Almonds' soft, subtly sweet nature makes them a favorite, and you probably have some stored in your pantry or refrigerator. But if it has been a while since you last opened your container of almonds, you may be wondering if they're still good. Almonds are like all other foods, in that they do go bad with time. Unlike lower fat foods, almonds can go rancid if stored improperly.
Why Almonds Go Bad
Although considered a nut, almonds are really the seeds of the almond tree's fruits. Within the meat of the almond are fatty oils. Almonds go bad when the oils go rancid as they oxidize. Exposure to heat, light and oxygen causes almond oils to turn. Humidity is also a contributing factor to rancidity, although most almonds go bad thanks to other factors. When you eat almonds that are spoiled, it may make you sick.
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Detecting a Bad Nut
Rancid oil simply doesn't smell or taste right. If you open your almond container and smell a sour, almost chemical smell, you can bet that the nuts have gone bad. The taste of your almonds will also be affected. Rather than a characteristically sweet and creamy almond taste, rancid almonds taste bitter. Follow your nose and your tongue. If they don't smell or taste right, don't risk an illness by eating them.
Shortening Shelf Life
A few factors shorten the shelf life of almonds. The size of the pieces, for example, makes a difference. Whole almonds tend to be at lower risk for a shortened shelf life because they are protected by the skin. Storing your almonds in a metal container can also reduce the life of the nuts. Certain properties of metal can leach out into the nuts, causing them to go bad. Added moisture contributes to the likelihood of spoilage, too. Almonds that have been roasted, chopped or prepared in other ways may have a higher moisture content, which contributes to rancidity.
Proper Storage for Perfect Almonds
For best results, store your almonds in a cool, dry place. Some cooks like to keep almonds in the refrigerator, while others store them in the freezer. Either is fine because almonds can last for a year or more in an environment of 32 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit with a relative humidity of 60 to 75 percent. Package them in an airtight plastic or glass container to prevent moisture and odors from affecting the almonds.
- University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources: Nuts: Safe Methods for Consumers
- Blue Diamond Almonds: Almond Food Safety & Quality Assurance
- University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources: Harvesting and Storing Your Home Orchard’s Nut Crop
- The Dallas Morning News: Danger in the Kitchen: Beware Rancid Food In Your Cupboards
- The New York Times: Touch of Rancidity Can Spoil the Feast