Does Olive Oil Go Bad or Expire? Well, It’s Complicated

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So you heeded Ina Garten’s advice and bought a few really *good* bottles of olive oil. But now you’re worried that you went overboard and have more than you can actually use. How long will it last? Does olive oil go bad? Here’s what you need to know.

Does olive oil go bad or expire?

Unlike wine, olive oil doesn’t improve with age. Yes, olive does go bad—aka rancid—eventually. That’s because it’s technically a perishable product. Olive oil is pressed from a fruit, so think of it like fruit juice. Fruit juice goes bad, doesn’t it?

From the time it’s bottled, olive oil has a shelf life of 18 to 24 months. That might sound like a long time, but remember that part of it was spent in transit, and by the time the bottle hits your grocery store shelf, it has already started aging. Check the best-by date before you buy a bottle to make sure you’re buying the freshest oil possible.

And about that best-by date: It’s really more of a guideline than a hard-and-fast expiration date, meant for determining the freshness of an unopened bottle. Once you open the bottle, you should really try to use it up within 30 to 60 days, and within a year at the most. That being said, you don’t have to immediately toss a bottle that’s 30 days old if it seems fine. (Keep reading.)

How can you tell if your olive oil has gone bad?

If your bottle has turned the corner from kind of old to rancid, don’t worry: You’ll be able to tell. Pour out a small amount and give it a sniff. If it’s rancid, it will smell sweet in a bad way, like fruit that’s started to ferment or rot. (Some people say it smells like Elmer’s glue.) If you can’t tell just by smelling it, taste a bit without swallowing it (just swirl it in your mouth). If it’s completely tasteless, feels greasy in your mouth or has an “off” taste (like spoiled nuts), it’s rancid.

Is it OK to use expired olive oil?

It depends. Cooking with rancid olive oil won’t make you sick like eating spoiled meat would, but it’s likely lost any nutritional value or antioxidants. Also, it will definitely make your food taste weird. Does your olive oil smell funky? Does the color look off? Do not pass go. If it smells fine and looks fine, it’s OK to use, but it might not taste as peppery or bright as when you first bought it.

How can you keep olive oil from going bad?

Heat, air and light are the three biggest enemies of olive oil. Aside from buying the freshest oil possible, choose one that comes in either a tinted glass bottle or a nonreactive metal container (to keep out light) that has a tight, resealable cap. Store it in a cool, dry place, ideally between 60°F and 72°F (warmer temperatures will bring out unpleasant flavors). That bottle that’s made its home right next to your stove? Move it! A dark, cool pantry or cabinet will work. And if you bought a giant bottle in bulk, decant it into a smaller bottle so you’re not exposing all that oil to air every time you open it. (Even though it’s not as cost-effective, we ultimately recommend buying smaller quantities at a time.)

Should olive oil be refrigerated?

We know what you’re thinking. My fridge is dark and cool. My olive oil will last forever in there! And sure, you can store your olive oil in the fridge, but keep in mind that it will probably solidify at such a cold temperature, making it a pain to use on a whim. If you live in a particularly hot or humid environment, it might extend the life of your oil by a bit, but we think it’s easier to just buy smaller amounts and use them quickly.

How should you get rid of old or bad olive oil?

So your olive oil went rancid. Now what? Whatever you do, don’t pour it—or any cooking oil, for that matter—down the drain. This can clog your pipes and city sewer mains, and eventually pollute waterways. It also can’t be composted. You can ask your local department of sanitation what they recommended, but generally, the best practice is to transfer the spoiled olive oil to a nonrecyclable container (like a cardboard milk carton or takeout container) and throw it in the trash. Then, channel Ina Garten and get yourself a new bottle of the good stuff.

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Senior Food Editor

Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City...