Let’s talk about the shelf life and spoilage of canola oil.
Found an old bottle of canola and not sure if you can still use it? Does canola oil go bad, and if so, how do you tell?
Or maybe you want to know how long canola stays good for so that you don’t buy too many bottles on clearance. How long does canola oil last?
If either sounds familiar, you’re in the right place.
Let’s get right into it.
Image used under Creative Commons from Veganbaking.net
Does Canola Oil Go Bad?
Canola oil eventually goes bad, similar to all other oils, and if yours is spoiled, it’s most likely because it’s gone rancid.
If you store your canola unsealed, in direct sunlight, or simply open for too long, the rancidification process will do its thing, and you will end up with oxidized canola that’s no longer good to use.
Consuming a bit of rancid oil isn’t a health concern in the short term, i.e., you won’t get sick and your stomach won’t hurt, but it likely has negative long-term consequences. That’s why I strongly suggest discarding any rancid oil or any other fat.
Besides, rancid canola typically tastes sharp and bitter, making it a poor choice for cooking anyway.
Speaking of which, let’s discuss the spoilage signs of bad canola.
How to Tell if Canola Oil Is Bad?
Discard canola oil if:
- There’s mold or other nasty “stuff” on the surface or the neck of the bottle. Oils don’t get moldy on their own, but if you contaminate them, anything could happen. So if you notice anything floating on the surface, err on the side of caution.
- The oil smells funny. The oil is rancid if it gives off an aroma that reminds you of oil paint, nail polish remover, putty, or something similar. Any other off smell most likely means the canola is gone too.
- It tastes sharp or bitter. An altered taste is the most common sign of rancidity. Your canola might smell okay, but the taste doesn’t lie. Because of that, take a tiny sip of the oil before using ancient canola as your cooking oil.
- Dishes cooked using that oil taste off. If you didn’t taste your canola before cooking, but the dish (that you’ve cooked dozens of times already ) turned out bitter or plain bad, the oil might be the culprit here. Give that canola a quick taste to learn if it’s still okay to eat or not.
If anything else seems off, trust your intuition and discard the oil. Better safe than sorry.
If your oil has turned darker a shade or two, test it for rancidity.
How Long Does Canola Oil Last?
Canola oil lasts about 2 years unopened and 6 months after opening, assuming it sits in a cool and dry place, away from direct sunlight and heat sources.
That’s the typical storage period, but if you take good care of the oil, you should be able to get a couple of extra months without compromising the quality.
In short, as long as the bottle is unopened, canola doesn’t have access to fresh air, thanks to which it retains quality for months if stored properly.
(The same is true for other oils, including sesame oil, grapeseed oil, and cooking oils in general.)
Once you open the bottle, the oil gets access to fresh air, which speeds up the rancidification process I mentioned in the spoilage section. As a result, the shelf life of canola drops to about six months in good quality.
Pretty much any bottle of canola has a best-by date printed on the label. That date isn’t an expiration date but rather a conservative estimate of how long that oil should keep before it goes rancid.
(An unopened canola can go rancid if stored in a warm place or continuously exposed to light.)
So the fact that your canola is beyond its date doesn’t mean much. As long as the oil isn’t rancid and doesn’t show any other signs of spoilage, it’s okay to use it. Even if it’s half a year past its date.
The opposite is also true – if the canola is well within its date but stinks or tastes like soap, grab another bottle.
Of course, all of the periods above are only rough guidelines, and your oil might keep for longer or go bad sooner, depending on how you store it.
How to Store Canola Oil
Store canola oil in a cool and dark place sealed tightly. By doing so, you make sure the oil has minimal contact with light, heat, and oxygen, exposure to which speeds up the rancidification process.
So if you want to store yours within arm’s reach, make sure it’s not next to or above the stove. Otherwise, the high temperature will likely affect its storage time.
You don’t need to refrigerate canola oil, but storing it in the fridge is a possibility. It’s worth considering if you’re living in the tropics or it’s the middle of a hot summer, and the temperature in your kitchen is much higher than what you’d consider room temperature.
By refrigerating it, you’ll prolong the shelf life of your canola by at least a couple of months.
If you decide to store canola oil in the fridge, remember that it might cloud or crystallize. That doesn’t affect the flavor of the oil and is easily reversible by bringing it to room temperature.
What’s interesting is that freezing canola is highly discouraged, so you probably don’t want to do that. Instead, stick to the kitchen, pantry, or fridge.
If you want to go the extra mile, here’s one more tip.
When buying canola oil, look for brands that sell their oil in dark glass bottles or canisters. Both storage options significantly reduce light exposure if you ever leave the oil on the counter for a prolonged period.
Canola Oil Shelf Life and Spoilage Summary
Thanks for reading this primer on canola oil. Here are the takeaways:
- Canola goes rancid if stored for too long or in poor conditions. If it smells like old paint or tastes sharp or bitter, it’s rancid, and you should discard it.
- Unopened canola lasts about 2 years, while open canola keeps for around 6 months. Those are only rough estimates, of course, and yours might keep for much longer if you store the oil properly.
- Store canola oil in a cool and dry place, away from heat sources and light. Refrigeration isn’t necessary, but it’s worth considering if it often gets hot where you store the oil.