Do Pickles Go Bad?

If you've had pickles hanging out in your fridge for a while, here's how to tell if they're still good enough to eat.

image of a fork holding up a small pickle
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Pickles are a delicious and healthy addition to your sandwiches and burgers, or just for a quick and easy snack with a snap. But have you ever taken a bite from a pickle that just didn't taste right? We spoke with a pickle expert to find out if pickles go bad, and how to make sure you're storing them correctly.

Do pickles go bad?

Yes. Like any other food, pickles can go bad. No matter what veggie is being pickled, whether it's a classic cucumber, snap peas or even mini bell peppers, they can go bad for a couple reasons:

  • Age: Like any food, pickles won't last forever. But they may be consumed past the "Best- by" date if no signs of spoiling are present (more on that below).
  • Improper storage: If your pickles haven't been properly stored, especially after opening, this can lead to faster spoilage.

How to tell if pickles have gone bad?

Here are a few signs your pickles are a little too far gone:

  • Visible mold: This is an obvious sign that your pickles have gone bad.
  • Unusually sour taste and smell: If things smell and taste a bit more sour than usual, in an unpleasant way, this may not be a good sign. If you're not liking the taste anyway, it may be time to toss those pickles.
  • Off colors and textures: If your pickles are looking mushy with off coloring and the brine isn't looking as clear as usual, it's time to say goodbye.
  • Bulging jar: This could mean your pickles were not sealed properly and there is carbon dioxide present, an indicator that they have begun to ferment or that harmful bacteria may be present.

That being said, there haven't been any food-borne illnesses reported from commercial pickles in the U.S. for much of the past 50 years, according to the USDA. Pickled-caused food poisoning is very rare.

"With a fresh pickle like ours, if you see the top of the lid domed up or bubbled, this typically means the product has fermented and gone bad," says Eddie Andre, director of brand experience at Grillo's Pickles. "This can happen with our pickles due to temperature abuse (getting warm) or too much oxygen in the jar causing the pickles to ferment at a much faster rate. This happens because we make everything cold and fresh to order without boiling or pasteurizing our product." If your pickle juice is fizzy like soda, this also is an indicator it has begun to fermented and go bad.

How to store pickles

For fresh pickles, like Grillo's, that are carried in the refrigerated section of your grocery store, make sure they stay in the refrigerator at home before and after opening (cold temperatures prevent fermentation). "As long as the pickles are kept cold, they can last upwards of 75 days unopened in the fridge," Andre shares.

Once opened, any pickles should be stored in the fridge, submerged in brine, to maintain freshness for at least up to three months, according to the USDA. On a shelf in your refrigerator's door is a common place to store jarred items, but inside the fridge where you can ensure your pickles stay cold may be a better spot. Though it's not necessary, you can store unopened pickle jars in the fridge if you have the room, but the pantry is also just fine.

And just in case you can't eat all of your pickles in the fridge before they start turning bad, freezing them can be an option. However, Grillo's "wouldn't recommend it." Andre says, "If Grillo's freeze, they tend to become transparent and get very mushy. We do, however, encourage freezing the brine and making pickle juice pops!" (But not if your salt sensitive!)

What if I ate expired pickles?

Even if your pickles are past the marked date, as long as there are no obvious signs of spoilage, you'll likely be okay if they have been properly stored. But just because there are no visible signs of spoilage, the quality still may not be up to par with what you're used to. "We wouldn't encourage eating expired pickles because the taste alone wouldn't represent the quality of our product," says Andre.

But if you see even one of the above signs present and the pickles aren't yet past their expiration date (or if they have passed the expiration date), it may be time to toss them and make sure you adhere to proper storage guidelines for your next jar.

Bottom line

Pickles can go bad, but even so, they are rarely a cause for food safety concerns. Try and use up your pickles within three months of purchase, if you can. And be on the look out for any off colors, tastes, smells or textures—let your senses be your guide!

Now that you've increased your pickle knowledge, dredge them in a breadcrumb mix to make Oven-Fried Pickles, which pair perfectly with herby sour cream, or, if you have an air-fryer, try these Crispy Air-Fryer Pickle Chips.

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