They’ll last longer and taste fresher.
It’s not a bad idea to keep a variety of nuts and seeds on hand. They’re healthy, tasty, and useful for snacking, baking, breading, and enhancing salads. But whether you buy them in bulk bins, in the baking aisle, or online, you shouldn’t store them in your panty. Here’s why.
We all know nuts contain fat. The good news is that it’s primarily the “good” unsaturated fat that’s helpful for lowering cholesterol and keeping your heart healthy. The bad news is that these fats are delicate and can turn rancid when exposed to light, oxygen, and heat—the kind of heat that settles in your cupboards all summer. Moisture can also be a threat in humid climates.
Refrigeration—and better yet, freezing—battles each of these hazards and can slow down the deterioration of the oils so the nuts won’t spoil. As is the case with most foods you keep cold, nuts will also simply last longer at cooler temps: about 6 months in the fridge and about a year (or more!) in the freezer.
Bonus: because of all that oil, nuts are less susceptible to freezer burn. (There are two exceptions: fresh coconuts and chestnuts, which have a higher moisture content and can hold for only about 2 weeks in the fridge and should not be frozen.) Nuts and seeds are also usable right out of the fridge or freezer—no thawing required.
While eating nuts or seeds that have seen better days won’t necessarily make you sick, their assault on your tastebuds will be pronounced. Therefore, it’s also a good idea to transfer nuts into an airtight container—not store them in the bag you brought them home in—because they can pick up lingering odors in your fridge or freezer.
And if shelf life and freshness aren’t reasons enough to store your seeds and nuts in your freezer, consider this: various species of moths, beetles, and weevils love nuts as much as you do and can think of no better place to start their families.
Lest you’re left with that unwholesome image burning in your brain, here’s another tip for preserving nuts: keep them as whole as possible. Once shelled, they can lose up to 50% of their shelf life, and chopped nuts have about half the shelf life of whole, shelled nuts.