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Does BBQ Sauce Go Bad? FAQ + Storage Tips

Does BBQ Sauce Go Bad? FAQ + Storage Tips

Barbecue sauce works like magic to make many foods savory and mouth-watering, but if the bottle’s been around a while, are you asking yourself: Does BBQ sauce go bad? Let’s find out. 

It may be used as a marinade, a basting agent, or a topping for grilled meat.

It goes well with meats, including chicken, pig, and beef ribs.

Also, it is a common condiment used on many different types of food in the Southern United States.

Early versions of homemade barbecue sauce contain vinegar, salt, and pepper.

However, BBQ sauce began to include sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and ketchup in the 1920s.

And now, different parts of the world make it with other ingredients and in different ways.

Tomato paste, mayonnaise, and vinegar are the primary components that make up the backbone of this condiment, along with the liquid smoke, onion powder, and seasonings like mustard, black pepper, and sugar, among others.

Although barbecue sauce adds flavor, taste, and enjoyment to every dish, have you ever wondered:

Does BBQ sauce go bad?

How to tell if BBQ sauce has gone bad? 

How long does BBQ sauce last?

Does BBQ sauce need to be refrigerated?

BBQ storage tips and tricks?

While you wait for your grilled meat to cool down, enjoy a fun read as we answer some questions about your favorite sauce.

The warm weather screams for a backyard celebration with friends and family.

And with the rest of the party prep, you’re probably wondering if the BBQ sauce in your fridge is still safe to use.

Because barbecue sauce contains well-known preservatives like lemon juice, sugar, and vinegar, it may keep fresh for a long time.

However, high preservative content does not guarantee that it will not spoil. 

In other words, yes, BBQ sauce goes bad. 

Its natural preservatives will inevitably wear out with time, leading to spoilage.

Both store-bought and homemade BBQ sauce go bad over time.

In fact, according to, a bottle of Stubb’s BBQ features a “best before” date, which means the condiment is safe to consume after this date, but maybe not be at its best. 

One good example of a “best before” date is 081322; this implies that it’s “best before” August 13th, 2022. 

However, most sauce products of Stubb’s, including Bar-B-Q Sauces, Marinades, and Anytime Sauces, have a 3-year shelf life—so you have plenty of time to be creative with your BBQ recipes!

It’s then recommended to keep the sauces in the refrigerator after opening for the best quality.

How to tell if BBQ sauce has gone bad

Before you drive to the grocery store to purchase a new bottle of barbecue sauce, it may be time to retrieve the opened bottle from your fridge and do a thorough safety inspection.

First, check the bottle to see if there are any leaks around the cap, loose or torn safety packaging, indications of aging (like heavy dust or a very worn label), cracks, or dents.

Next, the expiration date should be the first item you check if your bottle appears in excellent condition.

Now let’s move on to the usual signs to look for in a BBQ sauce:

Changes in smell

BBQ sauce often has a sweet and tangy aroma.

Therefore, its quality declines if anything smells funky, fermented, “beery” or yeasty, which is a sign of mold.

Changes in texture

If the barbecue sauce has thickened or become slimy, this is a sign that it has gone bad and should not be consumed.

Some separations are typical, particularly for homemade barbecue sauce, but if you spot a layer of liquid on the top or bottom, throw it out immediately.

This texture change indicates moisture or oxidation and might impact the product’s quality and flavor.

And with the obvious signs of mold, you always know what to do.

Changes in taste

If your barbecue sauce still has the same flavor as normal, you may continue to use it, but if it has an acidic, sour, or “off” taste, it’s time to get rid of it and start fresh.

How long does BBQ sauce last?

UNOPENED store-bought barbecue sauce can last around three years. 

From McCormick’s Stubbs brand BBQ sauce, they report a three-year shelf life of an unopened bottle, but after opening, anticipate the freshest taste for about eight weeks and keep it cold. 

However, the storage conditions of your bottled barbecue sauce will impact how long it will last, whether opened, unopened, homemade, or canned. 

An unopened bottle of barbecue sauce can be stored in a cool, dry area for up to six months beyond its best-by date. This date will vary per label, so keep an eye on those dates. As per sauce-slinger Redneck Lipstick:

An unopened bottle of our BBQ Sauce can last up to one year when stored in a closed, cool, and dark place like your kitchen pantry. Provided that the bottle is clean, undamaged, and stored properly.

On the other hand, homemade BBQ sauce has a shorter shelf-life because it has no preservatives.

Hence, it can get bad within a week or two.. 

It should be stored in an airtight container and kept in the refrigerator from the start. 

So to ensure your family’s safety, following the manufacturer’s “best by” date is always a good idea.

Although the best-by date is only an estimate of how long the sauce can maintain its optimum quality and does not necessarily signify that it has gone bad.

How long does opened BBQ sauce last?

Consensus is that opened BBQ sauce lasts three to four months when it’s been continuously refrigerated and capped tightly.

Check this top tip from popular sauce brand Sweet Baby Ray’s about their BBQ sauce:

How long can I keep Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue Sauce after I open it?

After opening, we suggest keeping the sauce for no longer than 4 months. Always refrigerate sauce after it is opened.

An unsealed, opened bottle of store-bought barbecue sauce has a shelf life of one week to one month when kept at room temperature in the pantry, away from direct heat or sunlight. Always check the smell and appearance before using any condiment that has been opened but left in the pantry or cabinet.

But keeping it in the fridge can prolong its shelf-life to four through six months.

CookingChew Tip: Nothing should sit out at room temperature for very long after it’s been opened. So if BBQ sauce needs to go out on the picnic table, or even the dining room table, add some sauce to a dish with a serving spoon so people can serve themselves from the dish so that the whole bottle doesn’t sit out of the refrigerator. Then after your meal, discard what’s left in the dish. If you set out a bottle of anything every day for two hours, it’s going to shorten the freshness and shelf life of your products. And this goes for BBQ sauce, too.

How long does homemade BBQ sauce last?

The average shelf life of homemade BBQ sauce is 7 to 10 days if stored in a closed container and kept cold. 

It will also keep in the freezer for up to a year. Thawed, BBQ sauce that has been frozen is best used in recipes rather than as a topping or served on the side.

In contrast to store-bought barbecue sauce, homemade barbecue sauce has a shorter life span.

And there is no definitive answer to how long homemade barbeque sauce lasts.

Its shelf life is solely determined by its preparation, method, ingredients, and storage conditions.

And these factors make a huge difference. 

However, the average shelf-life of homemade sauce is seven to ten days if stored in the refrigerator.

Clean and hygienic preparation standards are always ideal for helping to keep homemade BBQ sauce stay fresh for longer.

How to store BBQ sauce

Although there is a wide selection of barbecue sauce brands available, all of them must be stored in the same manner: After opening the bottle, keep the container chilled in the refrigerator.

So, here are a few storage suggestions for you:

  • Unopened barbecue sauce can be stored in a climate-controlled pantry or cupboard for up to a year.
  • For intact packaging, the sauce is probably safe to use until you open the bottle.
  • Keep the sauce in a cool, dry location away from direct sunlight to avoid contamination or oxidation.
  • If the bottle or package is swollen, discolored, has broken seals or dents/cracks, or the appearance of the sauce is slimy or lumpy, dispose without using.
  • Your homemade barbecue sauce, however, should always be kept in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

Here’s how to store homemade BBQ sauce

Tools needed:

  • Homemade barbecue sauce
  • Airtight container like a mason jar
  • Refrigerator

Instructions for storing homemade BBQ sauce:

  1. Allow your homemade BBQ sauce to cool to room temperature. 
  2. Place it in an airtight container or mason jar. 
  3. Store tightly closed in the refrigerator for up to ten days.

While the canned homemade barbecue sauce does not require refrigeration.

On the other hand, the opened bottle of BBQ sauce needs to be kept in the refrigerator to preserve the flavors and aroma until you use it the next time.

It is important to ensure that the temperature and moisture level of the refrigerator is kept at a consistent level so that the ingredients may stay fresher longer.

The barbecue sauce can last up to a year when refrigerated.

However, you should thoroughly examine the sauce and container before consuming it.

Does BBQ sauce need to be refrigerated?

Yes and no:

  • Yes, opened and homemade BBQ sauce needs to be refrigerated. 
  • No, unopened BBQ sauce does not need to be refrigerated.

BBQ Storage Tips & Tricks

  • Don’t leave out an opened bottle of BBQ sauce for longer than a couple of minutes, just enough for you to serve, then put it back in the fridge.  
  • For serving BBQ sauce at a party or picnic, transfer some to a serving dish with a serving spoon for the potluck table. After the event, discard the leftovers since they’ve been sitting out at warm or room temperatures.
  • Opened, store-bought BBQ sauce that’s been stored cold near-continuously can keep for four to six months in the refrigerator after opening.
  • Keep the cap or lid on tightly and properly when not in use. Wipe the cap and mouth of the bottle with a clean kitchen towel after use.
  • Store the bottle upside down to preserve its optimal quality for a more extended amount of time. This stops air from entering the bottle and delays the oxidation process.
  • Don’t use BBQ sauce that has been touching uncooked meat and vegetables. Make sure the sauce is cooked with the foods.
  • No matter the best-by or use-by date, if the appearance, smell or taste of your barbecue sauce seems rancid, moldy, or in a swollen package, don’t use it—discard it.

The bottom line

Barbecue sauce is a fantastic condiment that works like magic. 

It has several uses and may be incorporated into many different dishes.

Its finest feature is its ability to add a robust smoky, and sweet flavor to lots of grilled food.

And the best rule of thumb for freshness is to keep it cold, as the labels say: Refrigerate after opening. 

Planning to make your own BBQ sauce? Learn how to thicken it in 3 easy ways here!

How To Store Homemade Barbecue Sauce

How To Store Homemade Barbecue Sauce

Here’s the best way to store homemade BBQ sauce in the refrigerator to keep it fresher and longer.


  • Homemade barbecue sauce
  • Airtight container like a mason jar
  • Refrigerator


  1. Allow your homemade BBQ sauce to cool just to room temperature. 
  2. Place it in an airtight container or mason jar. 
  3. Store tightly closed for up to 10 days.

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