recommended that you use your bottle of Tabasco within six months after opening.  Flavored Tabasco sauces have the same unopened shelf life and will last 3-6 months after opening.  The best way to tell whether it’s past its prime is to use your senses.  Tabasco sauce comes in several sizes, so unless you are a big fan who puts Tabasco on everything, purchase a bottle, you will likely use in six months.

Can you Get Sick from Eating Old Tabasco Sauce?

Other than a bad taste in your mouth, old Tabasco sauce poses little or no health risk.  The vinegar and salt act as a preservative.   If you see mold on your Tabasco, it’s best to throw it out; some molds can cause health issues in certain people.  Also, if your Tabasco contains fruity ingredients, it may spoil faster, and you should check for mold, smells, or texture changes before consuming it.

Alternatives to Tabasco

Frank’s RedHot Sauce

Frank's RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce (Keto Friendly), 12 fl oz Those who enjoy Tabasco often like Frank’s RedHot Sauce as well.  It gets its kick from aged cayenne peppers and is used in buffalo wing recipes.  Since 1964, Frank’s has expanded its product line to include several hot sauces.  The shelf life of an unopened bottle is two years.  Opened, it does not have to be refrigerated, but that will lengthen its life.

Cholula Hot Sauce

Cholula Original Hot Sauce 12 fl oz Multipack, 3 count | Crafted with Mexican Peppers and Signature Spice Blend | Gluten Free, Kosher, Vegan, Low Sodium, Sugar Free Another famous brand, there are six varieties of sauces.  It’s ranked medium to mild on the scale of hotness.  It is sugar-free, gluten-free, vegan, low sodium, and kosher.  Cholula Original uses Arbol and Piquin peppers, salt, vinegar, garlic powder, spices, and xanthan gum.  There are no calories and slightly more sodium than Tabasco (5% of your recommended daily value).  Made in Mexico, it has a lot of the same uses as Tabasco.

Louisiana Hot Sauce

Louisiana Hot Sauce Original 6 OZ (Pack of 4) The same simple ingredients of aged peppers, vinegar, and salt make up Louisiana Hot Sauce.  The difference is in the types of peppers, but Louisiana Hot Sauce does not list the types of peppers in their original sauce.

There’s a little more sodium than Tabasco.  The shelf-life is five years if unopened.  It is vegan but not gluten-free and does use GMO ingredients.  The vinegar is distilled from corn.

Huy Fong - Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce (Net Wt. 17 Oz.) - 3 PackHuy Fong Sriracha Chili Hot Sauce

Huy Fong is the original sriracha sauce, a popular sauce made from red jalapeno peppers.  It also contains sugar, vinegar, and other additives to make it thick.  It’s milder than Tabasco and chunkier.  Sriracha will remain fresh up to two years after the “best by” date when unopened and nine months or more if opened.

Simply Organic Cayenne Pepper

Simply Organic Cayenne Pepper 2.89 oz A substitute away from the hot sauces is ground cayenne pepper.  It’s got heat units, versatility and keeps in your cupboard for quite a while.  This brand is organic, kosher, and non-irradiated.  A little goes a long way when sprinkled on or added to dishes.

Other Hot Sauces

There are so many hot sauces on the market, but here are a few that looked interesting:

Yellowbird Organic Hot Sauce

Organic Hot Sauce Variety Pack by Yellowbird - Hot Sauce Sampler Gift Set - Plant-Based, Gluten Free, Non-GMO Hot Sauce Gift Set - Homegrown in Austin - 9.8 oz (3-Pack) This is a more versatile hot sauce with more fruity ingredients combined with either Serrano, Habanero, or Sriracha peppers.  It comes in a squeeze bottle for ease of use.

All ingredients are organic, and it’s gluten-free.  As it’s packaged in plastic rather than glass, I’d recommend storing this opened in the fridge and using it within 3-6 months.

Arizona Pepper’s Organic Harvest Foods Pepper Sauce

Organic Harvest Gluten Free Jalapeno Pepper Sauce, 5 Fluid Ounce - One Bottle It comes in three flavors – Chipotle Habanero, Habanero, and Jalapeno Pepper Sauces.  It has three ingredients similar to Tabasco.  It’s gluten-free, 95% organic, and made in New Mexico.

Truff Hot Sauce

TRUFF Original Black Truffle Hot Sauce, Gourmet Hot Sauce with Ripe Chili Peppers, Black Truffle Oil, Organic Agave Nectar, Unique Flavor Experience in a Bottle, 6 oz. This hot sauce has truffle oil, agave nectar, and cumin for a unique flavor experience.  Described as a cross between truffle oil and sriracha.  It is mild to medium in heat and much smoother and sweeter than Tabasco.

Related Questions

Is Tabasco Healthy?

Yes!  Tabasco sauce has no calories and only 2% salt.  It has only three ingredients: a pepper mash, where the production of peppers is very well controlled, distilled vinegar, and a bit of local salt.  Peppers contain capsaicin, a compound that is good for your health.  It regulates your appetite and boosts your metabolism.  Tabasco can also make healthy foods taste more exciting.  Hot sauce can be added to every meal without guilt.

Can Tabasco Burn your Throat?

Fans of Tabasco love spicy foods.  While that burning sensation may feel like you are on fire, it is the capsaicin in the pepper binding to the receptors on your tongue.  This sensation tricks your brain into thinking it needs to cool itself off.  This is why some people get runny noses, tears, more saliva, and they start to sweat.  You can wait it out – typically, this reaction lasts about 20 minutes.

If the pain is too much, drink some milk or eat peanut butter or avocado to dissolve the capsaicin.  As the capsaicin travels through your body, it may cause a burning sensation in your chest, cause hiccups, and continue wreaking havoc through the rest of your digestive tract.  This will pass, and no damage is done.

Should I avoid Tabasco if I have heartburn?

Spicy foods such as Tabasco may irritate those that suffer from GERD.  Take care if you also have issues such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, or Celiac disease.  You should talk to your healthcare practitioner if you have concerns.

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Choosing Nutrition Team

Here at Choosing Nutrition, our goal is to help people with making smarter food choices. Whether you're wondering about vegan, keto, paleo, or other diets, we'll help you determine which options fit your nutritional lifestyle. Our staff is composed of registered dieticians, nutritionists, and health-conscious individuals.

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