Do Hazelnuts Go Bad?

You’ve bought a pack of hazelnuts to snack on, and they sit in storage for quite some time already. They are past their date, and you’re wondering if hazelnuts go bad.

Or maybe you’ve found hazelnuts on a sale and thought of buying some to make homemade Nutella? But before you pull the trigger, you realized you don’t know how much you can buy, so they don’t go rancid or stale.

Either way, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we talk about everything you need to know about storage, shelf life, and spoilage of hazelnuts (or filberts). If that’s what you’re looking for, let’s go.

Shelled hazelnuts in a black scoop
Shelled hazelnuts in a black scoop

How To Store Hazelnuts

There isn’t much difference between storing hazelnuts and other nuts. There are three places you can keep them, each with their pros and cons: pantry, fridge, or freezer.

As it’s the case for most nuts, the best place for long term storage is either the fridge or the freezer (OSU). If you need your hazelnuts to last months, cold storage is the way to go. That’s true for both in-the-shell hazelnuts and kernels.

Tip

Unshelled hazelnuts don’t require any packaging when refrigerating or freezer, the shell protects them quite well. But if you need to store shelled hazelnuts, they need protection. A resealable freezer bag or container should do the trick.

But let’s say you’re like me and don’t have enough space for keeping the nuts in the fridge. What now?

Unshelled hazelnuts closeup
Bunch of unshelled hazelnuts

The last option is storing hazelnuts at room temperature: in the pantry or the kitchen. This isn’t ideal but should do the trick for short- or even medium-term storage. That’s especially true if your hazelnuts are still in their shells.

Even though Oregon State University Extension (OSU) suggests keeping in-shell hazelnuts in a closed container, I don’t think it’s necessary. The shells do a great job of protecting the kernels from the outside world.

For shelled hazelnuts, make sure they sit in a closed bag or container.

Not matter if shelled or not, make sure hazelnuts are in a cool and dark place, away from heat sources. This way, you keep them from going rancid (WIKI) or stale for much longer.

Hazelnuts in a mesh bag closeup
Hazelnuts in a mesh bag

How Long Do Hazelnuts Last

Once again, let’s start with cold storage. Hazelnuts retain quality for at least a year in the fridge, and up to two years in the freezer (UOC).

For room temperature, it makes sense to assume the shelf life is quite similar to walnuts‘. That means up to a year for unshelled hazelnuts, and probably about 3 to 4 months for shelled ones.

Please note that shelled hazelnuts don’t go rancid as easily as walnuts. That’s because, unlike walnuts, they have a relatively low amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids (ND).

If you’re buying hazelnuts in packages, the date on the label is a useful starting point. But even if the nuts are “expired,” it makes sense to check their quality anyway. If you took good care of them, and they aren’t like a couple of years old, they might still be okay to eat. I’ll cover how to go about that in a bit.

Last but not least, if you’re buying nuts from the bulk bins in the supermarket, assume they are there for at least a month, if not more. And adjust your expectations to their shelf life based on that. Alternatively, pick a place with high turnover, or buy fresh on the farmer’s market, where you can ask the seller how old they are.

PantryFridgeFreezer
Unshelled hazelnuts6 – 12 months12+ months24+ months
Shelled hazelnuts3 – 4 months12 months24 months

Please note the periods above are only estimates.

Shelled hazelnuts closeup
Shelled hazelnuts

How To Tell If Hazelnuts Are Bad?

Before making your own Nutella, or adding ground or chopped nuts to a cake, make sure the nuts are okay to eat. That’s especially true if you stored them for a very long time or in questionable conditions. You don’t want to ruin the whole thing with rancid hazelnuts, do you?

Checking for spoilage is pretty much the same for all kinds of nuts, including macadamia nuts and pecans. Here’s what to look out for:

  • Signs of mold on the kernel
  • Shriveled, dried out kernels
  • Rancidity

If you find either one, discard the nuts. If yours looks like the fellow below, that’s a sure sign it’s gone.

Moldy hazelnut
Moldy hazelnut

How to tell if hazelnuts are rancid? I’m glad you asked. There are two signs that nuts are rancid:

  • Paint-like, chemical smell
  • Harsh, bitter flavor

The flavor changes usually precede the odor changes, so your hazelnuts smelling normal doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods yet. You still need to eat some to learn if they’re good or not.

Don’t worry; eating a couple of rancid hazelnuts won’t kill you (UOC). But eating a whole bunch of rancid nuts is not a good idea. Just accept your losses and get rid of the.

Unshelled hazelnuts in a mesh bag
Unshelled hazelnuts in a mesh bag

If your hazelnuts aren’t rancid but taste a bit stale and the crunch is not quite there, try roasting them to bring out the flavor. Roast the shelled hazelnuts in the oven at 275°F (135°C) for 20 to 30 minutes, so the skins crack (OSU). If you need to remove the skins because the recipe says so, rub the hazelnuts with a rough cloth while they are still warm.

Info

Please note that roasted hazelnuts don’t last as long as unroasted ones. That means either make sure you eat them within a couple of months of roasting or roast only as many as you need at a time.

Sources