How long do olives last without brine?

Olives can last for quite a while without brine if stored properly. Here are some quick answers on olive storage life:

– Whole, unpitted olives will last around 1 week without brine if refrigerated.
– Pitted olives will last around 3-5 days without brine in the fridge.
– Olives that have been packed in oil can last around 2-3 weeks unrefrigerated.

How Olives Are Preserved

Olives are naturally very bitter and unpalatable when raw off the tree. To make them edible, they undergo a curing process. The most common methods are:

  • Brine-curing – soaking olives in a saltwater solution (brine) to remove bitterness
  • Lye-curing – treating olives with food-grade lye to break down bitterness
  • Salt-curing – layering olives with salt which draws out moisture and bitterness
  • Water-curing – soaking olives in plain water, changed daily for weeks/months

Whichever method is used, the purpose is to remove the intense natural bitterness of raw olives. This process leads to edible, shelf-stable olives.

The curing liquid is crucial for preserving olives after processing. The brine’s salt and/or acidity prevents microbial growth and deterioration. Properly cured olives packed in brine can be shelf-stable for over a year.

Without the curing liquid, fresh olives rapidly lose quality and spoil. Let’s look at how long they last outside of brine.

How Long Do Whole Olives Last Without Brine?

Whole olives have a relatively short shelf life outside of brine or curing liquid. Some general guidelines:

– Room Temperature – Only 1-2 days maximum. Leaving uncured whole olives at room temp allows rapid growth of spoilage microbes.

– Refrigerated – About 1 week if stored in an airtight container. The cold fridge temp delays microbes and extends storage life slightly.

– With Oil – If covered by olive oil, whole olives may last 2-3 weeks refrigerated. The oil helps seal out air exposure.

– Frozen – Up to 3-6 months. Freezing stops microbes completely but quality declines over time.

So for whole, uncured olives – refrigeration and oil are your best bets for maximizing storage time without brine. Expect only about 1 week before undesirable softening and fouling occurs.

How Long Do Pitted Olives Last Without Brine?

Pitted olives have a shorter life span than whole since the flesh is exposed. Here are some general guidelines:

– Room Temperature – 1-2 days maximum

– Refrigerated – Around 3-5 days if kept sealed in an airtight container.

– Covered in Oil – About 1 week if fully submerged in olive oil in the fridge.

– Frozen – Up to 2-3 months before quality drop-off.

The main takeaway is that pitted olives fare worse than whole. The exposed inner flesh is prime area for microbial growth. Refrigeration can extend life for a few days but the window is small. Best to use pitted olives within 3-5 days of opening without brine.

How Long Do Olives Packed in Oil Last After Opening?

Many olives are packaged and sold in bulk tins covered in olive oil rather than brine. Here is how long they last after opening:

– Unrefrigerated – Around 2-3 weeks. The oil helps seal out air and prevent spoilage.

– Refrigerated – About 4-6 weeks if sealed and submerged in oil. Fridge temps prolong storage life.

– Freezer – Up to 4-6 months frozen before quality decline.

So olives stored long-term in oil fare quite well compared to those without. The oil helps prevent spoilage through direct contact and air exposure. Refrigeration further extends the storage life after opening.

How to Tell If Olives Are Bad Without Brine

Here are some signs that olives have spoiled and should be discarded:

– Soft or mushy texture – Fresh olives should be firm. Softness indicates microbial growth.

– Mold growth – Check olives closely for fuzzy mold. Discard any moldy ones immediately.

– Shriveled or dried appearance – Olives may shrivel or dry up past freshness peak.

– Fermented smell – A strong sour, tangy, or fizzy smell means fermentation has begun.

– Rancid smell – If olives smell rotten or rancid, they should not be eaten.

– Discoloration – Green olives turning brown or black is a sign of oxidation and spoilage.

– Sliminess – Brine or oil turning slimy indicates microbes breaking down olives.

Trust your nose and eyes. Discard any olives that display foul odors, textures, or growths. Don’t risk getting sick from eating spoiled olives.

How To Store Olives Without Brine

To maximize olive shelf life without direct contact with brine or curing liquids, follow these storage tips:

– Refrigerate opened olives. Fridge temps between 34-40°F slow microbe growth.

– Seal or cover the container. Minimize air exposure by sealing lids or submerging in oil.

– Use clean utensils. Use clean tongs or spoons to remove olives, avoiding cross-contamination.

– Check frequently for spoilage. Examine olives closely and discard any showing signs of mold or foul odors.

– Don’t let olives contact moisture. Water promotes rapid spoilage. Dry olives thoroughly after rinsing or pitting.

– Freeze for long term storage. Freeze olives with headspace in airtight bags or containers up to 3-6 months.

Proper refrigerated storage is key for maximizing olive shelf life outside of brine or curing liquid. Handle with clean utensils and check frequently for any mold, smells, or texture changes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I make my own brine for storing olives?

Yes, you can make a basic brine by dissolving salt in water. Aim for a 10% salt to water ratio. Fully submerge olives in the brine in a clean jar and refrigerate. Change brine every 2-3 weeks for long term storage.

How long can olives stay in brine?

Properly cured olives in brine can remain good for over a year if refrigerated. The brine pH and salt concentration prevents microbial growth. As long as brine remains clear with no mold, olives should be safe to eat.

Is it safe to eat olives with spotty mold growth?

No, any olives showing mold spoilage should be discarded. The mold can penetrate into the flesh which can’t be safely removed. Don’t risk eating olives with visible mold.

Can I freeze olives in brine?

Yes, olives can be frozen in brine for long term storage up to 1 year. Use freezer-safe containers allowing headspace. Thaw refrigerated and consume within 5 days for best quality.

What are signs my olives have spoiled?

Soft, mushy texture, off smells, visible mold growth, and liquid becoming slimy are signs olives have spoiled. Rancid, sour or fermented odors also indicate spoilage. Discard any olives with these characteristics.


Olives have a relatively short shelf life outside of their curing brine or liquid. Whole olives may last about 1 week refrigerated, while pitted olives fare worse at just 3-5 days. Olives packed in oil can extend unrefrigerated shelf life to 2-3 weeks. Freezing can preserve olives for up to 6 months. With proper storage and handling, uncured olives can stay fresh for a limited time without direct contact with brine. Use refrigeration, oil coverage, and freezing to maximize shelf life. Discard any olives showing signs of spoilage like mold, soft textures, or foul odors.

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