How Long Do Walnuts Last? Do Walnuts Go Bad?

Because there are so many ways to store walnuts, it can be hard to keep track of how long they stay good for.  The way you store walnuts will largely dictate how long they will last.

Quick Answer

Although it can be hard to get an accurate estimate of how long your walnuts will last, there are some guidelines you can follow:

  • Unshelled walnuts may last 6 months in the pantry.
  • Shelled walnuts may last 1 or 2 months in the pantry.
  • Unshelled and shelled walnuts may last 1 year refrigerated.
  • Unshelled and shelled walnuts may last 2 years frozen.

Because there are a lot of factors to consider, it’s best to arm yourself with information to determine how long your walnuts will stay good.

How Long Do Walnuts Last? Do Walnuts Go Bad?

Depending on how walnuts are stored, including whether they are shelled or not, their lifespan may vary quite a bit.

How Long Do Walnuts Last in the Pantry?

One thing to keep in mind is that when you buy walnuts from the store, you have no idea how old they really are.  This means that it may be hard to tell exactly how long they will last.

That being said, you can generally expect unshelled walnuts to last about 6 months in the pantry.  They can also last much longer, or possible go bad sooner, but this should give you a good idea about what to expect.

Walnuts that are already shelled will not last nearly as long.  They can usually last up to one month in the pantry, sometimes two, if they are stored in a sealed bag or container.

How Long Do Walnuts Last in the Fridge?

Refrigerating walnuts is a good way to make them last much longer.  If you want to keep your walnuts stored long-term, refrigeration is a good way to do it.

Unshelled walnuts can be expected to last at least one year in the fridge.  Just like in the pantry, they may also last much longer or not quite as long, but they may stay good for 18 months or more.

Shelled walnuts have a similar lifespan when refrigerated.  They also tend to stay good for about a year, plus or minus a few months depending on different factors.

Other Factors That Affect the Shelf-Life of Walnuts

If you really want to keep your walnuts good for as long as possible, here are some other factors to keep in mind.

Heat.  Unless you’re in the process of cooking with them, you should always keep walnuts away from the heat.  Heat can affect the fat in walnuts, causing them to go rancid quickly.  This is why cold storage helps to extend their shelf life.

Humidity.  Always store walnuts in a dry place.  Keeping them in a location that is overly humid or moist can affect them and possible cause them to go rancid sooner.  Make sure they are in a dry location, such as a pantry, refrigerator, or freezer.

Containment.  Keeping walnuts in an airtight container is important for keeping them good, especially shelled walnuts.  If the bag or container you bought them in is airtight, you can keep them in that.  Otherwise, transfer them to an airtight bag or container after opening them.

Odors.  Never store walnuts near foods with strong odors.  Walnuts can pick up the flavors of other foods, and although this won’t make them go bad, it can alter their flavor to be potentially unpleasant.  Onions, garlic, fish, and other foods with strong scents should always be stored away from walnuts.

Walnuts are certainly not difficult to store, but because their lifespans can vary so much, it’s good to know what to expect when storing them.

Can You Freeze Walnuts?

If you buy walnuts in bulk, you might want to freeze them to keep them good as long as possible.

Frozen walnuts are good for one or two years, but are safe indefinitely.  For best results, you should thaw and eat frozen walnuts within a year or two, but they are safe beyond that.  As long as they are kept at or under zero degrees Fahrenheit and stored properly, they should stay good indefinitely.

Freeze them in an airtight, sealing container.  Put walnuts in an airtight bag or container before freezing them.  An unopened bag of walnuts can be frozen in the bag they came in, so they can go straight into the freezer.

Consider storing them in multiple bags.  If you’re not going to be using or thawing out all the walnuts at once, you might want to store them in multiple bags or containers.  This way, you can thaw out just as many as you need, and leave the rest frozen.

Thaw them in the fridge for a few hours or more.  To thaw out frozen walnuts, refrigerate them for at least a few hours.  Consider starting the day ahead and keep them in the fridge overnight to avoid rushing them.

How to Store Walnuts

By this point, you should have a pretty good idea of the best way to store walnuts, but just in case, we’ll review the best way to store them.

Keep them in a cool, dry place.  Heat and moisture can both negatively affect the quality of walnuts, so keep them in a cool, dry place to keep them good longer.  The best place to keep them is either the refrigerator or freezer.

Store them in an airtight container.  Keep walnuts in an airtight, sealing bag or container.  You can reuse the bag or container they came in if it is resealable, but otherwise you will have to transfer them to something else.

Keep them away from strong odors.  Walnuts can pick up flavors from other foods, especially foods with strong odors.  Make sure you don’t store your walnuts near foods with strong scents.

Don’t shell them until you’re ready to use them.  Shelled walnuts have much shorter shelf lives than unshelled walnuts, so it’s always a good idea to leave them in the shell until you are ready to use them.

How to Tell if Walnuts Are Bad

Since it can be hard to tell how long your walnuts are going to last, it’s good to know how to spot a bad walnut.

Mold.  If you ever see mold on your walnuts, toss them immediately.  Even if you only see mold appear on one or a few, consider throwing them all away to be safe.

Odor.  Rancid walnuts develop an odor which is often compared to paint thinner, and sometimes compared to old oil.  If they don’t smell right, toss them.

Shrunken shell.  For unshelled walnuts, a shrunken or shriveled shell is a good way to tell that the nut has gone rancid.  If the shell is obviously shriveled, it’s probably bad.

Darkened meat.  This mostly applies to English walnuts, as black walnuts are normally dark, but if the meat looks darker than it should be, it has probably  gone rancid.

Taste.  If you’ve checked everything and still can’t tell if your walnuts have gone bad, you can taste a bit.  If they taste bitter, they’re probably rancid.

Wrap Up

Storing walnuts is simple and straightforward, yet it can play a big part in how long they stay good.  Make sure you keep your walnuts cool to enjoy them as long as possible.

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