Why You Should Store Nuts in the Freezer

The pantry won't protect their oils and keep them fresh.

A person preps various nuts for freezing

Natalia Kostikova / EyeEm / Getty Images

You stocked up on nuts for all your holiday cooking and baking projects, and are now left with piles of pecans, cashews and almonds. These nutrient-packed morsels are expensive, so proper storage is key to keep them tasting sweet and nutty until you’re ready to whip up a pie, brittle, pesto, cookie or snack

Nuts are loaded with healthy, yet delicate, oils that spoil over time. If you’ve ever tasted a rancid peanut, you can attest to how a once toasty, creamy nut can quickly turn bitter and acrid. Luckily, extending a nut's shelf life is easier than you think, and no special equipment is required. Here are some tips for extending the shelf life of nuts. 

What makes nuts go rancid?

The simple answer is oils. Nuts are packed with oils in the form of healthy unsaturated fats. These “good” fats have many benefits, such as lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels. However, unsaturated fats, also known as “incomplete” fats because they contain carbon bonds without hydrogen atoms, are chemically unstable, making them prone to oxidation. Exposure to oxygen causes the fats to go rancid, giving them a stale and sour taste. 

Why the freezer is best

When storing nuts, the freezer is your friend. This dark, cold space slows the deterioration of the nut’s oils, a process that directly impacts flavor. Light, oxygen, and heat are the enemies of nuts. Storing them in an airtight container in the freezer helps to limit their exposure to all three of these elements and slow the rate of spoilage. Another reason why the freezer works so well for storing nuts is the fact that nuts have a low water content, making them less susceptible to freezer burn than meats or vegetables. They can be kept in the refrigerator with many of the same benefits, but will only stay fresh for about half as long as if they were stored in the freezer. Due to their tendency to absorb odors, nuts should be kept in an airtight container away from pungent ingredients like onions and garlic. 

How long nuts last in the freezer

Whole raw nuts can be stored in the freezer for up to one year. Chopped nuts, ground nuts, or nut flours — all of which contain more surface area for oxidation — are quicker to spoil and should only be stored for up to six months. Roasting nuts, which alters the chemical structure of the oils and makes them more susceptible to oxidation, also expideates deterioration, so roasted nuts should only be stored for up to six months. The best part about storing nuts in the freezer is that there is no need to thaw them. Nuts are ready to go straight from the freezer to a salad, cookie or muffin.

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