Do Sesame Seeds Go Bad?

So you’ve bought a pack of sesame seeds to add some flavor to your stir fries, or maybe even to make tahini. And after a few months you find yourself with a half-open bag of these seeds thinking: do sesame seeds go bad?

Or maybe you’ve found an unopened bag of sesame seeds while organizing the pantry. And the seeds are a few weeks past the date on the label. So now you’re wondering if you should toss them out right away, or maybe give them a try.

Either way, if you have any questions regarding storage, shelf life, and going bad of sesame seeds, you’re in the right place. That’s exactly what we talk about in this article. Let’s dive in.

Sesame seeds paste
Image used under Creative Commons from Marco Verch

How to Store Sesame Seeds

Sesame seeds are available in black and white varieties, but the storage method is the same for both.

You should store an unopened package in a cool and dry place, away from sunlight. The pantry is the perfect option, but a dark cabinet in the kitchen works too.

Once you first open the package, keep it sealed tightly. This way, you protect the seeds from any bugs and moisture. To do that, you can either transfer the seeds into an airtight container or a freezer bag. Or, if you don’t have either on hand, use a bag clip. It’s not ideal, but it’s good enough if you store the leftover seeds at room temperature.

Seeds on a spoon
Image used under Creative Commons from Marco Verch

Speaking of temperature, if you want to store the seeds for a prolonged period, transferring them into the fridge is something to consider. That’s especially useful if you live in a hot and humid climate. If not, they will retain the quality better, but the gains are nothing to write home about.


If you decide to keep the seeds refrigerated, seal the package tightly, so the seeds won’t absorb moisture or smells from the environment. Again, an airtight container or a freezer bag is super helpful here.

When it comes to freezing, sesame seeds freeze just fine.

If you need to store the seeds for a very long time, or don’t have enough space in the fridge, freezing is an option. Just make sure you protect the seeds from a cold environment, the same way you do when refrigerating them.

Usually, you can use seeds right away from the freezer, without thawing them first.

Sesame seeds on a wooden spoon
Sesame seeds on a wooden spoon

How Long Do Sesame Seeds Last

Tahini, a paste made from toasted sesame seeds, lasts quite a long time, even at room temperature. So it only makes sense that the seeds themselves last at least as long. And they do. A typical bag has a shelf life of about a year and comes with a best-by date. But the seeds keep very well, even in the pantry, so they should easily last months past that date.

Opening the bag or container doesn’t change much in terms of shelf life. As long as you do a decent job of storing the seeds, they will retain quality.

Sesame seeds (unopened)Best-by + 3 – 6 months 
Sesame seeds (opened)Best-by + 3 – 6 monthsBest-by + 1 year
Please note that the periods above are only estimates.
Sesame seeds in a wooden bowl
Sesame seeds in a wooden bowl

How to Tell If Sesame Seeds Have Gone Bad

Raw sesame seeds have a mild, nutty aroma. Once you toast them, the nutty aroma intensifies. But when the sesame seeds have gone bad, the nuttiness will be replaced by a sour or rancid aroma (just like in sunflower seeds). That’s due to the breakdown of the sesame seed oil.

When it comes to changes in appearance, it is difficult to tell if sesame seeds have spoiled at a glance. Unless, of course, moisture got into the container and there’s mold.

Because of that, the best piece of advice I can offer is to give the seeds a good whiff, and if everything seems okay, eat a few seeds. If they taste sour, throw them out.