Do Pecans Go Bad? Do They Expire?

Written by: Mike Marshall
pecans on a table

A 5-pound bag of unshelled pecans? 

Sounds like a real deal.

But do pecans go bad? Can you go through the entire bag in time?

If these questions are popping in your head, then you’ve come to the right place. 

In this article, we’ll talk about everything pecan-related, from shelf life to proper storage.

Let’s jump to the point!

How Long Do Pecans Last?

If you’ve bought a prepackaged bag of pecans in a supermarket, then there’s a pretty good chance it features a “best by” date on the label. 

Now, keep in mind that this date is by no means telling you exactly when pecans will go bad. It’s more of a rough estimate of how long they’ll retain the initial freshness. 

If you keep them stored properly (and we’ll talk about that later in the article), pecans will still be edible some time after the date on the label.

Before we get into numbers, you should know that all nuts retain their quality longer unshelled. The same goes for pecans. As an outer layer, the shell keeps the nut safe from air, heat, and moisture.

When it comes to storing, lower temperatures mean longer shelf life. Unshelled pecans can remain fresh for about 4 months at room temperature if kept in a dry and dark place like the pantry.

But if you put them in the fridge, you can expect them to last as much as 18 months. 

Shelled pecans have a somewhat shorter shelf life. 

At room temperature, they’ll stay good for about 3 months or so. But if kept in the fridge, you can extend it up to a year. 

And if that’s somehow not long enough for you, you can always put pecans in the freezer. 

There, both shelled and unshelled pecans can be stored successfully for over 5 years! 

Room temperatureRefrigeratorFreezer
Unshelled4 months1.5 years5+ years
Shelled3 months1 year5+ years

How To Tell If Pecans Are Bad?

Considering they contain a high amount of plant-based oil, pecans can turn rancid when exposed to higher temperatures. 

One of the most obvious signs of rancidity is a strong odor. Fresh pecans have that pleasant nutty scent. But once they turn rancid, they smell kind of like fresh paint or nail polish remover.

As for the taste, rancid pecans are sour and bitter – in other words, unpalatable from the first bite.

If you have a bag of unshelled pecans, you don’t have to open them up to find out if they’ve gone rancid. Once the oil dries up, the kernel will dry up as well. As a result, unshelled pecans will be light, as if they’re empty inside. 

Another enemy of pecans is moisture. When kept in a humid place for too long visible signs of deterioration will appear.

First and foremost, moisture can cause the kernel to mold. If you notice that pecans have become soft and rubbery with fuzzy spots, that’s your cue to toss them away. 

The same goes for discoloration. Fresh pecans are uniform in color. So if you see dark blotches or even the whole nut turning brown, it’s no longer good to eat. 

Finally, pecans can be attacked by all kinds of pantry pests. And while most of these insects aren’t damaging to our health, they are surely not something you want to eat, are they? If you see those insects inside your pecan container, it’s best to simply throw them away. 

How To Store Pecans

pecans in a bowl

As we already established, pecans are high in plant-based oil. This means that exposure to light, air, and moisture can cause it to go rancid at a much faster pace.

Unshelled pecans already have a natural protective layer, so you can get away with keeping an opened bag around without them going bad fast.

But the best way to keep them safe from air and moisture is to transfer them to an airtight container or a releasable bag. 

What’s more, sealed packaging also keeps them safe from potential pest infestation. 

Shelled pecans are especially good at absorbing odor from their surroundings. That’s yet another reason why proper packaging is important. 

When it comes to temperature, we’ve already talked about how it affects shelf life. If you plan on going through an entire bag of pecans in the next few months, then you can keep them stored at room temperature without any problem.

But the ideal temperature for storage is around 32 degrees Fahrenheit – meaning it’s best to keep them in the fridge. Again, it’s important to store them in an airtight container, to prevent moisture inside the fridge from turning pecans bad.

If for some reason you need to extend the shelf life of pecans even further, the freezer is your best bet. At 0 degrees Fahrenheit, they can last pretty much indefinitely.

Of course, that’s given you’ve packed them up properly. This means using a releasable freezer bag. Once you fill it up, take a straw and try to remove as much air as possible. 

Thawing is necessary if you plan on grinding pecans. But if you’re using them whole in recipes, that’s not necessary. Just take them out of the fridge and use them right away.


Pecans are one of those snacks that can last you long enough to forget about them. 

When kept in a pantry, pecans last 3 to 4 months, depending on whether they’re shelled or not. 

But if you store them in the fridge, they can stay fresh for over a year. 

Alternatively, you can freeze them and preserve them for many years to come. 

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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.