Wondering which condiments do or do not need to be refrigerated is common. I mean they don’t exactly teach this in school, right? Many recipes call for condiments, and sometimes you find that one sauce you can’t get enough of, so you put it on everything. If you’re like me and can’t eat without using sauces, you might find yourself with a refrigerator that’s overflowing with bottles.
As a general rule of thumb, if a condiment is acidic or fermented, contains preservatives, and doesn’t contain fruits, vegetables, or dairy, it does not need to be refrigerated and should be safe on the shelf. Be sure to check before consuming. If they smell rancid or taste funny, throw them out.
There are several factors that determine whether or not a condiment is safe to keep outside of the refrigerator after opening. Ultimately, color, taste, and smell are good indicators of a condiment’s freshness. Keep that in mind as you read on for more detail about which condiments can be stored outside of the refrigerator after opening.
What Condiments Can Be Left Out?
Because refrigeration is so important, many people are hesitant to keep condiments outside of the refrigerator because of those undetectable bacteria. However, condiments that are acidic or fermented can last a fair amount of time in the pantry without any change in quality. If these condiments contain preservatives, they should last even longer.
Acidic and fermented condiments include but is not limited to:
- Fish sauce
- Soy sauce
- Vinegar-based hot sauce
Most oils can last in the pantry, as well. Sesame oil and hazelnut oil, however, should be refrigerated because they spoil very easily at room temperature.
Peanut butter can be kept at room temperature unless it’s natural peanut butter. It should have some kind of preservative in it in order to keep it outside of the refrigerator. Peanut butter does not have as long as a shelf life as an acidic condiment, however, so be careful about how long you keep it sitting in the pantry. If you want to store peanut butter long term, I recommend having the powdered version on hand.
Honey should never be put in the refrigerator. Once honey becomes cool, it becomes thicker, and it will be difficult to get out of the bottle.
How Long Can Condiments Last Unrefrigerated?
The length of how long a condiment can last can vary from product to product. It will depend on the contents of the condiment and how it is stored. Keep unrefrigerated condiments in a dark, cool place and keep the lid on tightly. A cupboard or pantry with a door is the best place to keep condiments because they don’t get too warm and can’t receive any sunlight.
These are the shelf lives of the most commonly used condiments that have been mentioned previously.
Fish sauce is fermented and does not need to be refrigerated. It will last up to four years on the shelf. It will lose flavor over time. If it tastes bland or has developed a funky flavor, it’s probably time to throw it out.
Honey will keep indefinitely in both the pantry and the refrigerator. Keeping honey in a cool space will cause it to crystalize quicker, so it is best to keep it at room temperature in a cool, dry place.
Ketchup can last one month unrefrigerated or up to twelve months in the refrigerator. Ketchup can still be used if the flavor, texture, or color changes, but be careful if you choose to do so.
It is often debated where to keep ketchup. Restaurants keep it on the table while many families choose to keep it in the refrigerator. If you’re not sure what you should do, consider how long it will take you to use an entire bottle. If you will use it up in a month, then keeping it in the pantry will be fine.
Yellow, whole-grain, and Dijon mustard can last up to two months in the pantry. It may be safe to use after two months, but its quality will be lowered. Its color, taste, and smell may change. Refrigerating mustard will keep it fresh for up to eighteen months.
There are several oils you can cook with, and they each have different storage requirements.
Oils that can last up to twelve months unrefrigerated include:
Oils that can last up to two years unrefrigerated include:
- Cooking spray
If you live in a humid area, it is best to keep olive oil in the refrigerator. It will last up to two years.
Peanut butter that was commercially packaged and processed will last about three months in the pantry. You can put it in the refrigerator after three months of pantry storage to extend its life. You should get about three more months of use afterward.
Natural peanut butter that doesn’t contain any stabilizers should be kept in the refrigerator; however, it will last three to four weeks in the pantry. It can last up to six months in the refrigerator.
Soy sauce will be the best quality in the pantry for up to six months, although you can keep it on the shelf for up to twelve months. In the refrigerator, it will last up to two years.
Vinegar-Based Hot Sauce
Vinegar-based hot sauces like Tabasco will be its best quality for up to six months outside of the refrigerator; however, it can last as long as three years without refrigeration. Be aware that its color will change over time.
In the refrigerator, a bottle can last up to five years if the lid remains intact, and there is no damage to the bottle.
What Sauces Need to Be Refrigerated?
If a sauce contains dairy or fresh ingredients like fruit and vegetables, it should be refrigerated. This includes but is not limited to:
- Cheese sauce
- Pasta sauce (marinara and alfredo)
- Salad dressing
- Steak sauce
- Sweet & sour sauce
- Worcestershire sauce
Why Do We Refrigerate Food?
Refrigerating food will slow down the growth of bacteria. Bacteria can grow very quickly on food, which is why people eat their leftovers soon after they were put into the refrigerator. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a refrigerator set at 40°F or below will protect most foods from bacteria.
It’s important to store foods in the refrigerator because many bacteria that can grow on food can’t be detected. If food is stored above 40°F, bacteria may be present but won’t cause the food to taste or smell different. If food has been left out for several hours, it’s best to throw it away rather than to risk eating bacteria you can’t see.
If a condiment is acidic, contains preservatives, and does not contain dairy, fruit, or vegetables, it should be okay to store it at room temperature in a cool, dark place. Color, taste, and texture may change over time. Throw condiments away if they taste or smell bad or if there is any sign of mold.
If you have any doubts, it is best to refrigerate the condiment and follow the “Best Used By” date on the package.
Remember that bacteria sometimes cannot be detected, so it is important to keep safe food practices. Don’t leave out condiments for too long, especially if it’s hot. Keep lids on bottles tightly, and don’t damage the bottles and containers.
We tried to cover everything in this article, but there’s still a chance you didn’t find the exact food you had in mind. For a comprehensive list of what should be in the refrigerator and what doesn’t have to be, Still Tasty offers an alphabetical list and a search bar to find exactly what you’re looking for.
Do eggs require refrigeration? Due to the possibility of Salmonella bacteria, it is best to take the precaution of refrigerating eggs. However, many European countries do not keep their eggs cold. On the other hand, people in the United States almost always do.
Why do restaurants not refrigerate ketchup? The reason restaurants do not generally refrigerate ketchup is that their customers tend to use it up so fast. Since ketchup can last about a month without refrigeration, there is simply no good reason to haul the stuff back and forth from the fridge in between customers.
Should natural peanut butter be refrigerated? Natural peanut butter normally keeps unrefrigerated for about a month, so whether or not it should be refrigerated depends on how fast you use it up. If you use an entire jar in less than a month, leave it out. If you take more than a month to eat the entire jar, keep it cold.