Without a doubt, all of us have a few different vegetable oils that sit in our kitchen cupboards. Obviously, some we use as a base for salad dressings while others are for frying and baking.
But there were certainly times where you noticed some of your finest cooking oils are past the date on the label, and the question naturally arose – does vegetable oil go bad?
Or perhaps you have some opened oils that you haven’t used for a while, and now you’re unsure whether to toss it or to proceed using them.
So, what is the actual lifespan of vegetable oils, and can they go bad? We took research on ourselves to bring you the best possible answers and a complete guide on how to properly store your oil, so let’s get going!
Does Vegetable Oil Go Bad?
Sadly, vegetable oils can and will go bad after some time. But it can take a few months or even years before this happens. Still, if not stored correctly, it can go rancid in no time.
Moreover, vegetable oils have a best-by-date and not use-by-date, and because of this, they are usually pretty safe to use even months past the date on the label.
Sure, there are a lot of factors that determine the vegetable oil’s lifespan. But before we discuss those factors, let’s see how long these oils last and what exactly are vegetable oils.
How Long Does Vegetable Oil Last?
Luckily, vegetable oils have a long shelf life. By long, we mean from 6 months to even 3 years of storage life!
If opened, your oil will usually last from 6 months to 1 year or so. At the same time, unopened vegetable oil can have a lifespan from 1 year to 3 years.
All vegetable oils come with a best-by-date, but that date is an estimate, and the oil can usually stay fresh for much longer. However, it is impossible to tell how long the oil will remain fresh past its expiration date because it all depends on the type of oil and quality of the fat as well as storage conditions.
Reputable brands usually produce oils that will stay fresh for a more extended period, but those oils typically cost more.
Once you open your vegetable oil bottle or container, the oxidation process will speed up a bit because of the air that got in touch with the liquid. The opened bottle of vegetable oil will degrade much faster than an unopened one.
On the other hand, oils like olive, sunflower, coconut, and EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) can last up to a few years! (2-3 years to be exact)
Nevertheless, once you open your vegetable oil, we recommend using it within 3-5 months, while it is at its peak quality.
But What Exactly Are Vegetable Oils?
Vegetable oils are extracted from a plant by using either a mill or a chemical solvent. They are often refined, purified, and sometimes chemically altered.
They don’t contain any vitamins, but they’re full of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These acids can benefit your health, and they can replace saturated and trans fats, which are unhealthy.
There are a few classes of vegetable oils, and so we have major oils (coconut, corn, olive, palm, canola, sunflower, safflower, soybean, sesame); nut oils (almond, hazelnut, walnut, pistachio, macadamia, peanut); food supplements(evening primrose oil and acai oil); other edible oils like avocado, grape seed oil, argan oil, apricot oil and many more.
How To Store Vegetable Oil?
The proper storage can make your vegetable oil go a long way. But there are definitely some essential storage factors you should consider:
1. Storage Locations
You should store your vegetable oil in a cool and dark place, like the pantry or cupboard. However, the pantry may not be the most practical place to store your oil if you use it often, so it is best to transfer it to the kitchen cupboard.
Moreover, always keep your oil away from sunlight and artificial lights, as they can speed up the oxidation process.
Keep the lid of your oil bottle or container sealed tightly after the opening, as the excess air can cause contamination and rapid oxidation.
Keep it away from the stove and humid areas.
2. Temperature Conditions
Keep your oil away from the heat sources, and places where the temperature fluctuates. Frequent temperature changes can cause your oil to go rancid faster. Room temperature is the best option.
You can also store your vegetable oil in the fridge, but some oils can become cloudy at chilly temperatures. However, when the oil reaches room temperature, its usual consistency will be restored.
But have in mind that frequent warming and cooling can degrade the quality of the fat.
Note: Always read the product’s label carefully because some oils like walnut, sesame, avocado, or flavored olive oil can become rancid very quickly; thus, they need to be refrigerated.
Signs Of Rancid Oil
Despite the fact that vegetable oils can stay fresh for a long time, they don’t have an indefinite shelf life even when unopened. After some time, the oil will start to deteriorate, and changes in taste and looks will occur. But, it is sometimes hard to determine whether the oil has gone rancid, so here are some crucial signs:
- Changes In The Color:
Firstly, examine your oil looks, and if the color is darker, it has probably gone bad.
- Changes In The Texture:
Pour a little oil between your fingers, and if it feels sticky, it is most likely gone bad and you should toss it.
- Unpleasant Odor:
Give it a good sniff, and if it has a metallic, soapy, or bitter aroma, it is definitely gone bad.
- Bad Taste:
If it has a sharp, bitter flavor and you notice that your food tastes terrible after the cooking is done, it is probably because your oil has gone bad.
Technically, the rancid oil won’t harm your health, but the flavor will not be as pleasant as it was when you bought it.
So, if you have a full bottle of oil that’s gone bad, does it mean you really have to toss it? Definitely not, as we have found alternate uses for rancid oil!
What Can You Do With Rancid Oil?
As we have already mentioned, the shelf life of vegetable oils is not indefinite. We are sure no one likes to see waste, especially when it comes to food. So here are some alternate uses for rancid vegetable oil:
- Rust Preventative And Lubricant: You can oil your squeaky hinges and tools.
- Polishing Agent: You can use it as a polisher and conditioner for wood furniture, just combine vegetable oil with some vinegar. This mixture can make scratched, old furniture look like new!
- Furniture Conditioner: Gently rub warm oil with a soft cloth into the rattan furniture to prevent it from cracking.
- Preserve Leather: You can restore leather’s suppleness and protect it from cracking and scratches.
- Lamp Oil: These lamps are straightforward to make, and they produce about the same amount of light as candles, so they’re a fantastic alternate use for rancid oils.
- Paint Remover: An effortless way to remove paint from your hands is to rub some oil on your skin, leave it for several minutes and then wash it with soap.
- Make Soap: You can make soaps for home use, or even laundry detergent.
Does Vegetable Oil Go Bad – Final Thoughts
Overall, vegetable oil can go bad, but even when opened, it can last for a few months or even a year before it goes rancid. Moreover, it can last past its best-before-date if stored properly.
Even though you’re not likely to be poisoned by rancid oil, it is best to discard it if you notice any changes in taste or appearance. However, you can always use it for other things other than cooking, like the ones we mentioned above.
When not in use, make sure that the bottle is sealed tightly to prevent oxidation and contamination. Also, make sure you store it in a cold and dark place such as a cupboard, away from light and heat. Olive and sunflower oil are best left in the pantry, while hazelnut, avocado, and sesame oils are best kept in the fridge.
Lastly, these oils are usually labeled heart-healthy and are rich in omega-6 fatty acids that can benefit your health!