Skip to Content

Can Pecans Go Bad?

You’ve found an old bag of in-shell pecans in the pantry, and you’re not sure if they’re still good to eat or not. Can pecans go bad?

Or there’s an airtight container filled with shelled pecans in the fridge. You don’t remember when you’ve put it in there, and you want to know if the nuts are spoiled or not.

No matter if your pecans are shelled or not, we’ve got you covered. In the next couple hundred words, we’re going to talk about signs of spoilage, shelf life, and ways of storing these nuts. If that’s what you’re looking for, read on.

Bunch of pecans
(credit: Sara Cervera)

Can Pecans Go Bad? How Can You Tell If Pecans Are Bad?

Like all other nuts, pecans don’t last forever. To check if yours are still edible, you need to do a couple of things.

First, let’s talk about in-shell pecans. If you have a bunch of those, discard ones that feel lighter than the others, like they’re empty inside. Same thing if they rattle when you shake them. It’s like with unshelled hazelnuts, if the inside seems empty, it most likely is.

Some people also suggest throwing away pecans that have holes in their shells, but I think it’s better to crack them open and see what’s inside. It’s up to you how do you go about such pecans.

Pecans on cake
(credit: Ram HO)

Okay, we have the nuts shelled, and it’s time to give them a quick exam before eating. Here’s what to look for:

  • Weevils or any other bugs. If any got inside the shell, it goes without a doubt that you should discard such nuts right after cracking.
  • Mold, fuzz, or any signs of the nut being rotten.
  • Dried nutmeat. Storing pecans for way too long might result in the nutmeat drying out. If it’s shriveled, it’s not necessarily unsafe to eat, but I’d suggest getting rid of it anyway.
  • Rancidity setting in. If your pecans taste bitter instead of sweet and buttery, you know they’re rancid. Same thing if they smell bitter or like old paint. Unfortunately, rancid pecans cannot be saved.

If everything seems to be okay with the nuts, but you find the flavor a bit stale, consider toasting them. Check out our article on walnuts to learn more about performing that process safely.

Pecans and sugar crystals
(credit: Nanxi wei)

How Long Do Pecans Last

When it comes to the shelf life of pecans, it all depends on whom do you ask about it. One thing is for sure: unshelled pecans last much longer than shelled ones and have much looser storage guidelines.

If you buy pecans prepackaged, check the date on the label, as there surely is one. That date is a reasonably good approximation of how long the nuts should keep good quality. That’s if you take good care of them, of course (more on that later).

If you’re buying pecans in bulk and there’s no date, you can use the following approximations:

  • in-shell pecans last about 6 to 12 months in the pantry (ILP), 18 months in the fridge, and two to four years in the freezer (GPF)
  • shelled pecan nuts keep quality for about two months in the pantry (GPF), nine months in the fridge and up to two years frozen (ILP)

Please note that those periods are just estimates, and other sources might suggest slightly different periods. The most important thing you need to remember is that shelled pecans (unlike, e.g., almonds) don’t keep well at room temperature. Unless you know you’re going to finish the package within a couple of weeks, it’s better to refrigerate them.

Toasted pecans
(credit: Deryn Macey)

How To Store Pecans

As you already know, there are three options when it comes to storing pecans: pantry, refrigerator, and freezer. Let’s cover them one by one.

Storing pecans in the pantry is no rocket science. Both unshelled and shelled ones should be kept in a cool and dry place (GFP), possibly away from sunlight. When it comes to shelled pecans, consider using a bag or an airtight container (GFP) to slow down quality loss.

When it comes to refrigeration, you need a plastic or glass container with a lid (ILP) or a resealable bag. That will keep the nuts safe both from moisture and absorbing odors from other foods (USP).

Nuts: almond, cashew, brazil, hazelnut, peanut, pecan, pine, pistachio, macadamia
Nuts: almond, cashew, brazil, hazelnut, peanut, pecan, pine, pistachio, macadamia

Freezing is the third option and one that’s sometimes suggested as the best one (USP). To make it happen all you need are freezer bags or freezer-safe containers. Transfer the pecans into the container of your choice, add a label if you like, and chuck it into the freezer.

There’s no need to worry about thawing and freezing pecans again. Refreezing the nuts multiple times doesn’t cause loss of flavor or texture (ILP).

In a Nutshell

  • In-shell pecans last for quite some time at room temperature. Refrigeration and freezing are also possible if you need more time.
  • Shelled pecans keep quality for only about two months in the pantry. Many sources suggest that refrigeration or even freezing should be your default options for ready-to-eat pecans.
  • Moldy, rotten, discolored, or rancid pecans are spoiled, get rid of them.

References