Safe to use soy sauce that's been left unrefridgerated?
October 8, 2021 2:21 PM   Subscribe

I had a large bottle of soy sauce that was left in a mini-fridge for several days (perhaps weeks) after the fridge stopped working. The bottle says it should stay refrigerated. Is this something that's still safe to use? Or would I be better just getting rid of it?
posted by NoneOfTheAbove to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Safe to use. Soy sauce is salt. Preserved. Might taste a little weaker, but should be fine. I don't even keep my bottle in the fridge.
posted by AugustWest at 2:29 PM on October 8, 2021 [30 favorites]

I have always kept soy sauce in the pantry. Seems to hold up fine. It's so salty that it seems like bacteria would have trouble growing in there.
posted by TurnKey at 2:30 PM on October 8, 2021 [15 favorites]

Add me to the "I've never refrigerated it" bandwagon. I'm talking decades worth of soy sauce kept in the pantry. Keep it.
posted by BlahLaLa at 2:32 PM on October 8, 2021 [15 favorites]

Soy sauce does not need refrigeration.
posted by kschang at 2:36 PM on October 8, 2021 [6 favorites]

I can tell you refrigerating soy sauce is something that's never happened in my house, my parents' house, my Filipino grandparents' house (I'm pretty sure if my white grandparents ever acquired soy sauce, they would have put it in the refrigerator out of unfamiliarity and ceding authority to the label, but it wasn't something they regularly kept), my husband's house or his parents or grandparents' houses (Korean). Your soy sauce is almost certainly fine.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 2:44 PM on October 8, 2021 [6 favorites]

Soy sauce, if it gets old enough will start to precipitate out and produce crystals, which might look like tiny shards of broken glass. But it's just salt crystals.

If your soy sauce looks fine, then it is fine.
posted by Jane the Brown at 2:48 PM on October 8, 2021 [3 favorites]

Echoing Pandora Kouti, I'll also say that no one in my extended, Chinese family has ever put soy sauce in the fridge. Across the entire family, I'd guess something upwards of 500 years of combined experience eating unrefrigerated soy sauce with no apparent ill effects.
posted by mhum at 3:41 PM on October 8, 2021 [8 favorites]

Think about when you go to a restaurant. The soy sauce bottles sit out on the table all day/evening. I'd never heard of anyone refrigerating soy sauce, ever.

I was so surprised by the question, I did some Googling and found that Kikkoman's web site says:

Do I need to refrigerate my opened bottle of soy sauce?

Once opened, the soy sauce will start to lose its freshness and the flavor will begin to change. By refrigerating the sauce, the flavor and quality will remain at their peak for a longer period. As long as no water or other ingredients have been added to the soy sauce, it would not spoil if it had not been refrigerated.

I probably finish a bottle of soy sauce every 4 months, unrefrigerated, no problem. I've had open, unrefrigerated soy sauce for MUCH longer without a problem. But I also consulted a more generalized, non-Kikkoman article:

An unopened bottle of soy sauce can last as long as two or three years (basically forever), and you can safely leave an opened bottle out of the refrigerator for up to one year. But if a bottle lasts longer than that in your household, you should probably make room among your other refrigerated condiments to preserve that soy sauce’s savory, tasty flavor.

So, a week unrefrigerated in your dead fridge not only isn't unsafe, it won't hurt the flavor either. Happy dining!
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 4:08 PM on October 8, 2021 [2 favorites]

I’ve never refrigerated soy sauce! I guess I should. But you’ll be fine.
posted by lunasol at 4:10 PM on October 8, 2021

I’m not a big consumer of soy sauce, but it does have an interesting two stage fermentation process each with its own name ('koji' for the first stage and 'moromi' for the second), and if your soy sauce is not pasteurized, the organisms for the second stage at least are probably still around and helping to preserve it.

There apparently are organisms which can spoil it, including bacillus circulans and an aspergillus, but I’m not linking to that page because I got a malware warning for it.

However, there's no doubt in my mind that everyone else is right and you are in no danger from your soy sauce.
posted by jamjam at 6:28 PM on October 8, 2021

I don't refrigerate soy sauce, ketchup, peanut butter, jelly, or any of my large collection of hot sauces. I don't even check the label to see what the maker recommends.
posted by alex1965 at 7:25 PM on October 8, 2021

Hi, it’s me, the overly cautious person who answers “do not eat it” to most all of these questions. I keep everything from ketchup to peanut butter in the fridge, but soy sauce has always been a pantry staple. I’d use it without a second though.
posted by Champagne Supernova at 8:26 PM on October 8, 2021 [2 favorites]

I firmly believe US food companies labels write 'refrigerate' as to avoid litigous white Americans. Your soy sauce is fine.
posted by yueliang at 10:26 PM on October 8, 2021 [5 favorites]

I've known people who buy a bit bottle of soy sauce, take the top off, cover it with some cheese cloth or a paper towel and leave it in the cabinet for six months or more before actually deeming it fit for use.
posted by zengargoyle at 1:34 AM on October 9, 2021

I would double check if it's just normal soy sauce or something special, because it says to refrigerate on it. I'm feeling very aware of labels on cans since a can of fruity beer that said "keep refrigerated" on it just completely exploded all over my entire pantry. If you asked me if beer needs to be refrigerated, I would say no. But the can said yes. And the can was right.

On the other hand, I just went through my pantry and the regular soy sauce doesn't say anything about refrigerating after opening but apparently the Worcestershire sauce and the dark soy sauce and the tamari soy sauce all do. These have all been in my pantry for well over a year.
posted by Lady Li at 10:45 AM on October 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

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