Can You Use Hot Sauce That Has Lost Its Color?

You finally did it. You've reached the bottom of the bottle of your favorite hot sauce. But as you go to unscrew the lid, you notice something strange — the color of the hot sauce has changed. It's no longer the vibrant red or orange that it once was. Now, it's a dull brown. But is it still safe to use? Here's what you need to know.

Whether you like your food spicy or not, there's no denying that hot sauce is a popular condiment. In fact, according to a 2,000-person poll conducted by Instacart, 74% of Americans top their dishes with hot sauce, with 67% saying that they have a specific go-to brand when using hot sauce that they likely keep on hand at home. But what's the deal with hot sauce that has lost its color?

Hot sauce is made using peppers and over time, the peppers can lose their color, turning the hot sauce from its original hue to a more muted tone. This may cause some hot sauce lovers to wonder if it is still safe to eat.

What to know about the color of your hot sauce

When stored properly, hot sauce can last for several years. This loss of color does not mean that the hot sauce has lost any of its nutritional value or that it is dangerous to eat. That said, you may want to consider buying a new bottle if the hot sauce has been on your shelf for several years, especially if you regularly use hot sauce in a wide variety of dishes.

According to a conversation between The Takeout and Chicago-based chef Rick Bayless, a change in color could mean a change in flavor as well — more specifically, a dulled or muted flavor than what you're used to. "I always say color equals flavor," Bayless said, adding, "When things get old, they tend to get paler and that indicates they'll be less flavorful."

Of course, when it comes to your hot sauce being past its shelf life, you do still want to be mindful of any mold or other signs of contamination. If you notice any unusual changes in the look or smell of your hot sauce, it's best to discard it and buy a new bottle instead. "Anything that's dark is dangerous," says Bayless and stresses "If there's black mold, get rid of it."

So keep enjoying your favorite hot sauce on everything, but be sure to check the color and smell regularly to make sure that it's still safe enough to use.