We answer the age-old question: pantry or refrigerator? Plus, exactly how long mayonnaise, ketchup, hot sauce, and other essentials actually keep.
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Everyone knows that condiments have expiration dates, but there is often confusion about whether mustard, ketchup, vinegar, and other sauces should be stored in the refrigerator or left at room temperature in the pantry. The answer varies depending on the condiment, so we turned to Argyris K. Magoulas at the Office of Public Affairs and Consumer Education in the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service department for advice.

Condiments in bottles
Credit: Courtesy of Johner Images / GETTY IMAGES

The USDA offers recommendations for storing all kinds of food and beverages, including condiments. It's important to note that these guidelines strictly apply to store-bought, commercial products—not homemade, which spoil much more quickly, says Magoulas.

As food lovers, we want our condiments to taste as fresh as possible. Here's how and where to store everything from mustard and mayo to ketchup and fish sauce.

Mayonnaise

According to a recent study, mayo is the most-used condiment in the U.S.—beating out ketchup—so you likely have at least one jar at home. You probably know that unopened mayonnaise does not need to be refrigerated (after all, it's not refrigerated when you buy it at the store). At home, unopened mayonnaise can be stored in the pantry for three to six months. Once you've opened a jar, you should always keep it in the fridge, and for no longer than two months, says Magoulas.

Ketchup

The number-two most popular condiment and an essential for fries, burgers, and so much more, ketchup that hasn't been opened can be stored in the pantry for one year. Opened, you'll want to keep ketchup in the fridge for up to six months.

Mustard

Unopened, mustard can be stored for one to two years in the pantry. Once you have opened it, store your mustard in the fridge where it will last for up to one year. That gives you plenty of time to spread it on sandwiches, serve with meat, add to a favorite vinaigrette dressing, and more.

Hot Sauce

You likely reach for your hot sauce for everything from red beans and rice to wings, so we're guessing you use it fast. Many hot sauces are vinegar based and have a long shelf life, lasting unopened for two to three years. Once opened, most hot sauces should be stored in the fridge and used within a year. (It will usually state on the packaging if the hot sauce needs to be refrigerated or not.)

Soy Sauce

Unopened, soy sauce may be stored for up to three years in the pantry. After it's been opened, store your soy sauce in the refrigerator, and plan to replace it after one month says Magoulas.

Barbecue Sauce

If it hasn't been opened, your favorite jar of barbecue sauce can be stored in the pantry for up to one year. After it has been opened, it should be stored for up to four months in the refrigerator—but we assume you'll use it up much faster than that.

Chili Sauce

Similar to ketchup when it comes to safe storage, chili sauce that hasn't been opened can be stored in the pantry for one year. After opening you should keep it in the refrigerator for up to six months, according to the USDA.

Jarred Horseradish

Unopened, you can store jarred horseradish in the fridge for up to one year. Once it's been opened, you should keep it in the refrigerator for just three to four months.

Vinegar

Vinegar has a long, stable shelf life and is a condiment that does not require refrigeration. Whether it's unopened or opened, you can store vinegar in the pantry for two years.

Worcestershire Sauce

Like vinegar, Worcestershire sauce does not need to be refrigerated. Whether unopened or open it can be stored in the pantry for two years.

Fish Sauce

This umami-packed condiment is like Worcestershire sauce in that it does not require refrigeration. In fact, storing it in the refrigerator will cause salt crystals to form over time. Fish sauce can be stored unopened or opened in the pantry for two to three years.

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