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Do Cashews Go Bad? Cashews Shelf Life and Spoilage

Today we’re going to talk about the shelf life, storage practices, and spoilage of cashew nuts.

Say you’ve found a rogue bag of cashews stored away in the pantry or fridge. They sit there for who-knows-how-long, but the nuts seem to be okay. Do cashews go bad?

Sounds familiar? If so, it’s time to learn how long cashews last, how to tell when cashews are bad, and how you should store them to help them last as long as possible. And that’s exactly what we cover in this article.

Let’s get started.

Technically speaking, cashews are seeds, not nuts. But since they look like shelled tree nuts and play a similar culinary role, calling them nuts makes a lot of sense. They’re similar to peanuts and pine nuts in that.

Cashews bag

Do Cashews Go Bad?

Cashews typically spoil by going rancid. If yours are stored for too long or in poor conditions, they’ll go rancid at some point.

Not sure how to tell if your cashews are rancid?

Rancid cashews taste harsh and bitter. That flavor change is the most common sign of rancidity.

Another common one is an off smell. If your cashews give off an odor that reminds you of old paint or nail polish remover, that’s a sure sign they’re done for.

So while rancid cashews aren’t necessarily unsafe to eat, they taste pretty bad, and discarding them is what I recommend.

There are also a few other signs you might need to toss your cashews. Let’s cover those as well.

Cashews on a white plate
(credit: Syed Hussaini)

How to Tell When Cashew Nuts Nuts Are Bad?

Discard your cashews if:

  • They’re rancid. As you already know, going rancid is the most common spoilage scenario.
  • They’re moldy. Cashews aren’t prone to mold growth, and if you store them properly, finding mold on them is highly unlikely. That said, anything is possible under the right conditions, like (relatively) high humidity and warm temperature.
  • There are pantry bugs in the bag. Toss the nuts if you find any larvae, dead bugs, or alive insects in the package.

Once again, rancidity is the real “threat” here. The other two are usually a result of really poor storage habits.

Now, what if your cashews aren’t rancid but look a bit dried out and taste stale?

Using Stale Cashews

You can try a few things to make use of that bunch of old and stale cashews. Try the following:

  • Roast the nuts. There are a couple of ways of roasting cashews, and either should help bring back some of their flavor.
  • Make cashew butter. If you’re into nut butters (think peanut butter and maybe Nutella), homemade cashew butter is definitely worth a try. You might even find your new favorite taste.
  • Top desserts. Some roughly chopped cashews on top of ice cream or any other dessert add an extra bit of crunch that can make a good dessert great.
  • Fold into baked goods. Love muffins and cakes? Chop the cashews and fold them into the batter before putting the muffin tin or cake pan in the oven. You won’t be disappointed.
Bunch of cashews
(credit: Maja Vujic)

How Long Do Cashews Last?

Cashews last about 6 months at room temperature and more than 12 months in the fridge. If you need even more time, you can freeze them.

Those periods are, of course, estimates. Treat them as rough guidelines, not rules.

When I researched this article, I found a lot of conflicting information about cashews’ shelf life.

One of the sources I sometimes reference is the FoodKeeper app. At the time of writing this article, it gives us the following info for cashews:

2 – 4 weeks if pantry stored
6 months when stored in the refrigerator
12 months if stored frozen

As you can tell, the shelf life given by the FoodKeeper app for room temperature storage is super short. That doesn’t go well with cashews being sold in bulk bins in supermarkets.

If that estimate were correct, the cashews sold in supermarkets would often be downright spoiled. And as you and I know, that’s not the case.

Fortunately, the University of California comes to the rescue. They recommend the following:

  • 6 months at 68°F (20°C)
  • 12 months in the fridge

That seems much more accurate, at least in my experience.

Furthermore, I often see bagged cashews with use-by periods ranging between 6 and 9 months, with no requirement of refrigerating them at any point.

Based on that, I think 6 months on the counter and 12 months refrigerated is reasonably close to the truth. Of course, you can probably store them for even longer, but I prefer to stay conservative in my estimates.

That said, let’s briefly talk about the dates printed on bags of those kidney-shaped nuts.

Cashews: date on the label
Cashews: date on the label

“Expired” Cashew Nuts

The date printed on your bag of cashews is only a rough estimate of how long the nuts will last. And if you store them in decent conditions, chances are they’ll keep for even a couple of months past it.

In other words, that date isn’t an “expiration” date by any means. It’s only the seller’s educated guess, that’s all.

Because of that, I suggest you always check the quality of your cashews before eating, no matter the date. And if they seem fine, eating them is okay, no matter if they’re well within their date or a few months past it.

And if they’re not okay, you toss them no matter the date either.

Having covered the shelf life, it’s time to discuss storage practices.

Various nuts in a black bowl
(credit: Mgg Vitchakorn)

How to Store Cashews

Store cashews sealed tight and in a cool and dark place away from heat sources and sunlight.

If you want to leave them at room temperature, an airtight container in a cupboard is a good option. A freezer bag or a resealable container will do the trick for refrigeration.

Since cashews don’t have any sort of shell, it’s important to keep them well sealed. That’s because nuts easily absorb external odors, and you don’t want your cashews smelling funny.

Obviously, if yours sit half open for a couple of days on the counter, they will be just fine. But leaving them this way for a prolonged period or storing them near or above the stove will shorten their shelf life significantly.

Should You Refrigerate Cashews?

You don’t need to refrigerate cashew nuts. Whether or not you refrigerate these nuts depends on how long you want to store them.

If you know you’ll finish the bag within a few weeks, I wouldn’t even bother with refrigeration. But if you’re using them only in salads and expect they might sit in storage for quite some time, it’s better to chuck them in the fridge, just in case.

Last but not least, let’s talk about freezing cashews.

Can You Freeze Cashews?

Cashews freeze perfectly fine, and it’s a great way to store them for a prolonged period.

Here’s how you freeze cashews:

  1. Place the nuts in a freezer bag.
  2. Squeeze out as much air as possible.
  3. Seal the bag and label it with the name and date if you like.
  4. Chuck the bag in the freezer.

Or, if your cashews are in an unopened bag, just throw it in the freezer.

When you’re ready to use the nuts, you can warm them for 30 minutes or so on the counter so that they aren’t ice-cold anymore. If you need them for a baking project, feel free to skip defrosting.

Cashews Shelf Life and Spoilage Summary

Thanks for reading this guide on cashews. Here are the main takeaways:

  • Cashews go rancid if they sit in storage for too long or are stored in bad conditions. Other spoilage options (that are much less common) include mold growth and pantry bugs.
  • Rancid cashews taste bitter and sharp, just like any other rancid nuts. They might also smell like old paint, putty, or nail polish remover, but that’s not always as pronounced as the flavor change.
  • Cashews keep for about six months at room temperature and more than a year in the fridge. If that’s not enough, you can always freeze them.
  • Store cashews in a sealed bag or container to protect them from too much fresh air. Place the bag in a cool and dry place, away from sunlight and light sources. Or chuck it in the fridge.