Last Updated on April 19, 2023 by Chris Whitehair
Does Hot Sauce Need to Be Refrigerated?
It’s the hot sauce question everyone, and I mean everyone, has.
When you own a business that sells specialty and gourmet foods such as hot sauce, you tend to use many of the products yourself in everyday cooking.
You also tend to keep a lot of opened, unfinished product in your fridge.
You also tend to have an angry partner complaining about the shelf space taken to store said sauces (whoops).
I love my hot sauce, so when I start to gather 15/20/25 and more bottles in the fridge, I get yelled at and some then have to go.
I don’t want to rush through my sauces.
I also certainly don’t want to toss any out.
So what is a heat seeker to do?
Can I save fridge space and also keep my hot sauce fix?
This brings on the question on why you are reading this blog: does hot sauce need to be refrigerated?
I don’t just question this myself.
I’ve had many friends and customers alike ask me this question many times so I thought I’d take a look at my inventory and do some research.
As a result, I’ve identified important considerations in each section to help answer the question.
Here’s what I came up with!
***DISCLAIMER***Use this guide as a reference only. I am not a food safety expert or the FDA. I’m just a guy who owns a store that sells hot sauces that he loves.
Does It Say to Refrigerate on Its Label?
I consider this the most important aspect.
I checked the labels of most of the hot sauce brands I carry.
For example, one of my personal favorites, Pickapeppa Hot Red Pepper Sauce, says specifically to store at room temperature.
Of the hundreds of hot sauces I carry, I didn’t see any other labels that specifically said to not refrigerate.
My logic here is, who knows their products better than the actual manufacturers themselves?
I would always use checking the label as the first consideration as the end-all decision whether or not you should refrigerate hot sauce.
Speaking of the labels, while you’re looking, make sure to review the “Best if Used By” date.
Now, before you chuck your hot sauce bottle in the trash for being one day over the date printed read ahead.
Per Kevin Smith, Senior Advisor for Food Safety in the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition: the “Best if Used By” labels you see on packaged foods relate to the quality of the product, but that predicting when a food will no longer be of adequate quality for consumption is not an exact science.
Also, the FDA’s How to Cut Food Waste and Maintain Food Safety focuses on perishable foods like dairy and meat products, leaving no love for our spicy bottles of joy.
What Are the Ingredients In the Hot Sauce?
This is an important aspect because not all hot sauces are created equal.
We truly live in the height of the hot sauce explosion and it’s only getting bigger every day and every year.
Hot sauce fanatics such as myself owe Hot Ones on YouTube for taking hot sauce into the mainstream.
Due to this, any hot sauce lover can certainly get any type of flavor that they would seek.
The uses of fruit in hot sauces have increasingly become popular and they present different storage challenges vs. your typical pepper/vinegar/salt mix.
I looked at my product line and an ever-growing amount of manufacturers have at least one fruit-based concoction in their lineup.
I decided to take look at three of my favorite companies to see what they had to say.
I can’t mention hot sauce without going right to one of the very best brands anywhere that happens to be local right here to our company’s hometown of Rochester, NY…Karma Sauce! Karma Sauce uses butternut squash as its base, which contains 4g of sugar for a 205g cooked cube. One of my favorite all-time sauces is their Smokey Karma (pictured below). While there is no added sugar, the squash, sweet potato and honey make it a candidate for the refrigerator. Oh yea, the labels says to refrigerate as well.
Out of White River Junction, Vermont, Angry Goat Pepper Co. uses fruits in most of their sauces that we carry. For example, their Hippy Dippy Green Hot Sauce (pictured below) is “Avacado and Kiwi combined with jalapeno peppers, serrano peppers and tomatillos to make a unique twist on your standard verde-style hot sauce.” The label clearly says refrigerate after opening as does their other sauces, such as their Dark Swizzle (contains pineapple).
Hailing from Queens, NY, Pepplish Provisions uses a fruit as their anchor ingredient in their fantastic lineup which feature fair-trade ingredients. Apple Cilantro Lime, Blueberry Basil Shallot, Peach Agave Garlic and Mango Garlic Hickory (pictured below) are just a sample and it is to no surprise, their labels state to refrigerate after opening (if you can contain yourself and not use the entire bottle in one sitting!)
Three great sauces from three great hot sauce companies!
All three hot sauce labels clearly state to refrigerate after opening.
How Long the Bottle Has Been Open*?
*With no label designation
This is an important consideration.
Does hot sauce need to be refrigerated if you plan to use it within a small period of time?
If that’s the case, I say you are probably fine not refrigerating it.
If it’s a case where it won’t be fully consumed within a week or two then you should consider refrigeration for the sole reason to keep the hot sauce fresher for longer.
Restaurants leave theirs out, why can’t I then?
Restaurants go through their hot sauces fairly quickly due to frequency and volume used.
They don’t have to worry about shelf life like the average person or household.
But what about the national brands?
Typically, when you think of hot sauce, the ones with the biggest name recognition and visibility come to mind.
I’m talking brands like:
Huy Fong Foods®
Original Louisiana Brand™
For those stumbling across this website for the first time, Flower City Flavor Company doesn’t carry these specific brands.
Instead, we focus on small and medium size brands, ones you (mostly) can’t find in your local grocery store.
For the casual condiment consumer, these listed brands are the most recognizable and popular.
I took a look at all of their websites for their “original” styles of hot sauce to see if they answer our question or not if hot sauce needs to be refrigerated.
Does Cholula Need to Be Refrigerated?
(I found no specific info on their website that talks about refrigeration).
Ingredients: Water, Peppers (Arbol and Piquin), Salt, Vinegar, Spices and Xantham Gum.
Does Crystal Need to Be Refrigerated?
(I found no specific info on their website that talks about refrigeration).
Ingredients: Aged red cayenne peppers, distilled vinegar & salt.
Does Frank’s RedHot Need to Be Refrigerated?
We recommend that Frank’s RedHot Sweet Chili and Frank’s RedHot Slammin’ Sriracha Chili Sauce be refrigerated after opening; All other sauces do not have to be, but, doing so will keep the product fresher for a longer period of time.
Ingredients: Aged Cayenne Red Peppers, Distilled Vinegar, Water, Salt And Garlic Powder.
Does Sriracha Need to Be Refrigerated?
No, they do not have to be refrigerated. Just make sure they are stored in a cool, dry place.
Ingredients: Chili, sugar, salt, garlic, distilled vinegar, potassium sorbate, sodium bisulfite and xanthan gum.
Does Old Bay Hot Sauce Need to Be Refrigerated?
Our Old Bay Hot Sauce is a shelf stable item. Store in a cool, dry location away from heat and moisture.
Ingredients: Hot Sauce (Aged Red Cayenne Peppers, Distilled Vinegar, Water, Salt, Garlic Powder), Distilled Vinegar, Spices (Including Celery Seed), Salt, Paprika & Xanthan Gum (Thickener).
Does Louisiana Need to Be Refrigerated?
It is not necessary to refrigerate Louisiana Hot Sauce. It is simply just a personal preference.
Ingredients: Aged peppers, vinegar, salt.
Does Tabasco Need to Be Refrigerated?
(I found no specific info on their website that talks about refrigeration).
Ingredients: Peppers, Vinegar, Salt
Does Tapatio Need to Be Refrigerated?
No, but nothing will happen to it if your choose to do so.
Ingredients: Water, Red Peppers, Salt, Spices, Garlic, Acetic Acid, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Benozate as a preservative.
Does Texas Pete Need to Be Refrigerated?
All of our Texas Pete® Sauces are shelf stable food products that do not require refrigeration after opening. However, as with most food products, ours will stay fresher longer if they are stored in the fridge.
Ingredients: Vinegar, Aged Peppers (Peppers, Salt, Vinegar), Water, Xanthan Gum and Benzoate of Soda (To Preserve Freshness and Flavor).
Does Truff Hot Sauce Need to Be Refrigerated?
Yes. Since we do not use any preservatives in our formula, please make sure to refrigerate after opening.
Ingredients: Truff® Chili Blend (Red Chili Peppers, Vinegar, Organic Sugar, Garlic, Salt, Black Truffle [Tuber Melanosporum]), Organic Agave Nectar, Olive Oil Infused with Black Truffle Essence, Lycopene and Glycerin (for color), Spices, Xanthan Gum
Does Valentina Need to Be Refrigerated?
(There is no info on their website. Their bottles say store in a cool and dry place.)
Ingredients: Water, Chili Peppers, Vinegar, Salt, Spices, 0.1% Sodium Benzoate as a Preservative.
The hot sauces listed above are all registered trademarks for their respective companies.
For the most part, the big brands are in agreement with my findings.
I took a look further at their varieties of sauces.
For example, Frank’s RedHot® and Texas Pete® have specific variances of sauces they recommend refrigeration for.
The sauces and their ingredients are:
Frank’s RedHot® Sweet Chili
Ingredients: Water, Sugar, Red Chili Peppers, Salt, Garlic, Modified Food Starch and Acetic Acid.
Frank’s RedHot® Slammin’ Sriracha Chili
Ingredients: Distilled Vinegar, Aged Cayenne Red Peppers, Sugar, Salt, Jalapeno Pepper Puree (Red Jalapeno Peppers, Salt and Citric Acid), Water, Carrot Fiber, Garlic Powder, Natural Flavor (Soy), Xanthan Gum, Spice and Smoked Paprika.
CHA! by Texas Pete® Sriracha Sauce
Ingredients: Chile (peppers, vinegar, salt), sugar, garlic, potassium sorbate (to preserve freshness and flavor), sodium bisulfite (to preserve freshness)
The common denominator here is sugar. What else has sugar in it? Fruit. Coincidence? Maybe.
Unfortunately, this research didn’t give me a conclusive answer because Sriracha’s website says it doesn’t have to be refrigerated, even with sugar as a main ingredient.
Should I Refrigerate Hot Sauce TL;DR Recap
If you skipped all the way to the bottom for an easy answer, c’mon man!
I spent a long time researching and writing this!
1. Label Guidelines. Does it or does it not say to specifically refrigerate on the label? Also consider the “Best If Used By” date if there is one, but that is not a make-or-break.
2. Ingredients. Fruit-based and hot sauces with sugar should go in the fridge. Not specified earlier, anything “creamy” is most likely a candidate too, as well as anything tomato-based like a BBQ sauce is.
3. How long it will be open for. If it’s a long time, stick in the fridge. Ultimately, if you put hot sauce on every meal, keep it out.
How About Homemade Hot Sauce?
Unless you are an expert in keeping safe pH levels, always refrigerate!
Why you may, ask?
Well, have you ever heard of botulism?
Check out that link and see if botulism would seem like a fun time (Spoiler alert: it’s not).
I can’t stress this enough.
Fridge it up.
At the end of this blog, are you still asking “Should I refrigerate hot sauce?”
In short, use your best judgment.
It’s not a cop-out.
Based on my findings, if you want the sauce to be fresher for longer, it doesn’t hurt to stick it in the fridge.
If you are someone doesn’t like cold (as in temperature, not heat level) sauce, take it out of the fridge and let it get up to room temperature before using it.
Above all, check those labels and if it has a fruit or tomato base, keep it cold just as you would for a BBQ sauce.
Thanks for reading!
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5 thoughts on “Does Hot Sauce Need to Be Refrigerated?”
Can a assume if my PH is lower than 4.0, it would be safe to store in a dark dry place?
Can I also assume if they are not opened, they will last indefinitely?
Can I assume with sauces lower than 4.0 PH, are good in the pantry?
Then maybe refrigerate when opened? Or does that matter?
I’ll try to combine both comments into this one.
Are these sauces you’re referencing commercially bought or homemade? I say always refrigerate if it’s homemade, unless you are a professional with experience and have a pH meter.
I wouldn’t say any hot sauce will last “indefinitely”. They will lose their peak flavor due to loss of quality and freshness, just like anything as it ages.
Edible? Maybe so, but that’s really going to come down to the specific hot sauce.
There are a few FB Sellers, selling un-cooked home made hot sauce (chilli, garlic, ginger, vinegar, sugar, salt). One seller sells in plastic bottles with a cap that seals. Another sells in a plastic bag, like a soup bag that heat seals. I sell the same hot sauce but I cook mine sometimes just as it is AND sometimes I add some oil. Both recipes, the sauce is simmered at least 30 mins. Buyers are saying the original chilli sauce that is eaten with roast chicken and also a dipping sauce is not a cooked sauce – they tell me that by cooking, the chilli has lost its flavour and heat but I am trying to tell them at by cooking I am extending its shelf life. I tell them by not cooking, one can only consume max a week, even though refrigerated. Am I correct to tell our customers, un-cooked bottled sauces are not safe to consume?
Great question Cindy, thanks for taking the time to write this out. My initial thoughts are regarding the Facebook selling aspect – is your hot sauce FDA (or equivalent if outside the US) commercial certified? I strongly suggest not selling (or buying for that matter) food products on Facebook unless you have the proper permits. Each country/state/locality has different laws, so you definitely would want to check in with them. Anytime you have to give consumers a disclaimer on how to consume the product (as you said – it is not safe to consume un-cooked), and it’s not certified, you are setting yourself up for possible bad results. The pH level of the sauce should be at 3.4, so investing in a quality meter is a must. Botulism, while extremely rare, is no joke and could kill someone. When it comes to filling hot sauce, the vast majority or hot sauce producers fill in glass vs. plastic, so I’m not sure the temperatures the sellers you mention are filling their plastic bottles/bags (in addition to the vinegar levels needed to keep the pH level safe). My advice is to ALWAYS refrigerate homemade hot sauce unless you are an absolute pro/have that meter and can absolutely confirm safe pH levels. My response is not designed to scare you away from continuing what you are doing, I am just wanting to make sure you are looking at the liability aspect. If you are able to provide some more details, I’m happy to answer some more questions and/or point you the right direction.