Do Pickles Go Bad? Can They Expire? (HOW TO TELL)

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Why do so many people love dill pickles? Because they’re dill-icious!

Kidding and pun aside, we love pickles, and we believe you love it too! After all, you won’t be here if you don’t.

Well, what’s not to love, right?

In addition to its addictive salty, tangy, and crunchy taste, it also offers plenty of health benefits.

But more than that, it seems like one food that can stay good for a very long time. This makes a lot of us wonder, do pickles go bad?

Short answer:

Pickles don’t go bad until they are no longer safe for consumption. However, there’s a big BUT to this, and you need to read this article to find out what it is!

Along the way, you’ll also learn about:

So are you ready to find out the real dill about pickles? Let’s get to it!

Do Pickles Go Bad? Can They Expire?

When sealed tightly and stored correctly, it can last for a very long time. Well, this isn’t surprising, considering that longevity is the entire point of the pickling process.

This involves submerging the dill pickles in a highly acidic and salty brine which is resistant to bacterial growth. However, pickles expire or go bad in a different way.

But (here it goes) you can’t expect dill pickles to retain their best quality over time. Same with other food items, the texture and flavor of pickles will change as time goes by.

If you don’t consume it within the shelf-life period, the pickles will lose their crunch and taste highly sour.

How long do pickles last?

How long are pickles good for? If you look at your pickle jar, you can find a printed date. This is not an expiration date but rather a best by date, and it’s a good starting point for us to determine how long your jar of dill pickles will last.

Before we share with you the shelf life guidelines for pickles, allow us first to explain the difference between the expiration date and best by date. An expiration date indicates when the food item can be safely consumed, while the best by date will tell you when you can enjoy the pickles at their best quality.

So what does this mean? Can you eat pickles past their best by date?

Yes, you can eat pickles past their best by date, but only if it has been stored correctly and has no signs of storage.

But as mentioned, there’s a high chance that the dill pickles won’t be as fresh and enjoyable to eat anymore. So what are the shelf life guidelines for a jar of pickles? Here they are:

  • Unopened Pickles: Best by Date + 1 Year (or 2 years after the production date)
  • Opened Pickles: 2 to 4 months after opening
  • Pickles Stored in Barrel: 7 days

How to Tell if Pickles Have Gone Bad?

Please note that all the shelf life guidelines we’ve shared are just estimates.

Since there’s no way we can assure you that the pickles are still safe for consumption, the best thing we can do is to share the signs that will tell you if the pickles are bad.

Here they are:

1. Changes in Appearance

Let’s begin with the first signs that are so easy to spot. So before you get started on your unopened jar of pickles, you may want to examine it first and look for the following signs:

Bubbles

Does the brine or vinegar have small bubbles in them the way sodas do? Is it still safe to eat?

If the dill pickles are have undergone the fermentation process (which is common with homemade pickles), fizzing is normal, so you can go ahead and eat them.

  • Pro Tip: If you’re buying from a farmer’s market, make sure to ask them if the pickles are fermented or not to be sure.

On the other hand, it’s not normal for canned, heat-treated unpasteurized pickles to have bubbles. So if you bought your pickles from the grocery store, you might have to throw them out.

Bulging Lids

When the pickles are already too acidic, the high amount of acids creates pressure inside the jar.

And when the jar cannot hold the pressure any longer, its lids (or the entire can itself) will pop or bulge.

If the jar or can of pickles is already disfigured, don’t eat it anymore.

Dull Color

If the color of dill pickles is no longer bright, discard it right away because the color change indicates the presence of fungus.

2. Off Smell

So did you smell something off or foul when you opened the jar? If so, it means that harmful bacteria are present in the mixture, and the pickles are no longer safe for consumption.

3. Brine texture Changes

The brine is meant to be thick and viscous. If it suddenly became thin and water-like, you will have to throw the pickles out.

How to Store Pickles?

Proper food storage is a must to prevent the dill pickles from going bad. Here are some tips you can follow on how to store pickles properly:

1. Follow the storage method in the stores.

There are two types of pickles sold in grocery stores—pasteurized pickles and unpasteurized pickles.

The unpasteurized pickles are stored in the refrigerator because they may go bad faster, while the pasteurized pickles are displayed on the shelves because they are shelf-stable.

With that in mind, store pasteurized unopened pickles in a cool, dry, and dark place like your pantry or kitchen cabinet. On the other hand, you should store unpasteurized unopened pickles in the refrigerator.

2. The store opened pickles in the refrigerator.

Once you’ve opened the sealed jar of dill pickles, you need to refrigerate them. Make sure to keep the jar tightly sealed to prevent air from entering the jar.

3. Always make sure that the veggies are submerged in the brine.

The brine is the only thing that prevents the pickles from going bad. However, any parts of the pickles that are not submerged in brine will go bad, so make sure to check the pickles before storing them.

4. Never leave it at room temperature for more than 2 hours.

According to USDA, bacteria thrive at temperatures between 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, so you need to refrigerate unpasteurized pickles right after using them. (*)

Pro Tip: If you live in a place with a warm climate, we recommend refrigerating even pasteurized pickles.

5. Use only clean utensils when getting it from the jar to maintain freshness.

Never use your fingers or utensils to avoid contamination when getting the dill pickles.

FAQS

The Bottom Line

Yes, learning proper food storage for pickles is a big dill! Even though dill pickles are designed to last for a very long time, improper food storage will make it go bad faster.

So if you want to extend the shelf life of your favorite food item, we suggest that you keep in mind all the information and tips we’ve shared with you. In this way, you won’t find yourself in a pickle!

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