You’ve bought, or are soon to buy a bottle of fish sauce. But how long can you expect it to last? Does it expire at all and will you know when it’s time for a replacement? These are the kinds of questions I’ll be answering here today
So, how long does fish sauce last? Fish sauce will generally last between 6 months and one year once opened. Although, an unopened bottle may last up to two to three years if stored appropriately. Consider that these timeframes are for peak quality and freshness only. From a food safety perspective, this sauce never really expires.
That’s useful to know – because chances are, you’ll only use your fish sauce a handful of times in the odd recipe here and there before you look to store it away.
That is of course unless you intend to use it more liberally and much more regularly.
Besides, it is a staple in Southeast and East Asian cuisine.
Nevertheless, let us now explore you should store fish sauce, how to notice when it’s time for a replacement and more.
So keep reading.
How Should You Store Fish Sauce?
You should store fish sauce like most condiments, and in much the same way as Soy sauce. In a cool, dark environment away from sunlight.
Before the bottle is opened, that could mean in the pantry or in a cupboard or drawer.
Once it is opened, it is generally advised to put it in the fridge.
At least according to the instructions and recommendations of most of the major brands, including Red Boat.
That being said, so long as it is kept out of direct sunlight and any sources of heat, there is no reason why you couldn’t necessarily keep storing it in the pantry, a cupboard, or a drawer.
Just ensure the lid is tightly sealed.
The good news is, this sauce is made from an abundance of salt – which has some really beneficial preservation qualities.
The fridge recommendation is best for longer preservation, although isn’t always necessarily ‘required’.
How Can You Tell If Fish Sauce Is Bad?
You will notice when fish sauce has gone bad by any signs or presence of mold, or a drastic change to the original or expected color, smell, or taste of the sauce.
Other than that, fish sauce doesn’t generally ever really go bad. At least if it is stored appropriately and it has not been cross-contaminated with other foods.
Although, you may notice in time the formation of salt crystals in the bottle. They usually appear at the bottom.
If you do, no worries – this should not a concern. It’s just what salt does when it collects and you can still use the sauce.
At other times, you may notice some clouding.
Again, this is natural and usually happens when the sauce has changed temperature quite quickly.
If this does happen, you can still consume the sauce – it is not harmful nor should you notice any changes in quality.
Does Fish Sauce Really Expire?
Fish sauce never really ‘expires’. At least in regards to ever becoming unsafe to eat. That being said, the quality will degrade over time, and this process can accelerate if you are to store it inappropriately.
You can usually get a rough idea of when you should expect the quality to wane by the best-by or best-before date on the product packaging.
This is in reference to how long you can expect peak or optimal quality – in freshness and flavor.
But due to its high salt and sodium, you should notice the sauce lasts for much longer than this.
To the point where some manufacturers do not even put a date on their bottles at all!
Just be mindful, though.
Your fish sauce may not be as appetizing as it once was eventually.
You’ll get to the point when you are due a refresher and a new bottle.
When that will be, however, will vary by product, person, and circumstance. It’s hard to really tell.
Your fish sauce should last you a long time. At least compared to some other condiments you likely have.
The big questions you will face, however, are:
- Whether or not to refrigerate it,
- And when it is time to replace it.
Nobody can tell you the answers to these questions.
While refrigeration is generally advised and considered ‘best practice’, it’s not always a necessity.
A lot of people keep it in the pantry or a cupboard and do not experience a lowered shelf-life because of it.
What appears to be the most important thing for preservation is proper closing of the cap of the bottle.
So be sure to wipe any accumulating fish sauce buildup that could prevent the cap from closing properly.
And in doing so, you should have your bottle for quite a while yet!
Opened fish sauce can last anywhere from 6 months to a year (or more). It depends on the brand, where, when, and how it has been kept. Generally, refrigeration keeps the sauce fresher for longer.
Fish sauce kept in the fridge and with an appropriately sealed cap should last for at least a year once opened, or 2-3 years if unopened.
Fish sauce does naturally carry a smell that some people describe as unpleasant. This is due to the high fish (and specifically anchovy) content of the sauce.
Wondering how long other sauces typically last? Check out my other guides here:
Hi there. I’m Jeremy – a passionate food technologist with several decades in the food industry. With a love for sauces, food, and nutrition, I decided to create WeWantTheSauce. Here I share my experience, knowledge, and recommendations; from ingredients and recipes to storage all the way through to nutrition for every sauce imaginable.