Do Condiments Expire? Here’s How Long Condiments Really Last

We know you have a collection of condiments in your fridge or pantry—here's how long you can use them safely

Do condiments expire? Whether it’s the ketchup you only pull out for summer barbecues or some fancy dressing you used six months ago to make a dip for your friend’s party, there are bound to be a few half-used bottles of condiments cluttering up the shelves in your fridge. You might think it’s a good idea to keep them around to reduce your food waste, but a lot of condiments have a shorter shelf life than people realize.

Yes, condiments are going to last you a lot longer than a bag of chips or fresh fruit, but you should still pay attention to the use-by or sell-by date. In fact, it’s a good idea to optimize your fridge organization and pantry organization to clearly see the expiration dates on all your provisions. While nonperishable foods are generally safe, make sure you never eat these foods past their expiration date!

Condiments are shelf-stable foods and can be stored unopened in the pantry for long periods of time. Optimal storage is in a dry, cool area below 85 degrees, or in the fridge (if the condiment should be refrigerated after being opened) with a temperature of 40 degrees or lower. The Food Marketing Institute recommends that you follow these storage guidelines and always read package labels before consuming the food.

Do condiments really expire?

Yes! Condiments do expire, so it’s important to keep an eye on your shelves full of sauces. Any food that’s too old can grow bacteria and lose or change its taste over time—even canned food doesn’t last forever.

The best-case scenario is that your old hot sauce tastes stale instead of spicy. The worst-case scenario is that you get serious food poisoning from some old mayo or cream-based dressing you forgot about for too long. Many condiments can last for months without refrigeration if they haven’t been opened. But once you open them, most sauces and salad dressings then need to be refrigerated, both for best flavor and for food safety. If you’re a foodie, check out these fun food facts!

How long do condiments last?

Barbecue sauce

  • Unopened in pantry: 12 months
  • Refrigerated after opening: 4 months
  • In pantry after opening: 1 month

Ketchup, cocktail or chili sauce

  • Unopened in pantry: 12 months
  • Refrigerated after opening: 6 months
  • In pantry after opening: 1 month

Chutney

  • Unopened in pantry: 12 months
  • Refrigerated after opening: 1–2 months

Fish sauce

  • Unopened in pantry: 1-plus year
  • Refrigerated after opening: 1-plus year
  • In pantry after opening: 3–6 months

Gochujang

  • Refrigerated after opening: 2 years

Hoisin

  • Unopened in pantry: 18–24 month
  • Refrigerated after opening: 3–6 months

Horseradish in jar

  • Unopened in pantry: 12 months
  • Refrigerated after opening: 3–4 months

Hot sauce

  • Unopened in pantry: 6 months
  • Refrigerated after opening: up to 3 years, depending on perishable ingredients

Mayonnaise

  • Unopened in pantry: 3–6 months
  • Refrigerated after opening: 2 months

Mustard

  • Unopened in pantry: 12 months
  • Refrigerated after opening: 12 months
  • In pantry after opening: 1 month

Olives (black and green)

  • Unopened in pantry: 12–18 months
  • Refrigerated after opening: 2 weeks

Oyster sauce

  • Unopened in pantry: 18–24 months
  • Refrigerated after opening: 3–6 months

Pickles

  • Unopened in pantry: 12 months
  • Refrigerated after opening: 1–2 weeks

Relish

  • Unopened in pantry: 30 months
  • Refrigerated after opening: 9 months

Salad dressings

  • Unopened in pantry: 10–12 months
  • Refrigerated after opening: 3 months

Salsa, picante and taco sauces

  • Unopened in pantry: 12 months
  • Refrigerated after opening: 1 month

Sauerkraut (pasteurized)

  • Unopened in pantry: 3–6 months
  • Refrigerated after opening: 5–7 days

Tahini

  • Unopened in pantry: 1 year
  • Refrigerated after opening: 3 weeks

Tartar sauce

  • Unopened in pantry: 12–18 months
  • Refrigerated after opening: 6 months

Wasabi

  • Unopened in pantry: 3 months
  • Refrigerated after opening: 3–4 months

Not that you know condiments do expire, check your shelves for anything that’s out of date! And while you’re looking, store these foods that should never be kept in the pantry elsewhere.

Additional reporting by Morgan Cutolo.

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Sarah Vincent
Sarah Vincent is an assistant editor for Reader’s Digest, covering digital lifestyle stories. She has also worked as a culture journalist, and you can find her published in America, National Catholic Reporter and Sojourners. In her free time, she loves crafting, cooking, traveling and learning (or forgetting!) Japanese.