Does Soy Sauce Ever Go Bad? Can It Expire? (HOW TO TELL)

image of Shelf Life Of Soy Sauce

Does soy sauce ever go bad? That would be the question you’d ask yourself if you’re someone who doesn’t use soy sauce most of the time.

The tendency is, you’ll just store it aside then sort of forget that it ever existed. You’ll only remember about it again until you have a recipe that calls for soy sauce.

Short answer:

Soy sauce rarely goes bad, and it is known to have an indefinite shelf life. However, though this may be true to some point, that is not always the case.

After all, any food will depreciate for a longer period, especially when exposed to environmental elements such as air.

Soy sauce, it’s a rare case, but it can still go bad if it is not stored properly. So, if you have a year’s old bottle of soy sauce, let us tell you what you need to consider before you use it.

In this article, you will learn about the following:

image of pouring soya sauce

What Is Soy Sauce?

Soy sauce or soya sauce is a fermented condiment used in many Asian cuisines – especially in Chinese restaurants.

It’s a brown and salty liquid naturally brewed from soybeans, wheat, salt, and a fermenting agent.

The origins of this popular condiment are believed to have started in ancient China; then, it has reached the Eastern and Southeastern parts of Asia. (*)

The different types of soy sauces include:

  • Dark soy sauce
  • Light soy sauce (thin sauce)
  • Thick soy sauce
  • Shrimp-flavored soy sauce
  • Japanese tamari
  • Mushroom-flavored soy sauce
  • Indonesian kecap manis

It is used for cooking meats and vegetable dishes, stews, soups, marinades, or dipping sauces.

image of how to make soya sauce

How is it made?

In the traditional fresh soy sauce process, the soybeans are soaked in water for several hours before it is steamed. After steaming, the soybeans are drained and cooled down, the roasted wheat and fermenting agent are added.

The soybean mixture is then transferred to shallow boxes and stored in a constant temperature-controlled incubation room to activate the yeast (the fermenting agent). This phase of the soy sauce-making process will take 2 days.

Meanwhile, salt and spring water are mixed together in separate barrels or containers to make a brine solution. This is where the soybean mix will be added to make soybean mass and let it ferment.

After 6 weeks, the barrels are opened once a day to aerate the gasses that build up in soybean mass – it keeps the yeast alive and helps develop the flavor. After that, the aeration is done less often.

A year later, the fermented soybean mass is pressed to extract the soy sauce then the liquid is pasteurized before packing.

Chemically processed soy sauces apply a faster and cheaper soy sauce-making method called acid hydrolysis.

Does Soy Sauce Go Bad? How Long Does Last?

ConditionShelf Life
Unopened pack or bottleIndefinitely in the pantry
Opened bottleUp to 1 month past the printed date
Best-quality soy sauceUp to 1 year longer than the printed date
Stored in the refrigeratorUp to 6 months
Peak flavor preservationFollow “Best-before date,” “Use by” date, or expiration dates
Expiration date passedFlavor may be significantly reduced, but still safe to use if taste is good
Flavor assessmentUse personal judgment to determine peak quality
Note: The information provided is a general guideline and may vary depending on the specific brand and storage conditions.

The great thing about soya sauce, it may be the last food ingredient in your kitchen that will expire. So, how long does soy sauce last?

An unopened pack or bottle can generally last indefinitely in the pantry.

Once opened, you can still use it up to one month past the printed date.

Note that brands can only hold their flavor for a month after opening, while some best-quality ones can last for a year longer.

If stored in the refrigerator, it can last up to six months.

Take note that store-bought condiments like soya sauce comes with a “Best-before date,” “Use by” date, or expiration dates. These dates will serve as your guide on how it can hold its peak flavor.

When you have a bottle that has passed the date, it may still be completely safe to use, but just expect that there won’t be much of the flavor left for you to savor.

On the other hand, we advise you not to worry about the printed date and just test your soy sauce’s flavor if it is still in its peak quality based on your judgment. If the taste is still good, you can use it even after its expiration date.

How To Tell If Soy Sauce Has Gone Bad?

The only way to ruin your soy sauce is to get contaminated with foreign materials/elements in the environment or stored in the wrong storage condition.

Here’s how to find out if your soy sauce has gone bad:

1. It looked off and turned discolored.

It’s not always easy to notice signs of discoloration on soy sauce since they’re naturally colored dark. Changes in the color of your soy sauce signify that your sauce was over-exposed to air, heat, or direct sunlight. However, it does not always mean that it can cause foodborne symptoms. To finally decide if it is not best to use it anymore, check the smell and taste.

2. It has a very strong smell.

Give your soy sauce a sniff. Don’t use it anymore if it smells funny, strange, or too unusually strong.

3. It has molds or floating impurities.

If you see any mold and impurities on the surface of your bottle, that’s clearly not good for consumption in terms of food safety. Dispose of that bad bottle right away. (*)

Apparently, your sauce rarely spoils. Even if you notice if your sauce smells and tastes a little off or flat, it can still be safe consumption. The downside of using it at this state is that it won’t make a bold impact on the dish you are preparing.

The trick to using an old and faded flavor soy sauce is to use it as one of your ingredients in sauces and glazes and not as a stand-alone condiment.

The Best Way To Store Soy Sauce

What kind of food storage does soy sauce require? Just like other sauces, here are some tips on how to store soy sauce properly:

Unopened bottle

  1. Keep it in a pantry or kitchen cabinet, as long as it is in a cool dark place, where storage temperature is constant.
  2. Put it away from direct sunlight and heat exposure.
  3. You may put it in the refrigerator, but it’s not necessary.

Opened Bottle

  1. Make sure to seal the container tightly before putting it back in the pantry or kitchen cabinet (or in a cool dark place)
  2. Put it away from direct sunlight and heat exposure.
  3. Transfer the contents to an airtight bottle if it is from a refill pack.
  4. Keep it in the refrigerator to extend the shelf life.  Note that you need to refrigerate soy sauce to help retain its peak flavor once opened.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce the same?

Soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce are different in terms of ingredients they contain, but both are under the fermented foods category.

Soy sauce is fermented for at least 6 months, and it is processed from fermented soybeans, salt, and a fermenting agent.

Worcestershire sauce, a strong umami flavored condiment, takes up to 18 months to ferment. It is made with other food ingredients such as anchovies, onions, vinegar, and molasses.

Can expired soy sauce make you sick?

Soy is an allergen. It means that it can cause allergic reactions like a digestive upset in people who are sensitive to soy. So be careful of the health risks before consuming it.

Why does it has gluten?

It has gluten because it has wheat as one of its main ingredients. Gluten refers to the protein found in grains such as wheat, rye, and barley.
Thus, it is not typical for people with gluten intolerance.


  • Does Soy Sauce Ever Go Bad? Soy sauce does not quickly go bad as long as it is properly stored, but it doesn’t mean it can retain its best quality forever once opened.
  • How long does soy sauce last? You can keep an unopened soy sauce two years past the expiration date. But once you open it, you can store it in the pantry for a month or in the refrigerator for six months. If you have an opened bottle of soy sauce that has been stored for a long time, we advise you to inspect for signs of spoilage before you use it.

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