Does Soy Sauce Go Bad? Shelf Life & Expiration

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A common ingredient in Asian-inspired dishes, soy sauce will be a key product stored in most kitchens.

But if you only use a little every now and then, you need to know – does soy sauce go bad? How can you tell, and how can you make it last longer?

Unopened soy sauce bottles can last indefinitely when stored in the pantry, although will lose some of their flavor over time. Once opened, soy sauce can last around two years in the fridge.

You’re in luck, chances are you can hold onto that half-used bottle of soy sauce for a year or two longer, if you store it correctly.

Soy Sauce Shelf Life And Expiration Dates

From the time you break the seal, soy sauce is at peak flavor and intensity for around three months. However, expired soy sauce is not necessarily unhealthy soy sauce.

  • Soy Sauce/Koikuchi/Dark/Light – A sealed bottle of soy sauce has an indefinite shelf life when stored correctly. However, for optimal quality, we recommend using it within three years. Once opened, it will still be good for up to two years if stored in the refrigerator. However, for peak flavor, we recommend replacing an opened bottle after six months.
  • Tamari/Shoyu Sauce – These sauces are naturally brewed and fermented and will go bad more rapidly than commercial soy sauce. Unopened and stored correctly, they are best used within two years. Once opened, they’ll only stay in their prime for around three months – but will stay safe to use for a lot longer.
soy sauce

The best before date on soy sauce merely serves as a guide to let you know how long the product will be at its best. Soy sauce can last far beyond that date when stored correctly.

SEE ALSO: How To Read Expiration Dates

Because soy sauce is high in sodium, it prohibits the growth of the microorganisms which cause products to turn rancid or moldy.

How To Tell If Soy Sauce Is Bad

Soy sauce, as a fermented beverage, is unlikely to spoil in the traditional sense. That being said, oxidation robs fermented beverages of their premium quality, and this process starts as soon as you open the bottle.

Whereas other soy products such as milk and expired tofu can make you very sick if consumed out of date, soy sauce doesn’t go bad, therefore it can’t make you ill.

Good, fresh soy sauce should be reddish-brown in color – depending on what type you are using – and have a distinctive aroma. Over time, soy sauce will darken in color and intensify in flavor.

  1. Examine your soy sauce. If stored incorrectly, i.e. with no lid, soy sauce can become contaminated. If this is a risk, pour it into a glass or bowl and see if there’s any floating particles or anything else that looks like it doesn’t belong. If there is, throw the bottle out.
  2. Take a whiff. Although unlikely, if there are any rancid, off, or generally strange odors, something has clearly caused your soy sauce to turn.
  3. Put a dab of sauce on your tongue. You should easily pick up any unwelcome flavors that may indicate your product is not in its prime.

Do You Have To Refrigerate Soy Sauce?

Before opening, soy sauce should be stored in a cool, dry area. Make sure it’s away from sunlight and the heat of your stove or microwave oven. It can remain stored here long term before breaking the seal.

After opening, you can still choose to keep your soy sauce in the pantry, it can last quite a long time here. However, for the optimal retention of flavor and longevity, it’s best to keep your bottle in the fridge, tightly sealed.

Written By Tara Williams

Tara is a food writer that has been editing and authoring articles for KitchenSanity since its founding. Her writing offers personal experience from experimentation with food and recipe creation. If you’re looking for simple tips, she will make your journey in the kitchen straightforward with a dash of fun.