Do olives go bad?

Do Olives Go Bad? How Long Do Olives Last Once Opened?

Olives, with their unique, briny taste, are a culinary delight and a healthful addition to any diet. But have you ever found an old jar in your kitchen and wondered, “Do olives go bad?”

If you’re curious about the shelf life of olives and how to store them properly, you’re in the right place! In this article, we’ll explore the nature of olives, learn how to keep them fresh, and find out how to identify if they’ve spoiled.

So, if you have a lingering jar of olives and you’re unsure about their state, read on to discover everything you need to know about enjoying these versatile fruits safely!

Do Olives Go Bad?

Yes, olives can indeed go bad. The reason olives go bad is primarily due to exposure to air, light, and bacteria, which can lead to degradation and spoilage over time.

Even though olives are often preserved in brine, oil, or other solutions that help maintain their freshness, they are still perishable and can deteriorate if not consumed within a reasonable timeframe.

The process of oxidation and the growth of unwanted microorganisms can alter the quality, flavor, and safety of olives, making them unsuitable for consumption.

How Long Do Olives Last?

The longevity of olives is quite impressive, especially considering their versatility in the culinary world. The shelf life of olives is influenced by several factors including the type, packaging, and whether they are liquid-packed or dry.

When it comes to commercially packaged, liquid-packed olives, they can stay fresh, tasty, and safe to eat for up to two years, even beyond the “best by” date on the jar. This date is more about optimal quality rather than safety, allowing you to keep an extra jar on hand for those unexpected olive cravings.

Once opened, these liquid-packed olives maintain their freshness for about 12 to 18 months if properly stored in the fridge. However, recommendations on the consumption period post-opening can vary, with some suggesting a safe period of up to 3 weeks, and others, like Mezzetta, recommending consumption within 12 months.

The differences in these recommendations are likely due to the varying compositions of the brine in which the olives are packed; the more salt or other preservatives it contains, the longer the olives tend to stay fresh.

On the other hand, olives in oil have a different story. They also come labeled with a “best by” date, but their quality doesn’t change much upon opening. They usually have a shorter shelf life compared to their brine counterparts, lasting only a few months, but they maintain their quality for a couple of weeks beyond the labeled date.

Lastly, if you’re opting for dry olives, like the ones from a salad bar, consume them quickly! These olives are not commercially packaged and lack a preserving liquid, making their shelf life considerably shorter, typically around three days.

So, whether you’re a fan of kalamata, castelvetrano, or any other cultivar, understanding the shelf life of your favorite olives ensures you enjoy them at their best!

Type of OlivesPackagingShelf Life (Unopened)Shelf Life (Opened)
Liquid-Packed OlivesCommercially PackagedUp to 2 years12 to 18 months (Refrigerated)
Salad Bar (Non-Packaged)N/A3 days
Olives in OilCommercially PackagedFew monthsQuality maintained for a couple of weeks post “best by” date
Dry OlivesSalad Bar (Non-Packaged)N/A3 days

How to Tell If Olives Have Gone Bad?

When determining whether olives have spoiled, start with a visual inspection. Look for any signs of mold or discoloration, which are clear indicators of spoilage.

If the olives appear to be in good condition visually, the next step is to smell them. A sour or unpleasant odor is a telltale sign that the olives are no longer good to eat.

If the olives pass both the visual and olfactory tests, you can proceed to taste one. However, be cautious! If it tastes off, it’s better to discard them immediately.

Remember, consuming spoiled olives can lead to foodborne illnesses, so it’s always better to be safe than sorry. By being vigilant and ensuring the olives are in good condition before consuming them, you can enjoy these flavorful fruits without any worries!

Related: Does Canola Oil Go Bad? Understanding Shelf Life & Expiration

How to Store Olives to Maximize Shelf life

After exploring how to discern the freshness of olives, let’s delve into the optimal ways to store them to preserve their flavor and longevity. Proper storage is pivotal in preventing the olives from going bad prematurely.

For unopened commercially packaged olives, whether they are in brine or oil, a cool, dark place like a pantry is ideal. This helps in maintaining their quality up to, and sometimes beyond, the “best by” date mentioned on the packaging.

Once the packaging is opened, the storage needs change. For liquid-packed olives, transferring them to a container with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerating them is essential. Ensure that the olives are fully submerged in their brine or oil to avoid exposure to air, which can lead to spoilage. This method can keep the olives fresh and tasty for up to 12 to 18 months.

If you have dry olives, like those picked from a salad bar, consume them within three days as they lack the preserving liquid that extends the shelf life of commercially packaged ones.

By adhering to these storage guidelines, you can savor the delightful taste of olives in various dishes and snacks while ensuring they remain safe and delicious!

Insights from Scientific Research on Olive Shelf Life

Researchers from the University of Málaga found when olives are properly packaged, they remain free from harmful bacteria, allowing only beneficial bacteria to thrive. However, over time, these olives undergo changes; their pH levels decrease, impacting their texture and color.

It’s noteworthy that consumer preference was highest for olives stored between 6 and 42 days. Beyond the 74th day, the olives gradually lost their appeal, and by the 131st day, consumer willingness to purchase them dropped to 50%.

Moreover, the study identified a specific bacteria, Lactobacillus pentosus, prevalent in affected packages, leading to spoilage in the olives. This bacteria was associated with the production of whitish and soft regions on the olive surface, indicating spoilage.

Frequently Asked Questions

Navigating the world of olives can bring up a handful of questions. Let’s address some of the most common ones.

How can you tell if olives have gone bad?

If your olives have an off smell, changed color, or if there’s mold growth, they’ve likely gone bad.

Do olives go bad in the fridge?

While the fridge is a great place to store olives, they can still go bad over time, especially if not stored in their brine or if exposed to air for extended periods.

Do olives go bad after opening the can?

Yes, once you open the can, olives are exposed to air and bacteria, which can cause them to spoil faster. Always transfer them to an airtight container and store in the fridge to prolong their freshness.

How long do olives last from the olive bar?

Olives from the olive bar, often referred to as “dry” olives, have a shorter shelf life. It’s best to consume them within three days for optimal freshness.


In wrapping up, olives, with their delightful versatility, serve as a culinary treasure in many kitchens. Knowing the ins and outs of olives, including how to store them and recognizing when they’ve gone bad, enables you to enjoy them to the fullest without any concerns.

So, when “Do Olives Go Bad?” crosses your mind as you savor them, recall the insights and tips provided in this blog and savor every flavorful moment!

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