Does Flax Seed Go Bad?

So you bought a pack of flax seeds to give your smoothies a nutritional boost. You used it regularly for a few weeks, but you’ve fallen off the wagon.

Now, a couple of months later, you’re wondering: does flax seed go bad? You plan to restart your routine but aren’t sure if the remaining seeds are still okay to eat.

Or maybe you bought a few packs of flax meal to top off your oatmeal or add to your cereals. You add just a tablespoon or so of it per bowl, so it takes a while to finish a pack. When you opened the last bag, you noticed that it’s nearing its best by date. Now you wonder how long does flax meal last and if it actually spoils or goes rancid.

If some of these doubts sound familiar, this article is for you. In it, we go through storage, shelf life, and going bad of both flax seed and flax meal (or ground flax). Sounds interesting? Read on.

A bowl of flax seeds on a wooden table
A bowl of flax seeds on a wooden table

How To Store Flax Seeds

You store whole flax seeds the same way you store chia seeds. The hard hull keeps the seed fresh, so it doesn’t require much in terms of storage.

Room temperature is perfectly fine, so keeping it in the kitchen, even on the counter, is a-okay. Of course, if you prefer to store it in the pantry, that’s okay too. Just make sure the package doesn’t sit in the sunlight.

Once you open the package, you can leave the seeds in its original packaging or transfer them to a resealable bag or container. The container or bag will keep any moisture or pantry bag at bay.

Brown Flaxseed
(credit: AlishaV)

How To Store Flax Meal

When it comes to ground flax seed, sometimes called flax meal, the storage is a bit more complicated.

If you buy flax meal, you should store an unopened package in a cool and dry place. The pantry, in this case, is the best option, but a cabinet in the kitchen works too.

Once you open the package, you should store the ground seeds tightly closed in the fridge.

Tip

If the package the seeds come in cannot be easily resealed, transfer the ground seeds into an airtight container or bag.

If you grind flax seeds on your own, the same rules apply.

When it comes to storing flax meal for longer, you can freeze it in an airtight container.

Info

In case you wondered why people grind flax seeds, the reason is simple: ground flax seeds have the nutrients more readily available.

Handful of flax seeds
(credit: Gesina Kunkel)

How Long Do Flax Seeds Last

A typical package comes with a best-by date, which estimates how long the product will retain freshness. Since the hull protects the seeds really well, the seeds should easily last in good quality for months past the date on the label.

Flax meal also comes with a best-by date. But unlike whole seeds, it doesn’t last that long past the date on the label. The hull doesn’t protect the seeds anymore, and some of the oil is outside and has access to oxygen. And as all oils, like olive or canola oil, it’s prone to going rancid.

Because of that, once you open the package, the seeds should retain freshness for up to 3 months. Past that period they will be safe to eat, but the taste and smell won’t be as good as they used to.

This applies to flax seeds that you grind on your own as well.

Tip

If you grind flax seeds, it’s best to grind not more than you need for the next couple of weeks.

 PantryFridge
Flax seeds (unopened and opened)Best-by + 6 – 12 months 
Ground flax seeds (unopened)Best-by + 1 – 3 months 
Ground flax seeds (opened) 3 months

Please note that the periods above are for best quality.

Bread with seeds
(credit: Wesual Click)

How To Tell If Flax Seeds Are Bad

When it comes to flax seeds, the taste is the main way of determining if they’re edible. When you’re unsure if the seeds are okay, just eat a few. If you find them bitter instead of somewhat nutty, toss them out.

When it comes to ground flax seeds, pay attention to dates. If the package is opened for longer than half a year, just toss it out. Even if everything seems to be fine.

As usual, look out for typical signs of spoiled food too. Those include the presence of mold or any other growth, odd or funny smell, or a noticeable change of texture.