Do Walnuts Go Bad? What Are The Signs?

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Are you someone who loves to whip up a delicious, nutty snack in your kitchen? If so you may be asking, Do Walnuts Go Bad? When added to dishes, walnuts can provide just the right texture and flavor but they do have a shelf life. In this article, we will share how long walnuts last and guide you on how to store them to ensure their freshness is maintained for extended periods.

do Walnuts Go Bad?

Yes, walnuts can indeed go bad. Yes, when the oils in the walnuts oxidize, they develop a bitter and unpleasant taste, a condition commonly known as rancidity. This process can occur more quickly when the nuts are exposed to heat, light, or humidity.

It’s essential to store walnuts properly to maintain their freshness. However, even in shell walnuts, with the best storage conditions, walnuts may taste stale, indicating they have begun to spoil.

How Long Do Shelled Walnuts Last in The Pantry?

The shelf life of shelled walnuts at room temperature can range from about 2 to 4 weeks and up to two months above room temperature under optimal conditions. It is crucial to store these nutritious nuts in a cool, dry, and dark place to ensure they stay fresh for the longest possible period.

Preserving walnuts in an Airtight Container can also help maintain their best quality. These timeframes are estimates, and the actual freshness of the walnuts may vary based on factors such as the specific storage conditions and the freshness of the walnuts when bought.

Do Dry Walnuts Expire?

Yes, dry walnuts do expire. Generally, dry walnuts last 12 months if stored properly in cool and dry conditions. However, it’s important to note that the quality may deteriorate after this period due to oxidation and potential mold growth.

Do Walnuts Go Bad

How Long Do Unshelled Walnuts Last?

Like most in-shell nuts, unshelled walnuts have a significantly longer shelf life than their shelled counterparts. When stored properly, unshelled walnuts can keep fresh at room temperature for about a year to two years.

The shell acts as a natural barrier, protecting the nut inside from air, light, and humidity exposure, thereby keeping the walnuts fresh for an extended period.

Store unshelled walnuts in a cool, dark, and dry location is recommended for optimal freshness. You can enjoy walnuts’ rich, earthy flavor for months when stored in this manner.

Can Walnuts Go Bad in the Freezer?

Both unshelled and shelled walnuts can be stored in the freezer to extend their shelf life. Even after this period, they remain safe to consume, offering a practical solution for those who want to keep these nutritious nuts on hand.

It’s important to note that walnuts can eventually still go rancid despite being frozen due to their high oil content, but this process is significantly slowed down in the freezer.

Therefore, while freezing extends the shelf life of walnuts, it doesn’t indefinitely preserve them. So, consuming them within a year of freezing is best for optimal freshness and taste.

How Can You Tell if Walnuts Are Bad?

There are a few ways to determine whether walnuts have gone bad:

  • Taste: The most common way to tell if walnuts have gone bad is by their taste. Fresh walnuts have a mild, sweet flavor. When walnuts go rancid, they develop an unpleasant taste, often compared to the flavor of cooking oil past its prime.
  • Odor: Rancid walnuts often emit strong odors. If your walnuts smell like paint thinner, or rancid oil, it’s a clear sign that they’ve turned. A fresh walnut should have a slightly nutty aroma, but any strong or chemical-like smell is a red flag.
  • Color: Fresh walnuts are light in color. If your walnuts have turned dark brown or black, they may have gone bad. In some cases, this color change could be due to oxidation, but it’s best to err on caution and avoid eating them.
  • Texture: Fresh walnuts should be firm, while rancid ones may become soft and mushy. If your walnuts feel overly soft or shriveled, it might be a sign that they’re no longer good to eat.
  • Mold Growth: This is a sign that your walnuts have gone bad. Any signs of mold contamination, net forming, or organic growth mean the nut is unsafe to eat. Always inspect the nut closely, especially if you have shelled walnuts.

Is It Ok to Eat Expired Walnuts?

Indeed, like many other foods, walnuts don’t technically expire but instead have a recommended use-by date.

 It’s generally safe to consume them even after this date, provided they show no signs of spoilage.

However, if the walnuts have been kept for an extended period beyond this date, they might not be advisable for consumption, particularly for those with sensitive stomachs.

Consuming bad walnuts could lead to uncomfortable gastrointestinal issues such as bloating and heartburn; in some instances, it may cause diarrhea and nausea.

Why Do Walnuts Need to Be Refrigerated?

Whether shelled or unshelled, walnuts must be refrigerated to preserve their freshness and nutritional content for longer periods.

Refrigeration slows the oxidation process and helps maintain the quality of the nuts.

However, storing them in an airtight container is essential to prevent them from absorbing odors from other foods in the refrigerator. Refrigeration is your best bet to avoid rancid nuts and enjoy fresh, tasty walnuts for longer.

Best Ways To Store Walnuts

Here are detailed steps on how to store walnuts in the pantry, fridge, and freezer:

Storing Walnuts in the Pantry

  • Whole Walnuts: Unshelled walnut has a longer shelf life than shelled ones because their hard shell protects them from light, heat, and humidity exposure. To store whole walnuts, keep them in a cool, dark, dry place in your pantry.
  • Shelled Walnuts: If you’ve already cracked open your walnuts, the best way to store them in the pantry is by placing them in an airtight container to protect them from air and moisture. However, shelled walnuts stored in the pantry won’t last as long as unshelled walnuts or those stored in the fridge or freezer.

Storing Walnuts in the Fridge

  • Storing walnuts in the fridge can help them retain their freshness for longer. Before you keep walnuts in the refrigerator, make sure they’re dry to prevent them from developing mold.
  • Store your shelled or ground walnuts in a sealed container or a zip-lock bag to avoid absorption of smells from other food items in the refrigerator.
  • The fridge’s cold temperature slows the oxidation process, making walnuts rancid. This approach could prolong the usability of walnuts for up to six months.

Freezing Walnuts

  • To freeze walnuts, spread them out on a baking sheet in a single layer. This step helps to freeze the walnuts individually, preventing them from clumping together.
  • Once the walnuts are frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag or airtight container. Make sure to squeeze out any excess air before sealing the bag or container.
  • Frozen walnuts’ shelf life is up to a year. They don’t need to be thawed before use and can be used straight from the freezer in most recipes.

Expert Storage Tips

  • Check Freshness: Before storing, ensure the walnuts are fresh. Fresh walnuts have a clean, nutty aroma and light color. If they smell rancid or look dark, they might be spoiled.
  • Away from Heat: It’s advised to store walnuts away from heat-emitting appliances such as stoves or ovens since exposure to heat can accelerate their spoilage, making them rancid quickly.
  • Avoid Humidity: Moisture can lead to mold growth, so always store walnuts in dry conditions.
  • Limit Exposure to Light: Light can also hasten spoilage, so storing your walnuts in a dark place is best.
  • Seal Properly: Whether using airtight containers or freezer bags, seal them properly to keep air out and maintain freshness.
  • Rotate Your Stock: Use the oldest nuts first and add new ones to the back or bottom of your storage container. This method, known as stock rotation, helps ensure you always use the freshest nuts.
  • Regular Checks: Regularly check your stored walnuts for signs of spoilage. Discard any that look or smell off.
  • Airtight Containers: It is recommended to store chopped walnuts in airtight containers and shield them from exposure to air to avoid rancidity.


What Are Walnuts?

Walnuts are a nut originating from the tree species in the Juglans genus. They’re recognized for their unique brain-like shape and crunchy texture.

Technically speaking, walnuts are the seed of a drupe or drupaceous nut and are not a true botanical nut.

They have a strong, somewhat earthy taste that is distinctively richer than the mild nutty aroma of pine nuts, another popular nut variety. Highly nutritious, walnuts are often included in various dishes, contributing flavor and texture.

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