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Does Soy Sauce Go Bad? How Long Does it Last?

Soy sauce is one of those things most of us only buy every few years and rarely use. After all, it takes a long time to finish a bottle as we only use a little bit each time. So, how long does soy sauce last?

Being fermented, soy sauce does not go bad unless improperly stored. Unopened, soy sauce can last indefinitely. Once opened, the flavor will be optimum for 6 months if stored in a cool or dry place at room temperature, but when refrigerated, the flavor can remain optimum for 2 to 3 years.

In this article, we’ll learn a lot more about soy sauce, a condiment used in most Asian countries and several parts of the world. It is believed to have originated in 300 A.D. as a preservative.

Read on for more facts about soy sauce AND the best storage methods for optimum flavor and shelf life.

how long soy sauce last lg

Does Soy Sauce Go Bad?

The best way to tell if your soy sauce is bad is to look at it and give it a sniff. Does it have an off odor or a foul odor, or do you see signs of mold? Do you detect a change in its texture?

If the answer is “yes”, then it’s probably bad. However, if it looks okay and still smells nice, you may go ahead and taste it to confirm whether it’s still good.

Color, smell, texture, and taste are what you want to check.

Soy sauce naturally has a strong smell, but if you opened plastic bottles containing your sauce and were met with an overpowering odor, it’s time to discard them.

(By the way, ever wondered why some coffee beans smell a tad like soy sauce? It’s because of the locale they are harvested from. African coffee beans often give off an umami undertone).

Good soy sauce has a salty flavor.

If the taste has turned slightly bitter, or you’re just not sure if it’s still good or not, it’s better to err on the side of caution. Simply bin it, especially if you’re positive it wasn’t kept under ideal storage conditions.

But don’t sweat the change in color because a change in color does not mean it’s gone bad.

It’s natural for soy sauce’s color or flavor to change over time because of the oxidation process (when air gets in, making it darker and not as flavorful).

What about texture? Soy sauce has a semi-thick texture. If yours has turned watery, it’s time to discard it.

It’s a good idea to know how to store soy sauce. So, after exploring the signs of spoilage, let’s consider how long soy sauce lasts once opened.

An unopened bottle of soy sauce is best stored in a dry area, a dry place in the pantry, a dark cabinet, a kitchen cabinet, or a cool place, but not on a window sill, as exposure to direct sunlight is not ideal.

If you plan to use it for a few months, it can be kept in the pantry or a cool dark place. But if you intend to use it for a longer time, keeping it in the fridge is the way to go.

Once opened and kept at room temperature, a bottle of soy sauce will be in good condition for 6 months. And it can last for a long time when it’s refrigerated. It would last for 2 to 3 years if stored properly in a fridge.

In a nutshell, mold, floating particles on the sauce, and a foul odor are surefire signs soy sauce’s gone bad.

What about Thai curry paste, does it go bad? 

Check out a recent article where I got into how long it lasts unopened and if it’s okay to eat expired Thai curry paste. But I also revealed how to store it after opening it.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Does soy sauce actually expire?

No, soy sauce does not actually expire.

It is a fermented condiment, and typically those do not expire. They have a best before date, as opposed to a use-by date (expiration date). Because of its high sodium content, it’s rare for microorganisms to grow in it. Hence, it has indefinite shelf life when properly stored.

The shelf life of soy sauce is indefinite.

When properly stored, you can continue to consume it safely for a long time, even after its best-before date. So, you can use it for years if it is properly refrigerated. Unopened soy sauce (or unopened bottles) can last indefinitely if kept in a cool and dry place.

Once opened, its peak flavor would last for about 3 months. So for best quality, this is the period to go to town as you enjoy your bottles of soy sauce.

Apart from the high salt content, what makes soy sauce resistant to spoiling is the way it is manufactured. A key component is the fermentation process, which takes several months. And there’s also brewing, pasteurization, and stabilization.

From what we’ve considered, you can see that soy sauce does not expire and that the best-before date, and expiry date, do not mean the same thing.

Curious about the difference between hoisin vs. oyster sauce? 

And eager to know the differences and substitutes? That’s what I got into in a recent article I published.

In it, I showed whether oyster sauce is the same as hoisin sauce and whether you can substitute oyster sauce for hoisin sauce. But I also revealed whether oyster sauce is vegetarian.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

When should you throw out soy sauce?

You should throw out soy sauce if it develops mold, has become watery, gives off a foul odor, or you found particles floating in it. 

Even though it’s safe to consume if it does not exhibit these three states, after using it for years, the quality of the flavor would naturally depreciate, and you might want to replace it.

Now, there are accounts of people who have used the same bottle of soy sauce for 5 to 10 years. But you’ll probably agree that’s overkill.

When fresh soy sauce has been properly refrigerated, it’s ideal to replace it after using it for 2 or 3 years at the maximum. Old soy sauce is still safe to consume, but for optimal quality, it’s best used within 6 months.

Proper storage is the key to making the most of your soy products. Ensure that each time you use it, it’s tightly covered and stored well so that the next time you use it, the quality is still relatively unchanged.

Does Soy Sauce Need to be Refrigerated?

Refrigerating soy sauce before or after opening is not necessary. However, it does help to retain the flavor, and it significantly increases the shelf life. 

So, it depends on what you prefer. It’s not as if it’s going to become worse if you do not refrigerate it.

On Kikkoman’s website, it states that soy sauce won’t spoil as long as you do not add water or other ingredients. Kikkoman soy sauce is one of the best.

For the best storage times, soy sauce is still okay for 6 months if you don’t put it in a fridge and 2 to 3 years if you do.

So, why suffer the loss in flavor and freshness? You should refrigerate it. You may also prefer the small soy sauce bottle so that you can enjoy it while it’s still of good quality.

How Many Different Types of Soy Sauce Are There?

Shoyu is the Japanese name for soy sauce, a staple condiment with deep roots in Asian cuisine.

Made from fermented soybeans, wheat, salt, and water, shoyu imparts a rich, umami flavor to dishes, enhancing both taste and aroma. It’s a must-have for sushi, ramen, and countless other dishes.

But in Japan, soy sauce is less salty and it’s thicker, like syrup.

Wheat-free soy sauce is known as tamari in Japan. It’s a by-product of miso paste and a highly popular condiment in Asian cuisine. Naturally, it’s used with many Asian dishes.

Tamari sauce is ideal for those who want gluten-free soy sauce. In some cases, some people show symptoms of food poisoning when they consume soybeans. This is because soybeans contain amines.

There are two types of Japanese soy sauce: dark soy source (koikuchi) and light soy sauce(usukuchi).

The light variety is the preferred form of Chinese soy sauce, while koikuchi is favored by the Japanese. Usukuchi is the preferred dipping sauce. Teriyaki sauce is a mix of mirin, sugar, sake, and soy sauce.

Asian cuisines are similar, right? 

And it’s not easy telling them apart. For example, how is Vietnamese food different than Chinese food? This is what I explored in a recent article.

In it, I looked at whether they are similar and what food is the Vietnamese known for. But I also revealed which one is healthier.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Different Types of Soy Sauce and Shelf Life

Regular soy sauce

Regular soy sauce typically has a shelf life of 18 to 24 months unopened. Once opened, best to use it within 6 months for peak taste. Storing it in the fridge can help maintain its flavor. Always check for any off-odors or changes in appearance before use.


Shoyu, or Japanese soy sauce, typically has a shelf life of about 18 to 24 months when unopened. Once opened, it’s best to consume it within 3 to 6 months. Storing it in the fridge can help maintain its flavor and extend its freshness. Always check for any off-odors or discoloration.


Tamari, a gluten-free alternative to soy sauce, generally lasts 18 to 24 months unopened. After opening, it’s recommended to use it within 3 to 6 months for optimal flavor. Refrigeration can prolong its quality. Remember to spot any unusual smells or colors before use.


In the article, we looked at how you can tell if soy sauce is bad and whether it expires.

We also looked at when you should throw it out and if it should be refrigerated. Lastly, we wrapped things up by considering if wheat-free soy sauce lasts longer than the regular variant.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there other condiments that don’t have to be refrigerated?

Absolutely! Many condiments can comfortably sit in your pantry, saving you some fridge space.

Ketchup, for instance, due to its high acidity, can stay out for a month. Mustard, with its vinegar content, is fine on the shelf for up to two months.

Then there’s hot sauce; capsaicin (the component that gives peppers their heat) acts as a preservative, so feel free to keep that bottle handy on the dining table.

Worcestershire sauce, thanks to its fermented nature, remains stable in the pantry for a year or two.

Similarly, vinegar and oils (like olive or vegetable) are great outside the fridge, just ensure they’re kept in a cool, dark place. Remember, while these condiments can stay out, refrigeration can extend their quality and shelf life. Always do a quick sniff and taste test before using.

Is soy sauce good past the expiration date?

Here’s the lowdown on soy sauce: It’s a fermented product, which inherently grants it a longer shelf life than some might expect. Past the expiration date, it doesn’t typically become harmful, but its quality might wane.

Over time, flavors can diminish. The once robust and rich saltiness might not be as pronounced. If the bottle’s been opened, exposure to air can lead to flavor degradation even quicker.

While it’s not likely to make you sick, if it smells or tastes off, trust your senses and ditch it. For the best quality, use it within a few months of opening, and definitely keep an eye on that expiration date – it’s there for a reason.

Can I eat 2 years expired soy sauce?

Soy sauce, with its high salt content and fermentation process, is notably durable. If it’s been sealed and stored properly, it’s not likely to be harmful after two years past its expiration.

However, there’s a catch. While it might not make you ill, the flavor profile can significantly change. Those vibrant, salty, umami notes may have faded, leaving you with a less-than-stellar taste experience.

Bottom line? Give it a sniff and a small taste. If something seems off or it just doesn’t taste right, it’s probably best to part ways. But if it passes the sensory test, then you’re likely good to go.

Just remember, taste is king with condiments.

Image by wal_172619 from Pixabay

Jeff Campbell