organic vegetarian meals for the trail

Expiration Date of Condiment Packets

Do you stow extra condiment packets from fast food restaurants?  In particular, we keep a sandwich bag stocked in our cupboard of Taco Bell Fire Sauce. These packets are useful to take backpacking or to spread on your home-made burrito when you run out of refrigerated salsa. I’ve seen other people stashing a little bit of everything – mayo, ketchup, mustard, soy sauce, relish, honey, parmesan cheese, salad dressing, sugar, salt/pepper, plastic cups of jelly.condiment packets

If you examine the condiment, most do not have an expiration date. Packets are shipped by the thousand in bulk and a recommended manufacture “Expiration Date” is displayed on the container.  The date on the shipping box is usually not an official expiration date, but a “Best By” date to ensure peak quality – and in most cases, you can consume products after this date as long as they are appropriately stored.

What is the shelf life of condiment packets?

There is no official guideline from the USDA or FDA for condiments – or any food for that matter. With the exception of infant formula and some baby foods, product dating is not generally required by Federal regulations (source: fsis.usda.gov).

Sealed foil packaged condiments provide an impermeable barrier from light, air and moisture. This allows the product to last for years – if not decades.

Guidelines:

  • Before consuming the condiment, inspect the packaging. If it appears puffy or is damaged, toss it; When you open the packet, inspect it; If it has an odd color, texture, flavor or odor, toss it.
  • Condiments containing fats (mayo, butter) go rancid more quickly.
  • Paper-based packets can spoil faster. Salt does not go bad. Cane sugar does not go bad. Ground Pepper loses flavor after 3 – 4 years as the oils dry out but is still fine to consume.
  • Vinegar is safe to consume indefinitely due to the acetic acid content, but the packaged salad vinegars will lose peak flavor in as little as 1 year.
  • Honey does not spoil because of the high sugar and low moisture content. Make sure the honey is real bee honey and not corn syrup.
  • The plastic tubs of jelly with the top peel may last 2 – 3 years.  Plastic creamers and margarine cups expire quickly and must be refrigerated.

We referenced a handful of resources – including the manufacturer’s recommended “Best By” dates and compiled this data for some of the most common condiments.

condiment expiration dates

Condiment For Optimal Flavor
Mayonnaise 1 year
Relish 1 year
BBQ Sauce 1 year
Tartar Sauce 1 year
Horseradish Sauce 1 year
Maple Syrup 1 year
Nut Butters – Almond, Peanut, Cashew 1 year
Salad Dressing 1 year
Ketchup 1 year
Olive Oil 1 – 2 years
Parmesan Cheese 1 – 2 years
Taco sauce 1 – 2 years
Mustard 1 – 2 years
Soy Sauce 1 – 2 years
Tabasco sauce 3 – 4 years
Pepper 3 – 4 years
Vinegar 3 – 4 years
Honey Indefinite
Salt Indefinite
Sugar Indefinite
Artificial Sweeteners Eat at your own risk!

Find something missing? The website StillTasty offers an accurate look-up tool for bottled condiments.

Finally, don’t forget to enjoy some real food packed with substance and plant-based spices. You may find you don’t want (or need) all those condiment packets covering up the taste!

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33 thoughts on “Expiration Date of Condiment Packets”

  • I would like to see more detailed information on other products and I also noticed that the picture that you have posted on this website or blog (packets of hot fire sauce from Taco Bell) is not on the chart or table you’ve provided. Aside from this, I do appreciate the effort that has been made in providing more facts for the general public. Thank you.

  • The hot sauce is on the chart as ‘taco sauce’ & lasts 1-2 years.

  • Is there any benefit to freezing these packets? My plan has been to freeze any extra packets we got,

  • I don’t recommend freezing the packets. Some of the condiments will separate and turn watery or grainy when frozen. It is best to leave them at room temperature or a cool location.

  • What do you suppose the “best before” life of sweet and sour sauce in clear plastic packets is?

  • Thank you for this informative post but I hope you could list more products 🙂 anyway, thank you again, your blog is very helpful!

  • Thanks for posting this information. I typically snack on packets of mayo and such and appreciate the guidelines you’ve posted in such a clear and easy to understand format.

  • This is good info. I guess I need to mark the year on mayo and other packets before I put them in storage.

  • I often wondered about how long to keep all the unused condiment packets my family accumulates. This information was very helpful. Thank you for your research.

  • In n out has spread in sealed packets that are unopenable! I am very strong but cannot open the package at all!

  • I opened my packet of soy sauces and about 3 of them were a clear liquid tasted just like super water down soy sauce. I poured 1/2 package on my rice before noticing and my brother said it would be fine so I ate it. Now I’m worried though because after googling I found nothing. No one had posted any such thing and the only thing I found is that when it spoils it gets darker. Does anyone know what this is?!

  • Should sauce packets from places like Chick-fil-A, Taco Bell, or Wendy’s be refrigerated? Or are they okay with just being in a pantry?

  • Honey, salt, sugar: Indefinite

    Tabasco sauce, pepper, vinegar: 3-4 years

    Jelly in plastic tubs: 2-3 years

    Olive oil, parmesan cheese, taco sauce, mustard, soy sauce: 1-2 years

    Mayonnaise, relish, barbecue sauce, tartar sauce, horseradish sauce, maple syrup, nut butters, salad dressing, ketchup: 1 year

  • Is it okay to refrigerate the packets. Will.they last longer? Are their some which should not be stored this way?

  • Is it okay to refrigerate the packets. Will.they last longer? Are there some which should not be stored this way? Your information was very helpful. Thank you.

  • People stealing (yes, not consuming with purchased food) packets only make business remove packets from public access. It costs businesses a fortune.

  • Dear CommonSense, I agree, but a lot of people collect these packets through fast food drive thru’s and find that they have a few unused packets left over after eating. I don’t think you should necessarily assume the readers here are going into places stealing these packets.

  • I agree fred!!! Commonsense, i actually get more crap going thru drive thru then i would ever grab if i went in!! So maybe you should point to employees also instead of assuming everyone is “stealing” them!! I work at a gas station and yes ppl do take handfuls of stuff but thats not where this conversation was even going for you to “assume” how they got them! Why even talk if you wasnt going to join the actual conversation?! Anyway i appreciate the info cause i have a few also, thanks everybody else 🙂

  • Hi

    We are a food manufacturing company in India and planning to launch mustard sauce in plastic sachets. Will it be okay as no other company has till now launched this product in single serving packets.

  • Wow! What a revelation. At the first of the month I usually throw out all unused packets of condiments from the month b4. And Amy is right. I ask at the drive through for ‘couple extra packs’ and the guy/gal drops in a double handful. I keep the extras in the fridge in an open Tupperware. Who knew?

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  • Thank you. I’m using a ketchup packet in my desk after reading this. You saved my lunch now and in future!

  • Does anybody know how to find date code on Kraft Golden Italian dressing packets? Nobody will sell it in stores (it seems there’s a craze now for the putrid-tasting Ranch)and I have to order it in boxes of 60 packets. There are no letters on pouches, just UPC code number.???

  • I have bought 4 years ago a box of Heinz Ketchup packets and Miracle Whip individual cups/packets. They have been kept in refrigerator drawer since day one.
    They seems to be holding very good.
    Ketchup seems to show a bit of flavor change.
    Miracle whip seems to be to the par.
    Both no change in texture.
    For the amount I use , Next time I buy a box , I will deal half with a local restaurant so my stock last less long a bit. I’m about at half of both products.

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