Today we’ll cover the shelf life, storage options, and spoilage of pine nuts.
Found an old bag of “expired” pine nuts that you’re not sure you can still use? Do pine nuts go bad?
If you need a quick primer on pine nuts, you’re in the right place. Below, we’ll cover how long pine nuts last, what’s the best way to store them, and how to tell if your pine nuts are spoiled or not.
Before we start, you should know that pine nuts, pine kernels, pinon nuts, and pignoli nuts are all one and the same.
Table of Contents
- Do Pine Nuts Nuts Go Bad?
- How to Tell if Pine Nuts Are Bad?
- How Long Do Pine Nuts Last?
- How to Store Pine Nuts
- Can You Freeze Pine Nuts?
- Pine Nuts Shelf Life and Spoilage Summary
Do Pine Nuts Nuts Go Bad?
Pine nuts can go bad, and that usually happens by the nuts going rancid. Rancidity happens if you store them too long or in poor conditions. And once they become rancid, there’s no way of fixing that.
You can tell your pine nuts are rancid when they start to taste bitter and sharp instead of their usual soft and nutty flavor. They might also smell like old paint or nail polish remover, but that’s not always easily discernible.
In short, you need to eat a pine nut or two to make sure yours are okay to eat.
Next, going rancid is a process that takes weeks or even months. That means that the changes the nuts undergo are gradual, and the flavor doesn’t change all that much week to week.
In other words, it’s not always clear that the nuts are rancid. If they aren’t super old yet, you might find the taste altered a bit, and it’s your choice whether you still use those pine nuts or not.
Fortunately, eating a couple of rancid nuts isn’t a big deal, so if yours don’t show any other signs of spoilage (more on that in a moment), taste one or two and see how things go.
That said, eating lots of rancid nuts isn’t good for you, so consuming a bag of rancid pine nuts is a no-go.
Now, let’s discuss those other spoilage signs.
Pine nuts are technically seeds, not nuts. We call them nuts because they’re similar in many ways. The same is true with cashews and peanuts (which are legumes).
How to Tell if Pine Nuts Are Bad?
Throw out your pine nuts if:
- They’re rancid. If you’re unsure how to tell if yours are rancid, revisit the previous section.
- There’s mold in the package. If you store yours at room temperature and moisture gets in the bag, mold will show up. And when there’s any in your package, toss the whole thing.
- The bag is infested. As it turns out, pantry pests not only love sugar and flour, but they like nuts too. So if you find any in your pine nuts, discard the whole thing. And check nearby foods for bugs, as these things spread like wildfire.
If neither of the above is the case and the nuts look and smell okay, they’re most likely safe to eat. The worst that could happen is that they are stale.
Let’s talk about what to do if that’s the case.
Using Stale Pine Nuts
If your pine nuts are stale, consider doing the following:
- Toast them. Toasting the nuts is the most obvious way to freshen them a bit. Here’s how.
- Add to baked goods. If you’re into homemade bread, some pine nuts should elevate its taste and give it some extra crunch. Same thing for muffins and similar baked goods.
- Make pesto. This one is iffy. If your pine nuts are beyond gone, don’t put them in pesto. But if they only taste a bit old and meh, chances are they’ll still make great pesto, especially if your basil is nice and fresh. Or you can try making a small batch to see how things work out before you whip a mason jar worth of pesto.
- Include in a salad. If the salad only uses a small amount of pine nuts, using stale ones probably won’t be a huge deal. The salad won’t taste as good as one made with fresh pine nuts, but it should still taste a-okay.
(Made a pesto? Here’s how long pesto lasts.)
The list above isn’t complete by any means. You can use stale pine nuts in other settings. Just make sure they’re not the main ingredient responsible for the taste of the dish.
How Long Do Pine Nuts Last?
Pine nuts last about 3 to 6 months at room temperature, more than 12 months if refrigerated, and even longer if you freeze them.
At the time of writing this article, I couldn’t find any reliable sources talking about the shelf life of pine nuts. So those 3 to 6 months are based on what I’ve seen on bags of pine nuts that I buy in supermarkets and how long other nuts last in storage.
Obviously, the period pine nuts retain quality in the kitchen or pantry depends heavily on storage conditions. If the temperature where they sit is relatively cool (around 68°F or 20°C), the nuts should keep quality much longer than if it’s nearing 86°F or 30°C.
(Of course, other storage conditions matter too.)
Now, these periods are only rough estimates, or educated guesses, if you will. And so are the dates printed on bagged pine nuts.
Neither of them is an “expiration” date by any means, and rather than relying on dates and storage periods, you should check the quality of your pine nuts to determine whether they’re okay to eat or not.
All of that means that you can eat “expired” pine nuts, as long as there aren’t any signs of spoilage present. And the older the nuts are, the more careful you should be when checking for those signs.
Toasted Pine Nuts
Toasting pine nuts shortens their storage time. And it’s pretty much impossible to say how long toasted pine nuts last.
What I suggest instead is toasting them in small batches so that you have enough for a couple of weeks tops. And storing those pine nuts in the refrigerator.
Or, if you really want to toast a whole bunch in one go, freeze the nuts after they cool off. This way, they should keep quality for at least six months.
How to Store Pine Nuts
Store pine nuts sealed tight and in a cool and dry area. A resealable container or freezer bag works great for that purpose.
If you’ll use the nuts within a couple of months, leaving them in the pantry or kitchen cabinet is okay. If not, refrigerating or freezing are better options.
When storing pine nuts, your job is to protect the kernels from moisture, excess air, sunlight, and warm temperatures. All of which speed up the rancidification process.
You cover the first two points by placing the nuts in a sealed bag or container. The latter two are all about where the nuts sit.
For short-term storage, room temperature is a-okay. Make sure the nuts sit in a dark cabinet or cupboard, not on the countertop in direct sunlight. And if it’s the middle of a hot summer and you’re not blasting AC all day long, it’s better to refrigerate them.
For long-term storage, you can choose the refrigerator or the freezer. Both protect pine nuts for an extended period, so I suggest going with what’s more convenient for you.
Now, if you decide to refrigerate pine nuts, remember that a tight seal is a must. Otherwise, the nuts will pick up smells from the fridge, and you definitely don’t want that to happen.
(Unless you’re curious how good are pine nuts that smell like sausage. To each his own.)
Finally, let’s talk about freezing pine nuts.
Can You Freeze Pine Nuts?
Yes, you can freeze pine nuts, and that’s the optimal way to store them if you need the nuts to last as long as possible.
The freezing process is super simple, and all you need is a freezer bag or two.
Here’s how you freeze pine nuts:
- Place pine nuts in a freezer bag.
- Squeeze out the air and seal the bag. Label the bag with the name and date if you like.
- Freeze the bag(s).
That’s it. Getting your pine nuts safely from wherever they were to the freezer shouldn’t take more than a minute or two.
So, how long can you freeze pine nuts?
Frozen pine nuts should retain quality for at least two years, if not longer. That gives you ample time to use them up, even if you only use a tablespoon or two at a time for pesto or a salad.
Before using the nuts, let them defrost on the counter for 20 to 30 minutes, up to an hour. To speed this up, spread them on a large plate so that every nut has access to warm air.
And if you happen to have any leftovers, chuck them back in the freezer.
Pine Nuts Shelf Life and Spoilage Summary
Thanks for reading this primer on pine nuts. Here are the takeaways:
- Pine nuts go rancid if stored for too long or in poor conditions. They could also grow mold or be infested by pantry pests, but going rancid is the most common reason one needs to toss pine nuts.
- The main sign that pine nuts are rancid is that they taste harsh and bitter. They might also develop a putrid, old-paint-like smell, but the odor change isn’t always that pronounced.
- Pine nuts last about 3 to 6 months at ambient temperature, more than a year in the fridge, and even longer in the freezer.
- Store pine nuts sealed tight in an airtight container or resealable bag. And if you don’t refrigerate or freeze them, make sure they sit in a cool and dark place.