can bbq sauce expire?
Found an old BBQ sauce that’s well past the printed date, and not sure what to do? Does BBQ sauce go bad?
Or maybe you have a half-open bottle in storage for a couple of weeks already, and you’re wondering if it’s still safe to eat.
If so, this article is for you. Let’s dive right in.
BBQ sauce contains lots of well-known natural preservatives such as vinegar, sugar, and lemon juice, which make it quite resistant to spoilage. So even after you open the bottle, it can still keep quality for a couple of months if you refrigerate it.
(Most hot sauces, e.g., Tabasco and Sriracha, last even longer.)
But that doesn’t mean that BBQ sauce cannot go bad. It can.
If it sits open for, say, more than a year, and it’s exposed to mold or other microbes along the way, it might spoil.
And even if it doesn’t become unsafe to eat, its quality will likely deteriorate to the point it’s no longer good enough to use.
Now, let’s talk about how spoilage might look like for bbq sauce.
Signs of spoiled BBQ sauce include:
Now, let’s say your BBQ sauce has turned dark red or even brown, and you’re not sure if you can still use it or not.
I didn’t mention color change in the list above, and for a good reason. In most cases, the sauce will darken if it’s stored for a long time after opening, and that’s (usually) perfectly fine.
Let’s talk about why that’s the case.
If your BBQ sauce contains chili peppers, it might darken or even turn brown if you store it open for a prolonged period. That’s because darkening due to oxidation is normal for chili peppers and doesn’t make them unsafe to eat.
The worst consequence of the changed color might be a slight alteration in taste, but that’s about it. That dark red BBQ sauce is still okay to use.
(I wrote about it in more detail in the article on hot sauce, in case you’re interested.)
Now, if your BBQ sauce ingredients list doesn’t contain chili peppers or one of their varieties (e.g., tabasco peppers), be cautious if the sauce turns brown. And if the label doesn’t clearly say that browning is a normal side effect of prolonged storage, it’s probably better to err on the side of caution and discard the bottle.
BBQ sauce comes with a best-by date of 1 to 2 years and easily lasts for a couple of months past the printed date. Once you open the bottle, the condiment usually keeps for up to 4 months if you refrigerate it.
The 4 months of opening isn’t a hard rule by any means, but many BBQ sauce brands go with it.
Of course, there are outliers on both ends of the spectrum. Therefore, don’t be surprised if the label says yours lasts up to a year of opening, or that you should finish it within a week.
Once you open your BBQ sauce bottle, you typically have four months to finish the leftovers. As I mentioned above, some brands go with a much shorter period, while others have a vastly longer one.
Of course, the storage period given by the brand is only an educated guess on how long, at the very least, the sauce should keep quality. That means that, in most cases, you’re going to be okay if your bbq sauce sits in the fridge for a bit longer than the producer suggests.
How long, you ask?
That depends on how long is the recommended storage period. If it’s the regular 4 months, an extra 2 to 3 weeks shouldn’t be a big deal. But if it’s only a week or so, I wouldn’t store it for longer than, say, 10 to 14 days.
The date on the BBQ sauce bottle is a best-by date, which is about the quality of the food, not safety. In other words, BBQ sauce doesn’t “expire” once it passes that date.
And as I mentioned earlier, as long as the condiment is unopened, it usually can last months past the printed date. Sure, it might separate a bit more in that time, but that’s about it.
Of course, when you open a BBQ sauce bottle that’s a couple of months past its date, you cannot expect it to keep quality for as long as a fresh bottle does. You should use it within a couple of weeks to get the most out of it.
Last but not least, always check your “expired” BBQ sauce for signs of spoilage before consuming.
Homemade BBQ sauce lasts between 1 to 2 weeks, depending on the recipe, and you need to refrigerate it at all times.
If you’re following a recipe you found online, go with what the author suggests. In most cases, it’s going to be a week of storage, maybe up to 2 weeks.
If it’s a recipe you got from someone else, err on the side of caution and go with up to 7 days of storage.
(A bit of vinegar, tomato paste, and Worcestershire sauce, without pasteurization, won’t make your homemade bbq sauce last as long as the store-bought variety.)
If that relatively short period isn’t long enough for your needs, or you want to make a big batch and save some for later, you can freeze BBQ sauce.
Portion it so that each portion is enough for a single dish, or use an ice cube tray, whatever makes more sense for you.
You should store BBQ sauce in the fridge after opening the bottle. The sauce, in most cases, stays safe to use if you leave it at room temperature, but doing so reduces the time it keeps quality to only a couple of weeks. Therefore, refrigeration is the better choice.
When it comes to storage temperature, BBQ sauce is somewhere in the middle between typical salsa (which requires refrigeration) and hot sauce (which usually doesn’t). You can leave it on the counter, but it’s far better to put it in the fridge.
That said, if you know that you’re going to finish the bottle you just opened within a week, feel free to store it in the pantry or kitchen cupboard.
(Unless, of course, the label says you must refrigerate it after opening.)
Having that out of the way, let’s talk about other storage practices for BBQ sauce.
Once you first open the bottle, make sure you seal it tightly after every use. And if you don’t refrigerate it, place it somewhere away from direct sunlight.
Next, clean the cap and the top of the bottle every now and then. After you pour the sauce multiple times, it tends to form a crusty (and pretty gross) layer on the cap and near the top. Whenever it gets to the “gross” stage, that’s a good time for a bit of cleanup.
Like most condiments, an opened bottle of BBQ sauce has a long shelf life—maybe even longer than your lease. It also has a long fridge life once it has been opened. Always read the date printed on the bottle to know for sure. An opened bottle of BBQ sauce can last anywhere from six plus months.
You plan out a huge backyard BBQ menu only to realize you’re out of BBQ sauce. (The horror…)
With only a few hours left until the party starts, you frantically search your fridge and pantry looking for any remaining sauce. Finally, you find a dusty bottle of BBQ sauce at the back of your pantry.
But, you can’t seem to remember when you bought it. Was it a few months ago or several years? Who knows.
The best by date has long passed and it was definitely opened, but how bad can it be, right?
Yes, BBQ sauce goes bad—especially when not stored properly.
If you’re racking your brain trying to remember when you bought an old bottle of BBQ sauce, chances are it’s gone bad. And you don’t want to serve bad BBQ sauce to a house full of guests do you?
Before you throw caution to the wind and smother your perfectly prepared meat and veggies in expired BBQ sauce, we highly advise you read through this quick guide. Along the way, you’ll learn:
By the end, we promise you’ll never second guess using expired BBQ sauce again!
If you look at the ingredients of BBQ sauce, you’ll find items like vinegar, sugar, ketchup, tomato paste, spices, and herbs—along with a few secret ingredients passed down from generation to generation.
What do these ingredients all have in common? They’re all natural!
When you buy quality BBQ sauce, you’re not selecting a recipe stuffed with an endless list of chemicals and artificial preservatives designed to maintain an extraordinarily long shelf life.
Instead, you’re purchasing a BBQ sauce carefully crafted using an age-old recipe using only the freshest and most flavorful ingredients.
BBQ sauce made with natural herbs, spices, and liquids will degrade over time, even when sealed and stored properly. And, once opened, oxidation causes ingredients to break down and separate, causing more opportunities for foreign objects like mold and moisture to make their way into the sauce.
Now, you might ask, “But aren’t sugar and vinegar natural preservatives? Wouldn’t the acids from the tomato ingredients help to extend the shelf life?”
And, you’d be right! However, as with all natural foods and beverages, these ingredients do not last forever.
Is old BBQ sauce safe to eat? Generally, yes, assuming there is no mold or signs of spoilage.
But, by consuming BBQ sauce well past its prime, you’re sacrificing something much greater than your culinary morals: flavor.
Have you seen the story about the man who *still* has a 20-year old McDonald’s Big Mac? After all that time, the bun and patty look almost immaculate.
This clear use of artificial preservatives is an excellent example of why fresh foods, including BBQ sauce, are always best.
Sure, you probably could eat that two-decade-old Big Mac and be fine. But chances are, it tastes bland and boring.
The question you have to ask yourself is, “Am I willing to sacrifice flavor in my recipe to use this old BBQ sauce?”
If you’re in a bind and desperately need BBQ sauce, you’ll be fine to use BBQ sauce past the “best by” date. But don’t expect it to taste good!
Read: Recipe: Crispy BBQ Fries (Ready In 20-Minutes)
BBQ sauce consumed within the best by date will boast the plentiful sweet, tangy, and spicy flavors we crave! As it gets older and oxygen is introduced, those flavors will slowly but surely die out, leaving a gooey memory of what was once a kickass BBQ sauce.
If you look into your pantry or refrigerator and the BBQ sauce exhibits any of these warning signs, throw it out immediately!
BBQ sauce should naturally smell a little tart, sweet, and/or smoky. That irresistible aroma is part of what makes us love the sauce!
But, if that smell transforms into something pungent, off-putting, or downright gag-inducing, toss it out. This odor is your first red flag of a BBQ sauce gone bad.
Several changes in appearance will occur as your BBQ sauce begins to degrade over time:
Read: 10 Fun and Easy BBQ Games for Your Next Grill and Chill
When made correctly, the texture of BBQ sauce should be smooth, spreadable, and viscous.
If you start to notice that your BBQ sauce is thick, slimy, or clumpy, it’s time to go. A texture change is a sign of oxidation or moisture, both of which jumpstart the process of decreased flavor and quality.
To avoid dealing with spoiled BBQ sauce, it’s important to store it properly at all times. Otherwise, you run the risk of enduring bad BBQ sauce sooner than expected!
Unopened BBQ sauce purchased from the store can last up to 1 year in the pantry.
If you still haven’t opened the BBQ sauce after 1 year and the appearance still looks acceptable, you are safe to continue storing the sauce until opening.
It is important to store the BBQ sauce in a closed, cool, and dark space, such as a kitchen pantry, to avoid any potential for oxidation or contaminant exposure.
However, if you’ve made homemade BBQ sauce and put it in an airtight container such as a mason jar with a lid, it will need to be stored in the refrigerator from the start.
Read: The Essential BBQ Checklist: 49 Things You Can’t Miss For A Good Time
Once you open a jar or bottle or BBQ sauce, say goodbye to the pantry.
BBQ sauce containers must be stored in the refrigerator once opened.
By doing so, you are ensuring that the mouth-watering flavors and aromas of the BBQ sauce are still intact the next time you open the bottle. Without this drop in temperature and specific moisture level, the ingredients won’t retain their integrity and begin to spoil.
Open, refrigerated BBQ sauce can last 6-12 months after opening. However, remember to check the smell, appearance, and texture to guarantee that it’s safe to eat.
Here’s a little secret we’ve been holding onto:
When you buy Redneck Lipstick, you don’t have to worry about it expiring…
Because there’s never any leftover!