Does Chili Garlic Sauce Need To Be Refrigerated?

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Chili garlic sauce is a popular condiment that you will often see served with Asian food, but it’s versatile enough to enhance savory dishes from almost any food culture. As the name states, it consists of chopped peppers — usually ripe red jalapeños — along with garlic. Should it be refrigerated or not? Or is it ok to keep it at room temperature? Like with other sauces, the shelf life of chili garlic sauce will vary depending on how you store it. Let’s review your options.

Does chili garlic sauce need to be refrigerated
Does refrigeration matter more for a homemade chili garlic sauce than store-bought?

Table of Contents

Should you refrigerate chili garlic sauce?

Like any other food product, chili garlic sauce will eventually spoil given enough time. Makers of chili garlic sauce such as Huy Fong Foods — they make the most famous commercial brand — state that their sauce does not need to be refrigerated and will be perfectly fine if stored at room temperature unopened. Their sauce contains vinegar and salt, both of which act as preservatives. The antimicrobial properties of the peppers’ capsaicin may also contribute some preservative benefits.

Huy Fong does state that their chili garlic sauce should be stored in a cool place. Once you have opened the container, chili garlic sauce will last about a month at room temperature, so it will be fine outside of the refrigerator if you plan to use it all quickly; however, you should refrigerate it if you plan to keep it for longer. If you are dealing with homemade chili garlic sauce, you should definitely keep it in the refrigerator.

Does refrigeration increase its shelf life?

Refrigeration will increase the shelf life of both commercial and homemade chili garlic sauce. When refrigerated, an opened bottle of commercial sauce can last up to nine months. Even when it is past its best-by date, commercial chili garlic sauce should still be safe to eat, as long as you have kept it refrigerated consistently.

Keep Homemade Sauces Fresh Longer
Airtight Container (perfect for sauces and salsas)
A container with an airtight lid is critical for keeping any sauce fresher longer. For the longest shelf life for homemade sauces, use a container like this combined with refrigeration.
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02/18/2024 06:39 am GMT

Does refrigerating chili garlic sauce change its flavor?

Storing a homemade chili garlic sauce before consuming it helps the flavors to meld and mellow out, storing it in the refrigerator allows that process to take place safely without any of the changes that bacteria can cause.

Should some chili garlic sauces be refrigerated more than others?

Never store homemade sauce made with fresh garlic at room temperature because of the botulism risk. However, sauces made with dried garlic is relatively safe. Botulism is caused by Clostridium botulinum bacteria that live in the soil and that garlic bulbs will sometimes pick up. Botulism infection can result in serious illness and even death.

The acidity in chili garlic sauce can prevent botulism, but the garlic may not be sufficiently acidified immediately even if the chili garlic sauce contains vinegar or another acid. Even cooking won’t necessarily make a sauce with fresh garlic safer, since botulism bacteria can tolerate very high temperatures.

A chili garlic sauce — even one made with dried garlic — that has not been cooked to kill any bacteria present should be used quickly and should be stored in the refrigerator until it has been used up.

Other benefits to storing in the refrigerator

Moisture condensing inside the lid of a chili garlic sauce container stored at room temperature may cause the sauce to separate. This happens much less often when stored in the refrigerator. The texture and color of the chili garlic sauce may also change in undesirable ways, even if there are no issues that make the sauce unsafe to eat.

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UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on May 7, 2022 to include new content.
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