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How to Store Nuts and Seeds

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Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun. 

Today: Don't be the victim of a stale seed (or nut). Here's how to keep them fresh.

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Nuts and seeds are pantry darlings. Our kitchen is stocked with them: to toss with oats for granola, fold into brownie batter, or sprinkle over salads. We often find ourselves lost in the bulk bin aisle of the grocery store, filling our bags to the brim with a bit too much of everything: almonds, hazelnuts, pepitas, pine nuts, we’ll take us much as we can carry. 

The problem with this is that nuts and seeds have a limited shelf life. Both contain a reasonably high amount of oils, which come from healthy unsaturated fats. Unfortunately, unsaturated fats are delicate, and when they are exposed to heat, light, and oxygen, they can decompose and turn rancid -- which results in a harsh, bitter taste. Eating rancid nuts and seeds can even be harmful, causing stomach pain and irritation.

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Here’s how to prevent your nuts and seeds from spoiling. 

Buy them fresh.
Try to buy the freshest nuts and seeds you can find. Bulk bins are often a good place to look because they tend to have a quick turnaround and are restocked often. If possible, taste before you buy to ensure freshness. Also, try to only buy what you need. While it’s tempting to buy walnuts, cashews, and peanuts all in the same shopping trip, if you don’t desperately need all three, pick up only what you will use before your next shopping trip. 

Buy whole, raw nuts and seeds.
Whole, raw nuts and seeds will stay fresh the longest. That’s because when chopped, toasted, or ground into flour or meal, nuts release their oils; these oils are then exposed to more oxygen, which makes them go rancid more quickly. Get into the habit of toasting nuts yourself and grinding your own flour or meal. Doing this not only guarantees freshness but also your toasted pecans, almond flour, and flaxseed meal will just taste better. 

More: Learn how to get the pesky skins off your nuts.

Put a lid on it.
Transfer all of your nuts and seeds to airtight containers. Old takeout containers, mason jars -- whatever you have will do, as long as it can be sealed and shut tight. This keeps air out -- which means for fresher nuts -- and prevents outside odors from getting in, which are easily absorbed by nuts and seeds. 

Keep ‘em cold.
Storing your nuts and seeds in airtight containers is the first step, but it’s even more important to keep those babies cold. If you plan to use them in the immediate future, it’s fine to store the airtight containers in a cool, dark spot in your pantry. But they’ll only last at room temperature for a few months. To keep them fresh for much longer, store the containers in the refrigerator or the freezer, where nuts and seeds are cold and happy and unaffected by fluctuating kitchen temperatures. In general, they’ll stay fresh for up to six months stored in the refrigerator and for up to one year stored in the freezer. The sturdier your container, the less likely they are to pick up smells from other foods stored near them.

How do you keep your nuts and seeds fresh? Tell us in the comments!

Tags: kitchen confidence, how-to & DIY, nuts, seeds, storage, pantry