How Do You Know When It's Time to Throw Out Pickles? (2024)

Once opened, these jars of pickles should be stored in the fridge, and will then follow the same guidelines as refrigerator pickles. Remember: The “use by” date is forunopened jars, so it no longer applies after you dig in.

How long do refrigerator pickles last?

Homemade refrigerated pickles last at least three to four weeks in the fridge, McClellan says. Any longer and the quality will start to decline. You’ll notice the brine goes from clear to murky and cloudy, and the pickles start to lose their texture. Starting with clean jars, bringing the brine to a boil and using heartier veggies will help you get as much time out of them as possible.

“Things like sturdy pickledcucumbers andradishes will keep longer than fragile veg likepickled red onions,” she says.

Eddie Andre, head of brand experience at Grillo’s Pickles, says their refrigerator pickles—which are packed cold, shipped cold, and sold cold—last for 75 days after manufacturing. To ensure the majority of that time is spent with the customer, they make everything fresh to order, and the cucumbers actually pickle in the jars on their way to grocery stores. In keeping with the other experts’ advice, he says the sooner they’re eaten, the better.

“Within the first two to three weeks is definitely optimal,” he says. “You’ll get the best flavor, the best crunch.”

How do you know when a pickle has gone bad?

Regardless of the type of pickle, there are a few tell-tale signs that they’ve spoiled, including that their color or texture has changed significantly from when you first bought them. (The brine might be cloudier, or the pickles much softer). Surface mold or a bad smell are additional signs the pickles should be thrown out. The fizzy brine I experienced, Smith says, was likely a sign of microbial growth.

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“A lot of times when microorganisms grow, as part of the fermentation process they produce carbon dioxide gas,” she says. “And so definitely don’t eat anything that’s discolored or fizzing.”

Note that in the case ofintentionally fermented products that have been preserved by bacteria, such askimchi andsauerkraut, fizzing is okay.Certain types of pickles, such as kosher dills, full sours, and half sours, are also fermented, meaning their acidic flavor comes from bacteria breaking down sugars rather than a vinegary brine.

A bulging lid is also a sign of spoilage, which Andre says Grillo’s experiences when their pickles aren’t kept cold.

“If it gets warm, it speeds up that fermentation process and it will start to get that fermented fizziness,” he says. “A lot of the pressure in the jar will build up and it will cause the lid to dome up, almost like it’s going to explode.”

What’s the best way to prevent pickles from spoiling?

If you’re making pickles from scratch, the first step is to choose a recipe with a one-to-one ratio of water to vinegar, since the vinegar’s pH helps prevent pathogens from growing, Smith says. The vinegar should also have a5% acidity.

The next step is filling the jars to the very top with brine. While this makes for a somewhat messy experience for customers, Andre says it’s essential to keeping their pickles crisp. Laing agrees, adding that submerging pickles in brine protectsthem against mold and bacteria.

Refrigerated jars need to be stored at 40°F or colder, and should be kept clean and tightly shut. McClellan suggests using a paper towel to wipe away bits of spice or pickle that have dried out on the rim, which can more readily introduce spoilage.

Lastly, practice “good pickle jar hygiene” when removing the pickles from the jar, McClellan says. While sticking your fingers into the brinelikely won’t do much harm (the pickle brine doesn’t create a hospitable environment for microbes), it’s still best to useclean utensils or just-washed hands to avoid any contamination.

If all this talk of pickles has you craving a crunchy spear, usethis easy formula to pickle virtually any veggie. Or, take the even easier route andstart with leftover pickle brine.

How Do You Know When It's Time to Throw Out Pickles? (2024)


How Do You Know When It's Time to Throw Out Pickles? ›

Please do not eat the bubbling dill pickles with white film in the jar. These pickles are spoiled and only a microbial analysis can tell what is spoiling them and whether it is harmful. Growth of either bacteria or yeast can produce gas. Growth of bacteria, yeasts and/or molds can cause the film.

How do you know if pickles are rotten? ›

If it feels very soft and mushy, or the texture is different than usual, they're definitely not safe to eat. If you're ever unsure or if you feel like your pickles might be bad, it's always better to err on the side of caution. Remember, to avoid foodborne illness — when in doubt, throw it out.

What do pickles look like when they go bad? ›

If the pickles have gone bad, both the pickles themselves and the brine will be discolored and/or cloudy. Murky-looking brine and dull, brown, or faded-looking pickles are not safe to eat. Visible mold on pickles: If you see any mold on the pickles or floating in the brine, they have gone bad and are unsafe to consume.

How do you know if pickles are bad with vinegar? ›

If the pickles are soft, they are spoiled from the yeast fermentation. Don't use them. Using too weak a salt brine or vinegar solution may cause soft or slippery pickles, as can using moldy garlic or storing the pickles at too warm a temperature. These pickles are spoiled and should be discarded.

When should you throw out pickles? ›

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.

When should you not eat pickles? ›

And they're high in sugar. Because of their high levels of sodium, people who have heart issues should generally steer clear of pickles. “If you have high blood pressure or any cardiovascular or heart health issues, then pickles are not the best choice,” Peart shares.

What does a bad jar of pickles look like? ›

Pickles can go bad if not properly stored, so look out for the following signs to see if your pickles have spoiled: Visible mold. Discoloration of brine or pickles. A bad smell when opening the container.

Are 2 year old pickles still good? ›

An unopened jar of pickles can be stored at room temperature (i.e., the pantry) or in the fridge for up to two years past the expiration date. Once opened, pickles will stay fresh for roughly the same length of time as long as they are stored in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container.

What does botulism look like in pickles? ›

In any type of pickle you have placed into a jar, a bulging lid is a sign of spoilage and possibly botulism. If you see this, discard the pickles, regardless if they smell bad or not. This is due to the gas given off by the bacteria.

How can you tell if pickle juice is bad? ›

If the juice turns cloudy, or if it develops an off smell or taste, it's time to discard it. Also check for bubbles or fizziness, this signals that it's fermenting, which is not desirable in pickle juice. Always make sure to use a clean spoon when scooping out pickle juice.

Can bacteria grow in vinegar in pickles? ›

Yes, they can, but would need anaerobic conditions. Many anaerobic bacteria, like Clostridia, can growth using acetic acid (the mean component in vinegar) as carbon and energy source.

Why do pickle jars not say pickle on them? ›

Because we pack our products in a glass jar, consumers can see that the jar contains pickles,” a Mt. Olive spokesperson tells “Consequently, we use the front label to focus on the variety — the cut and flavor — of the pickle inside the jar.

How do you know if pickles are fermented? ›

To determine if a pickle is fermented, you can check the label for ingredients. Fermented pickles will not include vinegar in their ingredients list but will include salt. They are often labeled as “lacto-fermented” or “naturally fermented.”

Can you eat 30 year old pickles? ›

An unopened jar of pickles should be OK for years. If it wasn't well packed, or the jar has been opened, it's still safe to eat, indefinitely. The salt and acid will no allow the growth of harmful bacteria, but the pickles will lose their shape and texture.

Can pickles go bad if left out? ›

Like most other foods, pickles should be left out on the counter for no more than two hours. Despite being preserved in brine, bacteria can still form in the pickle jar. Even in two hours, pickles' texture can start to change. Warm temperatures cause pickles to soften and lose their crunchy texture.

How long should pickles sit before eating? ›

Be patient.

Vinegar-preserved pickles may also need time: most refrigerated pickles taste best if they sit for at least 2 days, and processed pickles generally want to be stored a few weeks before they're open so that they fully develop their flavor.

What happens if I eat bad pickles? ›

Eating spoiled pickles can expose one to harmful bacteria that potentially cause serious foodborne illnesses. Paramount recognition of bacterial growth and associated symptoms is essential for the consumer's safety.

How can one check spoilage of pickles? ›

Regardless of the type of pickle, there are a few tell-tale signs that they've spoiled, including that their color or texture has changed significantly from when you first bought them.

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