How to Store Olive Oil the Right Way, According to Experts

Learn how to avoid common mistakes and store your olive oil properly. Your taste buds—and your wallet—will thank you.

We all know olive oil is a healthy kitchen staple. Over time, however, it will deteriorate and turn rancid. Learning how to store olive oil properly will save you money and eliminate food waste. We went to the experts to find out how to store olive oil to keep it flavorful and fresh for as long as possible. Here are some more healthy oils you should keep in your pantry.

Why It Matters

Katerina Mountanos is an olive oil sommelier (yes, that’s a thing!) and the founder of the Greek extra virgin olive oil company Kosterina. She says, “Olive oil is literally juice from the olive fruit so, like other fruit juices, it can turn rancid if not stored properly.”

No one wants that! Not surprisingly, rancid olive oil will ruin the aroma and flavor of anything you make.

If you don’t know how to store olive oil correctly, there will be other problems, too. “With olive oil specifically, so much of the health benefit comes from the polyphenols and monounsaturated fats,” Katerina says. “These begin to break down and release free radicals when they interact with oxygen or sunlight.”

This is what makes olive oil extra virgin.

How Do You Know If Olive Oil Has Gone 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, as Catherine says, “buh-bye!”

Don’t be surprised if tasting olive oil makes you cough, though. Katerina says a true extra virgin olive oil reveals fruit and vegetable flavors when you swirl it around in your mouth. You should expect a peppery taste in the back of your throat and that it’s normal to cough when you swallow it. In fact, according to Katerina, premium olive oils are classified as, “one-cough, two-cough or three-cough oil.”

Here are more tips for how to find the best olive oil (and skip the fake stuff).

How Long Does Olive Oil Last?

It depends. Kosterina (and other premium olive oils) will usually have a harvest date on their bottle. According to Katerina, these olive oils will last two years from the harvest date if unopened. However, other olive oils may simply list an expiration date.

That time frame changes once olive oil is opened. In the Test Kitchen, Catherine says, “Using your oil within three to six months of opening will give you the freshest oil.” Katerina even suggests sticking to the shorter end of that time frame to get the most enjoyment out of premium olive oil.

Learn how to use olive oil all around the house.

What’s the Right Way to Store Olive Oil?

Katerina tells us that heat, light and oxygen “are the enemies” of olive oil. You never want to store your olive oil bottle above the stove. And an opaque bottle is critical, she adds. Stay away from anything transparent.

This means if you’ve been storing your olive oil in a clear glass container next to the stove, you’ve been doing it wrong. (Guilty! It’s not the only food we’ve been storing wrong, either.) The best way to store olive oil is in a cool, dry location, away from sunlight.

If you want to put that properly stored olive oil to delicious use, learn how to make olive oil cake.

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Tamara Gane
I'm a freelance writer specializing in food, travel, family, and social justice stories. I have bylines in The Washington Post, NPR's The Salt, The Independent, Fodor's Travel, and more,