Why You Should Think Twice About Storing Nuts In The Pantry

Nuts of any kind are always good to have on hand. But whether you're baking with them, putting them in your salad, or using them as a garnish, it's rare to use up the entire bag for one recipe. In most cases, nuts end up sitting in your pantry until the next time you decide to use them, and that can sometimes be several months after you originally opened them. Though nuts are technically safe to eat after their expiration date, they'll end up developing a stale taste. By this point, your options would be to either toss them or settle for stale nuts.

Since nuts are kept on the shelf at the store, it's easy to assume you should just put them in the pantry. But while putting them in the pantry isn't necessarily a bad thing, the freezer is actually a better place to store nuts. By doing so, they'll be good for up to two years if the package is unsealed, or one if already opened.

What happens when you store nuts in the pantry

Nuts may be a shelf-stable food, but they do contain fat. This fat will eventually make nuts go bad, and in environments that are humid or with excessive light and oxygen, they'll spoil at a faster rate. Pecans and walnuts are especially sensitive to these conditions because they're higher in fat.

When nuts go bad, they undergo a change that you may not be able to see, but you'll certainly be able to taste. They'll lose their characteristic taste, and any nuttiness will be replaced by a bitter, vinegary flavor. Their texture also goes from crunchy to powdery.

If your nuts still look and smell the same but don't taste quite as fresh, they're not rancid yet, they're just stale. You can give them a second life by baking them in a 350-degree Fahrenheit oven. After about 10 minutes, their stale taste will dissipate. Next time you buy nuts, however, you can make things a lot easier for yourself by storing them in the freezer, to begin with.

Why the freezer is a better option

A spot in your pantry that's cool and dark can certainly stave off premature nut spoilage, but the freezer is a more effective storage location. It's a more controlled environment with light, humidity, and oxygen consistently kept to a minimum, which is ideal for nuts. The high oil content and low water content also keep the nuts from developing freezer burn.

When storing nuts in the freezer, make sure to keep them in an airtight bag or container. This will keep moisture to a minimum and protect the nuts from other freezer smells they might absorb. Since freezer space can sometimes be hard to come by, if you have a lot of nuts to store, the refrigerator is also a good option. Rather than a year to two years, they'll last for about half that, however, it's still a better option than sticking them in the pantry.

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