Dried dates are a favorite snack for many due to their natural sugar content and filling properties. While you can also purchase fresh dates, dried dates have a longer shelf-life, are more versatile, and are easier to store.
So do dates need to be refrigerated? The storage method of dried dates depends on how long you want to keep them. You can store dried dates in the pantry at room temperature for up to 6 months, in the fridge for up to 12 months, and in the freezer for up to 3 years.
Continue reading for the ultimate storage guide for dates and answers for the most common questions regarding the storage of delicious palm fruit.
Do Dates Need to Be Refrigerated?
Whether dates are dried or fresh, you do need to keep them in the fridge.
For fresh dates, it is better to eat them as soon as possible after you have picked them up from your local market. As fresh dates come mainly from the Middle East or North Africa, they travel a long way before reaching markets and supermarket produce sections.
As they are juicier than dried dates, they will go bad much quicker. Thus, keeping fresh dates in the refrigerator is necessary if you are not going to consume them within a month.
Dry dates, like these Deglet Noor dates, also need to be kept in the fridge if you want to extend the shelf life from 6 months to up to 1 year.
However, aside from preserving dates for a longer time, there is another big reason why you should keep them in cold.
Storing dates in the fridge helps to retain the flavor. While dates can last very well in the pantry, keeping them in cold temperature will not only leave the texture unaffected but also keep the dates tasting delicious for quite a long time.
3 Ways to Store Dried Dates
Dates are an easy fruit when it comes to storage. However, you do need to make sure you maintain the rights conditions. Otherwise, dates are not guaranteed from going bad.
If you are having hard time deciding what storage method you need to implement, you first need to decide for how long you want to keep the palm fruit.
1. Storing in the Pantry
If dates are a regular snack for you or a usual sweet addition to your smoothies, keeping them in the pantry at normal room conditions will work quite well for you.
Put dried dates in an airtight container, plastic or glass, and keep them in a dry environment.
The shelf life of dried dates at room temperature is about 6 months. As for semi-dry and fresh dates, they will last well for 4 to 6 weeks.
If you are buying dried dates, keep in mind that they have been sitting on the countertop for a certain amount of time already. So, pay close attention to the production and expiration date, and if you are not planning on finishing them within a couple of weeks, opt for storing them in colder temperatures.
2. Storing in the Refrigerator
Storing dates in the fridge is a good way to retain the moisture, even though there is not much of it in this fruit anyway.
While fresh dates last for around 1 month in the fridge, the shelf-life of dried varieties can be extended to 6-12 months. This makes dates suitable for buying in a bulk and preserving for later use.
To store dried dates in the fridge, simply put them in a plastic bag, squeeze out as much air as possible to make it airtight and seal the bag well.
3. Storing in the Freezer
It is no secret that freezing extends the shelf life of products more than any of the abovementioned methods do.
You can keep dried dates in the freezer for up to 3 years. But it is important to know how to do it for the best results.
Place the dates in a sealable plastic bag and squeeze out the air. Dates may expand in size while freezing. So, if you can, leave some space between the dates.
You can also use an airtight plastic container instead of a plastic bag. For double protection, wrap the container with a layer of plastic wrap. It is important that the dates have no contact with cold air.
Do Dates Go Bad?
Dates are one of those fruits that do not go bad very quickly. They can be stored for more than a month at room temperature and for more than a year in the freezer, they will eventually go bad if you don’t manage to store them in the right conditions.
In comparison to all other fruits, dates have a very low content of moisture – 30%. As they dry, the water content diminishes.
They are mainly sugar, which is exactly why you can store them in different temperatures for such long periods of time.
How to Tell If Dates Have Gone Bad
Even if you know that dates don’t go bad easily, it is always good to know the signs that will help you tell if they are good to consume or not.
Here are the signs that will make it clear whether dates are still good or have gone bad.
Color changes and mold
Dates have very low water content, so they need very ‘special’ conditions to get moldy. If you keep them in humidity, they are more likely to get mold. However, a dry pantry and fridge should keep you away from this problem.
As far as the color changes are concerned, it is time to throw dates away if you notice that they have gone darker in color.
Dates tend to turn white over time. But they are totally safe to eat.
Bugs and other creatures
It is common knowledge that you may encounter some unwanted guests in your fruits and vegetables, and dates are not an exception.
Perhaps this is the reason why many people like to open the dates instead of taking a bite right away.
Organically grown dates are more likely to attracts bugs or worms. So, you need to closely inspect dates before you bite into them or throw them in your smoothie without much attention.
However, if you have come across an unwanted visitor in one of the dates, it does not mean that the whole pack should be thrown away. Look closely and throw away the ones you won’t be able to eat. Make sure to open and closely inspect all of them.
Of course, you may accidentally buy a bulk that already comes with such a problem. However, storage also plays a key role.
If you are keeping the dates in a container, do not leave it open as dates may attract some insects. Dates are safely kept in the fridge or cold storage in a well-sealed Ziploc-bag.
If you are new to dates, smell them before you store them. This way you will be able to tell any smell differences once you take them out from the pantry or fridge.
Dates usually don’t smell strong. They have a barely noticeable mild smell. If you detect a stronger unpleasant smell, that might be an indicator that it is time to toss the dates away.
Why Do Dates Develop A White Cast?
If you are someone that doesn’t know much about dates, you may be intimidated by the white cast that covers the dates over time.
Because dates contain a high amount of sugar, this is a completely natural phenomenon. In fact, the white film is simply sugar specs. The sugar content of dates is migrating to the surface of the fruit.
There are no health risks involved in eating ‘white’ dates. However, if that bothers you, there are two ways to save the situation.
- Put the dates under the sun until you notice that the white cast has disappeared.
- Place the dates in a plastic sealable bag and microwave them for 30 to 45 seconds. Don’t forget to put a few drops of water into the bag to create steam and bring the dates back to their normal condition.
Microwaving is also a good method of softening the dates.
How Do You Store Medjool Dates?
Medjool dates are a popular variety of dates. Due to their sweet and plump texture, they are a favorite for many. Perhaps, this is the reason why many date-lovers consider the Medjool variety to be the king of dates.
When it comes to storing Medjool dates, the shelf life and methods are quite the same as for any variety.
Fresh Medjool dates can be kept in a pantry for around 7 weeks. In the fridge, they will last you for around 6 months.
If you decide to keep fresh Medjool dates in the freezer, the shelf life will be extended to a year.
As expected, dried Medjool dates have a much longer shelf life like any other variety. If you keep dried Medjool dates in an airtight plastic bag protected with a plastic wrap, you can extend their life for up to 3-5 years.