If you are not a fan of Asian cuisine or, like most people, don’t normally experiment with your cooking skills every now and then, there is a high chance you have a bottle of fish sauce sitting somewhere in a corner of your kitchen. Given its low usage, you might not even remember when you bought it.
Since you are now considering using it again, you might be wondering, ‘Does fish sauce go bad?’ We have written this article to answer just that question, so read on.
What Is Fish Sauce Anyways?
Fish sauce is a type of condiment which gives the flavor of umami to whichever dish you add it to. According to Legal Nomads, it is made from a two-year fermented fish or krill that has also been coated in different salts.
A typical modern fish sauce comprises salt and different types of fish like shrimp, mackerel, or any other fish with a strong flavor and a high oil content. Since there are many different variants, some even add spice or herbs to the fish sauce to change the way it tastes.
Mostly, it is used in Asian cuisine, but due to its flavor, it has gained worldwide recognition and many chefs and restaurants all over the world actively use it in their dishes. Along with being used for seasoning, fish sauce can be used as a dipping sauce.
How Long Does Fish Sauce Last? Does Fish Sauce Go Bad?
The fish sauce’s shelf life depends on the storage conditions. Most fish sauce bottles have a Best By date. This date does not necessarily mean that the sauce will go bad after it. It is just the manufacturer’s estimate on how long the fish sauce will remain in its prime flavorful stage.
The expiration date varies from brand to brand, but typically, fish sauce will last for a maximum of two, maybe three, years but not more than that.
The reason for this is that it contains salts and different preservatives that are bound to lose their taste or go bad. It also consists of bacteria due to the fermented fish used to produce it which can, again, retain its taste for a couple of years and then it will go tasteless or bland.
An unopened fish sauce bottle can last two to three years at room temperature in a cold, dark place. On the other hand, for an opened bottle to last that long, it is important to keep it refrigerated in an airtight container. At room temperature, an opened bottle can stretch up to a maximum of one or maybe a little over one year.
Many people have had fish sauce stored in their refrigerators for even five years and have found that it still has the same taste and is completely good to be used.
The only way your fish sauce might go completely bad is if you do not take care of how you have stored it. If it is placed in a hot location or is exposed to sunlight, it will definitely go bad within a year, tops. If it is, however, stored in a fridge, give it 3 to 4 years and it will still give you a good taste, if not great.
How to Tell If Fish Sauce Is Bad?
There’s a one in a million chance that your fish sauce will go completely bad, but let’s assume it has. How will you be able to tell? You might notice some crystals at the bottom in the bottle, but that’s not a bad sign. These are just sea salt crystals and won’t harm the taste of your sauce in any way.
If you see signs of yeast or mold inside the bottle or on its neck, throw it away immediately because that surely means it has gone bad.
Other than that, if you see a noticeable change in the color or smell of the fish sauce, there is a possibility that it has gone bad. If it looks fine from the looks and smell, the best way is to know is to taste a pinch just to make sure it still has the same taste as when you first bought it.
The key to keep the fish sauce fresh for a long time lies in how well you store it. Anything, not just fish sauce, will go bad faster if it is not stored the right way.
How to Store Fish Sauce Properly?
If you are aiming for a longer shelf life of fish sauce, you have to take care of some conditions that are vital for it to be retained for a long time. If you have just bought a bottle of fish sauce and you have not opened it yet, you can just store it in your pantry and it will not go bad.
Just make sure it stays away from heat and light because these two things can really mess up its taste. Room temperature is also a key factor in making sure the sauce does not go bad.
Let’s say that you have opened the bottle. Firstly, make sure that it is always sealed shut. Since the sauce contains various kinds of salts, an opened bottle of fish sauce will not go bad within a day or two, a whole week or maybe even a month if kept at room temperature.
However, after a month, there is a possibility that it might start losing its taste. If you are looking for short-term storage, keeping it at room temperature in an airtight bottle will do the job.
On the other hand, if you want to store it for a longer period, say, six months or more, we would advise you to keep it inside the fridge. A chill place, like the fridge, will help retain the sauce’s quality and taste way better than keeping it at room temperature for six months or more.