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Can Almonds Go Bad?

You found an old pack of shelled almonds stashed away in the pantry, and you’re not quite sure if they are still edible. Can almonds go bad?

The nuts are way past the date on the label, but they look quite alright. If that date weren’t there, you’d probably eat them right away, but now you hesitate. That’s when knowing how to tell good almonds from spoiled ones comes in handy.

Read on to learn about signs of spoilage, shelf life, and proper storage practices. After reading this piece, you should know what to do with that old pack. And how to go about almonds in the future.

Almonds in a glass jar
(credit: Remi Yuan)

Can Almonds Go Bad? How To Tell If Almonds Are Bad?

Almonds, just like almond milk or almond flour, eventually go bad.

The spoilage signs you should look for are the same as for other nuts (e.g., hazelnuts). They include:

  • mold
  • insect infestation (possible if you have insect issues in your pantry)
  • dried out, discolored kernels
  • rancidity

If either one is present, you should get rid of those nuts.

If you’re not sure how to tell rancid almonds from good ones, let me explain. There are two things to look out for when it comes to rancid almonds:

  • Altered smell. If the nuts smell bitter, sour, or paint like, they are rancid. Mild nuttiness means they’re not.
  • Changed taste. Harsh or bitter flavor means the fats in the nuts have gone rancid, and you should discard the nuts.

One thing to remember is that altered taste is a more common sign, so if your almonds smell okay, you’re not out of the woods yet. You still need to grab and eat a few before using them in a cake, salad, or giving a bunch as a snack to your kids.

The good news is that almonds last quite some time (more on that in the next section), so unless you mistreat them in storage, they should be okay even for months past their date.

To sum things up: if the almonds look and smell okay, eat one or two. If the taste is alright too, you’ve got yourself perfectly edible nuts.

Bunch of unslivered almonds
(credit: chuttersnap)

How Long Do Almonds Last?

When it comes to almonds, the shelf life estimates you can find online aren’t the same everywhere, but they are quite similar.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) says that you can store:

  • in-shell almonds for 20 months at 0 °C (32 °F), 16 months at 10 °C (50 °F), and eight months at 20 °C (68 °F)
  • shelled almonds keep for about half of that time

The FoodKeeper App (FK), on the other hand, recommends the following:

  • unshelled almonds keep for six months in the pantry, 16 months in the fridge, and 20 months frozen
  • shelled almonds last four months in the pantry, eight months in the refrigerator, and ten months frozen

As you can see, the periods aren’t that different from each other.

Small group of almonds
(credit: chuttersnap)

I always buy almonds shelled, and go with slightly longer estimates of 6 months in the pantry, 12 months in the fridge, and 18 months frozen. And that works perfectly fine for me.

If you’re buying almonds pre-packed, there’s surely a date on the label. Please note that this date is also only an estimate, and chances are the almonds should keep reasonably good quality for a lot longer. As I said in the beginning, often even quite old almonds are still good enough to eat.

To keep your almonds in the best shape for as long as possible, let’s talk about storage.

Almonds in a white bag
(credit: Ignacio F.)

How To Store Almonds?

Like with peanuts or pistachios, we have the usual three options for storing almonds: the freezer, the refrigerator, and the pantry. And as you surely know, the colder the place, the longer the nuts last.

If you’ve ever stored almonds at room temperature and they’ve gone rancid, cold storage is your best bet, as it minimizes lipid oxidation (fat going rancid) (USDA). For most of us who don’t plan on keeping the almonds for a prolonged period, the pantry or kitchen are usually good enough storage places.

Ice cream with sliced almonds
(credit: Pâmela Lima)

When it comes to in-shell almonds, the kernels don’t need much protection because the shells take care of that. All you need is a well-ventilated bag (for room-temp storage) or some containers or freezer bags (for cold storage).

Shelled almonds lack that protective layer, so you need to step in. That means you should keep them in an airtight container or resealable bag. This solution both reduces oxidation and keeps away any odors, which almonds readily absorb due to high-fat content (USDA).

If you’re going with room temperature storage, choose a place that’s dry, dark, and away from any sources of heat. A cabinet in the pantry or kitchen (away from the stove) should do the trick just fine.

In a Nutshell

  • Almonds go rancid, get moldy, or dry out and change color. If either is present, discard them.
  • Almonds last longer than most other nuts, so your old pack might still be good enough to eat.
  • Cold storage is best for long-term storage. A dark cabinet in the pantry or kitchen work alright is you need to store almonds for a couple of months.