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How Long Does Soy Sauce Last? Can It Go Bad?

Soy sauce just seems to be one of those ingredients that we purchase, put aside, and kind of never think about again. It just seems to have such a high quantity of sauce in it that it is inconceivable that it could even begin to fade as time goes on. However, though this may be true to a point, it isn’t all as simple as that. After all, everything begins to fade over time, as air and other elements get at it. And though many of us will have never come across a bottle of gone off soy sauce, these things can happen.

So, if you have found yourself face to face with a bottle of soy sauce that may well be years old, there will be a few things to take into account before you use it. Though the salt in it does make it a rather unlikely environment for bacteria to grow in, a lot depends on how the bottle was stored. After all, even the hardiest of ingredients have their fail points. Even spirits can go off if they aren’t stored with a bit of care. So, to make sure you don’t end up accidentally ruining a perfectly good dish with some ancient relic of a soy sauce, we have put together a few tips. In this article, we will deal with how best to store soy sauce so it can survive the wars, and how to tell when it is best to abandon all hope and chuck it out. If this is what you came here for, read on!


The Best Way to Store Soy Sauce

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Jiang Dongmei/

Unopened bottles

Soy sauce, thankfully, is one of the hardiest ingredients out there. As such, the best thing to compare it to in terms of storage is a hot sauce. Both are hostile environments for bacteria to breed in, but yet neither can just be left out on the countertop for years and years without consequence. So, for an unopened bottle, like you would with hot sauce, the best thing to do to ensure that it stays fresh is to keep it away from sunlight and heat. After that, it will pretty much take care of itself. Simply stick it in the pantry or in a kitchen cabinet and forget about it! No need to refrigerate it at this point!

Opened bottles

As with most condiments, the longevity of soy sauce is severely compromised the second it is opened. It may be tempting to simply put it back where it came from, but in actuality, this will do it no good. Air, and possible traces of bacteria in the air will inevitably make contact with the contents of the bottle causing it to oxidize, beginning the long journey toward spoilage. Now, when we say that this is a long journey, we do so because it can be prolonged for a pretty extensive timeframe. All you really need to do is to make sure that the bottle is properly sealed, then tuck it away in the fridge. A testament to the hardiness and resilience of soy sauce is that if you were to tuck it back into the pantry after opening, it would probably still keep for a month or two. More on that in our next section.


How Long Does Soy Sauce Last?

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Unopened bottles

The great thing about the sell-by dates on soy sauce is that they can effectively be made redundant if the bottle is stored correctly. In fact, with the exception of baking soda, soy sauce may well be the last thing in your kitchen right now to expire. Though the sell-by date is a reasonable gauge of when the sauce is going to be at its absolute peak, the decline in quality thereafter is remarkably slow. As a result, we reckon that soy sauce stored in the pantry unopened can retain its taste for up to two years after the sell-by has been and gone! After this point, though the sauce may well be completely safe to use, there simply won’t be much of the flavor left for you to enjoy.

Opened bottles

As we mentioned earlier, opening a bottle of soy sauce really accelerates the rate at which it will expire. Because of this, once it has been opened, we would recommend consuming all of it within a period of a month. Though some brands may last a little longer, the general consensus for flavor stands at a month. This timeframe can be dramatically increased by putting the bottle into the fridge as soon as it has been opened, however. We reckon that in this environment, the soy sauce will still be of good quality up to 9 months after it was first opened.


Signs That Your Soy Sauce May Have Gone Off

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See also
How Long Does Saffron Last? Can it go bad?

The only thing that can really destroy a soy sauce and cause it to go off is contact with foreign bodies. By simply closing the bottle after each use, you will have more than likely prevented this from becoming a reality. In most cases, what you will be looking for is soy sauce that has simply gone stale over time. In this case, it will smell and taste a little off, or flat, but even still will be safe to consume. That being said, it definitely won’t improve the dish that you are making.

In more dramatic instances of spoilage, you should notice that these signs are a lot more obvious. For example, if the bottle has been left open for long periods there could well be some texture changes and possibly even some foreign bodies suspended in the liquid. Naturally, in either case, the bottle should instantly be discarded and replaced. If there is any doubt as to the quality of the soy sauce, we recommend having a little taste of it before committing to using it in a dish.


Should Soy Sauce be Refrigerated?

Though soy sauce can be refrigerated in its unopened sate, there really are no benefits to doing so. That being said, it won’t destroy it prematurely either. In either case, it will last for the same amount of time, but why take up valuable fridge real estate unnecessarily? Contrary to this, an opened bottle of soy sauce should always be refrigerated in between uses if you want it to stay fresh for a long time.

Due to the fairly high salt content in soy sauce, it will not freeze at temperatures that are commonly found in domestic freezer units.


Soy Sauce Storage, Sell-by Dates, and Other Related Question

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Is soy sauce fermented?

Most soy sauces are fermented for a few months, or even longer in the case of high-quality examples. However, some manufacturers choose to sidestep this process by chemically aging the sauce instead. In the case of Kikkoman soy sauce, to name one, the sauce is fermented for a total of 6 months before it is considered to be ready.

Is soy sauce gluten-free?

If you are gluten intolerant, you may well be wondering if soy sauce is gluten-free. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t a simple yes or no. Soy sauce is traditionally made using both wheat and soy, which would naturally mean that it contains gluten. However, there are examples of the sauce on the market which incorporate rice instead of wheat, making it gluten-free.

Is soy sauce vegan?

There is a bit of debate on whether or not soy sauce is vegan or not. Some claim that the brewing process can contain some animal by-products in some cases, but not others. To be really sure, opt for a chemically aged soy sauce instead of a fermented one.

Is soy sauce keto?

Soy sauce is technically keto compatible as it doesn’t contain too many carbs. However, it isn’t exactly a keto superfood either.

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