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Does Garlic Sauce Need to Be Refrigerated?

Got garlic sauce? Get the lowdown on keeping it fresh, flavorful, and most importantly, safe for your next garlic-infused feast.

Garlic sauce savers!

Ever found yourself with a handful of leftover garlic sauce packets from your go-to fast food joint?

Or maybe you’ve got a bottle or jar of that potent goodness on your hands, but you’re scratching your head about where it should live—the pantry or fridge?

If that’s what brought you here, welcome, and read on. Because in the following few paragraphs, we will cover everything you need to know about when garlic sauce has to be refrigerated, and when it doesn’t.

Does Garlic Sauce in Packets Need Refrigeration?

If you have garlic sauce in packets, the good news is that it doesn’t necessarily need to be refrigerated as long as it remains unopened. These packs are made to be shelf-stable, which means they can safely be stored at room temperature without spoiling.

However, once you open a packet of garlic sauce, you absolutely must refrigerate it. The exposure to warmth can lead to bacterial growth—and if the sauce becomes overgrown with bacteria, eating it can cause food poisoning. To maintain the freshness and safety, it is recommended to refrigerate opened garlic sauce and consume it shortly.

And so, the takeaway: You don’t need to refrigerate the garlic sauce in fast-food packets unless you’ve opened it. And once you open it, you should refrigerate it and eat it within 3 to 4 days while it’s still fresh and safe.

What About Bottled or Jarred Garlic Sauce?

When it comes to bottled or jarred garlic sauce with a vacuum seal, refrigeration is usually not required until the container is opened. The vacuum seal aids in preserving the sauce and extending its shelf life, allowing you to store it in the pantry.

However, similar to garlic sauce in packets, refrigeration becomes crucial once you open a bottle or jar. After opening, promptly refrigerate the sauce and refer to the instructions on the label for specific storage and consumption guidelines. The label will indicate how long the sauce can be safely kept once opened.

How Long Can Open Garlic Sauce Be Left Out?

Now, let’s suppose you’re hosting a pizza party or Middle Eastern feast (hello, shawarma!) and you have a bowl of garlic sauce gracing your dining table. It’s important to know how long you can safely leave that garlic sauce out in the open before it’s time to start worrying.

Here’s the kicker: garlic sauce, once opened, behaves just like any other cooked food.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), cooked foods shouldn’t sit out for longer than 2 hours. If your air conditioning is on the fritz, or you’re hosting an outdoor gathering and the temperature is a warm 90°F or above, this timeline shrinks down to just 1 hour.

The clock starts ticking as soon as you open your garlic sauce and leave it out at room temperature. This timeline is the safe period during which you can enjoy your sauce without risking getting sick.

So if you’re getting ready for a lengthy dinner party, you might want to consider keeping that garlic sauce chilled until just before serving time—and promptly refrigerating any leftovers.

Don’t feel like setting a timer every time you crack open your garlic sauce?

I hear you, nobody does. A good habit to adopt is to simply return your opened garlic sauce to the refrigerator as soon as you’re done with it. This way, you won’t need to keep an eye on the clock and you can be sure your sauce will be safe to enjoy at your next meal.

Can Spoiled Garlic Sauce Make You Sick?

When it comes to food safety, it’s essential to remember that “going bad” and “spoiling” are not the same, especially when discussing sauces like our beloved garlic sauce. Understanding the difference is key to protecting yourself and your loved ones from potential food-related illnesses.

First, let’s tackle “spoiling.” Sauce spoils when it’s kept past its expiry date—something we’re all familiar with. Over time, spoilage bacteria do their work, affecting the smell, taste, and texture of our food, making it unpleasant or even impossible to consume. And it’s a clear signal that your sauce has reached the end of its life.

However, a sauce can “go bad” under improper conditions, even before its expiry date. And this is where things get tricky. For instance, if you leave sauce out for more than two hours at room temperature, it will start to go bad. This process is caused not by the spoilage bacteria we’ve discussed, but by a different type: pathogenic bacteria.

Pathogenic bacteria are the type that cause food poisoning. Unlike spoilage bacteria, pathogenic bacteria are imperceptible. They don’t alter the taste, smell, or appearance of the food, which means you can’t rely on your senses to detect them. By the time you know they’re there, it’s usually because you’re feeling unwell.

So yes, bad garlic sauce can absolutely make you sick. If left out for too long, it can become a breeding ground for these dangerous bacteria—effectively increasing the risk of food poisoning.

The Takeaways

Unopened packets and vacuum-sealed jars of garlic sauce are shelf-stable, and don’t need refrigeration. But once opened, they should be refrigerated and consumed within 3 to 4 days. This isn’t just to keep your sauce tasting its best, but it’s also to ensure that it remains safe to consume.

Now, if you’ve been serving garlic sauce at your cookout or dinner party, remember that it should not be left out for more than 2 hours—or 1 hour if it’s particularly warm, at 90°F or above. The clock starts ticking as soon as you open your sauce and leave it at room temperature.

Going beyond the smell, taste, and texture of your garlic sauce, remember that a sauce can “go bad” without showing any perceptible signs. This is why sticking to the recommended timelines and safe storage practices is so essential.

Know your author

Written by

Dim is a food writer, cookbook author, and the editor of Home Cook World. His first book, Cooking Methods & Techniques, was published in 2022. He is a certified food handler with Level 1 and Level 2 Certificates in Food Hygiene and Safety for Catering, and a trained cook with a Level 3 Professional Chef Diploma.