Olives are versatile fruits (yes – they are fruit!).
Have them as a classy snack, elegant addition to a salad, or in a hearty spag bol.
As useful and delicious as olives are, we’re no strangers to finding an old jar of olives in the pantry and standing there bemused, thinking:
“When did I open these olives? Have they gone bad?”
Look no further. Today, we’ll talk about the different types of olives, how you should store them, and the surefire ways to tell if your olives have gone off.
TLDR: Your olives will go rancid before they actually go bad, and it’s pretty unlikely you’ll eat a bad olive without knowing about it as soon as it’s entered your mouth. Opt for olives in brine instead of oil if you want extended shelf lives, as brine acts as a preservative.
Are My Olives Bad? Ways To Tell
Your jar or can acts as a seal between your olives and the outside world. Therefore, they are the first things to check.
Look for any rust, bulging, or popped lids. If the jar or can looks fine, then that’s a great start.
Next up, open the jar or can and give it a sniff to see if the oils have gone rancid. Rancidity isn’t quite the same thing as going bad – it’s when the fats in the olives and brine oxidize, making them taste and smell gross.
If your olives pass the sniff test, then look for anything unusual within the jar or can. You may find a layer of white mold at the top of olives in brine. As much as it may go against your better instincts, you can just scoop off that layer and eat the olives.
However, we’d rather not.
Now: If your olives are paler than the jar you opened a month ago, that’s because the longer the olives sit in the brine, the paler they get. That’s nothing to stress over.
Finally, once the olives have passed the above tests, give them a taste. If everything tastes normal, you’re good to go.
If your olives have gone a little dry and tasteless, but they haven’t actually gone bad, consider throwing them in a spaghetti bolognese or other cooked dish instead of eating them raw.
How Do I Store My Olives?
The good news: whatever kind of olive variety you have, there is really only one factor (in brine or in oil) that affects how you choose to store your olives.
If in doubt, go by the instructions for storage solutions, but we’ve rounded up everything you need to know here too.
For olives in brine, you can store the unopened can or jar in the pantry or kitchen. If you have a glass jar, make sure the storage area is dark and away from heat sources.
Once open, either reseal the jar or transfer it to an airtight container. You can place it back in your pantry.
Brine acts as a preserving agent due to its high sodium content, so your olives should always be covered in brine. Therefore, don’t throw away your brine until you’re done with your olives.
However, if you’ve done this by accident, you can make your own brine by mixing ½ tsp salt per cup of water. This won’t be particularly strong, so you must consume your olives within a few weeks.
Olives stored in oil should be kept in the refrigerator, whether the jar is open or closed. Once you’ve opened it, just reseal it and put it back in the fridge.
How Long Will My Olives Last
We would recommend always getting olives stored in oil or brine. If you’ve opted for liquid-free olives, they’ll only last a week from opening them, as they’ll go bad soon after meeting bacteria.
Olives in brine have a shelf life of 18-24 months. However, since this is a sealed product, provided the seal is intact, it should be fine six months after the best-by date.
Once you’ve opened your olives in brine, consume the olives within 10-21 days. This period of time can vary wildly (even reaching up to a year for some brands!) due to the different types of brine used to preserve the olives.
Remember: if in doubt about storage periods, always go by what it says on the label.
Olives in oil last nowhere near as long as olives in brine. Expect a 2-3 month-long shelf life, though you can use your olives for a few weeks after the best-before date.
The Rundown On Olives
Olives do indeed go off, but they’ve got pretty hefty shelf lives, as long as the jar or can is unopened, and its seal is still intact.
For olives in brine, expect them to last 18-24 months if unopened and 10-21 days if opened.
Olives in oil will last around 2-3 months, whether unopened or opened.