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Does Tartar Sauce Need To Be Refrigerated?

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Do you have a jar of Tartar sauce and are not quite sure how to store it? Does it go in the fridge, or do you need to put this condiment elsewhere? This is what the research suggests.

So, does Tartar sauce need to be refrigerated? Tartar sauce does not need to be refrigerated, particularly if still unopened. Although it is generally recommended to refrigerate, especially once opened, for flavor and texture preservation. Generally, refrigerating the sauce helps the sauce remain at its peak for longer.

For the most part; whether you decide to refrigerate or not depends on how long you think you will want to keep the sauce for.

For some, you may not eat Tartar sauce too frequently but want to keep it.

In that case, refrigeration just makes sense.

For others reading, you may use the jar up in a week or two – or you may even have left it out once accidentally.

Either way, you’ll be fine.

Just consider that the fridge is merely a way to extend the freshness.

For the most part, this is a sauce that does more than okay when kept out of the fridge.

If done so appropriately, and within reason, of course.

Nonetheless, let us now answer the most common questions related to the storage and preservation of this wonderfully creamy sauce.

How Long Can Tartar Sauce Be Left Out?

Tartar sauce can be left out for several hours all the way through to a few months – depending on the brand, recipe, and how it is ultimately left out.

Is the Tartar sauce left exposed to air?

Or is it sealed and still inside the bottle/jar?

Are you leaving this out in a warm and mild part of the home, or is it inside a cool and dark cupboard?

These are the kind of questions you need to ask yourself.

It’s why the answer is a huge range.

But generally, a sauce left out at room temperature on a plate, in a bowl, or in a serving dish – will generally last for 6-18 hours.

Until the quality deteriorates that is.

It should still be safe, as we will shortly learn.

But it will not taste particularly good after then.

However, if you leave the sauce out of the fridge but in a concealed state, well, it will typically last for a few months.

Sometimes more if you’re lucky.

Does Tartar Sauce Go Bad If Not Refrigerated?

Tartar sauce will begin to lose its taste and change consistency over time if not refrigerated, thus going bad from a quality perspective. However, this is not a sauce that will necessary go bad from a safety perspective.

This is all because of the ingredients that make up the sauce.

Tartar sauce is mostly comprised of mayonnaise, vinegar, and salt.

There’s a lot of natural preservatives in there.

Plus, many brands and recipes may call for some additional preservatives too.

And this simply means that Tartar sauce generally does quite well out of the fridge.

Especially if still unopened.

But equally, it still does pretty well if opened yet sealed.

So long as it is stored away from direct sunlight and is in a cupboard/drawer or closed space at room temperature.

Read more: What Does Tartar Sauce Taste Like?

How Long Does Tartar Sauce Last?

Tartar sauce typically lasts for 3-6 months once opened at maximum quality and freshness. Although, unopened bottles and jars can remain at their peak for 1-2 years after it has been packaged.

One thing to consider here is that different brands/recipes of Tartar sauce can use different ingredients.

And this can cause more or less acidity – which ultimately dictates how long this sauce lasts.

Some sauce therefore may go within 2-3 months, even with refrigeration.

Others may still be fine after 4-5 months – left out of the fridge.

It’s something that you need to be aware of and mindful of.

That being said, generally, refrigeration is best for preservation.

This sauce does tend to last longer when kept at cooler temperatures; and those that a fridge can provide.

What Happpens If You Eat Out Of Date Tartar Sauce?

You should be fine if you were to eat out-of-date Tartar sauce, however, you may not enjoy the experience as the sauce is not particularly enjoyable once the flavor and texture start to go.

Besides, most brands of Tartar sauce do not even provide an expiry date.

Instead, if you look closely, you usually have a “best by”, or “best before” or “best when used by date”.

This is very different.

This is not a safety date, but a manufacturer’s estimation of how long their product will retain its peak quality.

So after this date, you may notice some changes to the texture, color, or flavor.

Not always though, and depending on how it was stored, you may be able to consume the sauce months or years after this estimation.

And again, refrigeration here generally maximizes the longevity of a sauce – giving you a greater chance of peak quality beyond this date.

Besides, this quote from the USDA will help to reassure you that you are very unlikely to get ill from this sauce:

“People often think mayonnaise is the cause of foodborne illness from chilled foods such as chicken, tuna and egg salad or when spread on bread with luncheon meats in a sandwich. However, because mayonnaise is made with acid (vinegar or lemon juice), it tends to prevent bacterial growth. Usually it’s the meat, poultry, fish or eggs in a sandwich kept out of the refrigerator for more than two hours that is the medium for bacteria to grow.”

And while that’s for mayonnaise – remember that this is the main ingredient of Tartar sauce.

The rest are really just flavorings.

How Can You Tell If Tartar Sauce Is Bad?

The best way to identify that a Tartar sauce has gone bad is through looking and smelling. You should notice that the sauce consistency has changed, the color is different or that it smells slightly sour or more pungent than it once did.

There is always the taste test too; it will not generally taste as good or it may even be slightly too acidic or too strong.

If you notice any of these signs you should discard your Tartar sauce and replace it.

It shouldn’t make you ill, but you simply won’t get as much out of it as you would a fresh bottle/jar.

Again refrigeration will help to slow down the process of this sauce ‘going bad’.

Can You Freeze Tartar Sauce

Tartar sauce does not freeze very well. The mayonnaise will typically separate, making the sauce unappetizing and generally inedible.

In fact, if you were to look at a bottle/jar, or even contact a Tartar sauce manufacturer directly – you would soon likely find that they do not recommend you freeze this sauce.

It could even be a note on the packaging itself.

Nevertheless, it’s all down to the mayonnaise; the base of the sauce that just does not freeze particularly well.

As such, if you were making your own Tartar sauce, you actually could freeze most of the recipe – all of the other ingredients.

From there, you would then just need to thaw and mix it all in with your unfrozen and refrigerated mayonnaise.

You’d have a Tartar sauce in no time.


Refrigerating Tartar sauce is typically for the best.

It should mean your sauce lasts longer and stays in peak condition in terms of flavor and texture.

Who doesn’t want that?

Nevertheless, if you have an unopened bottle of Tartar sauce, no fridge space, forgot to refrigerate, or just other preferences; you can leave this out of the fridge too.

Just keep it sealed and out of sunlight.

Besides, chances are you bought this sauce at room temperature, right?

And if in doubt, throw it out.

Wondering what other sauces need to be kept refrigerated? Check out my following guides below:

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