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Which Condiments Need to Be Refrigerated?

Does mayo need to be kept in the fridge? What about ketchup? And soy sauce?

Published Sept. 15, 2023.

Making everything fit in my fridge can be a game of Tetris. I only share it with one other person, but as avid cooks, our condiment game is strong and we have to be choosy about what must go in the fridge and what can stay in the pantry. 

We asked the makers of our go-to condiments to get the definitive advice for whether or not they must be stored in the fridge after opening. 

Spoiler alert: The advice wasn’t as clear-cut as we expected it to be. Many manufacturers told us it was perfectly safe to store opened containers at room temperature, but that refrigeration would slow down flavor changes that heat and light can exacerbate. Always using a clean knife or spoon to get condiments out of the jar will also help avoid introducing spores that will encourage spoilage.

Another thing to keep in mind—most condiments will have a “use by” date on the package—this isn’t about when something has gone bad but rather when a product’s quality may start to decline. Above all, if it smells weird, is an off color, or is growing mold, toss it. 

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1. Mayonnaise - It Depends

Everyone thinks mayo must be refrigerated after opening, but that’s not necessarily true. We asked the folks at Hellman’s/Best Foods and they said “this product has a one-month ambient open shelf life and a two-month refrigerated open shelf life.” Acidic ingredients such as vinegar and lemon juice inhibit bacterial growth, but refrigeration helps mayo taste fresher for longer. Note: This is not reliably true of homemade mayo, which should always be refrigerated.

2. Mustard - No

Mustard also contains ingredients such as vinegar that make an opened jar kept at room temperature safe to eat. But if you want to preserve the flavor and heat, keep it in the fridge.

3. Ketchup - No

The acidic ingredients in ketchup prevent it from going bad if kept at room temperature after opening. But over time, its flavor might deteriorate. The folks at Heinz say, “excessive heat may cause the product to darken and may change the flavor of the ketchup.” Restaurants avoid this issue because they go through bottles left on tables quickly, but if you’re using it slowly at home, put it in the fridge.

4. Hot Sauce - No

Most hot sauce is highly acidic, which prevents a bottle from spoiling at room temperature. Its flavor may change over time, and refrigerating will slow that evolution.

5. Chili Crisp - No

Recommendations vary by brand, but most chili crisp or chili crunch doesn’t need to be stored in the fridge. Most companies use garlic, shallots, and chiles that have been dried, which decreases the risk of bacterial growth. But as with many other condiments, storing it in the fridge will slow any flavor changes that might occur.

6. Fish Sauce - No

The high concentration of salt in fish sauce means it won’t go bad at room temperature, but the color may lighten and the flavor will become more complex as the sauce ages. Keeping it in the fridge will slow this down.

7. Soy Sauce - No

My colleague Valerie Sizhe Li took a deep dive and consulted the experts. The verdict? It won’t go bad at room temperature, but storing it in the fridge “will keep it at peak quality for longer.”

8. Vinegar - No

Vinegar is at least 4% acid, giving it an indefinite shelf life even after opening. It can slowly change in color and taste over time, but storing it in a cool, dark cabinet is enough to preserve a consistent flavor profile.

9. Jams/Jellies - Yes

While many jams and jellies contain preservatives and acidic ingredients, they can quickly spoil if left at room temperature. Smucker’s recommends discarding “opened products if they have been without refrigeration for more than 48 hours.”

10. Peanut Butter - It Depends

Conventional peanut butters made with hydrogenated oils are fine at room temperature after opening. However, it’s possible for the oils in natural peanut butter to go rancid. If you go through a jar slowly, storing it in the fridge is a good idea. Refrigerating also helps to minimize oil separation in natural peanut butter.

11. Honey - No

Reviews Senior Editor Carolyn Grillo recently wrote a story on honey and learned that honey doesn’t need to be refrigerated after opening. In fact, refrigeration will make it crystallize more quickly. The USDA recommends using honey within 12 months for the best quality.

12. Salsa - Yes

Salsa should be refrigerated after opening and will keep for about two weeks, as it is not acidic enough to keep from spoiling.

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