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Can Worcestershire Sauce Really Go Bad?

Maria Foster
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by Maria Foster

As far as famous condiments go, Worcestershire sauce might not be the most popular, but it is one that is amongst the most versatile – with numerous applications as a sauce, and as an ingredient within cooking.

Can Worcestershire Sauce Really Go Bad?

But how can Worcestershire sauce actually go bad, and if so, what are the signs you should be looking out for?

What Is Worcestershire Sauce?

Worcestershire sauce is a fermented liquid condiment that was invented in the city of Worcester, Worcestershire, in the United Kingdom.

Originally created by pharmacists John Wheeley Lea and William Henry Perrins in the first half of the 19th century, the sauce quickly became a widely adopted favorite for many.

What Are The Ingredients?

The trademarked ingredients for Worcestershire sauce include:

  • Barley malt vinegar
  • Spirit vinegar
  • Molasses
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Anchovies
  • Tamarind extract
  • shallots/onions
  • Garlic
  • Spices
  • Flavorings

Can Worcestershire Sauce Go Bad?

Perhaps strangely, Worcestershire sauce does not actually go ‘bad’ in the traditional sense – due to the fact that many of the ingredients within the condiment are considered to be natural preservatives – namely the molasses, sugar, vinegar, and salt content, of which there is quite a substantial amount.

However, it is entirely possible for the quality and taste of the sauce to decline over time – as well as the potency of the flavors – and this can leave a figurative and literal bad taste in your mouth after consuming.

What Is The Shelf Life Of Worcestershire Sauce?

The actual shelf life of Worcestershire sauce is actually quite hard to determine – due to the above factors regarding the ingredients, which have a natural preservative effect on the condiment.

However, the manufacturers themselves (Lea & Perrins) suggest that, once opened, Worcestershire sauce should be consumed within 18 months to 3 years – depending on the nature in which it has been stored.

What Are The Signs Of Degradation?

While Worcestershire sauce does not go bad in the traditional sense, there are numerous ways that it degrades and declines when left open for a long period of time.

Unpleasant Smells

One of the easiest ways to see if anything has gone past its best is the smell test, and like most products, when Worcestershire sauce has gone bad it will smell unpleasant.

This will generally be a strange, somewhat sour smell, but any difference or drastic change in smell could indicate that the Worcestershire sauce has gone bad.

Dulled Flavor

Can Worcestershire Sauce Really Go Bad?

One of the characteristic traits of Worcestershire sauce is the distinctive, somewhat sharp taste – and whether you like it or not, the flavors are renowned for being strong and recognizable.

If you happen to taste your opened Worcestershire sauce, and the taste seems dulled or flatter than usual, then this could be a sign that it has indeed gone bad.

Presence Of Mold

Of course, as with any form of food or condiment, the presence of mold is a sure fire way to determine that something has gone bad – and Worcestershire sauce is no exception.

While the presence of mold in Worcestershire sauce is unlikely – due to the high number of preservatives within the ingredients list – it can still occur, and this should be a sign that it has gone bad and should be disposed of immediately.

Gas Buildups

Due to the fact that Worcestershire sauce is a fermented condiment, there is the potential for gas to build up, and if this occurs, then it could be an indication that the sauce has gone bad.

If you are using a plastic bottle to contain the sauce, then the presence of gas will cause it to swell and bloat. However, even if you have sauce in a glass bottle, one of the best ways to see whether it has a gas build up is to listen for a popping sound when you open it.

The presence of gas within the bottle is a prominent indicator, and you are better off disposing of it and purchasing a new bottle.


If the Worcestershire sauce appears to be thicker or thinner than usual, then this could be an indication that it has gone bad or declined in quality.

What Are The Best Storage Methods?

Of course, the best way to ensure a longer shelf life from your Worcestershire sauce is to store it properly, and luckily, we have everything you need to make this happen.

Unopened Bottles

One of the best places to store unopened bottles of Worcestershire sauce is in the kitchen cupboard or pantry.

If you do not have the space for the bottle, or you have a different kitchen setup, then simply choose somewhere that is away from sunlight, isn’t exposed to direct heat, and is dry and cool.

Opened Bottles

If you have an opened bottle of Worcestershire sauce, then your storage options can either be in the same cool, dry location away from sunlight, or in the refrigerator.

If you only use the sauce periodically, then you should keep it in the refrigerator, as this is the best way to ensure a longer shelf life. However, if you regularly use it as a condiment and in cooking, then you can probably keep it in the pantry.

Can Bad Worcestershire Sauce Cause Illness?

Even though Worcestershire sauce contains anchovies, the amount of preservatives present in the bottle usually protect you from getting sick if it has gone bad.

However, with the possible changes to taste, smell, and consistency, you are better off disposing of it, and purchasing a new bottle instead.

Final Thoughts

It’s certainly true that Worcestershire sauce is a popular and versatile condiment – one that is used in all manner of recipes around the world. However, without proper storage and understanding, this dream sauce can quickly turn into a nightmare.

So if you want to know whether your Worcestershire sauce has gone bad, then be sure to look out for these signs!

Frequently Asked Questions

Now that we know a little more about Worcestershire sauce, and the signs for when it has gone bad, it is now time to answer some frequently asked questions that you might be interested in.

What Does Worcestershire Sauce Taste Like?

While the actual flavor of Worcestershire sauce is difficult to determine, the manufacturers say that the most notable and potent ingredient is tamarind – the edible fruit from the African tree of the same name.

Is Worcestershire Sauce Vegetarian-Friendly?

While Worcestershire sauce might seem harmless enough, it actually contains anchovies, meaning that it is neither suitable for vegetarians or vegans.

About Maria Foster
Maria Foster
Maria Foster is a mother of 3 and she and her husband of 23 years share their home with 2 faithful dogs. Besides being CEO of the household and active in her community, Maria is the lead contributor to Food Champs and loves to try new food ideas and kitchen accessories to make easier and more delicious meals.
Maria Foster
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