Is fish sauce bad for you?

In this article, we will answer the question “Is fish sauce bad for you?”, how long does fish sauce last, how to tell if the fish sauce has gone bad, how to use fish sauce in cooking, and how to store fish sauce.

Is fish sauce bad for you?

Excess of anything is bad. Among the many health benefits of fish sauce, some of the health risks are discussed below for your awareness.

Presence of histidine amino acid 

Histidine is added to the fish sauce during fermentation. It is also present naturally in the skin, gills, and gut of the fish. During fermentation, microorganisms convert the histidine into histamine which is a common allergen.

The common symptoms of histamine allergy are watery eyes, sneezing, fatigue, headache, runny nose, hives, and itchy skin. 

High concentration of salt 

100 grams of fish sauce contains about 7851 mg of salt, which is a lot, and especially dangerous for individuals with hypertension. According to a report, only a single tablespoon of fish sauce is sufficient to fulfill 96% of your daily salt intake.

The high salt concentration (20-24%) of the fish sauce plays an important role in its presentation because salt is well-known for its antimicrobial properties. But the high levels of sodium in fish sauce do you no good.

How long does fish sauce last?

Fish sauce boasts a long shelf-life due to the presence of a high concentration of salt. This is why some manufacturers only mention the bottling date on the fish sauce. 

But this does not make it invincible. Although fish sauce may not go bad in the traditional sense, it will lose its flavor, freshness, and intensity over time.

Such poor quality traits are enough for you to give up on the expired fish sauce and get yourself a brand new bottle instead. The best-by date printed on the fish sauce bottle is just a reference for how long the fish sauce will keep in its prime quality. 

Pantry Fridge 
Fish sauce (unopened) Best by + 1 year
Fish sauce (Opened) 3 – 6 months12+ months

As long as the fish sauce is stored correctly, it will last way beyond the printed date. The estimated shelf-life given in the table above is for best quality only.

How to tell if the fish sauce has gone bad?

Note that the presence of sediment in the fish sauce bottle is a natural process. It happens when the fish sauce has been sitting for too long. Prolonged storage causes the sea salt to crystallize and settles at the bottom of the fish sauce. 

This does not affect the safety of the fish sauce. Because it is a quality issue. Some of the tell-tale signs of spoilage that threaten the safety of the fish sauce are discussed below.

Mold: If you can see colored fuzzy growths on the surface of the fish sauce and around the cap of the bottle, the fish has gone bad. 

Off-smell: If the fish sauce starts to give off a rotten smell, it has turned.

Off-taste: If the fish sauce looks all good and does not give a funny smell, check its taste to give the final verdict. If the rich umami flavor of fish sauce is replaced by a sour, rotten, or fishy taste, discard it immediately. 

How to use fish sauce in cooking? 

Fish sauce is versatile when it comes to cooking. There are plenty of delicious ways to incorporate fish sauce into your dishes. For example, you can combine it with curry paste, use it for pickling, or add it to soup or broth.

It also works great as a salt substitute. You can use it to flavor boiled rice and spice up your rice dishes, grilled veggies, and salsa.

How to store fish sauce?

The general rule of thumb is to store your fish sauce somewhere cool, dark, and dry. If you live in a warm climate, a pantry or kitchen cabinet may not be viable options.

In this case, consider refrigerating your fish sauce, whether opened or unopened. Keeping the fish sauce at a cold temperature ensures the amino acids do not degrade. 

After each use, make sure to keep the fish sauce tightly sealed. Wipe around the rim of the fish sauce bottle to prevent the dried-out bits of the fish sauce from falling into the sauce and contaminating it.


In this article, we answered the question “Is fish sauce bad for you?”, how long does fish sauce last, how to tell if the fish sauce has gone bad, how to use fish sauce in cooking, and how to store fish sauce.


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