Does BBQ Sauce Go Bad? Shelf Life, Storage, And Preservation Tips

BBQ sauce is excellent for so many things. Whether you’re barbecuing to entertain your guests or creating delicious dishes for your family, there are times when you need BBQ sauce in your life.

But what happens when you find an old bottle of barbeque sauce in the back of your pantry? Is it still good? Does BBQ sauce go bad?

The short answer is yes. BBQ sauce can last for years if you store it properly, but the truth is that it will go bad eventually.

Here are some answers to any questions you may have about BBQ sauce and its shelf life.

What is BBQ sauce?

BBQ sauce is a sweet sauce made from many different ingredients including tomato paste, molasses, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and honey.

Most recipes also include chili powder or cayenne pepper for heat, onion powder or garlic powder for flavor, and liquid smoke for smoky flavor.

There are many different types of barbecue sauces in the market, and they vary from region to region.

The most popular ones are tomato-based and vinegar-based BBQ sauces. They are used as a marinade for meat, dipping sauce for chicken, etc.

Does BBQ sauce go bad?

Yes, but not so fast. Most commercial brands of BBQ sauce can last up to two years past their best-by date as long as they have been unopened.

However, once you open a bottle of barbecue sauce, its shelf life shortens considerably. This happens because you’ve exposed the sauce to oxygen and other elements that can trigger spoilage.

If you have leftover sauce from your last meal, store it in an airtight container and put the container in your pantry, refrigerator, or freezer.

What is the shelf life of BBQ sauce?

Generally, an unopened bottle of BBQ sauce has a shelf life of about six months past its best-by date in the pantry. It can keep for one year past its best-by date in the refrigerator and two years past its best-by date in the freezer.

After opening the bottle, the shelf life of BBQ sauce decreases to about four weeks in the pantry, three months in the refrigerator, and six months in the freezer.

To sum it up, your barbecue sauce will last longer if you keep it in the pantry, refrigerator, or freezer than if you leave it sitting out on a counter where there is heat and direct sunlight.

What is the shelf life of homemade BBQ sauce?

All homemade BBQ sauces have a shelf life of about two days at room temperature, two weeks in the refrigerator, and four weeks in the freezer.

If you make a homemade barbecue sauce and do not use it within the period above, chances are it will spoil because of bacterial or mold growth (or both).

Homemade barbecue sauces typically contain fresh ingredients and are not made with preservatives as their commercial counterpart.

Can you use expired BBQ sauce?

The answer is yes. The expiration date on a jar of BBQ sauce is not a hard-and-fast indicator of when it will go bad.

Instead, it is a general guideline for when the manufacturer believes that the sauce will start to lose quality.

Overall, high-acid foods like barbecue sauce are safer to eat after their expiry dates than low-acid foods. This is because the acid in the food helps prevent the growth of bacteria and other pathogens.

The best way to determine if your expired barbecue sauce is safe to eat is by following the guidelines below.

How to tell if BBQ sauce is bad

It smells bad

The first thing you should do when checking whether your barbecue sauce has gone bad is to smell it.

If it smells okay, it’s safe to use. If it smells bad or sour, it just might be bad or going bad. You can confirm spoilage with the other signs of spoilage.

It has a cloudy appearance

The cloudy appearance could be caused by mold growth in the container of your barbecue sauce.

Mold is a sign that some of the ingredients in your sauce have gone bad. Discard the sauce and wash your hands immediately to prevent food poisoning.

Additionally, the color of your barbecue sauce may also indicate whether or not it has gone bad. If the sauce looks black or yellow, then it has gone bad. Discard the sauce immediately rather than risk food-borne illness.

It feels lumpy

You should also check the texture of your barbecue sauce before using it. If it feels lumpy or curdled, then this may mean that bacteria or other microorganisms are growing inside and causing spoilage. Throw it away and buy a new barbecue sauce immediately.

It tastes bad

One of the easiest ways to tell if food has gone bad is by tasting it. If your barbecue sauce tastes sour or rancid (like rotten eggs), then it’s probably not safe to eat anymore.

A sour or rancid taste may be due to bacterial or yeast growth caused by exposure to air or water. In either case, throw away the sauce immediately.

How to preserve BBQ sauce

Store it in a cool, dry place

The easiest way to store barbecue sauce is in a cool, dark place away from smelly foods like onions. This will keep the barbecue sauce fresh for at least four weeks. If you wish to keep your sauce for longer, then consider the options below.

Store it in the refrigerator

You can also store barbecue sauce in your refrigerator (if there is enough room). The refrigerator will keep the flavor of the sauce intact until you’re ready to use it. Make sure you use airtight containers.

Store it in the freezer

One of the best ways to preserve BBQ sauce is by freezing it. It is a great option for people who love their favorite brand of barbecue sauce and don’t want to waste any.

You can also freeze homemade sauces in ice cube trays or small containers.

Preserve homemade sauce with salt

Salt is an effective preservative because it inhibits the growth of microorganisms that cause spoilage. It also acts as a flavor enhancer, adding another dimension to the taste of your sauce.

All you need to do is add 1/4 teaspoon of salt for every cup of barbecue sauce you make. This method works well for all types of homemade barbecue sauce.

Preserve homemade sauce with vinegar

Vinegar has been used for centuries as an ingredient in food preservation because it inhibits the growth of bacteria and molds.

If your recipe doesn’t already include vinegar, simply add two tablespoons for every cup of barbecue sauce you make.

Can the sauce

Canning is another effective method for preserving homemade and leftover barbecue sauce. However, unlike freezing, you will need special equipment to safely can your sauce at home.

If you do not have access to these supplies, you may be better off opting for one of the other preservation methods listed above.


Does BBQ sauce go bad in the refrigerator?

Yes, it does. While the refrigerator is a good place to keep your BBQ sauce, it does not keep it from going bad.

If the storage conditions are not right, the sauce will go bad in the refrigerator. To keep your sauce at the best quality, it must be continually refrigerated for 6 to 9 months.

Also, keep it away from odorous foods that influence spoilage.

Where can you buy BBQ sauce?

There are a lot of places where you can buy BBQ sauce. You can buy your sauce from your local convenience stores, grocery stores, specialty food stores, or online stores such as Amazon and eBay.

Is BBQ sauce the same as ketchup?

No, it is not. BBQ sauce is thicker and contains more spices than ketchup. It is usually used to flavor barbecue meat, fish, and other barbecue foods.


The shelf life of BBQ sauce depends on the preparation method. If your BBQ sauce is homemade, it will keep for four weeks at best. Homemade products don’t have preservatives, so they go bad quickly.

Commercial BBQ sauce, on the other hand, should last anywhere from four weeks to two years, depending on how well you store it and whether you’ve opened it.

To make your barbecue sauce last longer, all you have to do is follow the guidelines above.

Thanks for reading.

Also, check out this article on how to reduce the liquid in tomato sauce.