Does Chili Paste Need To Be Refrigerated?

Chili paste in its most basic form will contain nothing but chilies. Though, they can be more complex, too, when unique ingredients and even fermentation involved. Like any fresh produce, chilies will at some point go bad unless you take steps to prevent spoilage. Is refrigeration a good way to extend its shelf life? Does chili paste need to be refrigerated? Let’s get into the details.

Does chili paste need to be refrigerated
Does chili paste need to be refrigerated? Does homemade vs. commercial matter?

Should you refrigerate chili paste?

The short answer is yes for homemade chili paste; it won’t always be possible to make precisely the amount you need, so you may have leftovers, and the best place to store leftover homemade chili paste is in the refrigerator. The best place to store any kind of chili paste long-term is in the refrigerator.

If you intend to use an open container of commercially made chili paste in a relatively short period, you may not have to refrigerate it. Similarly, you don’t have to refrigerate it if it’s in a sealed container. Refrigerate opened bottles of most commercial chili pastes that you won’t use right away. While some chili pastes do have preservatives that allow them to be stored at room temperature safely, even these will last longer if you keep them in the refrigerator.

You should always refrigerate a chili paste if in any doubt. Fermented chili pastes, like gochujang, and oil-based ones, like sambal petai and lao gan ma, will all benefit from refrigeration.

Does refrigeration increase its shelf life?

Refrigeration will extend the shelf life of chili paste. How much it extends the shelf life depends on factors like the chili paste’s expiration date, how well it was stored before refrigeration, and the type you have.

Refrigeration can ensure that chili paste lasts for several months longer than it would if stored at room temperature. If you are storing homemade chili paste, sterilize the jar to ensure an even longer storage time in the refrigerator.

Does refrigerating chili paste change its flavor?

Generally, refrigeration will not change the flavor of your chili paste; however, it may change other related properties. Chili pastes that contain a lot of oil may harden when stored at low temperatures. You can bring oil-based chili pastes back to their original state by allowing them to get to room temperature before use.

Storing your fermented chili paste in the refrigerator may improve its taste over time. The longer the fermented chili paste ages, the more complex and mellow its flavors become.

Should some chili pastes be refrigerated more than others?

If your chili paste contains garlic, this can be a recipe for disaster if you store it incorrectly. Garlic in some chili pastes can support the growth of Clostridium botulinum bacteria, which causes the illness known as botulism. Botulism is often fatal — up to a third of people who are diagnosed with the illness die from it. One reliable way to prevent botulism in chili paste is to not use garlic at all if you are making it at home.

If your chili paste does contain garlic — fresh or cooked — then the only safe storage option is to refrigerate it. Do not store your chili paste with garlic for longer than a month, and throw it out if you haven’t used it up in that time. If your homemade chili paste contains both oil and garlic, you should make sure to use it within three days. Commercially made chili pastes will usually contain chemicals to mitigate the botulism risk from garlic.

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UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on March 20, 2022 to include new content.
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