Here’s all you need to know about canola oil. Learn how to tell if it’s bad, how long it lasts, and how to store it.
Found an expired bottle of canola oil and wondering if it’s still any good? Does canola oil go bad?
Or maybe there’s something different about the oil that you can’t quite put your finger on, and you need to know how to tell if the oil is still okay to use.
If that sounds familiar, this article is for you. Let’s get right into it.
Contrary to popular belief, canola oil and rapeseed oil aren’t the same thing. Canola is different in that it contains less than two percent erucic acid (which is dangerous in larger doses), making it a much safer (health-wise) option than typical rapeseed oil.
Does Canola Oil Go Bad?
Canola oil can go bad, and the typical scenario is that it ends up rancid after prolonged storage. The time it takes until it’s rancid is between a year and more than two years, depending on when you open it and how it’s stored.
The rancidification process is what causes the slow degradation of quality in fat-based products and what causes them to go rancid. It works the same way for canola oil.
Unfortunately, that means that it’s impossible to predict exactly how long canola oil will last. There are best-by dates on the bottle, of course, but those are only rough estimates, and often the oil lasts way past the printed date.
Because of that, you need to know how to tell if canola is rancid or spoiled in any other way.
How to Tell if Canola is Bad?
Discard your canola oil if:
- It smells bad. If you canola oil smells like paint or a detergent, that’s a sure sign the oil is rancid. Same thing if the smell is harsh. Canola shouldn’t give off any strong odors so that it works in all sorts of dishes.
- There are visual changes. Canola should be pale golden and clear. If it changes color or texture, there’s usually something wrong with it. Crystallization or slight cloudiness is an exception to this rule. If the oil sits in a cold place (e.g., in the fridge or in the pantry and it’s winter), it might crystallize. That’s okay and doesn’t make the oil spoiled. All it needs is a warmer place to become clear again.
- There’s mold or other signs of microbial growth in the bottle or on the cap. Oils don’t go moldy, but anything can happen if you don’t keep the cap relatively clean. If there’s mold, discard the product.
- It tastes off. If your canola looks and smells okay, drink a tiny bit. If it’s sour or has a strong flavor, the oil is no good. Again, canola should have a neutral taste, so if yours doesn’t, it’s definitely bad.
(The same guidelines work for other oils, like sesame oil, or grapeseed oil.)
Of course, if anything else about your canola is off, err on the side of caution and open a new bottle.
“Does vegetable oil go bad?” is another article you might find useful if you want to learn more about how to tell if your oil is rancid or if you can reuse your canola after cooking. I discuss both topics in more detail there.
How Long Does Canola Oil Last?
|Canola oil (unopened)
|Best by + 6 – 12 months
|Canola oil (opened)
|6 – 12 months
Unopened canola oil comes with a shelf life of 12 to 24 months and typically keeps quality for at least a couple of months after the printed date. Once opened, canola lasts for about 6 to 12 months, depending on how old it is and how you store it.
Of course, storage time suggestions are slightly different depending on whom you ask, but usually, they fall near the periods mentioned above.
If you want to make sure your canola lasts as long as possible, consider refrigerating it. That helps prolong the storage period a bit (more on storage practices later).
Now, let’s say your canola is a month or two past the printed date, and you want to know if you can use it.
Expired Canola Oil
Canola oil doesn’t expire, but it degrades slowly over time. The change is gradual, and it’s not like the oil was okay yesterday, but suddenly, it’s rancid now.
Because of that, the best-by date printed on the label helps only a little. And often, the oil retains good quality for weeks or even months after that date or the suggested storage time after opening.
So if your canola is out-of-date, start by checking how long off it is. If it’s only a month or two, it’s most likely okay. If it’s more than that, ask yourself if you’re comfortable using it before going any further.
Next, check the canola against the list of spoilage signs I outlined earlier. If there’s anything off about it, you know what to do. Otherwise, your oil is probably perfectly fine to use.
Related: How long does grapeseed oil last?
Before checking how much past the printed date the canola is, figure out what you’re comfortable with, and let that period be a line in the sand. If the oil is past it, you discard it, no ifs or buts.
Last but not least, let’s talk about storing your canola.
How to Store Canola Oil
Store your canola oil in a cool and dry place that’s away from sunlight and any heat sources. After you first open the bottle, remember to always seal it tightly when not in use.
You can store it at room temperature or place it in the refrigerator if you like. Just remember that it might start to crystalize and become cloudy from the low temperature. And while you can fix crystallization by warming it up, it might cause the oil to go rancid slightly quicker.
In other words, it’s probably best to leave your canola in a cabinet in the kitchen and make sure it’s always sealed. That should be good enough for it to last until the printed date and some time past it.
Canola Oil Shelf Life and Spoilage Summary
Thank you for reading this guide on canola oil. Let’s recap:
- Does canola oil go bad? Like all oils, canola goes rancid sooner or later, and the easiest way to tell is by the smell. So, what does bad canola smell like? Most people find rancid odor similar to old paint, nail polish remover, or some other chemicals.
- How long is canola oil good for? Unopened canola lasts 12 to 24 months. Once opened, the oil retains best quality for 6 to 12 months, but it usually need an extra couple of months until it starts to give off a foul smell or taste harsh.
- Do you need to refrigerate canola? No. A cool and dark place is perfectly fine for canola. As long as the bottle is sealed and far from any heat, the oil will last months without refrigeration.
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