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Can Peanuts Go Bad?

Found a leftover pack of peanuts in the pantry, and not sure if you can still eat them? They are “expired,” but look quite okay. Can peanuts go bad?

If your first instinct is to check the quality of food instead of relying solely on the date, that’s great. And in case of your peanuts, chances are they are still fit for consumption. Yes, even if they’re a few months past their date.

If you want to learn about signs of spoilage, shelf life, and best ways to store peanuts, you’re in the right place. Let’s dive in.

Bunch of unshelled peanuts
(credit: Tom Hermans)

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

Peanuts don’t last forever, but I’m pretty sure you already know that. And while peanuts are technically legumes (WIKI), not nuts, they both look and go bad in a similar way to the latter.

Signs of spoilage in peanuts include:

  • shriveled and dried out kernel
  • mold (either on the shell, on the surface of the nut)
  • rancidity

Yup, peanuts, just like hazelnuts or walnuts, can go rancid. That’s due to the quite high fat content. And, if you store them well, it’s more likely they’ll go rancid than straight off bad.

Peanut packs in a crate
(credit: Sujeeth Potla)

Not sure how to tell rancid peanuts from the good ones? Look for:

  • Chemical (paint-like) or sour smell. If your peanuts smell like something else altogether, they are most likely rancid.
  • Altered taste. If yours taste harsh, bitter, or sour, that’s a sure sign of rancidity.

While the odor change is not always noticeable, it’s difficult to miss that repelling taste. And while eating one or two rancid peanuts won’t kill you, the experience isn’t a pleasant one.

Either way, if your peanuts exhibit any of the listed symptoms, discard them.

Peanuts in a paper bag
(credit: Radu Marcusu)

How Long Do Peanuts Last?

If you’re buying peanuts in bulk, and they don’t come with any dates attached, you can use the following estimates (FK):

  • 4 months in the pantry, 12 months in the fridge, and 24 months in the freezer for in-shell peanuts
  • 4 weeks in the pantry, 12 months in the refrigerator, and 24 months in the freezer for shelled peanuts

As you can tell, if you need the peanuts to last quite some time, go for cold storage.

These periods are only estimates, and if you take good care of the nuts, they should keep quality for longer (more on that later). Obviously, if you’re buying peanuts in a supermarket, you should assume they aren’t the freshest (unless there’s high turnover) and plan accordingly.

If pre-packaged peanuts are your jam, read the label. While the shelf life for plain peanuts should be similar to the one above, it will be shorter for roasted and flavored peanuts. And while they most likely won’t spoil right after their date, don’t expect miracles here.

If you’re roasting or flavoring peanuts on your own, do that as you go instead of in bulk, or store the processed nuts in the freezer to retain quality.

Person holding a big bowl of peanuts
(credit: Tung Minh)

How To Store Peanuts?

If you’re buying unshelled peanuts, leave them as is and shell as needed for the best quality. Sure, you can process a bunch, so you have some to eat throughout the week, but don’t go overboard with it. As you already know, they don’t keep quality for the longest, especially if you leave them at room temp.

When it comes to where to store peanuts, there are three options: pantry (at around room temperature), fridge, or freezer. Should you refrigerate or freeze peanuts? If you need to store them long-term, yes, otherwise not really. It’s not required, but beneficial to their shelf life.

Room temperature is okay for short- (shelled) or even medium-term (unshelled) storage. If that’s your place of choice, choose a dry and dark place, away from sources of heat. A cabinet in the pantry is probably your best choice.

Unshelled peanuts in a glass bowl
(credit: Krisztina Papp)

One caveat here is processed peanuts. And by processed, I mean roasted, flavored, or both. As I already mentioned, they don’t keep quality as good as plain peanuts, so refrigerating them is a good idea.

When it comes to how to store peanuts, go with the following:

  • use a well-ventilated bag for in-shell peanuts at room temperature
  • go with a freezer bag or airtight container for shelled peanuts or in-shell ones you need to refrigerate or freeze

If you’re buying pre-packaged peanuts, make sure to check the label to learn about what the seller recommends. Their recommendations should be similar to mine, but it’s best to read them anyway.

In a Nutshell

  • Moldy, shriveled, or rancid peanuts are spoiled. Discard them.
  • For long-term storage, go with the fridge or freezer. Room temp is okay for the short term (4 weeks for shelled, 4 months for unshelled peanuts).
  • Shelled peanuts should sit in a resealable and tightly sealed container.
  • Take special care of roasted or flavored peanuts.