Pecans are a yummy treat with their rich, buttery flavor and health benefits. But did you know that pecans go bad?

Whether you've just harvested pecans from your own backyard, purchased fresh nuts from a local pecan farm, or even picked a bag up at the grocery store, proper storage is essential to maintain their freshness and flavor over time.

Made up of ⅔ oil, the shelf life of pecans should be treated the same as you would dairy or meat to make sure the nuts stay fresh and delicious as long as possible. Here are some valuable tips on how to store pecans properly and guarantee the best flavors all year long.

Clear plastic bag of raw pecan pieces on a wood table

Differentiating Between Good and Bad Pecans

Infographic comparing good vs. bad pecans

Before we dive into proper pecan storage techniques, it's important to know how to tell the difference between good and bad pecans. Fresh pecans have a distinct aroma, characterized by their sweet, nutty scent. They should have a firm, almost crunchy texture and a rich golden or amber color. On the flip side, bad pecans may show signs of spoilage, such as a rancid smell, a shriveled appearance, or a soft and rubbery texture. And if you’re daring enough to taste some, it’s likely a bit bitter and honestly, gross. If you come across any pecans with these characteristics, it's best to throw them out.

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Proper Pecan Storage Techniques

Infographic explaining pecan storage techniques

Store in a Cool Place: Pecans are sensitive to heat, so it's important to store them in a cool location. Ideally, choose a spot where the temperature stays between 32°F (0°C) and 50°F (10°C). Avoid exposing pecans to direct sunlight or placing them near sources of heat, such as stoves or radiators.

Optimal Humidity Levels: Pecans also require proper humidity levels to stay fresh. They prefer dry, cool spaces, so aim for a relative humidity of around 45% to 55% to prevent the nuts from drying out. To maintain consistent humidity, you should consider using airtight containers or resealable bags.

Use Airtight Containers: When storing pecans, use airtight containers or vacuum-sealed bags to minimize exposure to air. Because of their makeup, oxygen can cause the pecans to turn rancid more quickly. Make sure that your containers are clean, dry, and odor-free to avoid any transfer of unwanted flavors.

In-Shell Pecans: If you’ve purchased fresh pecans from the farm and are still fully enclosed in their shell, in-shell pecans can be stored for six months to a year as long as their kept in a dry, cool place.

Shelled Pecans:

  • Refrigeration: For short-term storage, pecans can be stored in the refrigerator. If kept cool enough and properly sealed, pecans can last up to nine months in the refrigerator. Place pecans in airtight containers or resealable bags before storing them in the refrigerator.
  • Freezing: For longer-term storage, storing pecans in the freezer is an easy way to ensure fresh pecans all year long. Pecans can be thawed and refrozen repeatedly without losing flavor or texture. Pecans can last in the freezer for up to two years when sealed properly. Place pecans in freezer-safe bags or airtight containers, ensuring that all air is removed to prevent freezer burn.

Label and Date: To keep track of the pecans' storage time, label the containers or bags with the date of storage. This helps ensure that you use the oldest pecans first and maintain a rotation system to enjoy the freshest nuts.

Year-Round Availability

Fresh pecans are one of nature’s best treats, and with proper storage, you can enjoy them year-round. When you buy fresh pecans straight from the farm and follow these recommended storage techniques, you can savor the flavor and texture of fresh pecans even outside the fall harvest season. Remember to periodically check in on your stored pecans and throw away any that show signs of spoilage to avoid accidentally snacking on rancid pecans.

Photo of farm-fresh pecans