Do Dates Go Bad? How To Tell If They Are Bad

Dates are the true underdog of kitchen staples. 

You can eat them on their own, or use them as the ingredient in both sweet and savory dishes.

But before you go ham and buy a 10-pound box of dates, there’s one thing to find out first – do dates go bad?

In short, the answer is yes. 

But how long they’ll last depends on a lot of factors. 

This article will cover everything, from their shelf life to storage options. 

Let’s get straight to the point!

How Long Do Dates Last?

Like any other fruit, dates will go bad in time. But how long they’ll last depends mainly on how they’re stored.

There are more than 250 date varieties in the world. They differ in flavor, sugar content, and shape, but they all have a similar shelf life.

Even when kept at room temperature, most date varieties have a shelf life of at least one to two months

One of the most common varieties that’s consumed fresh is Medjool dates. Generally, they are consumable for a little more than a month when stored in a pantry. Semi-dry varieties usually last for a few more months.

When stored in a fridge, dates last anywhere from six months to a year. That is, of course, given that the refrigerator temperature is at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Finally, you can further extend the shelf life by storing dates in the freezer. As long as they’re kept at a temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit (or lower), dates can stay fresh for many years to come. 

Room TemperatureRefrigeratorFreezer
~1 to 2 months6 months – 1 yearUp to 5 years

How To Tell If Dates Are Bad

Dates go bad in the same way other fruits do. The signs of spoilage are pretty straightforward, so it’s really unlikely you’ll ever eat a bad date by accident.

One of the first visible signs of a date gone bad is the change in color. 

Sure, there are tons of different date varieties, and they all have unique hues. 

But if you notice that your dates have turned much darker than when you first bought them, that’s a clear sign that they’ve gone bad. 

Mold formation is the most obvious sign of spoilage. But because dates have a very low moisture content, that’s not something you see too often. 

You might, however, notice a white film formed on the outside. That’s not mold, but actually crystallized sugar that reached the exterior as dates lost moisture. 

Dates are naturally sticky, but in time they’ll also turn slimy. When that happens, you know it’s time to toss them away.

As you can see, most visible signs aren’t very obvious. For that reason, you shouldn’t rely solely on appearance to figure out if dates have gone bad or not. Instead, look for other clues, such as changes in taste or smell.

When fresh, dates have a rather neutral, mild smell. But once they go bad, their odor will become very intense and off-putting. They’ll also have an alcoholic smell, caused by the fermentation of their high sugar content.

Obviously, not all date varieties taste the same. But they’re intensely sweet, with slight notes that vary from caramel to tangy. But if you notice that they’re bitter or acidic, that’s a sign they’re gone bad.

Finally, dates are juicy and will attract any potential pantry visitor. If you notice small brown specks, cut one open and check for unwanted guests. This is very likely to happen if you don’t keep the dates stored in a sealed container.

How To Store Dates

dates in a bowl

Because dates have a very low moisture content, high temperature dries them out even further. For that reason, you should never keep them close to heat sources, whether it’s the stove or the window that the sun comes through. 

If you plan on eating them in the next month or so, you can store dates at room temperature. But make sure it’s a spot that’s dry and dark, like your pantry or in the kitchen cabinet. 

Once you open the packaging, it’s important to transfer dates to an airtight container. This not only keeps them safe from pantry pests but also from air exposure. Like any other fruit, dates are susceptible to enzymatic browning caused by oxidation

The best place to store dates is your fridge. Cooler temperatures ensure dates retain their juicy flavor as long as possible. 

Again, you’ll have to keep them in an airtight container or a releasable bag. Otherwise, they’ll dry out and possibly pick up smells from other foods. Trust me, there’s nothing yummy in fruit smelling like meat or eggs. 

If you want to keep the dates fresh for a few years, freezing them is the way to go. One thing you should do beforehand is to pack them in a bag and remove all the air inside. 

The reason we do this is to prevent the possibility of freezer burn. If you own a vacuum sealer, use that instead. 

Alternatively, you can wrap the dates in aluminum foil prior to storing them in a bag.

Frozen dates need to be slowly thawed before consumption. Avoid using a microwave to defrost them, for two reasons – they might end up being hard and dry.

Conclusion

Unlike most fruit, dates have a pretty long shelf life. 

They’ll last you at least a month or so at room temperature. But if you store them in the fridge or freezer, you can use them a year later – or longer.

Just keep in mind that exposure to air, heat, and humidity can drastically shorten their shelf life. To prevent that, keep them in airtight containers in a dry and dark place.

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Author

I’m not a pro chef by any means, but years of tinkering inside the kitchen have taught me a thing or two about preparing delicious, healthy food. So whether you’re interested in how to properly store food, figuring out side dishes for your main course, or even learning how to use a knife properly – I've got you covered.