Storage Tips

8 Common Kitchen Ingredients That Actually Belong in the Fridge (or Freezer!)

Skip the countertop storage.

December  7, 2020
Photo by James Ransom. Prop Stylist: Brooke Deonarine. Food Stylist: Drew Aichele.

We teamed up with LG Studio to share a handful of everyday ingredients you may have been storing wrong all along. Extend the life of your nuts, dried fruit, and—most importantly—those almost-too-ripe avocados with these smart refrigeration tips.

It may feel like only yesterday that you bought a fresh stack of flour tortillas at the grocery store. But before you know it, they’ve already started to grow green patches of mold—all while sitting innocently on the kitchen counter.

If this sounds familiar, it might be time to reconsider where exactly to store your favorite kitchen staples (be they floury or nutty), to keep them fresher for much longer. (Spoiler alert: It’s your fridge!)

Here are eight common ingredients you might've thought you could keep on the counter (or in the pantry), but should actually be storing in the fridge—where the crisp, cool air significantly slows down the growth of any harmful bacteria.

1. Nuts & Seeds

Improve the shelf life and flavor of nuts and seeds by keeping them in the refrigerator. Contrary to popular belief, hardy-seeming nuts and seeds (like pistachios, almonds, and flaxseeds) are rather delicate. When introduced to oxygen, heat, and light in your pantry or kitchen they can quickly begin to spoil.

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“Basil HATES the cold. Trim the bottom of the stems then put in a glass with some water. Cover Loosely with a large plastic bag. Leave on the counter changing the water daily. Margie 🌻”
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Also, once nuts and seeds have been blended, chopped, toasted, or ground into flour, they release delicate oils, which turn them bitter and rancid even faster than if they were whole and raw.

To improve the longevity of these grocery staples, make sure to transfer them into an airtight container to keep out oxygen, and place them in the fridge as soon as possible. If stored correctly, they’ll keep for up to six months in the fridge (whole or ground), and up to one year in the freezer.

2. Tortillas

Double the shelf life of your tortillas simply by storing them in the fridge the next time you get home from grocery shopping. Place them in an airtight storage bag, removing as much air as possible. Then label the exterior with the date, so you know how long they're safe to consume.

How long will they stay fresh? Homemade tortillas will last about seven days, flour or whole-wheat tortillas about three to four weeks, and corn tortillas can last a whopping eight weeks when stored correctly. No matter what, you’ll always want to inspect your refrigerated tortillas for any mold, discoloration, moisture on the surface, or foul smells; always err on the side of caution.

If you’re unsure of when you’re going to consume your tortillas, consider freezing them. To do so, place a sheet of wax paper between each tortilla (to prevent them from sticking to each other), and store in a resealable freezer bag. When frozen, they can last up to eight months.

3. Dates & other Dried Fruits

Used to sweeten desserts and add flavor to smoothies, dates are a delicious fiber-rich ingredient to keep on hand for daily use. Made up primarily of sugar, this dried fruit benefits from a naturally lengthy, stable shelf life—which can be extended for even longer, if it's kept in a cold environment.

Soft dates like medjool or khadrawy best retain their moisture levels when stored in an airtight container, and can last up to one year in the fridge. If you purchase in bulk, prevent your dates from losing their distinct flavor, intensity, and sweetness by keeping them in the freezer for up to three years.

Like dates, other dried fruits (like apricots and prunes) will also benefit from a cooler, climate-controlled environment, and can last for up to six months in your fridge.

4. Some Wet Condiments (But Not All!)

Certain condiments (like hot sauce) that contain very high levels of acidity, sugar, or salt are fine to store in your pantry. However, you may be surprised to hear that other wet condiments, like mustard (especially Dijon or horseradish-based kinds), mayonnaise, ketchup, and maple syrup will actually taste better if stored in a refrigerator.

Though you may be accustomed to seeing bottles of ketchup and mustard left un-chilled and scattered throughout the dining room of a restaurant, these staple ingredients will last much longer, and taste much fresher, in the fridge. Despite being generally shelf-stable (due to their high acidity), opened bottles of ketchup and mustard can begin to turn sooner than you'd think: When stored in the fridge, ketchup lasts for up to six months, and mustard for up to one year.

While often found in the non-refrigerated aisles of your grocery store, most mayonnaise is made with eggs and should always be kept in the fridge once it's been opened. And unlike honey, preservative-free maple syrup can begin to grow mold if not stored correctly. But an opened, refrigerated bottle of this tree sap can last up to a year in the fridge, for plenty of pancake and waffle brunches.

5. Ripe Fruit

A browned, overripe banana may be perfect for making bread, but it's definitely not ideal for snacking. If you find that your bananas are getting a bit too ripe, toss them in the fridge to avoid any snacktime sadness; the cool temps will keep bananas firm for one to two weeks longer. Note: Don’t be alarmed if the peels continue to brown in the fridge—the fruit within will remain fresh, flavorful, and ready to eat.

You can delay the ripening of avocados by putting them in the fridge, too. (Just don’t store them all in the same bag or drawer, since bananas release a chemical that’ll make the avocados ripen more quickly.) Ripe avocados will last an extra two to three days in the fridge, and spare you the dismay of throwing out yet another bruised, mushy mess.

6. Citrus

If you’re planning on using your lemons, limes, or oranges within a week of purchasing, they’re safe to keep on the countertop or in the pantry. However, citrus exposed to warmer temperatures and sunlight will spoil more rapidly.

Keep citrus in sealable freezer bags in the fridge and it'll last about a month; in the freezer, it'll be good between three to four months. (I like to freeze pre-cut slices or wedges for easy individual portions.)

7. Herbs

If food waste makes you fret, keeping herbs fresh long enough to use them in their entirety is definitely a sour subject. Prolong the life of your picked herbs by limiting their exposure to moisture, sunlight, and oxygen, all by storing them in the fridge. But before you simply toss in your bagged herbs straight from the store, there are a couple of important things to keep in mind. First off, what kind of herbs are you working with?

Soft, leafy varieties like cilantro, parsley, and basil should be stored much like a bouquet of flowers: Trim the ends, place in a jar with enough cool water to cover just the stems, and cover with a reusable bag; replace the water as needed. Hard, woody herbs like sage, rosemary, and thyme should be loosely wrapped with a damp paper towel, and stored in a resealable container.

You'll soon discover that your herbs last about two to three weeks longer than usual—or even more, if you’re really lucky.

8. Bread

You may have the urge to toss your bread in the fridge before it starts to turn stale. Though that's tempting, the temperature and environment of the fridge might actually expedite the hardening process. Instead, if you’re looking to prolong the life of your loaf, it should actually go in the freezer.

If you can't commit to consuming your bread within three days of bringing it home, wrap it well and place it in the freezer for up to six months. Pro tip: Pre-slice the bread before freezing, so you can easily remove and thaw single portions as needed.

What are your top fridge storage tips? Tell us in the comments below!

We teamed up with LG Studio to share smart tips and tricks for all your favorite appliances—from the oven to the fridge. Looking to upgrade your kitchen space? LG Studio's InstaView Refrigerator lets you keep an eye on what you’ve got stocked, and comes with nifty bonuses like the Craft Ice™ feature (it makes slow-melting round ice for all your favorite bevs) and a Measured Fill water dispenser that lets you select the exact amount of filtered water in ounces (no measuring cup needed!).

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • gandalf
  • Neil Hunt
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Maki Yazawa

Written by: Maki Yazawa

Food Writer & Recipe Developer


gandalf December 9, 2020
"unlike honey, preservative-free maple syrup can begin to grow mold . . . ." I saw some sort of powder-like substance on the maple syrup in my pantry, and wondered what it was. Now I know, and will store my maple syrup in the refrigerator henceforth!
Neil H. December 8, 2020
To improve that banana advice I wld add -if they ripen when you've many left, place 'em in one of those sturdier, thicker white/off white plastic shopping bags. Store in refrig. Then when using you can ignore browng/blackening, as you'll find a good firm, full flavored 'nana under the discolored peel! Nicely ready for - if you share my taste- slapping on or between hearty type bread/toast & adding almond or peanut butter dash of cinnamon! Yum!
Cpoint December 8, 2020
Keep bell peppers fresh for two weeks by wrapping loosely in paper towel and placing in a roomy plastic
Container with lid and store in refrigerator. Works well with bell peppers that have been partially used. Just replace the paper towel
with fresh one each day.
Sue December 8, 2020
Brown sugar if kept in the fridge in a resealable container will stay as moist as when you opened the package.
Terry B. December 8, 2020
My flour has never gone rancid. I did however, find the seal wasn't working on my containers as I had thought. Remember when it was almost impossible to find flour, and slowly it started coming to the stores? I bought a bag of organic KAF AP flour. It was my counter for about half a week, waiting for me to make a sourdough starter. I went to open the bag and grain bugs went scurrying. I bought another bag of flour, put in my flour canister and started my sourdough. I also bought an extra bag, it was in my pantry. After about a month of feeding my sourdough 2 x a day, I was going to feed it and it had grain bugs. My husband looked in my canister of flour, full of grain bugs. We've been dealing with these things since late June, early July. I called Orkin last week. He didn't have anything to spray in cabinets, which I don't like the thought of anyway. He gave us a bunch of sticky traps, so far only 1 bug. We've only seen 1 other in my pot. Disgusting little bugs. All my flour is in the freezer that is unopened, otherwise, plastic airtight containers, brand new...ugh
Ray R. December 10, 2020
To keep bugs out of flour, cornmeal etc. put a couple of bay leaves in bag.
Terry B. December 10, 2020
Don't bay leaves completely change the taste of the flour? I've always thought bay leaves were strong, so I don't cook with
KLS December 10, 2020
I have birds, hence bugs almost perpetually. All things go into the freezer for at least 24 hours; that kills the existing bugs (I know, just don't think about it). Flour, pasta, cereal, grains, beans all live in the freezer always.
Terry B. December 10, 2020
I was told the freezer would kill the existing bugs, however, it doesn't kill the eggs. It takes a much longer time, or an airtight container to kill the eggs. I think that's how it goes, don't quote me, as I could very well be wrong!
Elaine L. December 13, 2020
Bay leaves are full of vitamin C. They have anti-viral properties and are wonderful for the immune system. I know they are full flavor but so beneficial to the body.
susie December 31, 2020
What a discouraging experience! I've had that in the past but not in several years. I'm so glad I haven't had that problem as I keep my flours in a pantry. You might try putting in a bay leaf or two into your flour sack or container. See if it helps. Otherwise, check the date for freshness on the bag. I'd bring it back to the store for a refund too.
Terry B. December 31, 2020
I had some in a pantry. I didn't have the receipt, this was after I'd opened my canisters and my sourdough container and found the bugs, I tossed the flour....not going there. Also, the store I purchased them from is not accepting returns due to covid. My gosh am I careful on what I buy from them! If my flours aren't in their airtight containers, they're in the freezer! I looked last time I was at the grocery store for bay leaves. Nothing. No Nutmeg either. am I supposed to bake if I don't have everything I need? *sigh*
mecollins1 December 8, 2020
You forgot..keep flour in the freezer..VERY IMPORTANT, otherwise it goes rancid after a few days in the cupboard.
Margie December 8, 2020
Basil HATES the cold. Trim the bottom of the stems then put in a glass with some water. Cover Loosely with a large plastic bag. Leave on the counter changing the water daily. Margie 🌻
Christine C. December 8, 2020
Pure maple syrup should be kept in the freezer. It won't freeze, so you can take it out and pour out how much you need and return to freezer. It can be kept in the freezer for a long time. Also, when you get a new bag of flour, you should freeze it for awhile to kill off any meal worm eggs.
Terry B. December 10, 2020
I haven't had meal worms in over 37 years. Grain bugs though, dealing with those now! Flour goes into the freezer as soon as I bring a bag home and it's not going into my canister! I bought all new canisters, so no bugs in my flour! Just in my pots and pans, sheet pans, mixing bowl, crawling on the counter randomly...yuck
susie December 31, 2020
That IS yuck. Golly, you've got to find out why that is happening!
Terry B. December 31, 2020
I wish I knew. My husband found some in the basement! I loathe pesticide, however, to get rid of them in the basement? Unfinished, we only store decorations down there, paint, items like that, he can spray. I only buy 1 brand of flour, never another. They're going in at the store or a warehouse? I don't know, you're right though. It IS yuck!
JOE R. December 8, 2020
I always freeze my homemade breads not consumed immediately. For English muffins and bagels, I cook to 180F and find the chewiness a nice texture. For loaf bread, 190F. Once thawed, my loaves will last a couple of weeks in the fridge but are a bit drier toward the end (which is a good time to make croutons).
Jwdvm December 8, 2020
Basil will turn black.