Do Pickles Go Bad?

Many a time, you wonder why pickles are not shelf-able. Some persons prefer buying and eating them instantly. Others might want to store for a specific period of time. This leads us to the big question, “Do Pickles go bad?”

You can experiment in your home. Get pickles in different jars, have one in the refrigerator and the other on the kitchen's cupboard for at least three days. Note the differences in texture, smell, taste, and appearance.

Do pickles go bad

Yes, pickles can go bad, and that depends solely on you. The storage method you adopt speaks volumes. If you want to increase your pickle's shelf-life, you need to work on your storage technique.

Generally, pickles were meant to have a long-lasting shelf-life. They can last for as long as 1-2 years compared to the printed expiring date on jars since they are properly processed, regardless of whether they are stored in the refrigerator. Hence, pickle processing greatly influences its shelf-life.

The shelf-life of pickles

The shelf-life of pickles varies depending on various factors. If unopened, pickles can last for as long as 1-2 years. Even if opened, if stored properly, such as kept in the fridge, it still can last for about 3 months. I f your pickles are bought from the supermarket, which being pasteurized, can last over 3 months when opening.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, canning can help increase your pickles' shelf-life. One of their reports states that sealing in containers and pasteurizing under 121 °C can help inactivate enzymes and destroy micro-organism.

The signs of spoilage 

Like every other veggie, pickles get spoilt too. As explained earlier, the preparation, handling, and storage of these pickles help predict their shelf-life. Here are some common signs;

  • Smell change

A bad smell from your pickle indicates fermentation. Have it at the back of your kind that fermented pickles are not good for your health. Fermenting of pickles is allowed, but the strange smell from this process points to bacteria's activities in the pickles. This means you'd have to dispose the whole jar of pickle, which smells odor.

  • Lids Bulging

It's like to go bad if the lid is not flat but being dome-shaped. Besides, bubbles in pickles jars without shaking is a pointer to signs of spoilage. During the process of fermentation, chemicals are liberated. Too many of these acids can cause bulging lids as a result of the increase in pressure. The moment the lid could no longer accommodate this pressure, it bursts open – it's not advisable to take food items in already exposed cans/jars, and pickles are no exception!

  • Colour change

This is a much visible way to tell if a pickle is spoilt. Once the pickles' appearance has changed into brown or black, it is advisable you dispose of them immediately. This change in appearance means fungus is present, and they are injurious to health when consumed. Once they're not bright, being dull or soft, throw them away directly.

  • Texture change

Note that when preserving pickles in jars, the fluid is usually thick. However, it's a little difficult to differentiate between vinegar and brine. Nonetheless, you can if you study them closely. The texture is another excellent means of telling if a pickle is bad. The moment the fluid changes from thick to water-like/thin, it's mandatory you dispose of the jars as quickly as possible.

  • Taste change

Peradventure, the above-listed signs were not enough to differentiate the good pickles from the bad ones; you can as well taste them. If you found the pickle's taste different from the initial taste when you got them fresh, it's a pointer to spoilage. The taste becomes bitter while some become tasteless. You can differentiate by tasting pickles from 2-3 different jars, although this isn't advisable. It could have effects on your health.

  • Expiry date

Like every other canned product, pickles come with expiry dates. Manufacturers will always include the expiry date on the jars. Be sure to check before buying and after buying before consuming. Do not purchase pickles without an expiry date. It's not right, both clinically and legally.

How to prevent pickles from going bad


In other to prevent your pickles from going bad or increase their shelf life, you need to make sure you do the following:

  • Make sure you detach the ring from the jars. This will help you know when the pickles get spoilt. A broken seal won't be noticed when the rings are still on.
  • Make sure your pickles are in sealed jars.
  • Store them at room temperature, preferably a dark room.
  • For Pasteurised pickles, you need to subject them to at least a little amount of heat in other to keep them intact. Most pickles that are prevented from spoilage using this process are mostly consumed in a day or two.
  • For Unopened pickles, it's better, you only need to make sure the lids remain closed, and they are stored in a cool and dry place far from micro-organisms and the influence of bacteria.

    All these are proven methods by which you can adopt in storing your pickles and preventing them from spoilage or, as the case may be, increasing their shelf-life.

Can pickles be consumed after their expiration date 

It's not advisable to consume any food that's passed its expiry date. However, tons of questions are being asked per day if the expiry date means anything. Be sure to remember that pickles are packed in vinegar and salts. These two compounds are very strong preservatives. You can consume your pickles after expiration, provided it hasn't shown signs of spoilage. If it tastes good, smells okay, and doesn't have fungus, it's safe to eat.


Pickles are like every other food item, they can go bad. Several means could be adopted in preventing this from happening. Before considering their shelf-life, it is pertinent to take into consideration the mode of preparation. To prevent your pickles from going bad, you need to make sure you store them appropriately.

Before consuming your pickles, watch out for the taste, appearance and smell. These will help to predict if the pickles are safe to consume or spoilt. If they are to be stored in cans, make sure the cans are sealed. Whenever you're doubting if you should consume the pickles, for your healthy, toss them decisively.


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