Being mostly made of salt, I often used soy sauce well beyond (as in "two years and more") its expiration date without ever having a problem. Is that a bad idea, and did I actually take some health risks doing so?

3 Answers 3


Still tasty implicitly says that the sauce stays indefinitely technically edible. The expiration date is only for quality purposes. I think the sauce probably doesn't have an expiration date but rather a "Best By" or "Best if Used By" date.

  • Storage time shown is for best quality only — after that, the sauce's texture, color or flavor may change, but in most cases, it will still be safe to consume if it has been stored properly.
  • If sauce develops an off odor, flavor or appearance, it should be discarded for quality purposes.
  • As per your answer, it is referring to peak quality. All soy sauces I have ever seen have a "best by" date rather than an expiration date.
    – Cindy
    Jun 25, 2015 at 13:08
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    @Cindy: Thank you for your comment. I edited my post. It's a language thing: In Germany we only have a "Use by" date (often labeled on perishable food like raw meat) and a "expiration date" which both means "best by" (only for quality purposes) and "use by plus some days" (on e.g. cold cuts). Jun 25, 2015 at 13:16
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    @ChingChong, I must disagree with your comment - There is a "Verbrauchsdatum / zu verbrauchen bis" date which can be found on hamburger meat or chicken, for example and the much more common "Mindesthaltbarkeitsdatum / mindestens haltbar bis", the former being an equivalent of a "use by" the latter of "best before". With the recent discussions on food waste here in G. various organisations have pointed out the common misconception of the Mindesthaltbarkeitsdatum being an expiry date. See Wikipedia for details.
    – Stephie
    Jun 25, 2015 at 20:20
  • @Stephie I thought "zu verbrauchen bis" = "use by" and "mindestens haltbar bis" which means both "best by" and not-so-urgent "use by". I don't have pre-packaged ham (Kochschinken) right now in handy but I am very certain that there is a "Mindeshaltbarkeitsdatum" printed on it and Kochschinken is definetely not a product that has only a "best by" date. It is safe to consume it some days (or say a week) after the Mindeshaltbarkeitsdatum but I am sure that I can't safely consume it after two years storage in the fridge. Jun 25, 2015 at 20:46
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    @c.. I'd say yes. Serious eats says that white soy sauce is brewed by already brewed soy sauce as a base instead of normal saltwater brine. Both have a similar salinity. I personally use the rule: if it has a very long shelf life like 5 years, it'll be edible in another 5 years as well (albeit not necessarily palatable). Mar 24, 2017 at 1:33

It depends. Are you talking tamari, shoyu or western soy sauce? Good tamari will improve with age (which is why I buy it in 5gal quantities even though I use far less than a gal/year). The same is probably true of shoyu as well, but westeren soy sauce has additional ingredients which may affect shelf life.


Doesn't seem like it to me. I have a bottle in my cupboard from 1997 and it's still fine on the (very) rare occasion when I actually put any on my rice.

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    why are we beating up this answer? So it is a little light on sources and details. It is not by any measure wrong.
    – hildred
    Jun 25, 2015 at 19:23
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    @hildred Well, one person (votes are anonymous, so no idea who) voted down. That's hardly beating up the answer. I'd guess the reason why is the downvoter feels the answer is noise, adding nothing beyond what's in the other, earlier answer. (Hover over the arrow for the tooltip: "this answer is not useful". Noise is not useful.)
    – derobert
    Jun 25, 2015 at 20:51
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    @hildred I just want to emphasize what derobert said: please don't take downvotes, especially single ones, as attacks. Downvotes are just as important as upvotes, if not more, for helping ensure that the most useful, helpful answers float to the top. If you see a downvoted answer that you think is useful, you can always upvote, and even add a comment explaining why you think the answer is good.
    – Cascabel
    Jun 25, 2015 at 22:18
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    I'm not the downvoter, but . . . this answer doesn't seem to add any information that's not already in the original question.
    – ruakh
    Jun 26, 2015 at 6:41
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    @hildred Actually, most answers that are purely anecdotal are generally frown upon especially in regards to food safety.
    – Jay
    Aug 7, 2015 at 18:44

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