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How long does fish sauce last? Can it go bad?

It has been several months since you got that bottle of fish sauce. You forgot it was sitting in storage, and now you’re wondering if it is good enough to use. After checking through, you see a few signs like crystals and particles, making it seem like the fish sauce is damaged. However, it doesn’t smell bad in any way. Now, you have lots of questions like how long does fish sauce last? Can it go bad? Well, you’re not alone in this scenario. Condiments like oyster sauce and fish sauce are easy to forget about while in your cupboard for months. We will answer all your questions here and help you decide if that fish sauce is worth keeping around. We will let you know how long fish sauce can stay in storage, the best ways to store it, and how to find out if it is no longer safe for consumption. Keep reading if you want to find out all there is to know about fish sauce.


Can Fish sauce Go Bad?


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Yes, fish sauce can go bad, but it would take a very long time if stored properly. Fish sauce is known to last for several months when stored at room temperature. However, when left unopened and exposed to heat or light sources, it will go bad in a few days. 


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How to Store Fish sauce


When you have an unopened bottle of fish sauce, it is much easier to store it. You can keep this bottle in the kitchen or pantry. However, be sure that it is always stored at room temperature and away from sources of light. Exposing your bottle of fish sauce to heat will affect its quality, just as it would with any other sauce like soy sauce and teriyaki sauce. As soon as your bottle of fish sauce is open, seal it tightly before storage. You can decide to keep it in a fridge, but this is not always necessary. 


Can You Refrigerate or Freeze Fish sauce?

Freezing or refrigerating your fish sauce is not mandatory. This is because it contains a generous amount of salt that doubles as a preservative agent. Therefore, you can store your fish sauce at room temperature for several weeks but in a cool, dark cupboard. However, if you must refrigerate your fish sauce to retain its quality for a longer time, this is entirely up to you. You can freeze it for as long as six months while the pantry is okay for storing for a shorter time. Keep the fish sauce tightly closed to avoid getting any odor.


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How Long Does Fish Sauce Last?


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Your bottle of fish sauce will come with an expiry date more often than not. This expiration date gives an estimate of how long before the fish sauce loses its flavor and freshness. Since fish sauce contains a lot of sodium and no perishable ingredients, it can last for several months and even years after its expiration date. Some producers do not include an expiration date because of its long-lasting capabilities. However, this doesn’t mean that its quality can’t degrade over time. Therefore, as you store this for a long time, its quality will diminish over time until it loses its taste and takes on a milder flavor. A bottle of fish sauce that hasn’t been opened yet can retain its quality a year past its expiration date. An opened bottle can last for six months when kept in the pantry and longer than a year when stored in the fridge. 


How Can You Tell If Fish Sauce Has Gone Bad?

While it is rare for fish sauce to go bad, especially when stored under proper conditions, you shouldn’t completely eliminate the possibility of this happening. So, how can you tell if your fish sauce is no longer edible? While checking, you may see some signs that may erroneously make you believe that it has gone bad. One of these is the presence of clear crystals. These crystals are deposited at the bottom of the bottle. They are sea salt and completely natural, so you don’t have to worry about this negatively affecting the quality of the fish sauce. There could also be some particles floating around, but these are only proteins formed through protein precipitation. This natural process takes place as a result of exposure to changes in temperature. However, this is also completely harmless, and your fish sauce will retain its quality. 


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How do you know when your fish sauce is bad? If there is any yeast or mold on the surface of the sauce, then it has gone bad. You should also check if the smell has become foul, and it takes on a color that is noticeably different from how it looked when you first bought it. When you are sure that the fish sauce smells and looks okay, you can give it a taste to fully confirm if it’s good enough for your next recipe. If you have the tiniest bit of doubt at any point, it’s safer to discard it immediately.


Is It Okay to Use Expired Fish sauce?

You can use expired fish sauce if it has been stored in the best conditions and has an undamaged package. You can tell the expiry date by looking at the bottle’s label. However, this is an estimate and should still give you ample storage time. You can use this for about six months after its expiry date. Yet, if your checks on its level of safety are not convincing enough, throw it out.


Related Questions

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How can you pick the right fish sauce?

It is essential to look out for a variety of fish sauce that is high in protein. The fish sauce contains a dark liquid made with shellfish and fish varieties with high oil content. This is then filled with salt, which ferments the fish overtime to produce the salty liquid we know. This usually takes about two years to get fermented before distribution to consumers. Therefore, if it doesn’t have high protein content, that means it wasn’t fermented for a reasonable period for the fish to release glutamate. Another reason could be a result of not using enough fish during the initial production process. Pick the fish sauce with high protein content to get that balanced savory punch you would love. 


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How can you use leftover fish sauce?

Leftover fish sauce can be put to good use instead of being abandoned in a pantry until it spoils. Here are some ways you can use your leftover fish sauce:

  • Drizzle a bit of fish sauce into your gumbo
  • Pour it on meatloaf and burgers
  • Add your fish sauce to meaty baked beans and whisk into ranch dressings
  • Stir fish sauce into grits and then top with shrimps
  • Fish sauce will add more flavor to onions while caramelizing in a pan
  • Stir into guacamole or pour in Bolognese sauce.


Can you substitute fish sauce for oyster sauce?

Fish sauce and oyster sauce are completely different sauces that bring in their unique spices into various recipes. Oyster sauce contains a mixture of soy sauce, salt, oyster juices, and sugar. Then, it is thickened with corn starch. However, this has an entirely different aroma, flavor, and taste than the fish sauce containing salt and fermented fish. Fish sauce is a reddish-brown salty sauce with a watery consistency and fishy flavor, while oyster sauce has a subtle salty undertone in the thicker and sweeter sauce. While fish sauce is used to season soups or in marinades, oyster sauce enhances seafood-based dishes. These are different functionalities, which makes it not advisable to substitute one for the other. This will only completely change the taste of your food. Better substitutes for fish sauce are soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce


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Should you pick Vietnam fish sauce?


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Yes, it is a good idea to buy fish sauce made in Vietnam. While there are different brands of fish sauce from other countries in Asia, the best ones are usually from the southeast coastal towns and southwest coasts. These are great locations for the best fish sauce due to the high-quality fish, perfect climate in the region during fermentation, and the type of sea salt used. Some companies make their fish sauce with wild black anchovies that contain salt already.


You can run a quick check on your fish sauce now to determine if it is good enough to be used in your recipe. Even if you have had your bottle of fish sauce for just a few months, if you check through for signs of deterioration and it looks compromised in any way, it is always best to discard immediately. However, the expiry date is not a significant factor when determining if your fish sauce should remain in the pantry or head to the trash. Now, you can use your fish sauce to create unique recipes for you and your loved ones.

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