Refrigerator pickles are tasty as hell. Pickles totally add a distinctive flavour to the food and people usually store it in the refrigerator. BUT, how safe are refrigerator pickles? Are there any immediate or long term health risks? Let’s find out in full details here.
In general, Refrigerator Pickles were considered to be safe recent studies by US CDC and NCHFP found traces of Listeria monocytogenes and Botulism in certain homemade Refrigerated Canned Pickles, pickles with less than 5% vinegar & very old refrigerated pickles.
So, how to keep pickles safe in the refrigerator? Will keeping pickles in the refrigerator increase its shelf risk and decrease health risk or do totally the opposite? Read on to know!
Do Refrigerator Keeps Your Pickles Safe?
Refrigerators are known to increase shelf life of many food products as it lowers down the temperature significantly which prevents or stop harmful bacteria from growing. The refrigerator also helps in keeping your pickles fresh and last for a very long time. However, you need to make sure that the pickle is prepared properly. Also, you need to take extra measures to be double-sure that putting pickles in your refrigerator will help and not harm the pickle’s quality.
Which pickles should you put in refrigerator?
If your pickle is traditionally made, too sour and salty then you don’t need to put it in the refrigerator. These pickles are made in such a way that they are safe to eat for years without putting in refrigerators. But, you need to keep store-bought processed pickles in the refrigerator once you’ve opened its jar.
These readymade pickles are quickly made, unpasteurized and non-fermented so, you need to put these commercially processed pickles in the refrigerator to keep them safe to eat for one to two years. Also, if you’ve made pickles in a non-fermented way at home, you should pick your pickle in the refrigerator too. Below is the table showing how long pickles will last in the refrigerator –
|Types of Pickle||Unrefrigerated Pickle||Refrigerated Pickle|
|Processed Pickle (unopen)||2 years||2 years|
|Processed Pickle (open)||3 weeks||2 years|
|Homemade Pickle (fermented)||2 years||2-3 weeks|
|Homemade Pickle (unfermented)||2 weeks||3 months|
|Canned Pickle (open)||2 years||3-6 months|
|Canned Pickle (unopen)||2 years||1-2 years|
|Vinegar Pickle (unopen)||2-3 weeks||2 months|
|Vinegar Pickle (open)||1-2 weeks||1 month|
|Lime Pickle (open)||1 month||1 year|
|Lime Pickle (unopen)||2 years||2 years|
|Gherkins Pickles (open)||3 weeks||1 year|
|Gherkins Pickles (unopen)||2 years||2 years|
|Half-sour Pickle (open)||1 week||6-12 months|
|Half-sour Pickle (unopen)||3 weeks||1 year|
|Sour Pickle (unopen)||2 years||2 years|
|Sour Pickle (open)||2-3 weeks||1 year|
Refrigerated vs Non-refrigerated Pickles
You need to know which pickle is a refrigerated one and which pickle don’t need to keep in the refrigerator because if you do it opposite, your pickles will go bad quickly.
Homemade pickles which are made using the fermentation process are considered to be safe to eat without refrigeration. These pickles get their taste from good bacteria who helped the pickle to prepare in highly acidic and salty conditions. You need to prevent these pickles from moisture, water and so, you need to certainly avoid putting these pickles in the refrigerator.
Most of the Commercial pickles that you brought from the supermarket are processed quickly by adding vinegar to the water and other ingredients. These readymade pickles need to put in the refrigerator in a glass jar if you’ve opened them because.
How Long Do Opened Pickles Last Unrefrigerated?
Processed pickles can stay fresh in their original condition for 1 to 2 years i.e., up to their expiration date if you keep processed pickles in the refrigerator in a tight container. But, if you keep opened pickle in at room temperature, it will hardly last few weeks out of the refrigerator. But don’t worry about unopened pickles jars you’ve stored in the pantry because unopened readymade pickles can last for up to 2 years or their expiration date at room temperature.
How Long Do Homemade Pickles Last?
The story is different with homemade pickles, they are fermented for weeks and can last for years at room temperature. Just make sure that you keep them away from moisture. Don’t use wet spoons to pick pickle, don’t refrigerate them and if you stay in a cool area, try to put them in sun to evaporate the possible moisture it may have collected from the surrounding.
Can Pickles Go Bad in Refrigerator?
Though processed pickles don’t go bad while in constant refrigeration, these are some instances where these non-fermented pickles can rot. So, make sure to follow these suggestions to last your favourite Dill pickles, Grillo pickles, sauerkraut, onion, Cucumbers pickles, Gourmet pickles and pickles with brine as long as they can in their best conditions –
- Don’t put readymade pickles out of the refrigerator for too long it can start harmful bacteria & fungus growth in your pickles
- Don’t add water to the pickle for any reason. Nor use a wet spoon to take pickle out of the jar
- While buying pickles, check the MFG date and only pick the latest batch.
- Don’t use pickles past the expiration date
- Put your pickle in a glass jar and make sure it is moisture-free.
- Make sure the pickle has at least 5% vinegar. You can add vinegar and salt if you need it for brine.
- If your homemade pickle is made in a non-fermented way, it lacks preservatives so, once you start consuming it, with proper refrigeration, it will last 3 months only.
How to Tell if Refrigerator Pickles is Not Safe?
You can’t check all the possible microbes that can harm your pickles but certainly you can avoid them by using preventive measure and also tell the most common ones that can help you to quickly identify that your refrigerator pickle is not safe to eat anymore –
- If your pickle is rancid, it gives a foul smell or taste then certainly you should throw it
- If your refrigerator pickle has gone cloudy then also you should not use it
- If the pickle in your refrigerator has white fungus on it then it has gone bad.
- If you see bubbles in the jar or bulged lid then pickles are not safe to eat.
- If you feel brine or vinegar color or texture changed then you should avoid eating pickle even if it is in the refrigerator.
Last but not least, if expiry date has passed then throw the pickle away.
Refrigerator & Pickle F.A.Q
Let’s check the most frequently asked questions of pickle lovers about putting pickles in refrigerators and with that, know the solutions too.
Can you get botulism from refrigerator pickles?
No, if your pickle has more than 5% vinegar and its brine is salty then you can’t get botulism from refrigerator pickle because the bacterium (botulinum) cannot grow & survive in the highly acidic environment of pickle’s brine.
Can pickles make you sick?
Pickles can make you sick if you eat pickles which were going rancid. So, it’s recommended to check the brine and smell the pickle to make sure it’s fresh and in its best condition.
Can pickles go bad in the fridge?
Pickles are usually safe for over 1 year if you keep pickles in the fridge properly. However, due to moisture, water mix or expiration of its shelf life, it can go bad even in the refrigerator.
Are soft pickles safe to eat?
Soft pickles are safe to eat if they smell good and their brine is clean. Soft pickles are usually old so, make sure that it hasn’t crossed the expiration date because then, it won’t be safe.
Do homemade refrigerator pickles go bad?
Yes, homemade refrigerator pickles have shorter shelf life than readymade pickles because fewer preservatives are used. So, finish your homemade refrigerator pickles within 3 months which is its safe duration.
Do you need to sterilize jars for refrigerator pickles?
Yes, you need to sterilize jars for 10 mins in hot water before you transfer the pickle to your jars and dry it out. This makes sure that neither moisture nor anything harmful is available in the jar.
Are pickles OK to eat if not refrigerated?
If pickles are homemade, fermented ones, it’s OK to eat them or store in room temperature but if its unfermented refrigerated pickle, you can only eat it up to a week without refrigeration.
Do Vinegar pickles need to be refrigerated?
Yes, vinegar pickles have a short shelf life and are not fermented. So, you need to put vinegar pickles in the refrigerator to keep them fresh.
Do you have to refrigerate pickles after canning?
No, you don’t need to refrigerate pickles after canning because canned pickles have thick brine and they are made for shelf life at room temperature, unlike refrigerator pickles which have weak brine.
How long do opened pickles last unrefrigerated?
Opened pickles last 2-3 weeks if they are refrigerator pickles. If they are traditional homemade fermented sour pickle, these pickles can last up to 2 years at room temperature without putting them in the refrigerator.
So, Yes, you can store pickles in the refrigerator to keep it safe, fresh, healthy and safe for a really long time but you also need to be mindful of what type of pickle is it, what is its shelf life, what is its preservation process and also make sure that expiration day is still far.
I hope this article has helped you in understanding how to properly store pickles in the refrigerator and also when not to.