Does Lime Juice Go Bad

It’s been ages since you’ve made a key lime pie. Now you really feel like baking one, so you’re gathering the ingredients. You find a bottle of lime juice in the pantry, check the date on the label, and learn that it’s a few weeks past that date. Does lime juice go bad?

Or maybe there are dozens of recipes that require lime juice in your repertoire. So almost every other week you make a lime dessert or lime salsa to go with chips. Unfortunately, your life got busy lately, and you couldn’t find much time for cooking. So that half-open lime juice sits in the fridge for a few months already, and you’re not sure if it’s safe to eat.

If you’re in a similar situation, it’s time to learn a bit more about storage, shelf life, and going bad of lime juice. If you’re interested in that, read on.

Lime halves
Image used under Creative Commons from Julie Magro

How to properly store your lime juice

Storing lime juice is quite similar to storing lemon juice. Yeah, I know, big surprise.

Lime juice in pretty much all cases comes in a bottle or container sold unrefrigerated. That’s because lime juice is first and foremost used in small quantities in recipes. Therefore, there’s no point in selling fresh lime juice that goes bad within a few weeks.

You should store the container in a cool and dark area, away from sources of heat. If it comes in a clear bottle, you should avoid light too. The pantry is the best place for the juice, but a cupboard in the kitchen works too.

Once you open the bottle, you should keep it refrigerated to retain quality and prevent browning. And remember to keep it sealed tightly.

When it comes to homemade lime juice, you store it in the fridge.

Pile of limes in a bowl
(credit: Gaelle Marcel)

Can You Freeze Lime Juice?

Like with other juices like cranberry or OJ, freezing is also an option.

While the quality of the liquid after thawing might not be that great, frozen cubes of lime juice work great in drinks or added to water on a sweltering day. That’s why I recommend freezing juice in ice cube trays.

How Long Does Lime Juice Last

Unrefrigerated lime juice comes with a best-by date on the label. That date informs you how long the juice will retain freshness. Of course, that’s only an estimate.

Lime juice is acidic, which helps with keeping food fresh. Plus manufacturers (like ReaLime) both pasteurize the juice and add preservatives (namely sulfites) to it. This way the juice can easily last a few months past that date.

Unlike juices we usually drink as a refreshment, like apple juice or OJ, store-bought lime juice sold unrefrigerated doesn’t go bad after two or three weeks in the fridge. Like lemon juice, it stays fine for months on end. That means it should stay fine at least until the best-by date, even if you’ve opened it half a year earlier.

When it comes to freshly squeezed lime juice, you should either use it or freeze within 2 to 3 days.

 PantryFridge
Lime juice (unopened)Best by + 3 – 6 months 
Lime juice (opened) 6 – 12 months after opening or Best by
Homemade lime juice 2 – 3 days

Please note that the periods above are for the best quality only. Lime juice will likely stay okay to use for longer.

Herbal tea and freshly squeezed lime juice
(credit: Gaelle Marcel)

How To Tell If Lime Juice Is Bad?

Before we start talking about bad lime juice, let’s address one of the questions about lime juice that people ask time and time again. That question is: my lime juice is starting to brown, is it bad?

Well, according to Nellie and Joe’s Key Lime Juice, browning juice isn’t bad or spoiled. Browning is a natural process and doesn’t affect the quality of the liquid.

Closeup of a lime slice
(credit: Lesley Davidson)

If you stored lime juice for quite some time or it’s already past the date on the label, give it a quick exam before using it in a recipe.

While it’s almost impossible to happen, if you notice any mold or organic growth near the seal, discard the juice.

Next in line is the sniff test. If the smell is off, funny, or doesn’t resemble the usual citrus fresh one, throw out the juice.

If the liquid both looks and smells okay, drink a teaspoon to assess the taste. Loss of citrus flavor is a sure sign to get rid of the juice. It doesn’t necessarily mean the juice is spoiled, but if it doesn’t taste right, there’s no point in adding it any recipe or as a water flavoring.