How Long Pickles Will Still Taste Good After Opening

For a lot of us, the refrigerator door compartments can be filled with condiments, salad dressings, jars of pickles, and jams and jellies. Because these items are consumed slowly, we think they'll stay fresh and taste good for a long time. Turns out, that's not the case, even for pickles in a vinegar brine.


Pickling is an age-old process of using an acidic brine to preserve fruits and vegetables. The brines are usually made with salty water, sugar water, lemon juice, or vinegar. After some time, the fruits and vegetables become pickled and will last much longer than their fresh counterparts. When pickles are right out of an opened jar, they are firm and crunchy, with a sweet and sour flavor. Over time, they become limp and start getting mushier, even losing some of their flavor. Whether it's bread and butter or sweet pickles, there is a time limit in which to consume them at their peak taste.

Use up your pickles within 3 months

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), opened pickles will last in the fridge for anywhere between one to three months. It is important to use the "Best By" date as a guide if your pickle jar is closed. But once opened, the pickles won't last as long as the date printed on the jar.


Many people think the vinegar in pickle jars protects them from mold forever. But that's not the case. Mold can still form in pickle jars if given enough time.

David Tiner, the director of Louisiana Culinary Institute in Baton Rouge tells Southern Living that pickles can go stale well before they've gone bad.

"Before the pickle actually spoils, the flavor will start to change," Tiner says. "A pickle's flavor will be less fresh tasting, or not as potent. I've had pickles that reminded me of the smell of an old house. Was the pickle bad? I don't know, but I know it was not worth eating." 

How to tell if your pickles have gone bad

The main cause for pickles to begin declining, even in brine, is oxygen contact when the jar is opened. Oxygen allows mold to form, and food can spoil. It is always a safe bet to look for signs of spoilage, even in refrigerated condiments and pickles.


Look for mold, cloudy brine, and super mushy texture on the pickles. If any of those signs exist, it's time to toss out that jar. Also, look for bulges on the lid of an unopened jar. If that exists, it means the pickles were not sealed properly and could be contaminated with bacteria. A musty, off-smell on the pickles can also indicate spoilage.

But say you have the opposite problem — you've finished your pickles within a couple of days and you're left with a jar full of juice. Don't throw it out! There are plenty of creative ways to use up that liquid, including whipping it up in a tzatziki sauce, throwing it back after whiskey shots, or as a brine for chicken.