Does Olive Oil Go Bad?

So you’ve bought a bottle of olive oil, used it once and put it in a cupboard only to forget about it minutes later. Next time you needed fat for cooking, you used the cooking oil instead. A year later, you found that bottle while cleaning up. It was an expensive bottle, so you would rather not throw it out. Does olive oil go bad?

Or maybe you received a bottle of high-quality EVOO as a birthday gift almost two years ago. It still sits in the pantry unused, and you start to wonder if it’s still good enough to use. It’s already nearing the date on the label, so you feel like time is running out and you need to either start using it right away or toss it out.

If you’re in a similar situation and would like to learn more about storage, shelf life, and going bad of olive oil, read on.

Bottle of olive oil
(credit:kanshiketsu)

How To Store Olive Oil

Storing olive oil is no different from storing other oils, like canola or grapeseed oil. That means you should keep it in a cool and dark place, away from sunlight and sources of heat. The pantry or the cellar is the best choice for long term storage.

Once you open the bottle, remember to seal it tightly when not in use. Access to fresh air causes oxidation, and that results in the oil going rancid.

The pantry isn’t the most practical place to store opened olive oil. That means you probably should keep it in a cupboard in the kitchen, so that it’s within arm’s reach. Please note that all the storage requirements stay true for an opened bottle too. That means that cupboard shouldn’t be near the stove, and you definitely shouldn’t let the oil sit on the counter. In either case, the oil will degrade in quality within a few months.

There’s also the question of whether or not you should refrigerate EVOO. The best answer I can come up with is: refrigeration is not required, but it doesn’t hurt.

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Please note that olive oil will become cloudy when chilled in the fridge. That process is not harmful, and the consistency will get back to normal once the liquid reaches room temperature.

Olive oil in a dispenser bottle
(credit: jonathan ocampo)
Tip

If you’ve bought a large container of EVOO, transfer some of it to a small dark bottle. Keep that bottle in the kitchen, so it’s easy to grab when needed. The large container should go to a dark and cool place, and you should open it only to refill your handy bottle. This way, the EVOO in the big container will retain its quality for much longer.

How Long Does Olive Oil Last

Olive oil, like other oils, has a fairly long shelf life. For starters, each bottle comes with a best-by date, which is an estimate of how long, at the very least, the product will retain freshness.

Of course, like with almost all products that come with a best-by date, the oil will remain at good quality for longer. That’s true provided that you follow the storage guidelines outlined earlier.

How long past the date on the label will the EVOO be good? It’s impossible to say, as it depends on both storage methods and the quality of the oil itself. A more expensive bottle from a reputable brand will likely keep its freshness for longer than a cheap on. 3 to 6 months past the best-by date should be a reasonably safe estimate.

Adding olive oil to a salad
(credit: Jessica Lewis)

Once you open the bottle, the oxidation process speeds up a bit thanks to having access to fresh air. For best quality, you should try to finish the bottle within a year, but it should stay okay for up to 18 months.

 Pantry
Olive oil (unopened)Best by + 3 – 6 months
Olive oil (opened)12 – 18 months

Please note that all the periods above are estimates. Sometimes the oil will go rancid even quicker, other times it will stay fresh for even longer.

How To Tell If Olive Oil Is Bad?

Like other oils, olive oil usually doesn’t go bad in a way it’s unsafe to eat. Of course, if you notice any signs that make you question if it’s still edible, you should discard it. Such symptoms include the presence of mold near the seal, discoloration, change of consistency, or an off smell. As mentioned, these are highly unlikely to happen, but if either of them does, throw out the bottle.

What’s much more likely to happen is that the oil goes rancid.

The first thing you should know is that rancid olive oil isn’t necessarily unsafe to eat. It’s only of worse quality. If you were to scour the Internet to learn about signs of rancid olive oil, you would find the answers are all over the place. Some people talk about a stale smell or taste; others point out subtle taste differences. Generally, it’s not that easy to tell the difference between rancid olive oil and a fresh one. The differences are quite subtle, and it’s often not clear if the oil is rancid or not. Especially if you never consumed fresh, high-quality EVOO.

What’s even more interesting is that many of us prefer the rancid version, as we’re more accustomed to its taste. If this phenomenon intrigues you, check out this article on FiveThirtyEight. In short, if you notice that your olive oil is rancid, it’s up to you whether you continue using it or discard it.

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