Does Sweet Chili Sauce Need to Be Refrigerated?

Sweet chili sauce is a popular Asian dip and condiment that is also known as nam chim kai. As a sweet and tangy sauce with a mild heat, sweet chili sauce is commonly served with fried foods and as a stir-fry sauce. Unless you plan to use all of it in one sitting, you should think about how you will store the sauce. Do you need to keep it cold or not? Let’s take a look.

Should you refrigerate sweet chili sauce?

Whether you should refrigerate sweet chili sauce or not depends on several factors like whether it was homemade or commercial and whether the container is open or sealed. In general, you should refrigerate homemade sweet chili sauce since the conditions in which it was made may be less stringent than those in a commercial facility, but there are possible exceptions to this rule.

–> See our homemade sweet chili sauce recipe

The exceptions include homemade sweet chili sauce consisting of 20 percent or more vinegar. The pH of a sauce with that much vinegar should be low enough to preserve it at room temperature if the container is properly sealed. Another exception is a homemade sweet chili sauce with a preservative like sodium benzoate added. If you are in any doubt about the pH or whether it has a preservative, refrigerate.

You should refrigerate any opened container of sweet chili sauce, whether it is homemade or commercially made, if you plan to store it for a long time. You can usually store commercial sweet chili sauce at room temperature for short periods. There is no need to refrigerate an unopened container of commercially made sweet chili sauce.

Does refrigeration increase its shelf life?

Refrigeration in an airtight container increases the shelf life of sweet chili sauce to about nine months from about one month at room temperature. The extent of the increase in shelf life varies depending on certain factors.

For example, one factor is how much time the sauce spent at room temperature after being opened. The longer an open container of sweet chili sauce is stored at room temperature, the shorter the shelf life will be even if you move it to the refrigerator. You will be able to tell if your sweet chili sauce is spoiled or has begun to spoil by its sour smell and/or the presence of visible mold.

Does refrigerating sweet chili sauce change its flavor?

Typically, storing sweet chili sauce in the refrigerator will have absolutely no impact on its flavor, but there are a few cases where it might. The flavor of sweet chili sauce may change if the container is not sealed. With an unsealed container, the smells of other items in the refrigerator may contaminate the sauce and affect its flavor profile. The sauce’s flavor may change if it has been stored for too long and has begun to spoil.

Some people believe that storing hot sauces and food items in the refrigerator can either make them more or less spicy, but there is no conclusive evidence to support either claim (beyond just normal infusion times.)

Other benefits

Depending on its recipe, sweet chili sauce may thicken when stored in the refrigerator. A thicker sauce may be desirable for some applications, especially if you intend to use it as a dipping sauce or as a condiment for cold dishes. The sauce will return to its normal consistency when it gets to room temperature.

Furthermore, if you have a fermented sweet chili sauce, storing it in the refrigerator may allow you to stop the fermentation process so that the sauce lasts for longer.

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UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on March 27, 2022 to include new content.
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