How long does olive oil last? Can it ever really go bad? 

In this article, we cover some common questions about olive oil’s shelf life and discuss the optimal time frame to consume it. Read on to learn five common questions and answers all about the best time to buy and enjoy your olive oil for the best results.

Does extra virgin olive oil improve with age? 

When it comes to extra virgin olive oil, it has many similarities to wine: both are harvested in the fall and boast nuanced flavors and terroir. However, there is one critical difference: while wine tends to improve with age and time spent in the bottle, olive oil does not. 

We know, we know. It’s tempting to want to hang on to that precious bottle of olive oil you bought on your last trip to Italy and savor every last drop! This is one of the many myths about olive oil. But it’s important to know that olive oil does not improve with time. It’s actually the opposite: the earlier you consume it, the better and fresher it will taste. Over time, olive oil begins to oxidize and lose much of its flavor, as well as nutritional properties. In short, use or lose it!

What is the shelf life of olive oil and does it ever go bad? 

It’s generally best to consume extra virgin olive oil within 1 year of bottling, or before the expiry date on the bottle. Consuming olive oil after its expiry date may not make you sick like eating spoiled meat or milk would, but the olive oil may start to turn rancid and won’t taste the same as it did in that first year. 

Of course, this assumes that the oil was stored correctly and that there weren’t any defects at the time of bottling. 

How long does olive oil last after opening? 

Once you open a bottle of extra virgin olive oil, you should try to use it up within 2 to 3 months. This is because once opened, the olive oil gets exposed to air, which speeds up the oxidation process. 

What’s the difference between the harvest date and the best by date? 

Most olive oil bottle labels list either a harvest date or a best by date (and sometimes both). What’s the difference and how should you interpret these dates? 

It’s simple: the harvest date is when the olives were picked from the trees. This typically takes place in October, November, and December when olives are at their peak. On the other hand, the “best by” date is similar to an expiry date. It is the producer’s recommended time to consume the olive oil by. 

According to the International Olive Council, the “best by” date or “best before” date should be no more than 2 years after the harvest date, although most experts agree that 1 year is the optimal time frame. 

How do I know if my olive oil has gone bad?

Even with these recommended “use by” times, olive oil can still go rancid if not stored properly. So how do you know if your olive oil is still good? It may sound rudimentary but the best way to know is to taste and smell it. Give it a whiff and a little sip – if it smells more like crayons or putty or tastes overly bitter, sour, or metallic, then it’s probably time to throw it out and start fresh!

In conclusion, here are a few tips to remember when buying olive oil: 

  • Always check the best by dates before buying. 
  • Once purchased, use before the best by date but preferably as soon as possible. 
  • After opening, consume olive oil within 2 to 3 months.
  • Be sure to follow proper storage guidelines to safeguard your olive oil’s properties. Not sure what those are? Check out our guide on storing olive oil.