Olives are a delectable addition to any meal. From appetizers to main-dish ingredients, their popularity knows no bounds.
It’s common to see olives sitting out on a veggie tray for several hours at a party, but is that actually safe?
Generally speaking, opened jars of olives kept in glass or vacuum-sealed containers can sit out at room temperature for up to 6 months, provided that they are kept out of sunlight and remain in their brine. Unopened jars kept in a cool dark place will last for up to 18 months. However, liquid-free olive packages like those from a salad bar only last 3 to 5 days when properly stored.
Dry olives should never sit out for more than 4 hours and need storing in the fridge at all times.
Additionally, you should only keep opened jars without lids out of the fridge for a few hours before covering them with a lid or placing them in the fridge to prevent the olives from going bad or developing bacteria.
How Long Do Olives Last?
Olives stored in containers with brine, olive oil, wine, or other liquids store longer than dry variations.
In general an unopened, liquid-filled jar can keep for up to 2 years. Opened, a jar with liquid can last up to 18 months in the fridge or 6 months at room temperature if stored correctly.
Dry olives from an olive bar, cheese shop, or what have you will not last more than three days in any storage conditions. So eat them within three days of purchase.
Olives Store Well At Room Temperature
Provided the room does not climb over 75-degrees Fahrenheit, olives stored in an air-tight container with their brine can last up to six months at room temperature.
Keeping opened jars at room temperature is fine if you store them correctly.
Safely Storing Olives At Room Temperature:
- Keep the olives tightly sealed lid with a lid. Olives left out at room temperature without a lid for more than a few hours can start developing bacteria.
- Keep the olives out of direct sunlight and away from heating vents.
- Keep the olives in their brine or liquid.
There Are Exceptions For Room Temperature Storage
It’s important to note there are several caveats to storing opened olives at room temperature.
Olives with any additional ingredients, like pimentos or garlic cloves, should never be left out at room temperature for more than a few hours – the ingredients may produce bacteria or begin to deteriorate when exposed to warmer temperatures.
Keep these types of olive combinations in the fridge to prevent bacteria from growing.
Additionally, you should not keep dry olives out at room temperature, as this will shorten their three-day lifespan and can cause bacteria growth.
Olives Left Out Overnight Are Usually Safe, But You Need To Check Before Eating
If you have left olives out overnight, don’t worry; they may still be safe to eat.
If the olives were kept in their brine and in a cool location with a lid or cover on, make sure they do not smell sour or have any discoloration. If they appear normal, they are fine to eat.
However, if you leave the olives out by a heat source like the oven or heating vent, it’s better not to risk eating them as heat can contribute to bacterial growth.
You should also toss uncovered olives left out for more than a few hours.
Additionally, if the olives have any green or brown spots developing or smell musty, it’s best to throw them out, as mold may have started growing on the produce.
Olives Don’t Usually Require Refrigeration (Unless They Are Served Dry)
Olives left in their brine or liquid can stay out overnight without any problem.
In fact, olives kept in their liquid can stay out of the refrigerator for up to six months, provided they don’t get exposed to extreme heat. They do not usually need refrigeration if kept in a cool, dark place.
However, dry olives purchased without a brine or liquid cannot stay out overnight. Therefore, they need refrigerated unless you plan to eat them in the next few hours.
When Stored In The Fridge, Olives Can Last Longer
Olives stored in brine can last up to eighteen months in the fridge, provided they are continuously refrigerated.
Dry olives need keeping in the fridge from the moment they come home in order to preserve the three-day eating window.
It’s important to note that the expiry dates estimated for olives are for just olives. Olive products with additions like garlic, pimentos, or herbs generally need storing in the refrigerator to preserve them safely.
Olive Expiration Dates Aren’t An Exact Science
The actual expiration date of olives varies based on their storage. Most glass jars and metal cans of olives have a “best by date,” which the United States Department of Agriculture indicates is to “help consumers and retailers decide when food is of the best quality.”
However, that is not the same as an expiration date. Expiration dates indicate when food can become unsafe to consume, and thus, you need to pay closer attention to them on food containers.
Should You Toss Olives Past The “Best By” Date?
Closely investigate the date listed on the jar of olives. If it reads “Best by…” that means the date is more of a guideline.
After the date passes, check the olives for signs of rotting (a bad odor, mold, changes in color, etc.) before consuming them.
If the date reads “Expiration Date…” this indicates that the olives do not preserve well past the listed date.
As previously mentioned, olives appropriately stored can last anywhere from six to eighteen months in good condition.
If olives go bad before the expiration date, it generally occurs due to improper storage allowing mold to grow or the brine to evaporate.
Spotting Rotten Olives
While identifying a true expiration date for olives can be tricky, identifying rotten olives is not.
Several vital signs indicate olives are no longer safe to consume.
They include the following:
- Damage to the jar or container, including dents or rust, points to probable produce damage.
- A moldy, earthy smell comes from the jar.
- Paler colors and hues than usual.
- Changes in texture.
- Changes in flavor – especially if the olives are more sour or earthy tasting.
- Spots of green-ish mold floating in the brine or on the olives themselves.
If any of these signs appear on your olives, it’s best just to throw the jar out and head to the store for a new one.
There’s White Film In Your Jar of Olives – Are They Rancid?
If you’ve just opened your jar of olives only to gasp at the sight of white floaters circling the brine, don’t worry – it is probably not mold.
Before assuming its mold, verify that you had previously opened the olives; if so, it’s not mold.
If you have never opened the jar, it’s best to throw it out, as that indicates a damaged container.
When White Spots Aren’t Dangerous
If you have previously opened the container, don’t panic, and feel free to enjoy the olives.
When olives get exposed to air, and then the jar gets closed back up, a fermentation process can begin.
During this process, lactobacillus probiotic bacteria develop within the jar, forming into small white clumps.
The bacteria in the jar are both perfectly harmless and can help you digest food better.
However, if you don’t feel like eating the white clumps, you can remove them with a spoon or shake the jar to disperse them.
Olives And Food Poisoning
Like any fruit or vegetable, spoiled olives can cause food poisoning. However, food poisoning is more likely to occur from olives left out of a salad bar without brine or other dry-stored olives.
Exposure to warm air and bacteria can turn unstored olives into a breeding ground for e. Coli and other bacterias.
Do Olives Cause Food Poisoning?
While unlikely if olives have been cured and stored correctly, cases of food poisoning from olives do occur.
If jars are not completely sealed or have been exposed to bacteria from something like bacteria from unwashed hands, consuming them can cause food poisoning or other food-borne illnesses like botulism.
Signs of food poisoning to watch out for include:
- Upset stomach.
- Stomach cramps.
If signs of food poisoning occur in family members, especially children, it’s essential to contact the family doctor and monitor the illness, as it can become quite serious.
7 Best Storage Practices For Olives
Correct storage of olives can extend their shelf life and reduce the chances of food poisoning or mold growth in the product.
Proper storage of olives also helps to maintain their texture, flavor, and overall appearance.
So what are the best ways to store olives?
1.Use Their Original Container When Possible
Olives that come in resealable jars do best in their brine, with as little introduction to the open air as possible.
Switching containers could introduce foreign bacteria or mold spores if the container is not clean.
2.Always Wash Your Hands Before Removing Any Olives From The Jar
Clean hands are less likely to add bacteria to the storage unit.
3.If A New Container Is Necessary, Keep Olives Vacuum Sealed Or In An Air-Tight Container
The less time you expose olives to the air, the less fermentation they will undergo when stored.
You can use water-proof zip lock bags, glass jars, or Tupperware to keep olives in the fridge.
4.Keep Olives In Their Liquid
The liquid olives arrive in is essential to keeping them in good condition in both safety, flavor, and texture.
Regardless of if the liquid is olive oil, brine, or wine, the liquid helps preserve the olives for their full-shelf life.
To avoid reducing liquid levels in the container, use a utensil to remove olives from the jar instead of pouring the liquid out with olives into the serving bowl.
5.Do Not Add Extra Ingredients To Olives
Introducing foreign ingredients to olives often introduces bacteria or mold that can develop into food poisoning, causing colonies.
6.Keep Unopened Olives In A Cool, Dry Place
It is essential that the storage location stays below 77-degrees Fahrenheit and above freezing.
7.Keep Opened Olives In The Fridge
Unless the producer specifies otherwise on the product label, the refrigerator is an optimal, temperature-regulated storage area for olives.
Follow any producer instructions on the product label for optimal results.
Best Practices For Freezing Olives
Individuals looking to save olives often wonder if they can keep them in the freezer. The answer is yes, you can freeze olives, but it isn’t as simple as throwing a jar of brined olives into the freezer.
To freeze olives with optimal results, follow these steps:
- Remove olives from their brine.
- Rinse olives in a colander with cool water
- Dry thoroughly – excess water will cause olives to defrost into a slimy mess.
- Once dry, store the olives in a freezer-safe container. Leave at least a ¼ inch between the olives and the lid to prevent the olives from sticking.
- Place the olives in the freezer. Pro tip: After sticking the olives in the freezer for thirty minutes, shake the container. This step prevents the olives from bunching up as much. Return to the freezer immediately after shaking.
Keep in mind that once the frozen olives have thawed, you should not attempt to refreeze them. Your frozen olives will last up to six months in the freezer.
Typical Olive Storage And Preservation Methods
Preservation Of Olives
How producers preserve their olives can drastically change their shelf-life longevity – there are two main types of preservation: liquid and dry-preserved.
Liquid-preserved olives are kept in a brine of salt and water, red wine, or olive oil. Dry-preserved olives are rubbed in salt and left to dry for a month before packing.
Preservation Methods Change The Shelf-Life Of Olives
The preservation of olives generally occurs through the curing process. The process also plays a role in creating a distinctive texture and flavor of the olives.
All liquid preserved olives last up to two years unopened and up to six months opened with proper storage.
Dry-cured olives can store unopened for about two years, but they can only last about five days after you open the packaging.
The type of preservation olives undergo varies based on their desired flavor and region instead of a desire for lengthier preservation periods.
Common olive variations and their preservation methods include:
Kalamata olives originate from Greece. They are purple in color with a fruity flavor. Usually, Kalamata olives cure in red wine or olive oil.
Originating from Spain, Manzanilla olives are light green colored and have a smoky flavor. These are usually the type of olives stuffed with pimentos.
Castelvetrano olives originate from Italy. They have a mild, sweet flavor obtained from stripping bitterness away with lye. The olives are generally stored in brine.
A U.S. favorite, mission olives are, for the most part, a California product. They have a mild flavor and usually cure well in olive oil or brine.
Another Italy-borne olive, gaetas are purple and have a tart, citrus flavor. They often cure in brine for a plump texture or through a dry-curing process for a chewy texture.
Glass jars are typical containers for olives. They do not impact the taste of the brine or olive and allow for easy viewing of the product.
If olives come in a glass jar, there is no need to switch containers for long-term storage.
Metal cans are standard containers for mission olives. While an inexpensive storage solution for grocery stores, metal cans do not work well for the long-term storage of olives once opened.
You’ll want to place opened olives into a resealable container for better preservation after opening a metal can.
Many olive manufacturers use plastic jars or containers for their products. If the plastic container has a resealable lid, it works just fine for long-term storage of olives after opening.
The Health Benefits Of Olives Do Not Reduce If Olives Sit Out
Olives of all variations have high quantities of vitamin-e and studies show that olives have heart-health benefits.
Additionally, olives have antioxidant properties and healthy fats essential to a Mediterranean diet.
The USDA notes that canned goods “should still be wholesome if not exhibiting signs of spoilage.” if past the best by date.
Olives provide a delicious, long-lasting snack for any kitchen. As long as olives stay in their brine, they can sit out at room temperature for several months.
For longer-lasting olives, store them in the fridge or freezer. And, always remember that dry olives have a three-day shelf-life, so eat up. Enjoy!
My name is Keren Tayler. I am a stay-at-home mama to three lovely girls, Sarah + Rachel + Hannah. Prior to becoming a mom, I had a successful career in the accounting field, steps away from becoming a CPA. I decided to give up on my career in order to raise my own kids (as opposed to letting a nanny do it, no judgment here :)) I learned a lot and I love sharing it with other moms. Along the way, I also became a Certified Food Handler.