Can Lime Juice Go Bad?

Nothing like a little lime juice to add a zesty zing to your favorite dishes. Or adding some acidity to your stews, soups, salads, or even pies. Not to mention you can use it to prevent cut fruit from browning or add a fresh kick to a drink.

But despite its versatility, most of us don’t use it that often. And once the opened container sits in the fridge for a few days, we start thinking about whether or not it goes bad. Or if there’s a way of keeping it around for longer.

Or perhaps you’re new to lime juice, and you noticed that it started browning only after a few days of opening the carton. You wanted to throw it out the moment you saw that change of color, but you decided to check online if, by any chance, browning isn’t normal and maybe you could still use that juice.

Or you’re simply looking for some info on how to tell if your lime juice is bad. You already know that it keeps well for a long time, and a natural next thing to do would be learning how to spot spoiled lime juice.

Limes in water splash
Limes in water splash

If any of these questions sound familiar, you’re in the right place. Below we will go through such topics one by one, so by the end of the article, you will know exactly what you should do with your lime juice no matter your current situation.

Can Lime Juice Go Bad? How To Tell If Lime Juice Is Bad?

Like all juices, lime juice can go off. But unlike popular beverages such as apple juice or orange juice, store-bought lime juice lasts a long time after opening the bottle. And it doesn’t spoil that easily.

When it comes to how to tell if lime juice has gone bad, it’s a bit tricky. Generally, lime juice, like lemon juice, is highly acidic ([WIKI]). And as you probably know, that makes it impossible or at least very difficult for any bacteria to live and multiply. That makes the juice long-lasting and not prone to spoilage.

Because of that, in most cases, you will decide to discard the liquid because its quality is terrible, and not because it’s unsafe for drinking or moldy.

Slice of lime in water
Slice of lime in water

The first thing we need to talk about when it comes to quality is the browning of the juice.

If your lime juice has turned brown, it’s normal, and it doesn’t mean the product is spoiled or anything ([KLJ]). You can still use it, and it will work as well as a healthy-looking one does.

The only caveat is that if you depend on the juice to add color to whatever you’re cooking, you probably need to open a new one.

The browning is in most cases caused by a lack of refrigeration after opening, so think about how you can level up your lime juice storage game for the next container.

Limes
(credit: Hoach Le Dinh)

For citrus fruits and juices, the smell is usually the best indicator of quality. So give it a good whiff before using it if it sits open for a long time. If what you feel isn’t a fresh citrus aroma, throw it out.

If the juice looks and smells alright, taste it, and based on that decide if it’s good enough to use or not.

One more thing worth remembering is that store-bought lime juice comes with a date on the label. And if the liquid has passed that date, be extra cautious before using that juice. But please note that it shouldn’t go off or even bad quality-wise for months past that date. Like vinegar, it’s highly acidic and keeps quality really well.

Last but not least, if you’re for any reason not sure that the lime juice you have on hand is safe for use, throw it away. If it’s past the date on the label and you don’t feel comfortable using it, get rid of it. When in doubt, throw it out.

Now that you know how to tell if this citrus juice is okay or not, it’s time to cover how long it keeps quality.

Growing limes
Image used under Creative Commons from Duy Thuong Ngo 吳 惟 尚

How Long Does Lime Juice Last?

Every container of lime juice comes with a date on the label. And pretty much always it’s a “best-by” date that informs you for how long, at the very minimum, the juice will retain quality.

And like almost all store-bought juices in cartons, lime juice easily lasts a few weeks or even months past that date while unopened. I mean the juice is acidic, and the package keeps the outside world at bay, so there’s not much that can happen there.

Unless, of course, something was off the moment the juice was bottled. But realistically speaking, the worst-case scenario is the liquid doesn’t taste super fresh.

Limes and a green smoothie
(credit: Alina Karpenko)

Once you open the container, it’s a new territory for some of you. Most juices, like OJ, need to be finished within a few days of opening. Lime juice, on the other hand, keeps quality for months after opening.

Generally, producers recommend finishing the bottle before the date on the label ([KLJ][RL]), even if the container is already opened way earlier.

What if you opened the bottle if it was already past the date on the label? Just try to finish it as soon as possible. It will most likely retain freshness for at least a month or two, possibly even more, but better don’t put that to the test.

Make sure that before using the liquid you check it for any signs of going wrong and you’re golden.

Sliced lime on grey bowl
(credit: Luke Besley)

Last but now least, if you bought a bunch of limes and squeezed them yourself, try to use all of that juice within a couple of days, maybe up to a week.

Commercially-bottled citrus juices are pasteurized and often have preservatives that help them last a long time even after breaking the seal. Your homemade lime juice doesn’t have either, so it’s much more prone to spoilage and degrades in quality much faster.

Knowing that, it’s probably time to talk a bit about storing the juice, so it lasts at long as possible.

Lime slice and water bubbles
(credit: Lesley Davidson)

How To Store Lime Juice? Do You Have To Refrigerate Lime Juice After Opening?

So you’ve bought a few cartons of key lime juice, got home and stored them away in the pantry. Up to this point, you did everything right. As long as the spot doesn’t change temperature often and is fairly cool, the juice can live there for months. If it’s in a see-through bottle, keep it away from light, as that might affect its quality too.

Once you open the bottle, remember to seal it tightly once you’re done with it. And it’s best to put it into the fridge upon opening ([KLJ][RL]).

Technically, you can keep that juice at room temperature for some time, but it will brown relatively quickly and will lose its freshness too. Hence the fridge is where you should keep that opened bottle if you want it to preserve its freshness for months.

When it comes to homemade lime juice you made for your lime pie, keep it in the fridge at all times. Just like you would do with any other fruit or veggie juice you made yourself.

Glasses of lime juice
(credit: Alexander Mils)

But what if you wanted to keep the lime juice around for longer? While store-bought one lasts a long time, the homemade one doesn’t. And wouldn’t it be cool if you could store the leftovers for later? Enter freezing lime juice.

Can You Freeze Lime Juice?

As I already mentioned, commercially-bottled lime juice has an exceptionally long shelf life, so freezing it usually isn’t necessary. But if you made too much lime juice and didn’t want to discard the leftovers, freezing is an option.

We usually use lime juice in small quantities, hence freezing the liquid in an ice cube tray seems like the best option. Here’s how to go about it.

First, pour the juice in the cubes and put the tray into the freezer. Once the cubes freeze, feel free to transfer them to a freezer bag, so they take less place and free up the tray.

If you find it useful, add a label to the bag, so you know what’s in it. And that’s it.

Whenever you need some lime juice for a recipe, to add to a drink instead of ice, or use in any other way, you can pick up a few cubes, and you’re good to go.

Defrost in the fridge or add in frozen if possible. And if you find the cubes too small, you can use a muffin tray instead.

In a Nutshell

  • store-bought lime juice has a long shelf life, and can easily last months even after opening
  • once you open the container, keep it refrigerated, so it doesn’t brown
  • brown lime juice is harmless
  • you can freeze your leftover homemade lime juice if you won’t use it within a few days

References