Olive oil is becoming increasingly popular in the kitchens of Central and Northern Europe these days. The “Mediterranean gold” has many health-promoting effects. Good olive oil should be used frequently but sparingly.
This leads me to the question: How long does olive oil actually keep?
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How long does olive oil keep?
The olive oil shelf life is 18 – 24 months unopened. If stored in a cool, dark place, the shelf life increases by years. Opened olive oil spoils more quickly from exposure to oxygen and should be used within a few months.
The following generally applies: Due to the importance of correct olive oil storage, manufacturers like to only give 18 or 24 months as the best-before date. However, if stored incorrectly, it can spoil much faster.
But what does wrong storage? Before we clear that up, let’s take a look at opened olive oil. Because this is a special situation, you know should.
How long does an opened olive oil keep?
Even olive oil that has been opened can stay fresh for a few months. In order for olive oil to preserve its shelf life, you should always close the bottle tightly. Also protect them from light and heat sources.
With a lot of sun exposure, the oil will go bad in a few weeks. If you don’t seal the lid properly, it can also go rancid quickly.
The decisive opponent that you face when the olive oil is open is – you guessed it allegedly – the oxygen. He reacts with the ingredients and fuels spoilage.
The tragedy: Each time the bottle is opened, new oxygen is added. That’s why it’s so important not to leave the bottles lying around openly and to put them back in the dark cupboard as quickly as possible.
Let’s not beat around the bush any longer. So how do you store olive oil for optimal shelf life?
How do you store olive oil?
Olive oil is best stored at 10 – 20° Celsius in the dark in an airtight container. Then it reaches its optimum shelf life of several years without going rancid.
So much in brief. Now for the details:
3 things to look out for when storing olive oil.
- The right temperature: In order for olive oil to remain enjoyable for a long time, the temperature must be right: 10 to 20° Celsius are considered ideal conditions for storing olive oil
- Low exposure to light: A dark basement or closet protected from direct sunlight minimizes harmful exposure to light. Specifically, it’s about keeping harmful UV rays away from the oil (that’s also why the bottles are green).
- Exclusion of air: In an airtight container, olive oil stays protected from oxidation. Ideally, this consists of glass or stainless steel.
The good thing about it: You can always buy good olive oil cheaply in larger quantities if you can create these storage conditions. It was also only a few years ago that I switched from discounter oil (although these are also partly convincing in terms of price-performance ratio) to this oil from the canister. Believe me: it’s worth it!
If you are “only” used to the discounter oil so far, you should try one or the other higher-priced source of olive oil. Because good olive oil actually has a slightly sharp taste, which may seem unusual at first.
The International Olive Oil Council has therefore determined that a quality extra virgin oil must have three basic taste characteristics:
• Fruitiness (scent reminiscent of fruit)
• Spicy pungency
What else should be considered when storing olive oil?
In addition to protection from light and heat sources, the right container is important.
Clear vessels expose the oil to harmful sunlight. As long as you put it in a dark room, it doesn’t matter.
Transparent containers in the supermarket are problematic. In these, the olive oil is often exposed to direct sunlight.
The material of the container in which you want to store the olive oil is also important. Darkened glass bottles or containers made of porcelain or ceramic are ideal.
However, you should not store olive oil in plastic bottles. These are mostly transparent and expose the olive oil to harmful light. Plastic containers can also contain harmful plasticizers.
And don’t use metal canisters. Most metals oxidize with the olive oil. As a result, it spoils much faster.
The canister exception: I can recommend canisters made of stainless steel without any problems. The steel does not react with the olive oil. And it protects against light. Pay special attention to this when buying in stock.
Always cap the olive oil tightly. So it comes into contact with little oxygen and oxidizes more slowly. Oxygen is just as damaging to the oil as light and heat.
All of these storage conditions actually almost scream for refrigeration if you don’t have a basement. But does that make sense?
Can you store olive oil in the fridge?
You can put your olive oil in the fridge without any problems. However, good olive oil begins to flake there. This is due to the oleic acid starting to freeze and settle.
In addition, high-quality olive oil contains secondary plant substances, such as the wax from the olive skin. These get into the oil during pressing. They settle to the bottom and flocculate at lower temperatures.
The taste of olive oil suffers only slightly when you put it in the fridge. It is safe to eat there.
In addition, on extremely hot summer days, you would rather put olive oil in the fridge than on a shelf with temperatures above 30° Celsius.
And if you are not sure whether your olive oil is still fresh: Here are the most important characteristics in terms of freshness and spoilage characteristics of olive oil. This way you can be sure you aren’t spilling any old, spoiled oil all over your salad.
How do you recognize fresh olive oil?
You can recognize fresh olive oil by its typical smell. It smells a little like green tomatoes and fresh grass. The scent reminds me of the smell of artichokes.
You should be able to taste the olives. A slightly bitter taste is a sign of quality oil. A little spiciness also speaks for the freshness and quality of the olive oil.
The color of fresh olive oil is bright yellow with a green tinge. It should be clear and runny. Cloudy olive oil is often unfiltered and therefore spoils quickly.
How do you recognize bad, expired olive oil?
Rancid olive oil no longer smells good. Unfortunately, its smell is difficult to describe. Some speak of a smell like a wax candle.
I find that rancid olive oil smells funny, a bit tart. There is nothing left of the scent of fresh olive oil.
So trust your senses. If the olive oil no longer smells fresh or if it tastes strange: throw it away! The same applies to dried or viscous olive oil.
Discolored olive oil is also inedible. An exception is clouding due to low temperatures, such as in the refrigerator.
Is rancid olive oil harmful to your health?
If you don’t have any other oil at home, but your olive oil smells slightly rancid: don’t worry!
I advise against consuming rancid olive oil by the spoonful. But oxidized olive oil is not harmful to health per se. That means if you don’t have any other fat handy for frying, you can use it in an emergency.
However, be aware that the taste of the rancid oil will carry over to your food. You will not conjure up a star menu with it.
Therefore, do not reach for rancid olive oil out of mere stinginess. But if you have no choice but to cook with slightly spoiled oil, you don’t have to worry about your health.
Only in extreme situations (depending on the oil when heating up to approx. 400 °C) – when grilling food, for example – do polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) form, which are carcinogenic in laboratory tests. Repeated strong heating is also critical.
So that it doesn’t come to that in the first place, I’ve put together a few tips for you here. They extend the shelf life of olive oil by several months or years.
How can you preserve olive oil?
To increase the shelf life of olive oil, you can store it in the refrigerator, for example. There, the process of decay is at least slowed down a little.
Another method would be to pack the oil airtight. Without oxygen, it cannot oxidize, which increases the shelf life of olive oil.
To keep olive oil longer, you can freeze it if necessary. Taste and quality are preserved when frozen.
Tip: Olive oil can be used when freezing to protect against moisture loss. Check out how easy it is to freeze hummus thanks to olive oil
Conclusion on olive oil shelf life: How long does olive oil keep?
Unopened olive oil will stay fresh for a few years if stored correctly. Even olive oil that has been opened will spoil after several months if stored properly.
Cool temperatures and sun protection play their part in this. You should use a well-closed container made of rustproof material. This keeps the olive oil bright yellow-greenish and clear for a long time.
And it becomes an important part of every Mediterranean dish: for Mediterranean flair in your own four walls.