The classic Chinese condiment known as hoisin sauce lends its pungent flavor to dishes such as mu shu pork and Peking duck, as well as entrees and sides ranging from stir fry to sauteed bok choy. This rich, dark brown sauce features ingredients such as fermented soybeans or sweet potatoes, vinegar, sugar, chilies and garlic, making for a bold flavor that meets the taste buds with both sweet and tangy elements. If you take a bottle of hoisin sauce home, you don't absolutely need to refrigerate it, but doing so certainly increases its shelf life.
Storing Your Sauce
According to "Fine Cooking" magazine, you can store hoisin sauce indefinitely in the refrigerator, even after opening. However, you must keep the condiment in a tightly sealed, nonmetal container. If your store-bought sauce comes in a can, transfer it to a nonmetal container and seal it securely before popping it in the fridge. Hoisin sauce manufacturer Kikkoman also recommends refrigerating the sauce after opening to better preserve its freshness and flavor.
All About Shelf Life
Store-bought hoisin sauce often features a printed "Best By," "Use By" or "Best if Used By" date. However, these freshness estimates simply serve as recommendations; they only concern the sauce's intensity, texture, flavor and color, not its safe consumption. While taste and color may fade or change over long periods of refrigeration or storage, refrigerated hoisin sauce remains safe to eat indefinitely. For optimal taste quality, Suzanne Rexford's book "Suzanne's Kitchen" recommends eating refrigerated hoisin sauce within 6 months, while Kikkoman suggests using its hoisin sauce within 18 minutes of its production date code.
If for any reason you suspect that your hoisin sauce has gone bad, trust your senses. Make a mental note of the sauce's initial, fresh scent upon its first use; an "off" odor serves as the most reliable indicator of spoiled sauce. Likewise, if any mold appears in the sauce or on its container, discard the sauce immediately.
More to Consider
Adding water or other ingredients to your hoisin sauce may cause it to spoil or lose its freshness more quickly. Hoisin sauce's close cousin, soy sauce, also benefits from refrigeration, though it can last for up three years in the refrigerator without taking a noticeable hit in the taste or texture department.