You have some leftover pecans from the pecan pie you baked a month or so ago. And at this point, you’re not sure if the nuts are still edible. How long do pecans last?
Or you’ve bought pecans in bulk for the first time, and you have no clue where to store them or what’s their shelf life. The bulk bins in the supermarket weren’t refrigerated or anything, but you suspect that the storage conditions there might have been less than optimal.
If either sounds at least a tad bit familiar, this article is for you. In it, we cover storage practices, shelf life, and expiring of these nuts. Let’s dig in.
How Long Do Pecans Last?
How long your pecans last depends mainly on whether they’re already shelled or not, and the temperature of the place you store them.
For in-shell pecans, they retain quality for about four months (GPF) to a year (AP) at room temperature, a year and a half in the fridge, or two to four years in the freezer (GPF). That’s for optimal quality, at least.
As you can see, there are some discrepancies in periods when it comes to keeping unshelled pecans in the pantry. If you want to stay in the clear, use them within half a year to maybe nine months for the best quality.
When it comes to pecan kernels, the corresponding storage periods for each option are much shorter. That means about two months of pantry storage, nine months in the fridge, or up to two years in sub-zero temperature (GPF).
Long story short, the longer you need to keep these nuts around for, the colder the storage temperature should be.
How To Store Pecans?
If you wanted to know what’s the best way to store pecans, or if you should refrigerate them, I have bad news for you. There isn’t one clear guideline everyone agrees upon. While researching the topic, I found sources suggesting the fridge as the best option (AP), and ones that said the freezer is the way to go. In short, it’s up to you and your needs.
For me, I usually don’t have a lot of space in either the fridge or the freezer. And that’s why I leave shelled pecans at room temperature. Please note that I only buy enough for a couple of weeks or for a pie if I’m planning to bake one. If you buy pecans in larger quantities, cold storage is definitely something you should consider. Let’s talk about specific storage practices.
For in-shell pecans, a cool and dry place (GFP) is all you need if you go with storing them in the pantry or kitchen. Just like with in-shell peanuts, a well-ventilated bag might help a bit, but it’s not required by any means. For cold storage, an airtight container or a freezer bag is what you need.
If you buy your pecans shelled, an airtight container or a covered glass jar is the go-to option (GPF). Resealable plastic bags (NMSU) get the job done as well. Sometimes pecans are sold in resealable pouches, and those are fine too. No matter if you keep the nuts at room temperature, in the fridge, or the freezer, choose one of the suggested ways of packaging them.
If you’re freezing pecans, remember you can do that repeatedly without significant flavor loss (AP). Also, in many cases, you don’t need to thaw the nuts before adding them to your recipes. One example where it’s best to let the nuts reach room temp before using is when you plan on grinding them for pecan meal (AP).
How To Tell If Pecans Have Gone Bad?
Telling if your pecans are bad or not isn’t that difficult.
For starters, let’s talk about unshelled ones. If the shell seems light, hollow, or makes a rattling sound when you shake it, chances are the nut inside didn’t develop properly. In most cases, I wouldn’t even bother with cracking it. Like with a whole walnut, it’s empty, or the nut inside is shriveled, bitter, and of no use.
When your cracking pecans, take a good look at the insides. If the shell has any holes, you might find some bugs or insects inside claiming the nutmeat as their property. If that’s the case, throw away the nut and continue cracking.
When it comes to shelled pecans, the signs of spoilage are quite the same as for other nuts, e.g., pine nuts or almonds. Things you should look for include:
- Mold of any kind. Seeing any white fuzz means the nuts should be discarded.
- Signs of going rancid. If your pecans taste bitter, instead of somewhat sweet and walnut-like, they’re rancid. Same thing if the smell turns bitter, or reminds you of old paint. Either means the fat in the nuts has gone bad, and the nuts are done for. Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to fix rancid pecans – they can’t be saved.
If your pecans taste a bit stale and you’d like to freshen them, roasting is an option. Check out the article on pistachios for roasting instructions for nuts.