Nuts are actually fruits of different types of trees made up of an inedible external shell containing the edible seed inside.
In the culinary sense, nuts are dried seeds which have many uses in the kitchen. You can use them as ingredients for cakes, salads, or just eat the seeds themselves.
Whether you like baking cakes or just enjoying some seeds as a snack after lunch, you probably have some type of nuts in a bowl on your table.
Sometimes you may leave a pack of nuts in the kitchen and just forget about them. After a while, you open your cupboard and see a bag of nuts you left there some time ago. That’s the moment you may ask yourself: Do nuts go bad? How to know if nuts have gone bad? What is the shelf life of nuts? How do I properly store them? Can I use stale nuts for something else?
In this article, we will answer all of your questions, so read on!
So, Can Nuts Go Bad?
Although you may think otherwise, the truth is – Yes, nuts can definitely go bad!
Many people think that because nuts are so dry, they are not prone to going bad or rancid. They just don’t look like most foods that we know for sure can get spoiled.
The truth is quite the opposite, and that’s thanks to their high oil content. These unsaturated oils are healthy, but, sadly, they oxidize over time and cause nuts to become rancid.
Still, they will take a much longer time to go bad than other foods. They are dry after all, which causes the oxidizing process to progress slowly.
How To Know If Nuts Have Gone Bad?
It can be hard to tell if nuts are not good to eat anymore. They can look perfectly normal on the surface when they go bad. That’s why you have to use some of your senses to figure out if they’ve gone bad.
We use our noses when trying to figure out if food is spoiled; nuts are no exception to this method.
When you open a jar or bag of good nuts, you will be greeted with a pleasant wooden scent that is quite enjoyable.
On the other hand, opening a bag of rancid nuts won’t be so pleasant. Nuts that have gone bad have a very characteristic scent of nail polish or some sort of paint. People have also reported that bad nuts smell like old plastic containers.
In any case, if you smell anything that isn’t wooden and pleasant to your nose when you open a jar of nuts, it’s a safe bet that they’ve gone rancid and should be disposed of.
Your tastebuds are the main instruments for detecting what food is good and what food has gone bad.
If you smell the nuts you think are bad and don’t notice anything strange, feel free to break off a little chunk of the nut and try it.
If it’s bad, you’ll know. The taste will be awfully sour or bitter, depending on the nut. In that case, just spit out the chunk you put in your mouth and throw out all of the nuts.
Your eyes can be useful at detecting bad nuts too. Nuts are vulnerable to fungus infections. You can notice the mold by the discoloration on the nuts.
Usually, you will see a blue or green layer on the nut’s skin or even a web-like material. These are all signs of fungus.
These fungi can be a health hazard too. Some types produce a toxin called aflatoxin, which is life-threatening. It’s known to damage the liver and DNA, even causing liver cancer, so keep your eyes open for mold on the nuts!
What Is The Shelf Life Of Nuts?
Even though nuts can go bad, the good thing about them is that they stay good for quite some time. The shelf life of nuts depends on what nut we are talking about.
Nuts do have best-by dates, but they can usually stay good for a while longer after this date if properly stored.
The date is there to let you know when the producer thinks the product will start losing its top quality.
Here are some examples of shelf life for specific nuts:
An unopened bag of almonds can last from 9 to 12 months at room temperature, and that’s after the best-by date!
If you put them in the fridge, as you should, unless you plan on munching on the whole bag within a week from opening it, they can stay good for up to a year after being opened.
In the freezer, they can stay good for as long as 2 years, but keeping anything frozen for that long will surely affect the taste, so you should avoid freezing them.
An unopened bag of pecans in the pantry will last you 6 months after their best-by date, so they’re not as versatile as almonds.
If you keep them in the fridge, they will stay good for up to a year from opening the package, and you can keep them good if you freeze them for up to 2 years.
These nuts stay fresh for much less time than the types mentioned above. An unopened bag of pine nuts in the pantry will remain good for 1-2 months after their best-by date.
In the fridge, they can probably stay fresh for 3-4 months after opening, and in the freezer, they can last for up to 6 months.
For other nuts, a general rule of thumb to follow is that the less oily they are, the longer they will last.
You can compare these types of nuts we mentioned to the particular nuts you have to figure out approximately for how long they will stay good.
How To Properly Store Nuts?
First of all, you ought to know that there’s a difference between storing nuts that are in their shell and nuts taken out of the shell.
The ones in the shell will stay fresh for longer, but it’s more convenient for every-day use to shell them first, so it’s up to you and your needs.
The main rule you should follow is to store nuts in air-tight containers. Whether it’s a jar, an air-tight box, or just a simple freezer bag, you need to keep the air out. This will also help with keeping the optimal moisture level in the package.
Keep them out of direct sunlight and sources of heat. These speed up the oils’ oxidation process in the nuts, and this process makes nuts go bad.
Store the packaged nuts away from garlic, meat, or any other food with strong smells. Because nuts are dry, they can absorb surrounding odors and aromas, making them taste strange.
Can You Use Stale Nuts For Something Else?
If you find an old bag of stale nuts in your cupboard, don’t throw it away immediately! There are some uses for those nuts too.
Here are some ways you can turn stale nuts into a tasty snack:
Don’t be afraid to add some spices to improve the flavor even more. Feel free to add some salt, ginger, cinnamon, or even honey and make one awesome snack to enjoy!
Use Them As Cake Toppings
Nuts can be a great addition to a cake. You can ground them and use it in your cake foundation for that delicious nutty taste.
Another way to incorporate nuts into cakes is to just sprinkle nut crumbs on the icing of the cake, which will give it a nice texture.
Mix Them With Your Salad
If you find yourself having many leftover bits and pieces of nuts, you can use them as an ingredient for your favorite salad.
Mix up your vegetables with the leftover nut crumbs, and you’ll get a healthy, delicious, and crunchy treat to go with your lunch.
Make Yourself Some Granola
Probably the perfect way to use leftover nuts. Add whatever stale nuts you find; you can’t go wrong when making this healthy breakfast.
So, sure, nuts can actually go bad, even if they don’t seem like they can, based on their appearance. But they do have a rather long shelf life, depending on the nut in question.
To check whether nuts are still good to eat, you can smell them, taste them, or just looking to find mold signs. Be careful with the mold because eating too much of it can be life-threatening.
When storing nuts, just make sure you put them in an air-tight container and away from foods with strong smells.
Even if you find some leftover nuts that have gone stale, you can use them in many useful ways. So don’t throw them away immediately; there are still many ways you can enjoy them!