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Storage and shelf life of extra virgin olive oil

Storage and shelf life of extra virgin olive oil

Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is well known for its many health benefits – from chronic disease prevention through to general wellbeing1, but many people are surprised to learn that unlike wine, it does not get better with age.  In fact, it is quite the opposite – with extra virgin olive oil, the fresher the better! In order to get the maximum health benefits (and the best taste), it’s important to not only store EVOO correctly, but also to be aware of its shelf life.  Read on to find out best practice for storing EVOO, as well as how quickly you should aim to finish your bottle.

Why freshness matters

The fresher the olive, and the extra virgin olive oil, the healthier it is.  This is due to the antioxidants and other bioactive plant compounds naturally found in the oil.  Over time, these compounds will start to degrade2. The antioxidants and plant compounds found in EVOO are thought to be responsible for the myriad of health benefits associated with it3, so in order to get the full benefits of these compounds, freshness is key.

The taste of the oil is also affected by how fresh it is, as well as how quickly the olives were pressed to produce it.  If olives are stored for too long before pressing, they can start to ferment, which can cause defects in the resulting oil, impacting the taste4.  Even high quality EVOO will start to deteriorate once it is opened, again impacting the taste.

Shelf life of EVOO

Like all cooking oils, EVOO has a shelf life and will eventually go rancid.  The actual shelf life of the oil depends on a number of factors, including the quality of the oil and how it is stored.  Exposure to elements such as heat, air and light can cause oxidation, which speeds up the process of the oil turning rancid5.

When stored in ideal conditions, a good quality EVOO can last for up to 2 years.  These ‘ideal storage conditions’ are generally how producers store EVOO, not how we store it at home. For instance, manufacturers may store their EVOO in stainless steel tanks, in temperature-controlled environments – limiting exposure to oxygen, heat and light.

Check the best before date on your bottle of EVOO to see how long it will last unopened (it may be up to 2 years), but in general, we recommended not storing it for much more than 1 year before opening and using.

Once a bottle or tin is opened, this is when the deterioration process really starts to begin. For this reason, it’s best to try and use the oil within around 1-2 months of opening.  It won’t necessarily be rancid after this point, however using it within this time frame will make sure you are making the most of the health benefits and the delicious taste.

How to store/choose EVOO

As mentioned above, the fresher EVOO is, the healthier and tastier it will be – so follow these storage tips to get the most out of your oil.

Choose the right container

When purchasing your EVOO, choose one that comes in a dark glass bottle or tin. This protects the oil from light.  Similarly, if you decant your oil from one container to another, make sure the decanter is dark.

Store in a cool dark place

Many people store their EVOO bottle on the bench next to the stove or oven. While this may be convenient, it is not good for the oil as the heat from the stove/oven will speed up the degradation process.  Storing your EVOO in the pantry or a cupboard is a better option as it won’t be as exposed to heat or light from windows.

Keep the bottle sealed

It’s important to keep the lid of the bottle or tin on and tightly sealed. This is to keep oxygen away from the oil, as oxygen can cause oxidation.  Once again, if you are decanting your oil into another vessel, make sure it is one that can be sealed.

Look for a bottle that shows the harvest date

While the best before date on an oil is useful, the ‘harvest date’ is an even better marker of freshness. Where possible, choose an oil from the most recent harvest year, as this is likely to be the freshest oil you can get (as olives are only harvested once each year).

Bottom line

With so many health benefits and a delicious taste, extra virgin olive oil is an essential addition to every kitchen.  Just make sure you understand the shelf life and store it correctly in order to maximise the flavour and nutritional properties.

View article references

  1. Isaakidis A, Maghariki JE, Carvalho-Barros S, Gomes AM, Correia M. Is There More to Olive Oil than Healthy Lipids? Nutrients. 2023 Aug 18;15(16):3625. doi: 10.3390/nu15163625. PMID: 37630815; PMCID: PMC10459315.
  2. Garcia-Oliveira P et al. Evolution of Flavors in Extra Virgin Olive Oil Shelf-Life. Antioxidants (Basel). 2021 Feb 28;10(3):368. doi: 10.3390/antiox10030368PMC7997466
  3. George ES et al. The effect of high-polyphenol extra virgin olive oil on cardiovascular risk factors: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2019;59(17):2772-2795
  4. Kiritsakis, A., Nanos, G.D., Polymenopulos, Z. et al.Effect of fruit storage conditions on olive oil quality. J Amer Oil Chem Soc 75, 721–724 (1998).
  5. Pristouri, A. Badeka, and M. G. Kontominas, “Effect of packaging material headspace, oxygen and light transmission, temperature and storage time on quality characteristics of extra virgin olive oil,” Food Control, vol. 21, no. 4, pp. 412–418, 2010.