Olives Shelf Life: Can It Go Bad?

Healthy and delicious, olives are used in many dishes and great for snacks as well. Most recipes only call for a handful of olives, and that means you’ll end up with leftover to store.

If you don’t use olives regularly, it will take a while to finish a jar. It happens all the time that we buy food, use some, store the rest, and forget that we still have it stored somewhere.

So, one day you plan to make stuffed olives for an appetizer. Checking the back of the refrigerator, you find a half-full jar of olives.

But, you’re not quite sure since when you had it tucked over there. In this dilemmatic situation, you’re asking yourself: how long do olives last in the fridge? Do olives go bad?

If you’re here because of a similar situation above, we got you covered! In this article, we share some information on olives’ shelf life, storage methods, and signs of olives going bad.

Something you’re looking for? Read on!

How To Store Olives

We see so many varieties of olives out there. Green or black, whole or pitted, sliced or diced, or stuffed olives with pimento, garlic, jalapeno, feta cheese. Whatever your favorite, you’ll find one in the store.

Besides the standard packaging in a can or jar with brine solution or oil, you can also find a to-go pack without liquid. It is usually packed as one serving size and is suitable for picnic or hiking.

Next to that, you can buy olives as a pre-packaged item or in bulk from an olive bar. Each type of product has its own storage guidelines, and we’re going to address them one by one.

Let’s start with the pre-packaged olives. This typical product is super easy to store. No matter which variety you pick (black or green, pitted, or whole), pre-packaged olives are perfectly fine to keep in a cool, dry area, away from sources of heat and light. As with most other foods, your pantry or cupboard will do a great job.

When it comes to ideal storage conditions after opening, that can also depend on the brands. While most producers suggest keeping the olives refrigerated, specific brands, such as Krinos, claim that keeping them at room temperature is completely fine. If you’re in doubt, refrigeration is your best solution in this matter.

Either way, make sure the container is tightly sealed and that the olives are covered in the original brine liquid. If you accidentally spill out the liquid, simply remove it with a cup of water and ½ tablespoon of salt.

If you buy canned olives, transfer the remaining into a resealable container. Always use a clean spoon or utensils when taking out the product to prevent cross-contamination. I’m sure you’ve known this general advice, but a little reminder won’t hurt.

Next, what about the olives that you buy in bulk from an olive bar? Treat this variety in the same way to an opened pack of olives. This means that they are best refrigerated. The same goes for homemade stuffed olives.

How To Tell If Olives Go Bad

There are some general traits we can observe to tell if olives go off. On the other hand, some suspicious symptoms are actually a normal occurrence and can be considered harmless.

First thing first, let’s start with inspecting the package. Don’t use it if the jar or can is damaged in any possible way. If the container is leaked, dented, bulged, rusted, or liquid spurts after opening, don’t eat the olives even though it’s so tempting.

Next, check any changes in visual appearance and smell. If you spot any molds or slimy texture, discard the leftover. Same thing if the brine, stuffing, or olives smells disgusting.

Now, if you’re wondering about the cloudy liquid and white spots on the olives, these two are normal. If nothing else is a concern, feel free to continue eating.

Some brands have a naturally cloudy liquid due to their processing methods. This is considered normal and is usually informed on the label.

Meanwhile, if you find that the liquid turns cloudy after a while in the refrigerator, rest assured that this is also a natural occurrence from solidified olive oil.

These white spots are a byproduct of Lactobacillus plantarum (not yeast) from natural fermentation, which occurs during the brining process. The whitey spots are considered as a defect but harmless.

How Long Do Olives Last?

The shelf life of olives varies considerably depending on the preparation method, quality of the ingredients, packaging, and how you store them. In short, it varies depending on brands.

Regardless of the cultivars (Kalamata, Manzanilla, Castelvetrano, etc.), black or green, pitted or whole, once packed into a jar or can, the shelf life is not very different. Canned olives are generally stable up to 4 years, while jarred ones are around 3 years. 

Check the packaging for the “best before” or “best by” date for your best guide. Of course, the olives won’t magically turn bad the day after this date, as long as the package is in perfect condition and properly stored.

After opening, the duration in which olives retain their best quality varies significantly for different producers.

Generally, most producers would advise finishing the products within 1 to 2 weeks, but Krinos and Mezzetta mention in their website that their olives can stay up to 6 and 12 months, respectively, after opening.

Meanwhile, with the to-go olives that come without the brine soluting, they tend to lose their quality very quickly once opened. Consider finishing the leftover within 2 to 3 days maximum.

If you prefer making homemade stuffed olives, they’re generally best if consumed within 3 to 5 days.

Olives (black/ green) (whole/ pitted/ sliced)PantryRefrigerator
Olives (with brine liquid or oil) (unopened)Best by date + 3 to 6 months
Olives (with brine liquid or oil) (opened)1 to 3 weeks; up to 6 and 12 months for specific brands
Olives to-go (sliced, without liquid) (opened)Best by date + 1 to 2 months
Olives to-go (sliced, without liquid) (unopened)2 to 3 days
Olives (from an olive bar)1 to 2 weeks
Stuffed olives (unopened)Best by date + 1 to 2 months
Stuffed olives (opened)1 to 2 weeks
Homemade stuffed olives3 to 5 days


Are olives gluten-free?

Yes, olives are typically gluten-free. But, you want to make sure with stuffed olives. The best advice is to observe the allergen information or reach out to the manufacturer if you’re in doubt.

Can you eat raw olives?

You can’t really eat raw olives straight from the tree. Raw olives are bitter and inedible due to a compound named oleuropein. The table olives that are widely sold in the stores have undergone a long curing process until they’re ready to eat.

Soaking olives in brining solution or lye (also known as Spanish or Seville style) is the most established method to eliminate the bitterness and make olives suitable for consumption. That’s why it is common to find olives packed in a brine solution (*).

Can you freeze olives?

Although it is not recommended (some brands including Krinos are against this), yes, you can freeze olives.

To freeze olives, start with rinsing them with running water and let them fully dry. Next, place them into an airtight container or freezer bag. As usual, dividing the olives for each portion is recommended for easy thawing.

To defrost, simply move the frozen fruits into the refrigerator and let sit overnight. You should expect a change in texture or flavor after thawing. If you’re not really happy with the texture, consider using them for cooked dishes instead of salads.

Final Thought

As much as you want your olives to stay indefinitely, olives go bad eventually. Keep unopened packs at a cool, dry, dark temperature. If the can or jar is damaged in any way, cancel your plan in eating them.

After opening, it’s suggested to store olives in the original liquid. Close the seal tightly and keep refrigerated. The same conditions apply for stuffed olives or those you buy from olive bars. With proper storage, olives stay edible for 1 to 3 weeks.

To spot olives going bad, check the smell, appearance, and taste. If anything seems off and smells bad, get rid of any leftover.

olives shelf life

*Photo by Studio_GLC/depositphotos

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