Does Olive Oil Go Bad?

By Bill Bradley, R.D.
Updated April 29, 2022

First, before we get into the bad, let’s look at the good.  A really good olive oil can taste mild and buttery or it can be pungent and grassy.  These are the flavors that will make you moan with ecstasy when you are making pesto, dressings or just pouring extra virgin olive oil onto your vegetables and/or bread.  The best oil is worth it’s weight in liquid gold, because not only will it make your food delectable, but it is also a powerful tool for your body.  So, does olive oil go bad?

Does olive oil go bad?

The simple answer is yes, but it takes time and chances are you will use it long before it’s actually turned.  I have only seen it happen once and it was olive oil I had given to my Mom.  She opened it up, put it in the fridge and never used it.  Three years later, I opened it because I was going to cook something and found that it had gone rancid.  You will know when any olive oil has become unusable, because the rancid smell will make it very clear.  Even if olive oil is slightly rancid you will know, it will smell foul and pungent.  It will ruin anything you try to cook it with.  Once an olive oil has gone bad, it’s time to throw it out.

The best olive oil

The Olive Oil Times says that an unopened bottle of extra virgin olive oil will last two years, but once it is opened it should be used within a few months.  

Our recommendation at Mediterranean Living is to use it as quickly as possible, because the fresher it is, the healthier it will be for you.  A very fresh olive oil will have a peppery after flavor to it that will cause a slight to strong burn in your throat.  The chemical that causes this peppery burn mimics the chemical in ibuprofen and reduces inflammation.  This is found only in the freshest of olive oils.  So, it is highly recommended to eat olive oil when it is fresh, and to use it quickly.

Here are a few suggestions for a fresh, healthy extra virgin olive oil:

Don’t buy your olive oil until you are almost finished with your current bottle.  Olive oil is not something you want to purchase and let sit.  Buy your olive oil only when you are going to start using it soon.

Buy a really high quality, fresh olive oil.  There is a lot of fraud in the olive oil industry and some olive oils can be slightly rancid when you purchase it.  A few olive oils that have proven that they are fresh, worthy olive oils:  Costco Kirkland Organic Olive Oil, Trader Joes’ Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Greece, California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  Our Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Crete also has the peppery burn and is a buttery, fresh oil.

Leave your olive oil in a cool, shady spot.  Extra virgin olive oil will oxidize quickly and lose much of its health properties if you leave it by the heat or in the sun.  Keep olive oil away from windows and away from the stove.  I use olive oil every day, every meal, so I store it on the shady part of our kitchen counter far from the stove and oven.

Store your oil in a tin or dark glass bottle.  Olive oil will stay fresher longer if you keep it away from the light (which will oxidize the oil).  Store in a dark glass bottle or wrap your clear bottle with aluminum foil or something that will keep the light out.  Tins of olive oil are fine because no light gets in through the metal.

Notice the date, but don’t worry too much about it.   Most olive oils have a “best if used by” date.  This doesn’t really tell you much and you can certainly use the olive oil after this date.  If the date on the bottle is more than a year old you probably do want to throw it out.  A better date to go by (but one that is rarely seen on a bottle) is the production date (date the oil was produced).  Again, the best policy is to use the oil as soon as you can.



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  1. Eileen Benson September 30, 2019 at 5:42 pm - Reply

    Thanks for explaining that olive oil should be stored in a cool, shady spot. I want to buy some lemon basil flavored olive oil to cook with. I’m glad I read your article and learned how to keep the olive oil from going bad!

    • Bill Bradley, R.D. October 9, 2019 at 5:45 pm - Reply

      Glad you enjoyed it!

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