Does Olive Oil Go Bad?

Does olive oil go bad? In short, yes.

As a professional chef, I tend to receive foodie-centric gifts for birthdays, holidays and anniversaries—something I’m definitely not complaining about! But it does mean I end up with a towering collection of spice blends and tiny jars of specialty vinegars and oils. At one point, I had four bottles of premium olive oil from all over the world, all of them opened so I could report back to the gift-giver.

Of course, I have my favorite olive oil brands, and I keep a few bottles around all the time. But as anyone with an overstuffed pantry can attest, I often wonder—can olive oil go bad?

Can Olive Oil Go Bad?

Although we think of olive oil as an item with an unlimited expiration date, olive oil does go bad. The rancid oil won’t make you sick, but it can ruin your recipe by giving the dish a strange, off flavor. Ugh, rancid olive oil cake? No, thank you!

It sounds weird to think of olives as a fruit, but that’s what they are. And olive oil is made by pressing fresh olives to extract their oil, kind of like making fruit juice. That means—like fruit—olive oil can go bad.

How Long Does Olive Oil Last?

Most olive oil lasts 18 to 24 months from the date it was bottled and sealed, although extra-virgin olive oil has a shorter shelf life of around 12 months. Keep in mind that some of that time is taken up in transit and storage, so be sure to check the best-buy dates at the grocery store before you pick up a large container of olive oil.

Once you open the bottle, olive oil will expire more quickly if it’s not stored properly. It’s a good rule of thumb to use opened olive oil within 60 days, or within a year at the most. If you end up with more olive oil than you know what to do with, it might be time to get creative and use the oil around the house.

Olive oil (unopened) Harvest date + 2 years or Best-by + 3 – 6 months
Olive oil (opened) 6 – 8 months

How Do You Know If Olive Oil Has Gone Bad?

How do you know if your olive oil is bad? Catherine Ward, manager of the Taste of Home prep kitchen, says, “It’s a good idea to give opened oil the sniff test before using. If it’s been bad for a while, you’ll notice a very unpleasant smell right out of the bottle—like crayons or putty or old peanuts. Time to throw it out!”

But, she adds, it can still be rancid without the strong smell. Pour a tablespoon of olive oil in a cup and then smell. If you’re still unsure, give it a taste. If the olive oil has a flavor of fermented fruit or a greasy, unpleasant mouthfeel, then toss it out.

Keep in mind that if you see white stuff floating in olive oil, it may not be bad—just cold!

How to Store Olive Oil

Storing olive oil in a glass container near the stove is certainly convenient, but it’s not setting you up for success. Sunlight, heat and oxygen are olive oil’s enemies—they break down the oil and cause it to go rancid more quickly. The best way to store olive oil is in a bottle with a lid in a dark cupboard or pantry. Look for olive oils sold in green glass or metal containers with a tightly-fitted cap. If you want to transfer the oil to a pouring vessel, use an opaque container.

Live in a hot or humid environment? You can store olive oil in the fridge to keep it out of the elements. Of course, real olive oil will solidify at refrigerator temperatures, which can make it difficult to use on the fly. It may be best to buy it in small quantities instead of opting for a bulk container.

Is It OK to Use Expired Olive Oil?

The expiration date on your olive oil bottle doesn’t matter as much as you think, so it might still remain good anywhere from 3-6 months after. However, you still need to do a check to see whether it’s usable. Rancid olive oil won’t make you sick, but it will taste off and have a strange mouthfeel, which means that anything you use it in can also end up with the same odd taste. This can easily ruin your dish, so we don’t recommend using it.

Rancid olive oil also doesn’t have the same benefits you’d get from fresh olive oil. This is because exposure to oxygen triggers a chain reaction which breaks down the oil’s antioxidants. You should always make sure your olive oil is fresh to get all the health benefits it offers.

Lindsay D. Mattison
Lindsay is a professional chef, recipe developer, writer and developmental editor. After years of working in restaurant kitchens, she turned to writing to share her skills and experience with home cooks and food enthusiasts. She's passionate about using local, organic ingredients and teaching others how to incorporate seasonal food into their diet. Lindsay still cooks professionally for pop-up events, writes for several publications and is the co-author of two books about Ayurveda.