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Can Hazelnuts Go Bad?

You’ve found an old bag of expired hazelnuts that look quite alright. You’re not quite sure if they are still edible or not. Can hazelnuts go bad?

Immediately discarding food that’s past its date is what most people would do. But those hazelnuts look perfectly fine, you think, and you’d like to make sure they are spoiled before tossing them out. That’s a reasonable approach.

To learn if your hazelnuts are still good to eat, and much more about storage and shelf life of those nuts, read on.

Hazelnuts and a measuring spoon
(credit: Janine Robinson)

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

Hazelnuts aren’t magical in any way. They go bad like any other nuts, e.g., peanuts, cashews or almonds. Figuring out if yours are good or not is super simple, here’s how to do it.

For starters, crack the shell if it’s still intact. Then look for mold on the kernel. Discard if there are any signs of whiteish mold. Then look at the nutmeat to check if it’s dried out or shriveled. While such nuts aren’t always “bad” per se, they taste awful, and you should get rid of those.

Let’s say the hazelnut kernel looks quite alright, no mold or dried skin. The last thing to do is to check if it’s rancid or not. Rancidity shows in either the taste or the smell. If the kernel smells paint-like or like rancid butter, that’s a pretty sure sign. Same thing if the hazelnut tastes unpleasant and bitter.

While you won’t get sick after eating a couple of rancid hazelnuts, please note that they aren’t particularly healthy (HL). Fortunately, they also taste bad, so you shouldn’t think twice before dumping them.

An important thing to know is that hazelnuts have a relatively (to some other nuts) low amount of polyunsaturated fats (ND), which helps them retain quality for longer.

If your hazelnuts aren’t as flavorful and crunch as you would’ve liked, you can always try roasting them.

Big bunch of nuts
(credit: Merve Aydın)

How To Roast Hazelnuts?

Roasting hazelnuts is quite straightforward. Here’s how to do it (OH):

  • warm up your oven to 275 deg. F
  • spread shelled hazelnuts on a baking sheet and roast them for 15 to 20 minutes
  • rub still warm nuts with a dish towel or a rough cloth to move the skins

Please note that not all hazelnuts will easily lose their skins. You might need to use a knife to remove the remaining ones. Or eat them with the skins on, as they also contain nutrients (OH).

How Long Do Hazelnuts Last?

Like with other nuts, cold storage is the way to go if you need to store your hazelnuts for a year or longer. Twelve months for fridge storage and 24 months for freezer storage seem to be the estimates everyone agrees upon (UCANR). That’s both for in-shell hazelnuts and shelled nutmeat.

When it comes to room temperature storage, time periods are noticeably shorter.

For unshelled hazelnuts, they should keep quality for at least six months, as the shells do a pretty good job of protecting the kernels from elements. For shelled hazelnuts, they should keep quality for up to 3 months, provided that you store them properly (more on that later).

If you’re buying pre-packaged hazelnuts, start with the date on the label. The nuts won’t magically go rancid a day or a week past that date, but that date gives you a reasonable estimate of what to expect.

If your hazelnuts are past their date, check them anyways using the instructions above. If they aren’t super old and you stored them well, they might still be okay, especially if they are unshelled.

Last but not least, remember that roasted hazelnuts don’t last as long as fresh ones do (OH). If you’re roasting yours, either roast as you go, or do a bigger batch that’s enough for a couple of months tops. If you’ve bought a ton of hazelnuts that enough for a year, don’t try to save time and roast all of them.

Various kinds of nuts
(credit: Peter Feghali)

How To Store Hazelnuts

There are three basic storage options: room temperature, fridge, or freezer. And you already know that the latter two are best for long term storage, while the former is suitable for short- to medium-term.

Now let’s talk about how to store them.

For unshelled hazelnuts, they don’t need much. Their shells protect kernels, so you don’t have to worry about that. I usually leave them on the fridge in a loose bag that’s well ventilated, and that works perfectly fine. For cold storage, I’d probably go with a resealable container or bag, so you can grab them without spilling all over the place.

When it comes to shelled walnuts, you need to take care of doing the exact same thing the shell did for the kernel. That means keeping the nutmeat away from light, air, and temperature changes.

A resealable container or freezer bag takes care of most of these, so you only need to pick a spot. If you’re going for kitchen or pantry storage, a dark cabinet should do the trick.

Cutting board, spices, and nuts
(credit: Foodie Flavours)

In a Nutshell

  • You should discard moldy, dried out, or rancid hazelnuts
  • Fridge or freezer is best for long-term storage
  • Room temperature is good enough for short- (shelled) to medium-term (unshelled) storage
  • If you want to have some hazelnuts to snack on on hand, roast a bunch, dice them and freeze