Last Updated: May 23, 2022

Do Pickles Go Bad? Is It Safe to Eat Past Their Expiry Date?

do pickles go bad

Are you worried about your favorite dill pickles going bad? Or are you looking for the signs to tell you that your pickles have gone bad?

Today, we are going to answer the following questions that you might have:

Can Pickles Go Bad? 

Pickling has been a go-to method for preserving every kind of food from generation to generation. But still, everybody will answer this question differently.

Pickles do eventually go bad, but you will have plenty of time to finish the jar of pickles before they go bad. If they’re adequately sealed, you can even eat them 1-2 years before expiration. And this is possible because of the pickling process that starts.

  • placing the cucumbers into a sterile jar
  • filling the jar with brine (a mixture of salt, water and vinegar)
  • giving it an airtight sealing for about 48 hours.

The longer you put an airtight seal, the tastier the pickles will be. However, due to this process, bacteria can’t make the pickle go bad for quite a long time.

So, though it’s highly unlikely pickles can go bad if you-

  • keep them stored longer than 2 years.
  • Don’t reseal the jar properly after opening it.

How Long Do Pickles Last?

The time frame varies depending on the type of pickle. Pickles can be homemade or store-bought: pasteurized or unpasteurized.

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Though everyone has a different estimate regarding the shelf life of pickles, every jar of pickles comes with a “best by” date. You can assume that the quality of the pickles will remain the best till their “best by” date. But if the pickle jar is unopened, the pickles will stay fresh even after that date. 

Just make sure every cucumber is properly submerged in brine; otherwise, the quality of the pickles will decline.

tips icon Quick Reminder : The pickles will become sour the longer they are stored.

How Long Do Unopened Pickles Last?

Pasteurized UnopenedBest-by+ 3 months 
Unpasteurized Unopened Not SafeBest-by+ 3 months

How Long Do Pickles Last Once Open?

Pasteurized OpenedNot SafeUp to 3 months
Unpasteurized OpenedNot SafeUp to 3 months

How Long Do Homemade Pickles Last?

Homemade UnopenedAround one yearAround 1 year
Homemade OpenedNot SafeUp to 2-3 months

Do Pickles Expire?

Let me cut to the chase: after opening a jar of pickles, your pickles will last for up to two years if you store them correctly in the fridge in an airtight jar. Otherwise, your pickle will go bad and expire.

How to Tell if Pickles Have Gone Bad?

The following 8 indications will tell you that your pickles have gone bad:

  • Bad Smell
  • Change of Color
  • Change in Taste
  • Change in Brine/Vinegar Texture
  • Bubbling in the Jar
  • Bulging Lids
  • Spots
  • Growth of Molds
variety of pickle jars
Image credit: Monticello, Shutterstock

Now, let’s get a deeper look into all of these.

  1. Bad Smell

Suppose your pickles have a foul odor, i.e., an unpleasant, rotten solid smell. In that case, it means they’re going through the fermentation process. You should discard the pickle at this stage because fermented pickles can cause health issues.

  1. Change of Color

If you see that the color of pickles has changed, be sure that they have gone bad. A color change can indicate the presence of fungus.

Also, if you notice a line on the top of the pickles, immediately throw them away. Because regardless of the ingredients, fresh pickles don’t form any coating.

  1. Change in Taste

If your pickles taste too sour due to storing them for a long time or if they taste bitter and have a different flavor, it’s best not to use them.

  1. Change in Brine/Vinegar Texture

By carefully looking at the texture of the brine or vinegar, you can tell whether your pickles have gone bad or not. When pickles are fresh, the solution inside the jar has a thick texture. So, if the texture becomes watery or thin, throw the pickles away because your pickles have gone bad.

  1. Bubbling in the Jar

If there are bubbles in the canning jars and no one has shaken them, this is a red flag that the pickles are bad.

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  1. Bulging Lids

If you see bulging lids in the storeroom, your jar of pickles has already been contaminated. When there is too much acid in the pickles, it creates pressure on the jar lid, resulting in a screwed lid.

  1. Spots

Unless you don’t use any black pepper in your pickles, there shouldn’t be any black or brown things in your pickle jar. And if you see any dark spots or brown floating particles, know that your pickles have gone bad because these can indicate a fungal infection.

  1. Growth of Molds

When you keep your pickles in a warm place, you may notice mold growing in them. So, if you see mold on the surface of the pickles, it means the pickles have spoiled, and you should discard them. 

How to Store Pickles?

  1. Unopened Pickles

You can store unopened pickles in the pantry in a cool, dry, dark place or in the fridge. Make sure to seal the jar tightly so that no air can go in. You can keep the pickles fresh for up to 2 years past the expiration date.

And it’s absolutely fine not to put unopened pickles in the fridge.

2. Opened Pickles

Once you’ve opened the pickle jar, keeping it at room temperature is unsafe. You must keep the opened pickles in the fridge in an airtight container and ensure that all the cucumbers are soaked in brine. Otherwise, pickles might grow mold or darken after some time. To soak them properly, you can use a fork to submerge them in the brine.

3. Pasteurized pickles

They can be kept at room temperature as the pasteurization process stops fermentation by killing all the bacteria inside the jar. So, you can easily keep an unopened pasteurized pickle jar in the pantry away from sunlight and heat. After opening the jar, you need to place it in the fridge and seal it tightly.

4. Unpasteurized pickles

In the case of unpasteurized pickles, they always need to be refrigerated because the fermentation process is still ongoing in the jar. And refrigerating the pickles will slow down the fermentation, which isn’t possible if you keep them at room temperature. Just remember to seal it tightly after opening it.

tips icon Info : Unpasteurized pickles can become sourer with time.

tips icon Tip : Remember to use clean utensils instead of fingers to take the pickles out of the container to keep the pickles fresh for longer. Using your fingers can contaminate the pickles.

Do Pickles Need to Be Refrigerated?

If the jar of pickles is unopened, it doesn’t need to be refrigerated. But suppose you don’t put the opened pickle jar in the refrigerator and keep it at room temperature. In that case, the fermentation process will speed up. As a result, pickles will become sour quickly. They might become too sour within a week or two.

So, opened pickles need to be refrigerated to slow down the fermentation and prevent them from becoming sour faster.

Can You Freeze Pickles?

It’s unnecessary to freeze pickles as they already have an extended shelf life. Also, if you thaw frozen pickles, they become gristly and rubbery.

women looking into refrigerator
Image credit: Ellyy, Shutterstock

However, cucumbers can be frozen if you want to make pickles out of them in the future.

A Quick Review

  • Pickles are safe to consume years past their expiration date.
  • Unopened pickles jar should be placed in a dry, cool, and dark place.
  • You should always store opened pickle jars in the fridge.
  • You should permanently seal the jar tightly.
  • Make sure to submerge all the cucumbers properly.
  • Pickles become sourer over time.
  • If pickles smell, look, or taste bad, discard them.

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