How Long Do Dates Last? Here’s How to Know If They’re Bad

updated Aug 4, 2022
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(Image credit: Karen Biton-Cohen)

In addition to their irresistibly sweet flavor and versatility, dates, when stored properly, have a seriously lengthy shelf life. Even when they lose moisture and harden, there’s still a way to revive that tender bite. But that doesn’t mean they last forever. Dates can, and do, go bad. There are three telltale signs to watch out for signaling those sweet dates have taken a turn for the worse.

Here’s what to look out for when dates go bad.

1. The dates are discolored or moldy.

I’m not talking about the white film that has a tendency to coat the outside of stale dates — that’s simply crystalized sugar that’s been pulled to the exterior as dates lose moisture. If you notice that dates have developed mold or turned much darker in color, on the exterior or interior, it’s best to toss them.

(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

2. They smell bad.

Smell is a clear indicator that will alert you to spoiled dates. These amber-colored fruits don’t have a strong smell, but you’ll likely notice a delicate and mild fragrance. If you detect a strong, off-putting, or rotten odor, take this as a sign that your dates have gone bad and it’s time to toss them.

3. You find visitors in your dates.

Consider this a good reason to break dates open rather than biting into them. Since they’re not treated with pesticides, organic dates do have the potential to attract bugs, spiders, and worms, which usually burrow into the inside of the fruit. A potential indicator of pests are small, brown specks that sort of look like saw dust. While it might not happen often, this is actually not uncommon. As luck (er, misfortune) would have it, I found a worm in one of my dates while making a smoothie just a couple days after writing this.

It doesn’t necessary indicate that the whole batch is bad, though. Toss any dates that have bugs, and be sure to open and check the rest. Dates can also attract fruit flies and other pests if they’re not stored properly at home. Your best line of defense here is to avoid storing dates in an open container or bag at room temperature, and to keep them in a sealed container in the fridge or freezer.