Should You Refrigerate Nuts?

If you're storing your nuts in the pantry, you'll want to read this.

misc nuts in a bowl on table
Photo: Thitaree Sarmkasat / Getty Images

From crunchy granola to hearty salads, almost every meal tastes better with nuts, and of course they're an excellent healthy snack. Nuts offer a generous cocktail of essential nutrients, from satiating protein to gut-friendly fiber. There are also many types of nuts (think almonds, pecans, cashews, walnuts, and pistachios, just to name a few varieties) so there's something for almost everyone. Knowing the best way to store nuts at home will mean the nuts you buy will last longer and help you reduce food waste.

Good Fats Go Bad

If you want to get the most out of your nuts, it's important to store them properly. Whether in plastic bags from the bulk bins, original packaging, or transferred to glass jars or other containers, many people keep nuts at room temperature—just like supermarkets do—but this is actually the wrong technique.

First, it's important to understand why and how nuts go bad: Nuts are teeming with unsaturated ("good") fats, which are responsible for their anti-inflammatory benefits. However, as noted by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, unsaturated fats are extremely fragile and delicate, meaning they break down quickly. This makes nuts prone to rancidity, which ruins their flavor and freshness. So to preserve them, it's best to store nuts in the refrigerator, says Richard LaMarita, chef-instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education. The coolness of the refrigerator will keep unsaturated fats from breaking down, ultimately slowing down spoilage.

The Best Way to Store Nuts

The refrigerator, yes, but specifically, LaMarita recommends refrigerating nuts in air-tight glass jars. Store any extra nuts in the freezer in the bags they came in, he says. (If you don't have the original bags, consider using a freezer-safe air-tight container instead.) When your refrigerator stash is running low, it's time to "refill from the freezer to the jars in the fridge." Stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator, nuts will last for four to six months, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Meanwhile, in the freezer, they'll last for at least one year.

It's worth noting that some nuts will spoil faster than others. The reason? "Nuts have a wide range of fat contents," says LaMarita. Almonds, walnuts, and pistachios are lower in fat, so they'll generally last longer than nuts higher in fat, like macadamia nuts, pine nuts, cashews, and Brazil nuts, all of which will go rancid quicker, says LaMarita. You won't notice this difference as much when you store them in the refrigerator and freezer but it's more obvious when they are stored in the pantry or kitchen cupboards.

How to Tell If Nuts Have Gone Bad

When it comes to detecting spoiled nuts, the best bet is to use your nose. As LaMarita explains, the most dominant sign is an unpleasant odor. "Rancid nuts give off an aroma—a sour, moldy, paint-like, plastic-like smell," he says. "Their texture will be soft, and they'll lose their crunch." In terms of taste, spoiled nuts will be sour and bitter rather than sweet and nutty. "If you accidentally eat rancid nuts, they won't get you sick—but they will be unpleasant," LaMarita says.

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