Does Flaxseed Go Bad? How Long Does Flaxseed last?

Flaxseed has been hailed for their medicinal properties even before they were scientifically proven to help the body. Like chia seeds and linseed, flaxseed contains high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and fiber that acts as a laxative and promotes heart health. But how well of a shelf life does it have?

Quick Answer

Flaxseed spoils faster than other seeds and can turn rancid fairly quickly if not stored properly. Whole flaxseed lasts 6 months if kept out, while ground flaxseed only lasts 1 week. In the fridge, flaxseed will last 1 year and 6 months when grounded. The freezer keeps flaxseed fresh for 1-2 years but only 3 months if it’s ground. They spoil faster because of the high amount of fatty acids it contains. The acids can break down when exposed to temperature changes and will spoil if kept out.


It’s important to note that raw and unripe flaxseed contain toxic components so make sure you’re buying processed flaxseed. Spoiled flaxseed can also wreak havoc so let’s look at how long flaxseed lasts.

Does Flaxseed Go Bad? How Long Does Flaxseed last?

In general, flaxseed shelf life depends on if the seeds are whole or ground. Also, how they are packaged will determine how long they can go without spoiling.

How Long Does Flaxseed Last Outside?

Whole: Whole flaxseed has a shelf life of about 6 months from the expiration date on the package. Since flaxseed is usually packaged in plastic bags, it doesn’t matter if the bag is open or not. Oxygen is still present in both cases and should be transferred.

Ground: Ground flaxseed will only last 1 week after the expiration date has passed and must be either stored or used soon after. The reason has to do with the exposure of the polyunsaturated fatty acids in grounded seeds that can accelerate spoiling.

How Long Does Flaxseed Last In The Fridge?

Whole: Whole flaxseed will last up to 1 year when placed in the refrigerator. They should be kept in an airtight container and should not be taken out; you’ll be using them immediately after. Flaxseed is prone to temperature change and removing all of the flax seeds at once may spoil the bag faster.

Ground:  When grounded, flaxseed will last up to 6 months. Ground flaxseed or flaxseed meal lasts longer in the fridge than being left out, but not as long as whole flaxseed.

How Long Does Flaxseed Last In The Freezer?

Whole:  Freezing whole flaxseed will extend its total life 1-2 years after purchase. It’s important to note that any container used for freezing flaxseed should only be used for freezing thereafter, as fatty acid residue may remain in the container after thawing and cause toxic components to grow.

Ground: Ground flaxseed lasts an additional 3 months when placed in the freezer. Similar to refrigerating, ground flaxseed does not last as long as whole flaxseed in the freezer. You should only remove the amount you need from the freezer and leave the rest. The temperature change can negatively affect flaxseed composition and may cause the seeds to spoil much faster.

To summarize, whole flaxseed lasts significantly longer than grounded flaxseed. Keeping them in the refrigerator or freezer will keep them freshest for the longest time.

How Do You Tell If Flaxseed Has Gone Bad?

Flaxseed doesn’t have many visible properties that show rancidification so you have to rely on smell and taste. The spoiling happens when the fatty acids break down from light, heat, and oxidation. Spoiled flaxseed may not be dangerous, but it could cause digestive discomfort and more serious complications if consumed regularly over time.

Smell: Flaxseed has a natural, nutty smell when fresh. It’s an overall pleasant smell so any smell that doesn’t fit the description can be a sign that the seeds have spoiled. Check for a smell that’s fishy or musty. If you detect a sour smell, throw out the seeds. Keep in mind that if you’ve stored the seeds in the fridge or freezer, you may not be able to detect any smell and thus should check the taste.

Taste: Flaxseed oil has a mild and subtle taste. It shouldn’t be bitter or overpowering. Try a seed and taste for the oil. If it’s fresh, you should get a subtle nutty taste with no aftertaste. If you get any bitterness or dusty texture or are left with a nasty aftertaste, the seeds have spoiled and should be discarded.

How Do You Store Flax Seeds?

Regardless of whether they’re grounded or whole, flaxseed should be stored in a cold place away from oxygen and heat.

Whole: Whole flaxseed can be stored in an airtight, dark container in the pantry without spoiling. Keep it in a pantry if you foresee you’ll go through them within a week or two. If you have a lot, store it in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. They will last roughly about the same in either.

Ground: Ground flaxseeds should be stored in the refrigerator. The container should be airtight and opaque so light doesn’t get in. Keep in an airtight container, take what you need, and leave the rest. Flaxseeds are temperamental with temperature changes and taking the whole bag out might quicken rancidification. With this in mind, avoid buying flaxseed in bulk. In this instance, less is more.

Can You Freeze Flaxseed?

Yes, freezing flaxseed is an effective alternative to storing it in the cupboard or pantry. Their life extends about the same in the fridge but if you have space, it’s safe to store in the freezer.

To freeze flaxseed, remove them from their original packaging and place them in an airtight container. Keep in mind that containers you use to freeze should only be used for freezing from that point. Opt for airtight freezer bags if you don’t want to use containers.

How Do You Thaw Flaxseed?

You should never thaw flaxseed because the sudden temperature change will alter the seed’s composition and the fatty acids will break down. When the acids break down, the seeds spoil much faster. Instead, use flaxseed immediately after removing it from the freezer.

If you’re interested in incorporating flaxseed into your diet, look into buying smaller quantities and store them properly so you’ll have fresh flaxseed all the time!

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