Does Fish Sauce Go Bad – What is Fish Sauce Shelf Life?

Does Fish Sauce Go Bad ?

If you aren’t well-versed with Southeast Asian cuisine, chances are your oyster and fish sauces are catching dust in your kitchen pantry. That might make you wonder about its quality when you finally take it out to prepare Pad Thai or marinate your vegetables and meat.

Just like any other sauce, the fish sauce will go bad. While it could either be due to the passage of time or the lack of proper storage techniques, it is inevitable.

However, it can be challenging to determine whether your fish sauce has gone bad or not just by looking at it. That is where we come in with the following guide that will give you all the necessary pointers. Along with that, we shall help you store your fish sauce in the right manner so that you can use it for a long period.

How Long Does Fish Sauce Last?

How Long Does Fish Sauce Last

The shelf life of fish sauce highly depends on the storage facilities of the bottle. Let us look at the distinctive scenarios.

Does unopened Fish sauce expire?

It is always safe to store the unopened bottle of Fish Sauce for a year after the use-by or best-by date mentioned on its label. The estimated period for storage of unopened bottles after the best-by date is three-four years.

How Long Does Fish Sauce Last Once Opened?

For an opened bottle of Fish Sauce, refrigeration is necessary to use the sauce for another year without compromising its quality and taste. The opened Fish Sauce stays flavored and fresh for at least a year if adequately refrigerated after opening, thanks to the high salt content and lack of perishable components.

Some brands only mention the bottling date and not the use-by date on the label, while others put this data because consumers prefer buying sauces based on this detail. But, it doesn’t affect the fact that Fish Sauce is safe to use for at least a year after the best-by date labeled on the bottle.

Fish Sauce Shelf Life
Fish Sauce Type Pantry Fridge
Unopened Fish Sauce One Year after Best-By Date
Opened Fish Sauce Up to Six Months After Opening Over a Year


The Fish Sauce won’t spoil quickly, but it doesn’t mean that quality and flavor will stay the same always. It degrades gradually, and the taste disappears while the flavor gets milder with time.


How Can You Tell If Fish Sauce Has Gone Bad?

How to Identify If Your Fish Sauce is Not Edible

As mentioned, Fish Sauce is not likely to go bad sooner, but you must always keep checking the condition before using it to avoid unnecessary hassles later.

Despite the fact that manufacturers mention the best-by date on the label, there is no legal need related to the Fish Sauce Expiration Date in the USA. But, the major catch is within the consumers who rely on the sauce with a noted expiry date.



If you see clear crystal formation at the bottom of the Fish Sauce, never consider it a sign of spoilage because these are the sea salt crystals that form at the bottom when stored in the sauce for a year. It won’t affect the quality of the sauce, but tossing the sauce is often recommended in such conditions.


Cloudy Particles

The cloudy substances floating in the Fish Sauce bottle are the proteins, and it is expected when the sauce is stored for a longer duration at a set temperature. It is natural and won’t influence the taste and flavor of the sauce.



The color of fresh Fish Sauce is golden-brownish, reddish-brown, and translucent with sediments. But, as it starts degrading, the color changes to darker shades. But it won’t affect the taste and quality.



The smell of fresh Fish Sauce is savory fish which many people don’t like. But it fades away when added to the meal. But, as the sauce starts getting bad, it releases a rotten and foul smell. It is a sign of spoilage.



The taste changes over time, and if you taste it differently than the fresh Fish Sauce, you must discard it as it means the sauce has gone bad.


Mold Growth

Mold growth in Fish Sauce is not expected. But you may see some mold on the cap of the bottle. If you see any mold or traces on the surface of the sauce, discard the bottle immediately.


Refrigerate Vs. Shelf-Stable



As long as the bottle of Fish Sauce is unopened, you can keep it inside your kitchen cabinet or pantry. It must be kept outside the refrigerator at room temperature or below.

Ensure that the sauce is away from the direct source of heat and light, as it may affect the sauce’s quality. Once it is opened, the sauce must be sealed tightly and stored in the fridge.

The Red Boat Fish Sauce brand suggests storing the sauce in the refrigerator after opening to preserve its quality.

Since the sauce contains a high amount of salt, it will never go rancid when stored at room temperature after opening. It must be consumed within three-six months. But, refrigeration will help sustain its quality longer.


Shelf Stable

Fish Sauce has a shelf life of two-three years and longer fermentation and production time. Therefore, it stays excellent when stored outside a fridge.

The sauce may ferment a bit more when stored unrefrigerated, resulting in slight flavor and taste change, but it is still edible and safe for consumption. But, refrigeration will enhance its quality and taste longer.


Is It Okay to Use Expired Fish sauce?

Consuming expired food is not safe as you may develop the signs of food poisoning, followed by other symptoms, including diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramping, and fever.

But, it is not the case with Fish Sauce, all thanks to the high salt content, fermentation, and production period that prevent the sauce from spoilage for years to come. Plus, the taste and flavor also remain the same with a slight change.

Salt acts as the preservative for the sauce that prevents it from spoilage. Plus, you won’t experience any adverse effects on your health after eating the expired Fish Sauce, provided that it is stored in its original packaging.


Is Freezing Necessary for Fish Sauce?

Fish Sauce is not meant for freezing, and hence consumers must not freeze their Fish Sauce. The logic behind it is that Fish Sauce is high in salt content, and it needs no freezing. Sources confirm that salt is the best preservative that can kill bacteria while keeping the products safe and edible for consumption for a long time.

With no bacterial formation, there is less chance of spoilage due to microorganisms. Therefore, the Fish Sauce is safe for storage in the refrigerator or pantry without freezing. You can store it for months and even years in the fridge or pantry without the need to freeze it.


How To Store Fish Sauce? 

How to Store Your Fish Sauce for Longer Shelf Life!

The ultimate storage solution for Fish Sauce is the original packaging, as it comes in airtight bottles; you have to keep the sauce in the original pack away from direct sunlight and heat sources.


Can You Keep Fish Sauce in the Pantry Sauce or Kitchen Cabinet? 

Until the bottle of Fish Sauce is sealed and unopened, it is excellent to store it in the pantry or kitchen cabinet. But ensure to maintain a stable temperature for the sauce, and it must be kept in the dark places away from direct heat and sunlight.

Avoid storing the bottle next to heat sources, like the dishwasher, stove, and microwave. Even after opening the bottle, you can keep it in your pantry by closing the lid tightly to prevent oxidative damage.

Ensure to check the sauce occasionally and clean the lid whenever necessary to prevent mold growth.


Does Fish Sauce Need To Be Refrigerated?

Even though you can store the Fish Sauce in the pantry after opening it, it is always best to place it in your refrigerator, especially if you plan to use the sauce longer or save it untouched for a long time.

Because of the high salt content, Fish Sauce will never go bad for a couple of weeks when stored in the pantry. It tends to last for six months after opening when stored in your pantry. But, the Fish Sauce would typically keep losing its flavor and taste when stored in the pantry as the temperature is warmer in the pantry.

So, the temperature inside the refrigerator is suitable for sustaining its quality, taste, and flavor. If you want to use the sauce for an extended period above six months, it is suggested.


Pro Tips for Storage


  • If you plan to use the sauce for more than six months, refrigeration is necessary to maintain its premium quality.
  • Storing the Fish Sauce in the pantry is fine, but it must be used within a shorter duration.
  • There is no need to freeze the Fish Sauce as it comes with salt that acts as a preservative.

Is fish sauce healthy?

Apart from its fantastic taste, fish sauce brings several health benefits to the table. Such a nutritional and tasty combination makes it even more necessary to preserve this condiment in the best possible manner.

Rich Nutritional Profile 

Fish sauce is highly nourishing since it contains protein, calcium, vitamins, minerals, Omega 3 fatty acids, etc. Such a rich nutritional profile helps reduce fatigue, boosts mental and blood health, prevents cancer, protects the cells from free radicals, etc.

Lowers High Blood Pressure 

Even though fish sauce has a high sodium content, it is known to lower high blood pressure. But this is only valid till it is consumed in moderation.

Aids with Weight Loss 

Since fish sauce can also stabilize blood sugar levels, it prevents you from getting hungry again and again. This can help you maintain your diet and facilitate weight loss.

What are the Alternatives to Fish Sauce if it has gone bad?

Wait, has your fish sauce gone bad already? Are you looking for its ideal replacement? If yes, the following options will not disappoint:

  • Coconut Secret Raw Coconut Aminos
  • San-J Organic Gluten-Free Tamari
  • Healthy Boy Gluten-Free Oyster Sauce
  • 365 by Whole Foods Market Organic Worcestershire Sauce
  • GimMe Organic Roasted Seaweed Sheets

Frequently Asked Questions


Ques – Is Fish Sauce Supposed To Smell Bad?

Ans – The fresh fish sauce has a savory smell and fishy odor, which many people never like. The smell is unpleasant, but it diminishes when cooked with the dishes as the cooking process reduces the fishy smell. But, if you still experience a foul smell in your dish, it means the sauce has gone bad.


Ques – Is There any Vegan Alternative to Fish Sauce?

Ans – If you are a vegetarian or looking for an alternative to Fish Sauce because of its fishy smell, you may opt for Soy Sauce. However, the depth of flavor you experience with Fish Sauce is hard to replicate, but say sauce works pretty well as the alternative when preparing different recipes.


Ques – Does Fish sauce go bad at room temperature?

Ans – Fish Sauce has a longer fermentation and production time, and hence it stays fine when it is kept at room temperature after opening. But, the sauce will start degrading or fermenting gradually, leading to changes in taste, flavor, and quality over time. But, it is still edible and safe for use.

Ques- How can you use leftover fish sauce?

If you have an extra bottle of fish sauce that must be used within the next couple of weeks, you can try your hand at Asian cuisine. We highly recommend trying chicken ramen bowl, shrimp curry, juicy burgers, noodles, etc.

Ques- Does fish sauce need to be cooked? 

No, you need not cook the fish sauce. You can use it to marinate meat, use it as a salad dressing, add it to rice or noodles, etc.


Since Fish Sauce is not the most commonly used ingredient in every cuisine, it is often stored in the refrigerator for several years. But, you don’t need to worry about its spoilage because it is a long-lasting sauce due to its high salt content, which acts as a preservative.

Fish Sauce has a longer shelf life and can be used for years without any side effects. Whether you need to refrigerate the Fish Sauce or not depends on the frequency of use and the brand. However, it is always best to tightly secure the lid before storing it.

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