Olive Oil

What’s the Deal With Olive Oil’s Shelf Life?

March 22, 2018

Everything in our kitchens has a pretty set expiration date. For some things it’s printed in tiny black numbers on the bottom of the box. For others—say, fruit—it’s pretty obvious when those suckers have got to go. But what about olive oil? When exactly that turns bad is a bit harder to discern.

My counter is never without a bottle, sometimes a jug, of the stuff. I use it daily as a slippery friend for sautéing or drizzling or breathing new life into dried-out leftovers. It’s a fatty deep golden workhorse. Rarely can I get some to last more than a month, but sometimes a jar falls by the wayside. There’s the specialty stuff that I use for dressing salads that gets lost behind other bottles. So how long does that one last?

Well, for starters, it’s important to keep olive oil under certain conditions. There are some factors that can actually speed up the aging process and turn your bottle rancid. Olive oil should always be kept in a cool, dark place. No, not like a literal cave—nothing that intense. Opt instead for a cabinet, a pantry, or a countertop, as long as it’s not in any spot with direct sunlight. Olive oil usually comes in aluminum cans or dark green glass bottles. This keeps a significant amount of light out, but still, don’t go putting your bottle of EVOO on a windowsill. Temperature, too, is important. Too much heat could render your oil rancid before its time. Somewhere in your kitchen that doesn’t get too hot is ideal. And don’t worry about keeping your bottles and cans in the fridge: Studies show that olive oil goes bad at the same rate in the cold as it does at room temperature. Making sure the lid is on tight is another way to stretch its shelf life for as long as possible—air causes the oil to oxidize and go bad faster.

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Olive oil is ultimately perishable, but, like whales and tortoises, it has a very long life. If stored properly, a bottle of extra-virgin can last around 20 months. That’s almost two years. Granted, I’d be hard pressed to not use a bottle in its entirety during that time.

If you’re unsure about an oil’s shelf life, a good old taste/smell test will always do the trick. It sounds unscientific, but your senses are a much better gauge than you may think. Take a whiff of the oil. If it doesn’t smell like olive oil, then it’s ready to go. Toss it and start fresh.

How do you keep your pantry clean and up-to-date? Tell us your tricks in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Carmen Ortiz
    Carmen Ortiz
  • Linda h
    Linda h
  • 702551
  • M
Valerio is a freelance food writer, editor, researcher and cook. He grew up in his parent's Italian restaurants covered in pizza flour and drinking a Shirley Temple a day. Since, he's worked as a cheesemonger in New York City and a paella instructor in Barcelona. He now lives in Berlin, Germany where he's most likely to be found eating shawarma.


Carmen O. March 7, 2019
To be honest, that "olive oil doesn't last long" is nonsense meant to have people buy new oil when the "sell by date" shows up. I have had extra virgin olive oil for years (I buy large containers and live by myself) without it going rancid. I use tinted glass bottles to transfer any that comes in plastic containers, and keep the one I'm not using in the dark in a cool area of my house (I live in a very cold area of the nation). The one I'm using I keep in a cabinet in the kitchen. I believe the issue has more to do with some nations (hint: Italy and the "groups" running the business), who dilute it with lower grade oils. Guess what nation I never buy oil from. I come from a very warm area and extra virgin lasted a very long time there, also.
Linda H. September 13, 2018
I had heard that you should use a bottle of olive oil within 6 months once it is opened.
702551 March 22, 2018
I'm pretty sure most of the edibles in my house don't have expiration dates. The ones that do have a printed date are "best by" or "sell by" dates, not expiration. I have a bunch of stuff that has no printed date; some of it has a manufactured date.

Of course, my fresh produce has no expiration date since I get almost all of it at the farmers market.

Returning to the olive oil topic, I don't think a bottle of olive oil lasts more than 4-6 weeks in my kitchen (I'm a single homeowner) so there is a full spare on the top shelf. When I grab that one, it goes on my shopping list.

Of all things in my kitchen, one of the hardest things to reach an expiration date would be olive oil, and it would be one of the hardest things for me to run out of.

Besides, the store at the end of the street sells olive oil, but I don't remember running out of this stuff in the past twenty years.

But that's just me...
M March 22, 2018
Does anyone keep their pantry (as a whole) up to "shelf life" standards rather than replacing if/when something turns or goes stale? They are, in no way, practical for real life. So much more food would be thrown away if we kept to the short time-frames. If we followed Alton Brown's advice, all ground spices would have to be replaced every 6 months. "Cool & dry" storage is ideal, but not often not possible (all depends on location, home, and income).

The reality is, food/products often last well beyond the expiration date. The dates, especially for dry goods, just 1- lures people to dump perfectly fine food and buy more, 2- helps companies avoid responsibility when a product DOES turn.

What I'd give to snoop in on the lives and kitchens of those making and upholding all of the short lifespan rules.