Granola comes with a shelf life of about half a year and usually lasts for at least a couple of months past its date.
Once you open the bag, it typically stays good for a couple of months, depending on storage conditions and if it contains any preservatives.
And since granola doesn’t go bad easily, that expired granola you found in the back of the cupboard is probably okay to eat.
Similar rules apply to store-bought granola bars, but not to homemade granola (if that’s your thing).
Interested in details?
Read on to learn everything you need to know about the shelf life, storage practices, and spoilage of granola (both homemade and store-bought) and granola bars.
How Long Does Granola Last
Granola has a shelf life of about 6 months, and as long as the package is unopened, it should keep quality for 3 to 6 months after the date on the label.
Once you open the package, granola stays tasty for 3 to 6 months. It all depends on the ingredients used and if the manufacturer added any preservatives or not.
Granola typically contains rolled oats, dried fruit, some spices, and a sweetener like honey or maple syrup. All of these last for quite some time.
But there’s also oil (homemade granola usually calls for coconut oil), and quite often nuts. Both of these are susceptible to going rancid (read my article titled “Does coconut oil go bad?” to learn more). That’s why granola has a fairly short shelf life compared to its alternatives, such as cereals and oatmeal.
Each granola bag comes with a best-by date. That’s not an expiration date, but rather a conservative estimate of how long the product should stay fresh. Granola, as long as it’s unopened, will easily last months past that date.
Once you open the bag, things change a bit.
Long-term exposure to air makes granola stale and speeds up the rancidification process. Sure, rancid granola isn’t necessarily unsafe to eat (in small quantities), but it also tastes bad. And that’s good enough reason to throw it out.
In short, you shouldn’t assume that your granola that sits open for half a year will taste all that great.
|Granola (unopened)||Best-by + 3 – 6 months||Best-by + 3 – 6 months|
|Granola (opened)||3 – 6 months||3 – 6 months|
|Homemade granola||1 month||1 month|
|Granola bars||Best-by + 3 – 6 months||Best-by + 3 – 6 months|
|Homemade granola bars||7 – 10 days|
Please note that the periods above are estimates and for the best quality. Granola will typically remain safe to eat for a much longer time.
How to Tell if Granola Is Bad?
Throw out granola that’s infested by pantry bugs, moldy, smells funny (moldy, rancid, or paint-like), or tastes off. Either of these alone is a good enough reason to discard the bag and open a new one.
If you find any pantry insects in your granola, better give other nearby foods a check too. The faster you get rid of the weevils, moths, or what have you, the better.
When it comes to mold, it’s most likely because moisture found its way into the bag. In most cases, that’s because of poor storage habits. Try to up your storage game next time (more on that in the storage section).
A rancid, chemical, or paint-like smell is caused by the oils in your granola that have gone rancid. You cannot fix that, so the only thing you can do is to get rid of it.
Last but not least, we have texture and taste.
If your granola is somewhat soggy and has lost most of its crunch, that’s not the end of the world. It means it absorbed some water from the environment, and as long it wasn’t enough for it to go moldy, it’s okay.
To get back the crunchiness, you can transfer the granola onto a cookie tray lined with aluminum foil and bake in the oven for a few minutes at a high temperature.
When it comes to taste, it’s up to you to decide if it’s good enough or not. Some people throw out stale granola right away, while others don’t really mind.
If you have a half-open container of granola you didn’t use for a long time, give it a taste before mixing half a cup of it with yogurt or milk.
How to Store Granola
The best place to store granola is in the pantry or a cabinet in the kitchen. Make sure the area is dry and away from sources of heat. As long as the package is unopened, the original packaging is perfectly fine for long-term storage.
Once you open the bag, make sure always to seal it tightly when not in use. That’s especially important if you expect to store granola for a few months.
If you go through a single granola bag within 2 to 4 weeks, the original packaging should be good enough for storage. Even if it’s not one of those resealable ones.
For long-term storage, make sure the granola is sealed tightly. If you cannot reseal your bag, transfer the granola into a resealable bag or an airtight container. Or you can buy one of those fancy granola containers if you’re into that.
Should you refrigerate granola?
Low (but not freezing) temperatures don’t benefit granola that much. The only scenario when it makes sense to keep granola in the fridge is in the summer when it gets really hot where you usually store it.
Warm temperatures melt chocolate chips and speed up the rancidification of oils. You want to avoid both, and that’s when the fridge comes in handy.
Before you transfer your granola to the fridge, make sure it’s sealed tightly.
Otherwise, the oats in granola will absorb moisture and possibly pick up some fridge odors. And believe me, you don’t want granola that smells like sausage.
Can You Freeze Granola?
You can freeze granola to keep it fresh for longer. If you bought too much on sale, are worried that yours will spoil, or made a big batch of homemade granola, freezing is the way to go.
The process of freezing is as simple as it gets. All you need before placing your granola in the freezer is to make sure it’s sealed well.
If the original package is unopened, there’s nothing more you need to do. Otherwise, transfer the granola into an airtight container or a freezer bag. If you go with the latter, squeeze out the air before sealing it.
Freezer bags take less space in the freezer than containers. Use them if your freezer space comes at a premium.
How long can you keep your granola in the freezer? Michele’s Granola suggests about 6 months. A couple of months more probably won’t make that big of a deal, though.
When it comes to defrosting, place the bag or container on the counter away from sunlight the night before you need it.
Homemade granola retains the best quality for about a month if you store it at room temperature. If you’re okay with slightly stale granola, make that two months.
Also, always check the suggested storage time for the recipe you’re using, as these vary between 2 weeks and two months.
To lengthen the storage time even further, you can freeze your homemade granola.
To save time when making homemade granola, double your recipe and freeze half.
For storing homemade granola, you have three options: at room temperature, in the fridge, or in the freezer.
A cupboard in the pantry or kitchen works great in most cases, but if it’s the middle of a hot summer, refrigeration might be in order. It all depends on how heat-sensitive are the ingredients you used.
The freezer is your best bet if you want your granola to keep for a couple of months without losing quality.
Commercial granola bars and the ones people make at home are a bit different when it comes to storage practices and shelf life. That’s why I divided the info into two sections.
Store-bough granola bars
Store-bought granola bars typically come with a shelf life of 6 to 12 months, depending on the ingredients. And they keep for at least 3 to 6 months past the best-by date on the label.
Commercial granola bars are almost always shelf-stable, which means you can leave them in the kitchen cupboard. For better quality, you can store them in the fridge instead.
If you ever start a bar but don’t finish it, keep the leftovers sealed in the fridge and eat within 4 to 5 days.
Homemade granola bars
Homemade granola bars usually keep for 7 to 10 days in the fridge. Ensure the bars are well sealed so that they don’t pick up any smells or absorb moisture.
If you need more time than that, freezing the bars is definitely an option.
Once again, doubling the recipe and freezing the second half is an easy way to save time when making granola bars at home.
Refrigerating homemade bars is recommended for at least two reasons:
- many bars are held together by butter (either regular butter or an alternative like peanut butter), and not all types of butter hold well at ambient temperature
- cold temperature prevents the ingredients from melting and the bars from sticking together (or at least reduces the stickiness)
Of course, it’s best to go with what the recipe’s author suggests when it comes to storage. But if you don’t have that info on hand, my recommendation should work well in almost all possible cases.