Cleaning out your pantry may have you worried about those fancy bottles of olive oil clustered in the corner.
You may be left wondering whether olive oil goes bad after a while — or if you can simply keep it around indefinitely.
This article explores the shelf life of olive oil, whether it can expire, as well as any effects of consuming it after it does.
Botanically, the olive (Olea europaea) is considered a fruit. Fruits have a shelf life, and by extension, so does olive oil. There’s a point at which it goes rancid and simply doesn’t taste great.
Most olive oils last 18–24 months from the time they’re bottled. Extra virgin olive oils are less processed and usually last a bit less, around 12–18 months from the time they’re bottled.
Beyond these timespans, olive oils may develop acrid or bitter notes, which may show up in your cooking in ways you may not enjoy.
Some olive oil bottles state a bottling or best-by date. If you don’t see these, it may be a good idea to tag your bottles with the date of purchase. This can help you have some sense of how long it has been sitting in your pantry.
How to store it
You should store olive oil in a cool, dark place — like a pantry with a door, a cabinet, or a refrigerator.
Keep in mind that if you store it in your refrigerator, it may look a bit cloudy. This is a normal reaction to cooler temperatures and does not indicate that your olive oil has gone rancid.
Generally, it also helps if the bottle is made from a darker glass, like dark green or amber, as this can help block out light, which promotes oxidation. This may be something to watch for when you’re at the grocery store.
Oxidation is a cellular process that can stimulate aging. In olive oil, it can speed the breakdown of fat molecules. Besides light, olive oil can also be oxidized by contact with oxygen or exposure to heat.
This is why a cool, dark place is ideal for storing your olive oil — and make sure that it has been properly capped once you’ve opened it.
Finally, if your olive oil comes packaged in a plastic polyethylene container and you plan to keep it around for a while, it may be wise to transfer it to a dark glass or tin container. It keeps better this way.
If you don’t cook often, it may also be a good idea to purchase smaller bottles, especially if you’re opting for a fancier olive oil.
The best way to tell whether your olive oil has gone rancid is by tasting it. Don’t worry, a small taste won’t make you sick.
If your olive oil tastes bitter, sour, or stale, it has gone rancid. It may also smell off — like crayons, putty, or Elmer’s glue — instead of bright, fruity olives.
Effects of consuming rancid olive oil
Rancid olive oil won’t make you sick. However, it may ruin your recipe by giving the dish a strange flavor.
Also, olive oil is often touted for its many health benefits. Rancid olive oil will lose some of its potent antioxidant properties.
This happens because it undergoes oxidation, during which oxygen-containing molecules trigger a chain of chemical reactions that break down the oil’s antioxidants.
While rancid olive oil won’t typically offer the same nutritional boost, it won’t make you ill. Still, to reap as much of its antioxidants as possible, it’s ideal to consume fresh olive oil.
Olive oil is made from a fruit, the olive. Fruits have a shelf life, and so does olive oil.
Most olive oils can last 18–24 months from the time they’re bottled, while extra virgin olive oils may last a bit less — around 12–18 months.
Beyond this time, it will go rancid. To avoid this, store it in a cool, dark place and toss it if the best-by date has passed.
You’ll know your olive oil has gone rancid by giving it a taste. It may taste bitter or sour and smell a bit like crayons or putty. While it won’t make you sick, it may ruin your recipe.