Do Walnuts Go Bad? How Long Do They Last?

logo by Editorial Staff | Updated on October 1st, 2023

Walnuts are indeed a delightful, nutritious snack treasured by many for their taste and health benefits. However, like many other food items, they do not last indefinitely. Incorrect storage can lead to them becoming spoiled or rancid, thereby losing their appeal and nutritional value.

Shelf Life of Walnuts

Understanding the shelf life of walnuts is crucial for maintaining their freshness. Unshelled walnuts can comfortably sit in your pantry for up to a year without going bad. Although they might not necessarily spoil immediately after this period, you will begin to notice a decline in their quality. Some might be stale or dried out, and others could be entirely rotten. The Best-by date on the packaging is an indicator, but not absolute; the nuts can often last a bit longer. In contrast, shelled walnuts have a shorter shelf life; hence it’s advisable to consume them relatively quickly.

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Purchasing Walnuts from Grocery Stores

When acquiring walnuts from grocery stores, establishing their age can be tricky. For unshelled walnuts, a rough estimate would be around six months of life remaining when kept in the pantry. The actual duration can vary, but this gives a ballpark timeline. Shelled walnuts, however, last significantly less. Stored in sealed containers, these may last up to two months.

Storing Walnuts in the Fridge

Storing walnuts in the refrigerator can significantly extend their life. Unshelled walnuts in the fridge can last upwards of a year, and sometimes even 18 months. Shelled walnuts, when refrigerated, also enjoy a similar extended lifespan, with a general shelf life of approximately a year, give or take a few months.

What Causes Walnuts to Spoil?

The high-fat content in walnuts makes them susceptible to spoilage under severe conditions, such as exposure to excessive air, moisture, direct sunlight, or heat. Proper storage practices can help mitigate these risks and preserve the nuts for longer periods.

Why Do Walnuts Turn Rancid Quickly?

The speedy rancidity in walnuts is primarily due to their high fatty acid content. This makes them prone to oxidation if not stored correctly. Proper storage can slow down the oxidation process, maintaining the nut’s freshness and quality.

Benefits of Unshelled Walnuts

Although unshelled walnuts require more effort in preparation, the advantages of choosing them over shelled variants are noteworthy. Unshelled walnuts have an extended shelf life due to their natural protective shell and require minimal storage effort.

How to Identify Spoiled Walnuts

To avoid an unpleasant experience, it’s essential to identify if walnuts have gone bad. For unshelled walnuts, inspect the shell for any signs of damage or aging. If the shell appears distorted, withered, or dried out, it’s advisable not to consume the nut inside. For shelled walnuts, be on the lookout for signs of mold, unpleasant smell, or any unusual appearance.

Storage Tips for Walnuts

Proper storage of walnuts is vital for preserving their quality and taste. For unshelled walnuts, store them in a cool, dark place away from sunlight. Shelled walnuts should be refrigerated or frozen in airtight containers to prevent moisture and retain freshness. If you intend to chop or ground the walnuts, do so right before use to ensure maximum flavor.

Refrigeration and Freezing of Walnuts

Once opened, it’s best to refrigerate shelled walnuts in a sealed container. This practice extends their shelf life from a few weeks to about six months, and freezing can prolong this even further. Unshelled walnuts, however, do not require refrigeration and can be stored in the pantry.

Freezing Walnuts

Freezing is an effective method for long-term storage of walnuts. When freezing, use airtight containers or sealed bags to maintain their quality. If you don’t plan to use all the frozen walnuts at once, consider dividing them into smaller portions. Before using frozen walnuts, thaw them in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight for best results.


Walnuts are a valuable addition to your diet, providing not only a rich flavor but also numerous health benefits. Understanding how to store and identify spoiled walnuts ensures that you can enjoy these delightful nuts without worry, making the most out of their shelf life.


Editorial Staff

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