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Nut Shelf-life: Emergency and Survival Food

Nuts contain calories, nutrition, and natural fats needed for survival, but they are not a good choice for long-term survival food because they have a limited shelf-life.

 Avoid storing nuts in long-term food storage for more than two years. Nuts are high in lipids (fats), causing them to go rancid from enzyme reactions in 3 to 24 months, depending on the nut variety. Oxygen-free storage does not improve shelf-life. Let’s take a look at the chart below to look at the shelf-life of nuts based on how they are stored.

Chart #1: Shelf-life of Nuts: Roasted & Raw

Take a look at the shelf life for nuts below. The chart includes shelf-life based on the type of storage and whether a nut is roasted or raw.

Nut TypeEstimated Shelf-life (68° F), Roasted

Freezer Storage
Raw Nut Shelf-life
Almond12 242424
Hazelnut12 242424
Walnut6 to 9312 3
Cashew6 to 96126
Peanut6 to 9116
Pine Nut223 to 62
Macadamia Nut333 to 65
Estimates of Raw Nuts Held at Different Temperatures, Marita Cantwell, Post Harvest Specialist, University of California, Davis

Next, let’s examine nuts have a relatively short shelf-life but are still good emergency food.

Short nut-shelf life: Emergency Food

The shelf life of nuts isn’t great but don’t count them out as emergency food. They are an excellent source of nutrition and healthy fats (hard to come by in emergency foods). Because the shelf life for nuts is so low plan on rotating them so you always have a fresh supply.

Nuts are premium emergency food because they provide healthy fat. Humans need fat in their diet to grow cells, absorb nutrients, and produce necessary hormones.

Walnuts with the shell
Up next, let’s examing the nutrition in the most common nuts.

Chart #2 Top 8 Nuts Nutrition Chart

Nut shelf-life is important but so is nutrition. Take a look at the chart below for the nutritional value of the best nuts for emergency food storage.

1oz PortionAlmondBrazilCashewHazelnutMacadamiaPecanPistachioWalnut
Protein (g)64442364
Total Fat (g)1419131722201318
Saturated Fat (g)14.531.53.521.51.5
Polyunsaturated Fat (g)3.57220.5641.5
Monosaturated Fat (g)97813171272.5
Carbohydrates (g)63954484
Dietary Fiber (g)42132332
Potassium (mg)208187160193103116285125
Magnesium (mg)77107744633343145
Zinc (mg)
Vitamin B6 (mg)
Folate (mcg)1262032361428
Riboflavin (mg)
Vitamin E (mg)
Calcium (mg)7645133220203028
Iron (mg)
Source: California Almonds: Nutrient Comparison Chart For Nut Trees and Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, USDA National Nutrient Database
2015: http://www.ars.usda.gov/ba/bhnrc/ndl.

Next, the nuts with the longest shelf-life.

Nuts with the longest Shelf-life

Almonds and hazelnuts have the longest shelf-life of 2 years so they are the best choices for short-term survival food.

Storage Tip: To store nuts longer keep them in the freezer or refrigerator and in the shell.

Up next, is how the storage environment affects the storage life of nuts.

7 Storage Factors That Affect the Shelf-life of Nuts

Nuts have the same storage requirements as most foods in the pantry. They need to be stored in a cool, dry location, up off the floor in an opaque sealed container that keeps away light. Don’t forget your nuts.

Here are 7 factors that affect the shelf-life of nuts.

#1 Nut variety

shelf life varies from 3 to 24 months

#2 Drying

How well the nuts are dried before packaging

#3 Container Type

How well the packaging creates moisture-barrier

#4 Temperature

75° F or less

#5 Humidity

55 to 70% (plant sciences, University of California, Davis)

#6 Oil Content

variation in the amount of fat in a nut affects storage life

#7 Time

eventually, nuts will go bad regardless of storage conditions

Next, let’s examine why you should store nuts with the shell intact.

Why Store Nuts With the Shell On?

Nuts in the shell last 25 to 50% longer than nutmeats alone.

Shelf life varies depending on the variety of nuts and whether the packaging acts as a good moisture barrier.

Nut meats that have been chopped have half the life of a whole nut because there is more exposure to oxygen and moisture.

Roasting nuts can also reduce shelf life by up to 1/4 of the shelf-life of raw nutmeat.

5 Signs Nuts Are Bad

If nuts are just starting to go bad they will be rubbery and will taste bitter. Here are 5 indicators nuts have gone south.

#1 Taste

Fresh nuts taste fresh and nutty. If they’ve gone south, nuts will taste bitter. Nut oil forms free radicals due to enzyme reactions and creates toxins that make nuts taste bitter.

#2 Smell

When you open a jar or bag of fresh nuts, you know they are fresh. If the fat in nuts has gone rancid, you will no longer smell the nutty goodness. Instead, nuts will smell like paint, nail polish remover, or plastic.

#3 Mold

Mold has a distinctive smell, and it’s either powdery white or black depending on how old it is. Mold usually occurs if moisture or humidity gets to improperly stored nuts.

#4 Texture

With too much moisture, nuts may get soft or spongy and become unpalatable. Too little moisture and nuts will get brittle, crumbly, or powdery.

#5 Color

Nuts darken when fats oxidize, in combination with off odors you’ll know nuts have gone south.

Save Stale Nuts In 5 Steps

If nuts have been exposed to moisture, they soften and get spongy. Not very appetizing. You may be able to bring them back from the dead by throwing them in the oven on a cookie sheet but this is a short-term fix. It won’t increase shelf-life but it may make nuts palatable.

  1. Preheat your oven to 300° F
  2. Pour nuts into a baking pan or on a baking sheet and spread them out.
  3. Place the baking sheet in the preheated oven.
  4. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes or until crunchy
  5. Test nuts periodically to see if they have reached the desired consistency

Oxygen-free Containers And Nut Shelf-life: Long-term Storage

Storing nuts in an Oxygen-free container will kill bugs, eggs, and pupae which can also be done by freezing. This type of storage won’t increase shelf-life. Enzyme oxidation of nut oils will happen whether stored oxygen-free or not.

Foods repackaged and stored in oxygen-free storage are normally less than 10% moisture and low in fat. Nuts are too high in fat.

Foods typically stored oxygen-free are dry beans, white rice, wheat berries, hard grains, and some soft grains. Definitely worth looking into for certain foods, just not nuts.

Nut Substitutes With a Longer Shelf-life

Nuts provide fat, and fat is hard to come by in long-term food storage. Here is a list of survival foods to consider as fat replacements for the long haul. I’m not a fan of any of these, but you’ll get what you need in hard times.

#1 Spam

Er, what? Spam? Yep! It stores indefinitely, and most of the calories come from fat and protein.

#2 Canned Meats

Canned meats are the go too, a long-term fat source. Worth considering as a substitute because they have a lot of fat and protein. Best buy dates on canned foods are just that “Best if used by.” See the Ready Squirrel video, Canned Meat For SHTF

#3 Ghee

Ghee is a form of clarified butter with an indefinite shelf-life. One tablespoon of Ghee contains 13 grams of fat. You can make it at home or purchase it.

#4 Dried Whole Eggs

2 TBSP of dry whole eggs provides 75 calories, 45 from fat.

#5 Canned Cheese

Canned Cheeses are High in fat and provide an indefinite shelf-life. You can also purchase Meals Ready to Eat (MRE) cheddar cheese packets in bulk

#6 Meat Fat

Heat canning your own lard, pork, and beef fat.

Don’t Store Nuts (Grow Them)

Having a nut forest in your backyard is one of the best food safety nets you can have. Combine nut trees with fruit trees and bushes, and you have a hardcore safety net of food for hard times.

If you want nuts post-SHTF, the best way to ensure a supply is to plant nut trees that will thrive in your growing zone. The quickest-producing nut is the American Hazelnut.

Thanks for visiting Ready Squirrel! If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments.

Keep on Prepping!

Best Regards, Scott

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