Do Pickles Ever Go Bad? How to Preserve it Longer

logo by Editorial Staff | Updated on July 8th, 2022

So you bought a dill pickle jar and occasionally put it on your sandwiches. And after a while, you start to wonder: do pickles go bad?

Or perhaps you discovered a jar of pickles in the refrigerator and were caught off guard. You always believed pickles were shelf-stable, but this jar says to keep them refrigerated. So you probably think, what’s up with it?

stainless steel fork on green labeled can

If you want to learn more about storage and why unopened pickles occasionally need to be refrigerated, this article is for you. We also discuss the shelf life and deterioration of pickled vegetables (it’s not always cucumbers), so I bet you’ll learn a thing or two from this post.

Pickles can go bad in one of two ways:

  • Mold grows on them. Mold can grow on pickled cucumbers that aren’t completely submerged in the brine. However, this can take a few months. Mold may appear considerably faster if you buy pickles in bulk at a farmer’s market (without brine).
  • They turn too sour to consume. Okay, those pickles aren’t technically ruined, but they’re quite flavorless. Pickles that are too sour are frequently the result of lengthy storage, storing them at an excessively warm temperature, or both. I’ll go into more detail about this in the following section.

Is it necessary to keep open pickles refrigerated?

No, however, there’s a reason why putting them in the fridge is recommended.

If you leave them out after opening, the fermentation will accelerate, and they will get much sourer faster than if you kept them in the fridge. As a result, they may become too sour to eat within a week or two. Furthermore, any pickles not covered by brine will mold within a few days.

That also means that leaving open pickles out overnight isn’t such a huge problem. Place them back in the refrigerator, and everything will be fine.

What if you left pickles out for a few hours at a warm temperature, and there’s carbonation in the jar?

Place the jar in the refrigerator for a few days with the top loosely on. The loose fit should allow any carbon dioxide to escape, and the fizz should have disappeared.

Pickles: How Long Do They Last?

The pickles’ shelf life is comparable regardless of the variation we’re talking about.

The jar normally comes with a best-by date, which is an excellent place to start. The pickles will readily last for months after expiration if the jar remains unopened. In addition, these are hermetically packed vegetables in a preservative-laden fluid (vinegar), so not much can happen to the produce.

Not much happens when you open the jar. However, all slices and strips dipped in brine will keep their quality for at least a few months.

Please remember that any portions not immersed may decay fast, possibly within a few weeks, and you will have to discard them. However, the rest of the continually underwater area will be OK.

How Long Do Pickles Last Shelf-life Chart

Unopened pasteurized3 to 6 months3 months
Unopened unpasteurizedUnsafe3 months
Opened pasteurizedUnsafe3 months
Opened unpasteurizedUnsafe3 months
HomemadeUp to 1 yearUp to 1 year
Opened homemadeUnsafe2 to 3 months

Please remember that any portions not immersed may decay fast, possibly within a few weeks, and you will have to discard them. However, the rest of the continually underwater area will be OK.

Can Pickles Be left out?

Pickles that have not been opened are shelf-stable; pickles that have been opened are not. So, for storage and safety, treat it like any other perishable food item, and don’t leave it out on the counter for too long.

Pickles should not be left at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Bacteria thrive in temperatures ranging from 40°F to 140°F, which the USDA refers to as the “danger zone.”

This applies to both store-bought and homemade pickles, whether or not pasteurized.

Can You Eat Pickles After They’ve Passed Their Best-By Date?

When it comes to food items that have passed their best-by or sell-by date, the response is nearly always “it depends.”

it’s not uncommon for pickled items to be safe to eat even after their best-by date has passed. But, on the other hand, consuming expired food can be a gamble—and it’s probably not worth the risk, even if you have the appetite for it.

Pickling experts believe fuzzy mold on the brine’s surface in a jar of pickles isn’t usually a problem. You can scoop it out, wipe the jar’s edges with a cloth or paper towel, and eat the dills inside. I’d throw them out on any given day.

How to Tell If Your Pickles Are Bad

  1. Offensive Odor

This is one gasp that will assist you in determining How to Tell if Pickles Are Bad. This indicates that fermentation is taking place. Because fermented pickles harm your health, you must discard all jars with a strong odor.

Pickle fermentation is permitted, but the rotten odor that results shows dangerous bacteria are present. If you detect a terrible odor from the pickles jar, do not eat them as long as there is an unpleasant odor. It may do more harm than good to your body. Also, label the date you prepared your pickles so you can easily identify those that have passed their expiry date.

  1. Jar Bubbling and Bulging Lids

If bubbles are in the canning jars and no one has shaken them, this is a red flag that the pickles are bad. Furthermore, bulging lids in the storage area suggest danger because the pickles in such a jar are already contaminated. Finally, too much acid in the pickles causes pressure; if the pot can’t withstand it, it may burst.

If your doctor suggested you eat pickles for health reasons, you’d have to make some today. Using acidic components will cause your pickles to burst again. Also, do not take the pickles inside if you discover a cracked seal on your storage jar. They can harm your health; therefore, throw away any jars that are not in excellent condition.

  1. Color Alteration

This is a quick way to detect if your pickles are bad. Because fungus must be present, the color change signifies risk. If you’re unsure, check to see if the pickles are brilliant. If they are dull and soft, discard any jars having a similar effect.

Ensure that no child has access to the jars while you dispose of them. You can either dig a pit and cover them or have the trash collectors pick them up right away. Small children enjoy playing with such jars, but eating what they find is risky. As a result, as you care for your health, ensure that you are not polluting the environment.

If you notice that the pickles have developed a line on top, immediately empty your storage room by disposing of them properly. Regardless of the substance, fresh pickles do not have a coating.

  1. Modifications to the Vinegar/Brine Texture

This is yet another excellent method for determining whether pickles are terrible. It can be difficult to distinguish the feel of brine or vinegar, but if you pay closely, you will notice. The juice within the jar when preserving these pickles is always thick.

If the fluid becomes unexpectedly thin and water-like, this is an indicator that there is a problem. Do not eat the pickles; instead, throw them away. This will prevent you from causing further harm to your body.

  1. Taste Modification

Have you ever wondered how to determine if a jar of pickles is bad? All you have to do is open the jar and taste it. I’m sure you remember how they tasted when they were fresh, so if you notice a different flavor, either bland or bitter, don’t eat them.

As a result, if you have more jars in your storage space, you must check on them. To prevent storing old pickles, see if they have a similar taste.

  1. Expiration Date

Before purchasing quick pickles, check the expiration date. One of the best methods to tell if pickles are bad is to check the expiration date. The manufacturer will always specify the exact date. Even if the pickles appear in wonderful shape, do not purchase.

Do not buy if you find the expiry date is not authentic. This indicates that the pickles may have gone bad a long time ago. Pickles that have gone bad are more likely to do you harm than good. As a result, do not pick them randomly from your store’s counters before checking out. A pickle jar with no expiration date is not realistic.

Is it possible for pickle juice to spoil?

Pickle juice is an acidic solution with a pH balance low enough to keep it fresh for an extended period. A good pickle juice should be pale yellow and fully clear.

Like pickles, pickle juice can become unstable and moldy or slimy. This can happen much faster if pollutants are introduced into the juice.

If your pickle juice becomes hazy or you find mold or slime, the chemicals have most likely become unstable, and you should discard it.

The Dangers of Eating Expired Pickles

Pickles can still be used after their expiration date. However, if you consume spoiled pickles, you’ll notice that something is off immediately, whether it’s the pickle flavor or texture.

Due to incorrect preparation or a high pesticide content in these vegetables, home-canned pickles might cause food poisoning. Food poisoning symptoms include fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.

In severe circumstances, botulism can be caused by home-canned pickles. The concern is that you can’t smell or taste the toxin produced by Clostridium botulinum. Botulism symptoms include:

  • Doubtful vision
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Unintelligible speech
  • Muscle deterioration
  • Eyelids that droop
  • Paralysis

The difficulty is that symptoms occur after more than 24 hours of use, making it difficult to diagnose the ailment.

Excellent Uses for Pickles

Now that we’ve spoken about how long pickles can survive and what to look for to see if they’ve gone bad, let’s talk about all the fantastic ways we can include them in our regular dishes and dinners.

  • A wonderful addition to any burger or meat sandwich.
  • This method applies to dill and sweet pickles as a foundation for savoring.
  • Pickle brine can be reused to make more pickles.
  • Sandwiches with Pickles
  • Pickle brine can be combined with boiled eggs to make pickled eggs.
  • Sandwich with dill pickles on toasted cheese
  • Sandwich with peanut butter and pickles
  • Salads with pickles
  • To add some zing to your martini, use pickle brine.
  • Consume the brine. Pickle juice has traditionally been used to treat dehydration. A fantastic hangover cure!
  • Add the pickle juice to your Bloody Mary mixture, or add the pickle straight into the drink as an extra kick to your Bloody Mary.
  • Have a pickleback (A shot of bourbon followed by a shot of pickle brine)
  • Rinse your mouth with pickle brine. Some people swear that gargling with pickle juice relieves sore throats.
  • Make a dill pickle hummus.
  • Salad dressing can be made with pickle brine.
  • On a cheese and meat snack tray
  • Use pickle brine to marinate chicken, steak, and other meats.

Even though I work with food daily, I’m always shocked at how many different things you can make with pickles. They complement so many various cuisines.

How to Store Pickles Correctly

Let’s move on to the proper manner to store pickles. To ensure that the pickles last as long as possible, preserve them carefully. Here are some tips for properly keeping pickles:

Can of Plastic

You can use a plastic can or food-grade plastic that is free of odors and OVC. The usage of brass, copper and aluminum containers is not advised. Only leave the jar on the counter to speed up the pickling process.

When the temperature rises, the microbes will perform better. It is also necessary to use a clean spoon to remove the pickles. A moist spoon may ruin the pickle since it is contaminated with microorganisms.

Containers with Sterilization

When preserving homemade pickles, half-fill a jar with water. Place it in the oven for two to three minutes, or until the water boils. Then, drain the leftover water on the kitchen towel and empty the jar.

Fill the jar with the pickles while it is still warm and not wet. Remember to sanitize the caps as well.

To disinfect the cap, pour hot boiling water and let it dry on the rack. Finally, securely seal the jar.

How to store Pickles

Pickles are frequently served as a savory side dish, as a quick snack, or as an ingredient in sandwiches, salads, and burgers. Cucumbers are the most commonly used, but other vegetables can also be pickled. The pickling method entails keeping the vegetables in a pickling solution of water, vinegar, sugar, and spices.

Let’s go on to storage. Pickles are fermented vegetables, and keeping them is akin to storing sauerkraut. The most critical factor to consider when purchasing a jar is whether or not it has been pasteurized. Most pickles at the grocery are pasteurized, but if you look carefully, you may often find unpasteurized pickles.

Pasteurized ones are often kept on the shelf at room temperature. However, the fermentation process has halted because pasteurization kills all the helpful bacteria in the jar.

As a result, while unopened, all such a jar requires is to be kept away from sunshine and heat sources. A dark cabinet in the pantry or kitchen is ideal.

After opening the jar, keep the pickles in the fridge, covered and well sealed.

Unpasteurized pickles are always sold in a chilled state. This is because the bacteria in the jar are still alive, and the fermentation process is still in progress. To slow the process, the jar must be chilled.

If you kept it at room temperature, the fermentation process would restart, and the vegetables would become sourer. As a result, unpasteurized pickles should always be kept in the refrigerator.

Remember, like with the pasteurized version, to keep the jar well shut after breaking the seal.

Whether the pickles are pasteurized or not, strive to keep all the vegetables submerged in the brine. The section exposed to air will dry out, change color, and taste over time, which you do not want.

Pickle Storage tips

Cucumbers don’t survive long after being picked. Therefore, the pickling technique is great for extending their shelf life. Unfortunately, don’t expect your jars to keep their quality indefinitely. I’ll give you a few pointers on how to keep pickles properly.


The corner shelf, as close to the floor as possible, is the finest spot for your pickles. This area is chilly enough and out of direct sunlight so that pickles will spoil slowly. Ensure the jar’s seal is tight so no air can get in.

Because of the chemical interaction, unpasteurized pickles might get more acidic over time, so don’t keep them in the cupboard for more than a few days. If you have a few jars but don’t have enough space in the fridge, keep them in the coldest part of your house until you can refrigerate them.


Once the jar has been opened, the pickles must be refrigerated. Nonetheless, the shelves on the refrigerator door are not the ideal option because of temperature variations when the door is opened.

This may cause the brine to blur, and your pickles will likely go bad before expiration. Instead, place the jars toward the bottom of the fridge, where the temperature is the lowest and least changeable.

If you buy pickles in a tin can, replace the container once it has been opened. If you leave an opened tin can in the fridge, the pickles will change their flavor and degrade soon.


If you want to keep pickles in the freezer, you’ll need a container constructed of the right materials. Avoid those made of aluminum, brass, or copper. Instead, it’s probably better to store them in an airtight plastic container, Mason jar, or even a zip-lock bag.

The fundamental advantage of these packages is the ease with which they may be sterilized and the fact that they will not absorb odors.

Finally, when keeping pickles in this manner, use less sugar. Adding to the brine lowers the freezing point, causing pickles to harden more slowly. Always freeze smaller pieces so that you may thaw only what you need.

Is it possible to freeze pickles?

There’s no need to freeze pickles because they already have a long shelf life and turn rubbery and gristly after thawing. Cucumbers, on the other hand, can be frozen and used to produce pickles.

Cucumbers are not cooked in this unconventional technique. Instead, you should heat water with salt, sugar, and vinegar in a 1:1.5 water-to-vinegar ratio. Once the cucumbers have cooled, place them in a jar and cover them with liquid.

If you don’t grow cucumbers in your garden, use only undamaged and firm cucumbers. Then, rinse them thoroughly under a cold water stream before freezing whole or cutting them into rolls.

This rapid method allows pickles to be preserved without air within the jar. Always note the date you freeze your vegetables and use them within two years.

The only disadvantage of this procedure is that the pickles must be removed from the freezer 24 hours before consumption. However, if you store them in the fridge after they have thawed, they will be edible for the following 2 to 3 weeks.


When you open the jar, use clean utensils to remove the pickles even if you have washed your hands previously; never do this with your fingers because you could infect the remaining content.

Remember that all pickles in the jar must remain submerged in the brine. Otherwise, the protruding portion would dry out, discolor, and become unusable. Therefore, before putting the jar back in the fridge, press them down into the brine with a fork.


Editorial Staff

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