Many people buy cashews to use in a recipe or try a nutritious snack for the first time, but they may open the package and then forget about it. When you find those cashews later, can they still be used? You may notice that the label says to eat them within a few weeks, but what happens after that time? Read on to learn more about storage, shelf life, and expiration of cashews.
Can Cashews Go Bad?
Though they are called nuts, cashews are actually the seed of cashew apples. However, they contain a large amount of oil like many other nuts do, meaning they can go rancid at some point. In order to be safe to consume, cashews must be removed from their shell, which contains potentially toxic substances. Even when you buy raw cashews, they have undergone a cooking process to ensure this substance is no longer present. This means that when you buy raw cashews, they are not in a shell, which leaves them without the natural protection other nuts may have.
When exposed to heat, sunlight, or air, cashews can go rancid in a short amount of time. In addition to this change, raw cashews can also lose their creamy taste and nutritional value.
Storing Cashews Safely
Until a package of cashews is opened, they can sit safely in a room temperature space, as long as it is dark and not next to a source of heat. However, once they have been exposed to air, room temperature will only maintain the nut quality for a short time. Refrigerating or freezing raw or roasted cashews can help them last much longer, but it is important to make sure they are sealed tightly as the nuts can absorb moisture and odors from their environment.
Once you have opened the package of cashews, the first thing you can do to maintain their freshness is to transfer the nuts to an airtight plastic container or freezer bag in order to minimize exposure to the air. If they came in a jar or can that can be resealed, this can serve the same purpose.
Identifying Rancid Cashews
First of all, it is important to know that rancid does not mean the cashews are necessarily unsafe to eat. Rancid simply means that the smell and/or taste of something is no longer pleasant. However, that still means you should dispose of your cashews as they will no longer be enjoyable or as nutritious as fresh cashews.
The first sign of cashews that are no longer good is mold growth. This is particularly common when the nuts have been in the pantry for a long time. If there is any sign of mold, you should discard the entire package immediately. You may also notice visible signs of deterioration, such as a shriveled or darkened appearance. Completely dried out nuts are also past their prime and should be thrown out.
If there are no visible issues, you may taste a cashew to determine if it is still good. Fresh raw cashews have a creamy taste, but over time they may become bitter, which is a sign they are rancid. The smell may also convey this change.
Shelf Life of Cashews
The type and amount of cashews you buy can determine what the shelf life may be. For example, raw cashews bought in bulk can last for about a month in a dark, cool pantry, and up to 6 months in the refrigerator. For storage past this time period, they can be frozen.
Most pre-packaged cashews will come with a best-by date on the package you can use for guidelines. Depending on the seller and manufacturer, the average time period here is six months to a year. Keeping the package unopened until that date will allow you to eat them at that time. Once they have been opened, the nuts can stay fresh for about two weeks in the pantry, or one month in the refrigerator.
The quality of your raw cashews over time will depend on the quality they are received in. It’s important to begin with fresh, naturally processed cashews. At Beyond the Nut, our locally sourced cashews are organic, fair trade, non-GMO, vegan, and gluten-free and can be bought in bulk or in smaller packages to meet your storage needs.