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Do Hazelnuts Go Bad? Hazelnuts Shelf Life and Spoilage

Today we’re going to cover the shelf life, storage options, and spoilage of hazelnuts.

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

If that sounds like you, it’s time to learn how long hazelnuts last, how you should store these nuts, and how to tell if hazelnuts go bad. And that’s what this piece is all about.

Let’s get right into it.

Hazelnuts and a measuring spoon
(credit: Janine Robinson)

Do Hazelnuts Go Bad?

Hazelnuts go rancid the same way other nuts do. If they sit in storage for too long or in poor conditions, sooner or later, they will end up rancid.

Rancid hazelnuts taste sharp and bitter, similar to rancid oil. Sometimes they also give off a paint-like, somewhat chemical smell, but that’s not a rule.

And while they aren’t necessarily unsafe to eatthey aren’t particularly healthy either. Plus, the taste is far from optimal.

In short, it’s best to get rid of them.

That said, hazelnuts have a relatively (compared to some other nuts) low amount of polyunsaturated fats, which helps them retain quality for longer. That should allow them to last a bit longer than, say, walnuts.

And in case you were wondering, since it contains a fair amount of hazelnuts, Nutella can go rancid too.

Now, there are a few other situations when you should toss your hazelnuts. Let’s cover those.

Big bunch of nuts
(credit: Merve Aydın)

How to Tell When Hazelnuts Are Bad?

Discard your hazelnuts if:

  • There’s mold on the kernel. While mold growth isn’t something we associate with nuts, it sometimes happens. Crack the shell (if yours are unshelled), and look for whiteish mold. If there’s any, toss that nut. For shelled hazelnuts, discard all nearby nuts if you notice any fluffy white threads growing.
  • They’ve turned rancid. If you’ve got a bunch of old unshelled hazelnuts, crack at least a few before tossing the whole pack. In most cases, some nuts will be rancid, while others will remain fairly okay, perhaps a bit stale. After checking a couple, decide if shelling all of them is worth it or not.
  • The bag is infested. If you leave hazelnuts at room temperature and have some issues with pantry bugs, they might infest the nuts if they aren’t sealed tight. If you notice insects, larvae, or anything else of the like in the bag, assume the nuts are unsafe to eat.

Okay, now you know that your hazelnuts aren’t spoiled. But what if they taste old and stale?

Stale Hazelnuts

If your hazelnuts are stale and are no longer good enough for snacking, one of the options is to toss them. Nobody will blame you for that.

Fortunately, there are also other options worth trying, such as:

  • Roasting the nuts. You can roast hazelnuts on the stove or in the oven, and you can even add some extra spices or sweeteners to enhance the taste even further. One thing to remember here is that roasted hazelnuts don’t last as long as plain ones, and it’s best to roast only as many as you’re going to eat in the next week or two.
  • Topping a dessert. Turn your plain vanilla ice cream into an actual dessert by topping it with chocolate or strawberry sauce and some roughly chopped hazelnuts.
  • Fold into or top baked goods. Muffins, cupcakes, and other cakes can benefit greatly from some chopped hazelnuts. I recommend adding nuts to any recipe that lacks that crunch factor. Sometimes it’s exactly what a recipe needs to go from good to great.
  • Add to a salad. Obviously, some salads benefit from hazelnuts, and others don’t. Because of that, I suggest following a recipe that explicitly mentions these nuts.
Unshelled hazelnuts and spices
(crdit: Joanna Kosinska)

How Long Do Hazelnuts Last?

Shelled hazelnuts last about 3 to 5 months at room temperature and more than a year in the fridge. On the other hand, unshelled hazelnuts keep for at least 6 months at room temperature and more than 12 months refrigerated.

If you need yours to last even longer, you can freeze them.

(More on freezing later on.)

Of course, those periods are only rough estimates. That means if you check other sources, you’ll find different recommendations. That’s normal in this case.

Like all high-fat products that go rancid, it’s difficult to tell the exact point at which hazelnuts are spoiled. Or that their quality is no longer good enough for eating.

The above recommendations work for me, but yours might be shorter or longer. It’s mostly a matter of personal preference.

Because of that, it’s best to check your hazelnuts’ quality before eating instead of relying on arbitrary time periods.

That said, it’s clear that shelled hazelnuts last longer than unshelled ones, no matter how you look at it.

“Expiration” Date

Pre-bagged hazelnuts come with a date printed on the label. It’s a best-by date, not an expiration date, and your nuts won’t magically go bad a day or a week after that date.

In most cases, they should keep for an extra couple of weeks if you follow good storage practices.

(More on those in a moment.)

In other words, the printed date is yet another rough estimate of storage time that’s not particularly reliable. So instead of using it to guide your choices, grab those hazelnuts and check their quality yourself.

Obviously, if the nuts are 6 months “expired,” and you’re not comfortable eating them, it’s okay to toss them. Better safe than sorry.

Roasted Hazelnuts

Roasted hazelnuts don’t last as long as fresh ones do.

There are many ways to roast hazelnuts, and each one yields slightly different results, both in terms of flavor and shelf life after roasting. Because of that, it’s impossible to come up with a recommended storage time for roasted hazelnuts.

What I’m going to suggest instead is roasting as much as you can eat within a few weeks tops. And storing roasted hazelnuts in the fridge.

If you follow these recommendations, you shouldn’t ever come across rancid roasted hazelnuts.

How To Store Hazelnuts

Store unshelled hazelnuts at room temperature, either in a ventilated bag or a sealed container or bag. They should keep at least 6 months this way. For shelled hazelnuts, they’ll last about 3 months in a bag on the counter and about a year bagged in the fridge.

As it’s true for all nuts, cold storage is the best option, but hazelnuts can still last quite a while on the counter. Especially if they’re unshelled.

Now, storing hazelnuts means protecting them from air, light, and heat. So let’s talk about how.

In the Fridge

When refrigerating hazelnuts, seal them tight in a freezer bag or airtight container.

This way, you protect them from absorbing any odors from nearby foods and any moisture that might be around. That’s crucial for shelled hazelnuts.

For unshelled hazelnuts, you could probably leave them as-is on a fridge shelf, but it’s still better to package them. The bag or container protects the nuts from moisture and keeps things organized.

Now, if you can’t quite fit that bunch of hazelnuts in the fridge, not all is lost. Let’s talk about storing them on the counter.

Room Temperature Storage

Store your hazelnuts in a cool and dry place, away from direct sunlight and heat sources. If they’re shelled, transfer them into a freezer bag, storage container, or anything else you can seal tight.

If they’re not sealed, they’ll lose quality and go rancid quicker, plain and simple.

For unshelled hazelnuts, a ventilated bag or a lidless storage container will do. Either provides airflow so that any moisture that’s around evaporates quickly. The shells will take care of the rest.

If pantry bugs infest your pantry or kitchen, go with sealed containers or resealable bags. This way, those unwanted visitors can’t get to your hazelnuts.

As you can tell, storing hazelnuts is a lot like storing walnuts, peanuts (Do peanuts go bad?), and pecans (How long do pecans last?).

Various kinds of nuts
(credit: Peter Feghali)

Can You Freeze Hazelnuts?

Hazelnuts freeze well, and it’s the best way to store them if you want them to last as long as possible.

Here’s how you freeze hazelnuts:

  1. Place them in a freezer bag.
  2. Squeeze out the air.
  3. Seal the bag.
  4. Put the bag in the freezer.

That’s as simple as it gets and takes only a minute or so. There are no excuses for not doing that.

(Okay, there are a few. Like not having a freezer, for instance.)

When you’re ready to eat or use those hazelnuts, scoop a bunch from the bag and let them warm up on the counter for half an hour or so. After that period, they should be ready for snacking.

If you need them for baking or a salad, you can probably skip the above.

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

Hazelnuts Shelf Life and Spoilage Summary

Thanks for reading. I hope you found this guide informative. Here are the main takeaways:

  • Hazelnuts sooner or later go rancid.
  • Your hazelnuts are rancid if they taste sharp and bitter. Sometimes they might also give off an odor that reminds you of old paint or nail polish remover.
  • Shelled hazelnuts last about 3 to 5 months on the counter and more than a year in the fridge. Unshelled hazelnuts keep for more than 6 months at room temperature and way past a year in the refrigerator.
  • If you refrigerate hazelnuts, ensure they sit in a sealed bag or container, even if they’re unshelled.