Can you eat expired wing sauce?

Wing sauce is a popular condiment for chicken wings and other foods. It comes in a variety of flavors like buffalo, barbecue, and sweet chili. Wing sauce usually has a shelf life of several months to a year when unopened. However, once opened it has a shorter shelf life of just a few weeks to 2-3 months. So what happens if you find an open bottle of wing sauce in the back of your fridge and the expiration date has passed? Is it still safe to use and eat?

What is Wing Sauce?

Wing sauce is a general term used to describe any sauce that is commonly served with chicken wings. The most popular kinds of wing sauce include:

  • Buffalo – This tangy, vinegar-based hot sauce often also contains butter for extra richness. The heat level can range from mild to very spicy.
  • Barbecue – Sweet, tomato-based barbecue sauces flavored with ingredients like garlic, spices, and sometimes smoked flavors.
  • Teriyaki – Sweet soy sauce and garlic based wing sauces, sometimes with sesame oil and ginger.
  • Honey Mustard – Sweet mustard-based sauces mixed with honey.
  • Garlic Parmesan – Creamy blends incorporating garlic, Parmesan cheese, herbs, and sometimes mayonnaise or yogurt.
  • Sweet Chili – Sweet chili sauce mixed with ingredients like soy sauce, lime juice, garlic, and ginger.

So wing sauce encompasses a wide range of flavors. But they all generally contain an acidic ingredient like vinegar or citrus, plus ingredients like oil, salt, herbs and spices. The ingredients all depend on the specific flavor of the sauce.

Do Wing Sauces Expire?

Yes, wing sauces do eventually expire and have a limited shelf life. Because of their acidic ingredients, oil content, and potential dairy ingredients, wing sauces are prone to spoilage after some time. Here are some general guidelines for wing sauce expiration timeframes:

  • Unopened wing sauce: 12-18 months from the manufacturing date
  • Opened wing sauce: 4-6 weeks in the refrigerator

These timeframes can vary based on factors like:

  • Ingredients – Sauces with more acidic ingredients like vinegar tend to last longer. Oil helps lock in flavor but can also go rancid over time. Dairy ingredients like buttermilk or sour cream shorten shelf life.
  • Storage temperature – Heat and light degrade wing sauce faster. An unopened bottle stored in a cool, dark pantry will last longer than sauce left on the counter.
  • Package type – Glass bottles or jars seal in freshness longer than plastic containers.
  • Best by dates – This is the manufacturer’s estimate for peak quality, not safety.

How to Tell if Wing Sauce is Bad

Watch out for these signs that indicate your wing sauce is past its prime and potentially unsafe to eat:

  • Change in consistency – The sauce is much thinner and more watery or has an oily layer on top. This indicates ingredients have started to break down.
  • Mold – You see fuzzy mold growing anywhere on the sauce. This is one of the surest signs the sauce has spoiled.
  • Off odors – The aroma is sour, vinegary, or unpleasant instead of the inviting scents of spices, herbs, etc.
  • Off flavors – Beyond just tasting overly vinegary or spicy, the sauce has developed bitter, chemical, rotten, or other very unappetizing flavors.
  • Gas buildup – Bulging lid, leaking seal or bubbles rising up in the sauce point to bacterial growth and spoilage.

Is it Safe to Eat Expired Wing Sauce?

Eating expired wing sauce comes with some risk of foodborne illness. How risky it is depends on a few factors:

  • How long past the expiration date – The further past its best by date, the more likely bacteria or mold has grown.
  • Storage conditions – Heat and humidity encourage more spoilage.
  • Type of sauce – Creamy, dairy-based sauces like ranch go bad quicker.
  • Your health – Those with weaker immune systems should be more cautious.

Food safety experts do not recommend eating wing sauce more than 1-2 weeks past the printed expiration date. Beyond this window, the risk of food poisoning rises. Consuming contaminated sauce can cause symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.

Botulism from wing sauce is unlikely but still possible if the sauce was not properly acidified. Seek medical help right away if you experience any numbness, difficulty swallowing, paralysis, or vision problems after eating expired sauce.

Taste Test

The best way to determine if an expired wing sauce is still safe is to inspect it and do a small taste test. Check the bottle for any bulges, leaks, mold, major separation, etc. Give the sauce a sniff – it should smell pleasant without any sourness or off odors. Finally, taste a tiny bit of the sauce. If it tastes overly vinegary, bitter, or unpleasant in any other way, do not eat it.

When in Doubt, Throw it Out

If there is any doubt about the safety of an expired wing sauce, it is best to simply discard it. Wing sauce is not expensive and is easy to replace. Getting food poisoning from eating spoiled sauce is never worth the risk. Toss expired wing sauces in the trash rather than jeopardizing your health.

How to Store Wing Sauce Properly

To help your wing sauce last as long as possible, be sure to store it correctly:

  • Refrigerate after opening – Keep opened wing sauce bottles in the fridge to slow bacteria growth.
  • Check for expiration date – Write the date you opened the sauce on the bottle and watch this date.
  • Seal tightly – Close lids tightly so no air gets in after each use.
  • Use clean utensils – Use a clean spoon each time to avoid introducing new bacteria.
  • No temperature extremes – Don’t leave wing sauce out on the counter or in hot cars for long periods.

Ways to Use Up Wing Sauce Before it Expires

To help ensure your wing sauce gets used up while it is still fresh, here are some tips:

  • Make wings! – The obvious choice, fry or bake up some chicken wings for dinner, game day, etc.
  • Use as a marinade or sauce – Brush on meats and veggies before grilling or roasting.
  • Add to dips – Stir in a spoonful to liven up sour cream or mayo-based dips.
  • Drizzle on pizza – Add zing to homemade or frozen pizzas.
  • Toss with fried foods – Dress up french fries, fried pickles, etc.
  • Spice up sandwiches – Spread on a chicken or pulled pork sandwich.
  • Use in salad dressing – Whisk with oil and vinegar for a flavorful salad topper.

Make Your Own Wing Sauce

If you go through wing sauce quickly, consider making your own homemade version. This allows you to control the ingredients and flavors. Plus, homemade sauce won’t spoil as rapidly. Here is a simple recipe to try:

Basic Buffalo Wing Sauce


  • 1/2 cup hot pepper sauce (Frank’s RedHot or similar)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  2. Stir in the hot sauce, vinegar or lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer.
  3. Reduce heat and let simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until flavors meld.
  4. Remove from heat and let cool. Pour into an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 month.

This homemade wing sauce stores well in the fridge. Adjust the amounts of hot sauce, garlic, etc. to suit your desired flavor and heat level. Other easy variations include adding a splash of bourbon, some honey, or additional herbs.


An expired, spoiled wing sauce poses some health hazards if consumed. For best safety and quality, use wing sauce within 1-2 weeks of the printed expiration date. Properly storing unopened and opened bottles in the fridge helps maximize shelf life. Quickly use up extra wing sauce rather than letting it linger past its prime. And whipping up homemade wing sauce is an easy way to control ingredients and avoid expiration concerns. Being smart about buying, opening, storing, and consuming wing sauce lets you enjoy this popular condiment without worries.

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