olive oil

Olive Oil Shelf Life: Can It Go Bad?

Olive oil is a must in every kitchen. Stocking up this healthy precious oil seems reasonable. Suddenly, life gets you so busy, leaving you no time to cook. Your half-full olive oil, among other things, is abandoned and forgotten.

Several months later, you’re ready to whip up some vinaigrette only to find out that your extra virgin olive oil smells off. Does this mean that olive oil goes bad? How long can you keep olive oil?

If you’ve been in a similar situation above, you’re not alone. Keep reading, and you’ll discover some useful knowledge on olive oil’s shelf life, its storage method, and common signs of olive oil going bad.

Common Varieties of Olive Oil

There are several types of olive oils we mostly see in the store – virgin, extra virgin, light, etc. Each kind has a different profile and use. The difference lies in the process, level of acidity (or the oleic acid), and flavor.

Extra virgin olive oil (or EVOO) is unrefined and the least processed oil. It is considered the highest grade, among other types. It is technically made with a ground paste of olive fruits, which is then pressed into the oil with minimum heat. “Cold-pressed” or “first pressed” is just another marketing term we often find for extra virgin olive oil.

Virgin olive oil is also unrefined oil, with a similar process to that of EVOO. But, the chemical properties are a bit different, and it is lower in grade than EVOO.

Light and extra light olive oil are refined oil with no strong taste. These oils are an excellent substitute for baking. The refining process applies chemical and heat treatment to remove any unwanted properties resulting in a lighter flavor.

Olive oil or sometimes labeled as “pure olive oil” is usually a blend of refined and virgin olive oils.


How To Store Olive Oil

Similar to other oils, like canola or coconut oil, olive oil is also susceptible to going rancid. Proper storage is vital in slowing down the rancidification process and keeping it fresh longer.

Regardless of the different types of olive oils, the storage guidelines are pretty much similar and straightforward. The ideal spot is a cool, dry, dark place, away from sources of heat and sunlight.

As usual, your pantry should be the perfect place, but your kitchen cupboard or cabinet also does the job. Avoid keeping the oil next to a microwave or stove, or windows.

Do You Need to Refrigerate Olive Oil After Opening?

After opening, refrigeration is not necessary. But, it can help preserve the flavor, mainly if you live in the tropics or humid climate.

Keep in mind that at cold temperatures, olive oil tends to solidify. But this shouldn’t be a problem. It doesn’t affect the flavor, and the consistency will be back once it is put back at room temperature.

Either way, always keep the bottle tightly closed after each use. Exposure to air leads to oxidation that causes the oil to go rancid.

Buy olive oil in dark glass since it’s good at preventing oxidation from exposure to lights. If you don’t use it frequently, consider buying a smaller size.

However, if buying a bigger bottle is more economical, consider transferring some amount of oil into a smaller container for daily use. Keep the original bottle in the pantry. This way, you can keep the oil fresh longer.


How To Tell If Olive Oil Is Bad

By now, we’ve already known that the real culprit of olive oil going bad is rancidity. Olive oil won’t go bad or won’t make you sick like eating spoiled meat does. But, rancid oil does ruin your dishes.

Change in aroma or rancid smell is the first sign you need to check. According to Bertolli, extra virgin olive oil usually smells fresh and fruity. When it turns rancid, it smells waxy, like a crayon, or nutty, like old walnuts.

Next to that, if olive oil shows a noticeable change in color, you should be suspicious. Anything else that differs from the first time you open the bottle deserves a second look.

It’s not always easy to tell if olive oil is going rancid. If that’s your case, do a taste test and let your taste buds be the judge. If the taste is stale or flat, you may consider discarding the leftovers.


How Long Does Olive Oil Last?

On average, the shelf life of olive oil is between 18 to 24 months, sometimes up to 36 months. Extra virgin olive oil tends to have a shorter life since it is least processed.

This duration is reflected as the “best by” or “best before” date printed on the label. It is always highly advised to check this date before purchase and consumption.

With decent storage conditions, you can expect that olive oil retains its flavor and taste at least until this date and possibly longer.

Unopened bottles are possibly fine for the next several months the recommended date, provided that the package is not damaged. After opening, oxidation takes place at a faster rate. Therefore, the flavor and aroma slightly change from time to time.

There is no exact answer as to how long olive oil keeps its peak quality once opened. It primarily depends on the grade, quality of the oil, and storage conditions. Extra virgin olive oil usually lasts shorter than other types.

For example, Borges suggests to use it within 6 weeks. Meanwhile, Bertolli and California Olive Ranch indicate that olive oil is best to use within a few months to 6 months after opening. But, generally, it is safe to use after that.

Olive oil typesPantry
Extra virgin olive oil12 to 18 months from production dateOrbest by date + 3 to 6 months
Other types (unopened)18 to 24 months from production dateor,best by date + 3 to 6 months 
Any type (opened)3 to 6 months

This table is a general estimate for the best quality. The actual shelf life depends on the initial quality of the oil and storage conditions.

If you have old olive oil, spare a few minutes to check if the oil is still worth keeping. Let your senses be the judge.


FAQs

Is olive oil gluten-free?

Olive oil is generally gluten-free. But, we always recommend checking the allergen information on the label. If you are in doubt, reach out to the manufacturer for further details.

Why does my olive oil look cloudy?

Exposure to cold temperatures solidifies oil and makes it look cloudy. It can happen during storage or shipment. This is normal and doesn’t affect the flavor or taste.

Does olive oil go bad if uncovered?

Olive oil won’t spoil like meat or other perishable items. But, letting it uncovered means allowing air to get into contact with the oil. It speeds up oxidation that results in the oil going rancid quickly.

Final Thoughts

Healthy and versatile, olive oil is undoubtedly a must-have item for every kitchen. It won’t spoil like fresh produce, but it does go rancid and becomes unsuitable for consumption.

It is a non-perishable food item, and refrigeration is unnecessary. Always keep it in a cool, dark place, away from sunlight and heat. Proper storage is crucial in slowing down the degradation process.

Up Next: Can Canola Oil Go Bad?

olive oil shelf life

*Photo by Studio_GLC/depositphotos

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