Does Taco Bell Hot Sauce Expire and Everything Else About Sauce Packets You Never Thought To Ask (2022)

Does Taco Bell Hot Sauce Expire and Everything Else About Sauce Packets You Never Thought To Ask (1)

(Photo: Susan Quinland-Stringer/shutterstock.com)

A version of this post originally appeared on theTediumnewsletter.

Sauce packets, the dabbles of vinegar and tomato puree that make up ketchup, the emulsified eggs and oil bound together in the average mayonnaise (admit it, you use these for fries) or the soy sauce from your last takeout order, seem to be the Forrest Gump of the fast food world. With every milestone or major industry event, they sit there, in the background.

Yet, these small bits of plastic are a whole industry unto themselves. Before they started clogging up your silverware drawer, they represented a kind of packaging innovation.

Take the Heinz packet. Much like the magnetic stripe on your average credit card, they’re newer than you think. The first Heinz ketchup packet didn’t come about until 1968, getting beat to the market by soy sauce packets, which came about roughly a decade earlier. And their size seems comically small, but that’s no accident. According to Marketplace, food companies are very particular about the size of their ketchup packets over the years.

Does Taco Bell Hot Sauce Expire and Everything Else About Sauce Packets You Never Thought To Ask (2)

Lots and lots of ketchup. (Photo: Bill Selak/flickr)

Despite the fact that they generally can be made in larger sizes, the market has settled on nine-gram packets, despite the fact that nine grams is clearly not enough since we use like six of them in a single serving. (Credit to Heinz, though, for attempting to come up with some alternatives.)

(Video) 10 Secrets Taco Bell Employees Will Never Tell You

Heinz sells an absurd number of these packets each single year—according to the company, that’s around 11 billion or so every 365 days, or two for every person on the planet. At nine grams each, that’s about 109,000 tons of ketchup. (Heinz uses more tomatoes than anyone else on the planet.)

The level of production behind ketchup packets raises some significant concerns, just because of all the raw materials used and the fact that … well, a lot of packets of sauces end up in fridges or in cupboards. And those concerns are, to a degree, warranted. Ketchup packets are generally not very easy to recycle, because they’re made of a combination of plastic and foil, and separating the materials is far more difficult than fusing them together.

The juice maker Capri Sun, which makes its packaging in roughly the same way, has come under fire in recent months because its packs can’t be recycled.

While Heinz is by far the largest producer of ketchup packets, they’re far from the only one. The world’s largest fast-food chain, McDonald’s, severed its ties with Heinz completely in 2013 after the condiment company hired Burger King’s former CEO as its new chief executive. Previously, supplied 90 percent of McDonald’s condiments.

For condiment lovers who can’t just grab the packets off the counter, it is possible to buy ketchup in stores. Amazon sells bulk packets along with other online outlets such as Food Service Direct and Heinz’s own food service vendor.

The number of packets out there, the fact that they don’t have any expiration dates directly on the packaging, and the fact that they’re often given away for free commonly leads to some weird situations and interesting questions.

Perhaps the weirdest situation came about in 2006, when a couple of knuckleheads in Indiana returned more than 400 pounds of sauce packets, or approximately 25,000 packets, to a local restaurant—something we’re assuming the manager on that night was thrilled about.

The packets, which were returned inside of six garbage bags, were collected by a group of pranksters over a three-year period and left inside of a dude’s car. Reports initially suggested that the hot sauce was stolen, but The Consumerist reported in a follow-up that it was actually the work of a guy who ate a lot of Taco Bell.

(Video) EVERY TACO BELL EVER

Does Taco Bell Hot Sauce Expire and Everything Else About Sauce Packets You Never Thought To Ask (3)

Packets of Heinz ketchup from a Burger King in Spain. (Photo: Toni Genes/flickr)

“I’ve heard a lot of people accumulate sauce packets in their glove compartments. We know people keep things and it’s a pretty common phenomenon, but to have that many, I’ve never heard of that,” Taco Bell spokesman Rob Poetsch said of the incident.

Perhaps these guys are to blame for a shift in sauce-distribution policy at some stores. Last year, Slate contributor Ruth Graham noted the growth of a movement by some fast food stores to only distribute sauce packets behind the counter.

“The recession taught fast-food restaurants that you must run a much more efficient operation. You must run a tight ship, and you cannot get by being loosey-goosey and freewheeling with your condiment packets,” Sam Oches, who edits a fast-food-industry trade magazine told Graham.

He also suggested that there’s an element of behavioral psychology at play.

“Ultimately if you start to implement some of the change at the store level, where you switch the expectation from not getting to grab handfuls of condiment packets and have to go up to the counter to ask, in time people will forget,” he explained.

Perhaps this glut of sauces will soon be a thing of the past, but for now, let’s go back to the pile of random condiments sitting in your fridge. Clearly they’ve probably been there for a while, perhaps dating to the Clinton administration or longer.

(Video) My taco bell sauce packets selling experience on Ebay

These devices of saucedom generally have very little in the way of useful information located on the package. No nutritional information, and generally no expiration dates. Which might make one wonder—do they last forever?

Does Taco Bell Hot Sauce Expire and Everything Else About Sauce Packets You Never Thought To Ask (4)

Many packets of Panda Express soy sauce. (Photo: me and the sysop/flickrsysop)

I’m here to tell you that, in most cases, they don’t. Some types of condiments commonly found in packet form, like honey, salt, and sugar, don’t really go bad for various reasons.

But those spare Taco Bell sauce packets that you’ve been using like Tabasco from another mother? Yes, they spoil. They lose their flavor over time, and those plasticky metal packets only go so far to protect the spicy flavor that’s buried inside of the casing. Same with ketchup, mayo, mustard, BBQ sauce, or relish.

And believe it or not, they do actually have expiration dates generally listed—just not on the sauce packets themselves. Instead, they tend to have it on the boxes that the restaurants pull the hot sauce out of.

This issue that we’re touching upon is actually a big topic of discussion in the survivalist space. It’s understandable: If the world ends and you run out of sustenance elsewhere, that extra supply of Horsey sauce from Arby’s is going to come in handy. But the result is a little disappointing from a results standpoint. A common story shared around survivalist forums is this one from WISN reporter Portia Young, who found that most sauces last less than a year. There’s not a lot of meat there, and I’m linking to Wayback Machine link, so clearly this information is current and authoritative, but here’s the list she acquired from Heinz:

  • Ketchup: 7 months
  • Chopped onions: 7 months
  • Mayonnaise: 8 months
  • Fat-free mayonnaise: 8 months
  • Relish: 9 months
  • Mild taco sauce: 9 months
  • Hot taco sauce: 4 months
  • Yellow mustard: 9 months
  • BBQ sauce: 9 months
  • Steak sauce: 9 months
  • Tartar sauce: 8 months
  • Horseradish sauce: 8 months
  • Cocktail sauce: 9 months
  • Tabasco sauce: 8 months

A slightly better piece of research on the issue comes from a site called the Outdoor Herbivore Blog, which puts expiration dates on the sauces and offers some guidelines as to what to expect when you’re in the middle of nowhere and the only thing you have to eat is a packet of mayonnaise that you found inside the seat cushions of your 1989 Ford Taurus.

(Video) How to Make Taco Bell Mild Sauce | It's Only Food w/ Chef John Politte

Does Taco Bell Hot Sauce Expire and Everything Else About Sauce Packets You Never Thought To Ask (5)A vacuum-sealed foil package of the type used for condiments.Ketchup packets are generally not easy to recycle, because they’re made of a combination of plastic and foil. (Photo: Matt Valentine/shutterstock.com)

“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,” the site explains. “Condiments containing fats (mayo, butter) go rancid more quickly.”

But if that wasn’t shocking enough info, consider this: soy sauce packets often don’t even contain its eponymous ingredient.

As detailed in a story from the Atlantic last year, the history of the tiny packages is fascinating. Howard Epstein, a Jewish man from the Bronx, co-created the product after making plastic freezer pops for years. The initial use case was not take-out, either; it was to enable Chinese food to be served on airplanes. Thrillistthen pointed out a disgusting, disappointing fact that you didn’t notice: those soy sauce packets quite often don’t include soy, but instead a reassuring ingredient called “hydrolyzed vegetable protein.” At least, when you pick up a Heinz packet, you know you’re getting ketchup.

A version of this post originally appeared onTedium, a twice-weekly newsletter that hunts for the end of the long tail.

Does Taco Bell Hot Sauce Expire and Everything Else About Sauce Packets You Never Thought To Ask (6)

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FAQs

How long are Taco Bell hot sauce packets good for? ›

Sauce packets generally are shelf stable for six to eight months upon arrival. This often has very little to do with the sauce expiring, as it does the point at which the packaging begins to break down. While it's not likely to harm you past the best by date. The flavor will deteriorate.

Does Taco Bell have a sauce packet limit? ›

Taco Bell on Instagram: “The Sauce Packet limit does not exist.”

How long is hot sauce packets good for? ›

Here's how long each of these packets last: Indefinitely: Honey, salt and sugar. 4 years: Vinegar, hot sauces and pepper. 3 years: Jam and jelly.

Can you use expired sauce packets? ›

Sauce packets do not have an expiration date, but they may become hard and unusable after a long period of time. If you have a sauce packet that is more than a year old, it is probably best to throw it away.

Can you eat taco Bell sauce after expiration date? ›

Yes, provided it is properly stored and the bottle is undamaged - commercially packaged taco sauce will typically carry a " Best By," "Best if Used By," "Best Before, or "Best When Used By" date but this is not a safety date, it is the manufacturer's estimate of how long the taco sauce will remain at peak quality.

How do you tell if a sauce packet is expired? ›

If a ketchup packet looks weird — like it's 8-months pregnant with a baby ketchup packet, the ingredients have separated or it's dark red in color — chuck it. If it smells weird, has a strange texture or tastes off, toss it.

Why is there no Taco Bell hot sauce in stores? ›

The issue is the result of transportation issues, as opposed to an actual issue with producing the hot sauce. In a statement obtained by FOX Business, a spokesperson for Taco Bell said, "Due to national transportation delays happening throughout most of the industry, we may temporarily be out of some items.

What sauce did Taco Bell discontinue? ›

Taco Bell's Discontinued Diablo Sauce Sold On eBay - Thrillist.

What are Taco Bell sauce packets made of? ›

Packaging: Taco Bell's hot sauce packets are made from a polyethylene (PE) and metallized aluminum structure. The hot sauce packets have a netweight of ~ 6 grams/0.2 ounce; Breakfast Salsa packets that will also be recycled are ~ 14 grams/0.5 ounce. 2.

Is it OK to eat expired hot sauce? ›

And truthfully, if you're eating hot sauce that's too old, all you're typically consuming is a little bad yeast or mold. You certainly don't WANT to consume that, and it could give you an upset stomach, but it's most likely to just cause an imperfect taste with no long-term damage.

How long are unopened sauce packets good for? ›

That said, here are the best estimates for how long to keep packets of various condiments: One year for mayo, relish, BBQ sauce, tartar sauce, horseradish sauce, maple syrup, salad dressings and ketchup. One to two years for olive oil, Parmesan cheese, taco sauce, mustard and soy sauce.

Does taco sauce expire? ›

Yes! Condiments do expire, so it's important to keep an eye on your shelves full of sauces. Any food that's too old can grow bacteria and lose or change its taste over time—even canned food doesn't last forever. The best-case scenario is that your old hot sauce tastes stale instead of spicy.

Do unopened sauces expire? ›

Yes, condiments are going to last you a lot longer than a bag of chips or fresh fruit, but you should still pay attention to the “use by” date. Condiments are shelf-stable foods and can be stored unopened in the pantry for long periods of time.

Why don t condiment packets have expiration dates? ›

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.

What happens if you eat out of date sauce? ›

If you happen to digest some hot sauce that is too old, you're mostly ingesting bad yeast or mold, causing imperfect taste, but it won't cause long-term damage whatsoever.

What's the number 1 hot sauce in America? ›

The findings revealed that the most popular hot sauce in the United States is Huy Fong Sriracha.

What is Taco Bell's most popular hot sauce? ›

If you're looking for the hottest Taco Bell sauce, try Diablo or Fire. If heat isn't your thing, go with Mild or Red. Of course, beyond the hot sauces, you also owe it to yourself to try their Chipotle, Spicy Ranch, Avocado Ranch, and Nacho Cheese.

What hot sauce has a shortage? ›

The scarcity of Sriracha sauce was caused by a chili pepper shortage that has lasted for nearly two years now.

What items are no longer available at Taco Bell? ›

Some concoctions, however, are more fleeting than others. Some of Taco Bell's most crispy tacos, experimental attention grabbers and iconic items are no longer with us.
...
  • The 7-Layer Burrito. ...
  • Loaded Grillers. ...
  • Nacho Crunch Grilled Stuft Burrito. ...
  • The Bell Beefer. ...
  • Caramel Apple Empanada. ...
  • The Enchirito. ...
  • Grilled Steak Soft Taco.

What is Taco Bell bringing back in 2022? ›

The Double Decker Taco And Enchirito Go Head-to-head As Taco Bell® Fans Vote On Which Will Briefly Return To Menus In 2022. Irvine, Calif.

Why does Taco Bell want their sauce packets back? ›

Hot, mild, diablo — whatever sauce they contain, more than 8 billion of the packets wind up in landfills each year, the company says. The new campaign is part of an effort to cut down on waste and find a future for single-use food packaging, the restaurant chain says.

What company makes Taco Bell hot sauce? ›

All of the items you see in our hot sauce and taco sauce collection are made with your convenience in mind. Be sure to update your shopping list accordingly with your favorite Kraft Heinz products before you forget.

Which Taco Bell sauce is best? ›

The Fire sauce is easily the best sauce provided at Taco Bell. The Fire sauce was the hottest sauce that Taco Bell provided before Diablo came around. Not only is it the perfect amount of spice, but it also has a really great flavor that enhances your food.

Are Taco Bell sauce packets metal? ›

Taco bell sauce packets lose their flavor over time, and those plasticky metal packets only go so far as to protect the spicy flavor that's buried inside of the casing.

Can bacteria grow in hot sauce? ›

Keeping sauces at room temperature is inviting the potential growth of bacteria and molds, as these tend to thrive in warm, moist environments (like inside your hot sauce bottles). As a rule of thumb, vinegar based sauces are better at keeping, but should still be stored in the fridge for safety.

Can you use unopened expired hot sauce? ›

If your bottle contains an expiration date and you're beyond it, it's best to pitch it as well. There's definitely a chance that the hot sauce is still fine to eat. Those expiration dates typically have to do with the lessening of the overall flavor, but it's better to be safe than sorry.

Do unopened sauce packets need to be refrigerated? ›

What About Condiment Packets? Those leftover ketchup and mustard packets at the bottom of your take-out bag don't need to be refrigerated. Once you open them, though, use them up or throw them away.

Does mayonnaise expire? ›

An unopened jar of mayonnaise is shelf-stable for 3-4 months after its best by date. You can see the date written on the side of the mayonnaise jar. Three to four months is the shelf life when you decide to store it in the pantry. It can last for up to a year if left unopened and kept refrigerated throughout.

What can I do with unused sauce packets? ›

4 Things To Do With Your Leftover Sauce Packets
  1. Bring them in your lunches. Ever feel like your lunches are bland? ...
  2. Turn them into currency. ...
  3. Buy a mason jar and keep them out in the open — and maybe start a home decor trend. ...
  4. Make some fancy sauce.

Can hot sauce grow botulism? ›

Food Safety Controls of Hot Sauce

Although hot sauces may not necessarily be water-bath canned, they are typically bottled and most likely will have an anaerobic environment that would be conducive to the growth of clostridium botulinum.

What damage can hot sauce cause? ›

Spicy foods may worsen acid reflux, IBS, peptic ulcers, and gastritis. They may also cause digestive issues, including heartburn, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and stomach cramps, if consumed in large amounts.

Does ketchup actually expire? ›

Yes, ketchup and other condiments do expire.

What condiments have the longest shelf life? ›

Information
  • ketchup, cocktail or chili sauce 6 months.
  • chutney, 1 to 2 months.
  • horseradish, 3 to 4 months.
  • mustard, 12 months.
  • olives 2 weeks.
  • pickles, 1-3 months..
17 Jul 2019

Do flavor packets expire? ›

Dried herbs and spices don't truly expire or “go bad” in the traditional sense. When a spice is said to have gone bad, it simply means that it has lost most of its flavor, potency, and color. Fortunately, consuming a spice that has gone bad is unlikely to make you sick.

Why do packets have expiry? ›

These dates are required on certain foods that have specific nutritional compositions that could falter after the determined expiration date. In other words, after the expiration date has passed, the food may not have the nutrient content as described on the label.

Do taco Bell sauce packets expire? ›

Yes, they spoil. They lose their flavor over time, and those plasticky metal packets only go so far to protect the spicy flavor that's buried inside of the casing. Same with ketchup, mayo, mustard, BBQ sauce, or relish.

Do taco seasoning packets expire? ›

Shelf Life Tips

Properly stored, a package of taco seasoning mix will generally stay at best quality for about 2-3 years at room temperature. To maximize the shelf life of taco seasoning mix, keep the package tightly closed at all times.

How long before taco sauce goes bad? ›

Salsa and taco sauces last for only one month.

These items are usually best if they're consumed within one month of opening.

Do seasoning packets really expire? ›

Dried herbs and spices don't truly expire or “go bad” in the traditional sense. When a spice is said to have gone bad, it simply means that it has lost most of its flavor, potency, and color.

Should you throw away expired seasoning? ›

Ground spices lose their freshness the quickest and typically don't last past six months. The best freshness test for ground spices is to give them a whiff — if they smell like nothing, then it's time to say goodbye. Whole spices, on the other hand, can be fine for up to five years.

How long can you use expired seasoning? ›

Technically, spices don't expire said registered dietitian Anar Allidina. “But after six months to a year in your kitchen, they will lose their flavour and potency.” Not all spices are created equal either. According to a report by Taste of Home, ground spices lose flavour quicker than whole spices.

Can you eat sauces after expiration date? ›

Yes, condiments are going to last you a lot longer than a bag of chips or fresh fruit, but you should still pay attention to the “use by” date. Condiments are shelf-stable foods and can be stored unopened in the pantry for long periods of time.

Do unopened sauces go bad? ›

Condiments are shelf-stable foods and can be stored unopened in the pantry for long periods of time. Optimal storage is in a dry, cool area below 85 degrees, or in the fridge (if the condiment should be refrigerated after being opened) with a temperature of 40 degrees or lower.

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