If you regularly eat hot sauce on your food, you’ll know that most bottles have an expiration date. So, does this mean that hot sauce gets less spicy over time?
Hot sauce can get less spicy over time if you refrigerate it, as the number of volatile oils decreases. Continuously opening and closing the hot sauce bottle can also result in the capsaicin molecules becoming degraded and losing their potency.
Read further to discover if hot sauce can become less spicy and how an increased tolerance to hot sauce influences the overall perception of spice. I’ll also discuss whether or not hot sauce is healthy.
Does Hot Sauce Lose Its Potency?
Do you have an old or expired bottle of hot sauce in your refrigerator? If so, you might wonder if it’s lost some of its potency. So, does hot sauce get less spicy over time?
Hot sauce gradually loses its potency over time. Refrigeration causes the volatile oils to decrease. The capsaicin molecules also gradually degrade and lose their spiciness when they’re exposed to oxygen.
If you’ve ever opened an older bottle of hot sauce and felt that it was lacking in potency, you’re not alone. There are various factors that can cause a hot sauce to lose its spiciness over time. The most notable of these factors are refrigeration and oxygenation. I’ll discuss these reasons in more detail below.
Refrigeration Can Affect the Spiciness of Hot Sauce
Making hot sauce involves combining the following ingredients:
- Chili peppers
- Vinegar or lemon juice
- Cooking oil or butter
After heating these ingredients, the capsaicin (the oily substance responsible for hot sauce’s spicy taste) becomes volatile and releases its potent spicy molecules in the sauce. The capsaicin molecules dissolve in the fats used to make the sauce and spread the spicy flavor throughout the sauce.
As the sauce cools down, some of the volatile oils become less potent. Then, when you refrigerate it for an extended period, the number of volatile oils in the sauce can decrease. This is because some of the capsaicin molecules become temporarily locked in the oil, causing the sauce to taste blander. If you heat the sauce, it will become spicy again.
If you haven’t used your hot sauce for a while, you might notice that the oily parts have floated to the top, leaving the more watery ingredients at the bottom. When this happens, the oily capsaicin remains on top, causing the uppermost ingredients to be very spicy and the underlying ones to be bland. However, shaking your bottle of hot sauce before using it can solve this problem.
Oxygenation Can Lower the Spiciness of Hot Sauce
Many hot sauce lovers use the condiment almost every day. However, continuously opening and closing a bottle of hot sauce exposes it to oxygen, which can cause the capsaicin molecules to degrade over time.
Thankfully, oxygenation generally only happens when the hot sauce has expired and the capsaicin molecules have already begun to lose stability. It is possible that oxygenation is causing a decrease in the potency of your hot sauce; however, the change is likely very small.
Can You Build Up a Tolerance to Hot Sauce?
Hot sauce can give your food a fiery kick, but it can taste overwhelming if you’re not used to it. On the other hand, lovers of the condiment may start to feel that it doesn’t have the same spicy effect on their taste buds as it used to. This leads them to question whether the sauce is losing its potency.
You can build a tolerance to hot sauce by eating it regularly and in small quantities. Once you’re used to consuming a small amount at a time, you can begin eating more and increasing your tolerance.
If you can’t handle hot sauce, you probably have more capsaicin receptors in your taste buds. When exposed to a hot sauce, the capsaicin receptors become activated, letting your brain know that you’re experiencing pain. However, with regular exposure, the receptors become desensitized and stop sending these signals to your brain.
Here are some tips on how to make the tolerance-building process more comfortable:
- Start off small. Building tolerance to hot sauce can take a long time, and you need to be patient. Start off by eating a tiny quantity of hot sauce. You can start eating slightly more when it no longer feels uncomfortably spicy.
- Use the mildest hot sauce first. Trying the spiciest hot sauce first will encourage you to abandon the process. Start off with the mildest hot sauce variety, and have faith that you’ll one day handle spicier varieties.
- Get creative. If you’re struggling to find foods for adding hot sauce, try and get creative. You can add a tiny amount of hot sauce to various foods, including soups, ketchup, casseroles, and salsas.
- Don’t use out-of-date hot sauce. In the previous section, I mentioned that hot sauce can become less potent over time but that this usually happens when the hot sauce has expired. Eating expired hot sauce is not usually harmful, but it could affect your tolerance-building process.
Consider How Tolerance Impacts Your Perception of Hot Sauce
Now that you have a basic understanding of spice tolerance and how it is built up, it is possible to consider whether you have developed a tolerance for hot sauce. While it may taste to you like your hot sauce has lost its potency over time, it’s quite possible that the difference lies in your taste buds rather than the sauce itself.
If you are worried that your hot sauce has become less spicy over time, stop to consider how your tolerance to spice has changed over the time period in question.
Unfortunately, hot sauce can lose its potency over time, an excellent reason to use it within the best before date.
Hot sauce can get less spicy over time if you build a tolerance. This usually happens when you eat spicy foods regularly, and your capsaicin receptors become desensitized to the heat.