Whether you bake at home or you have a sweet tooth and like to have dried fruit on hand, dried dates are a great thing to put in the pantry.
Not only are dried dates super tasty as a snack on their own, but they can also be incorporated into all sorts of delicious treats, from cookies to muffins to sweetbreads. (If you’re feeling lazy, you can just add them to a bowl of porridge!)
Dried dates can be bought in almost all supermarkets. They don’t cost much and have a very long shelf life. But, as you probably know since you’re reading this, dried fruits don’t last forever. And to keep dried dates at their best, you need to know how to store them.
So let’s waste no more time with introductions and get to it then.
How Long Do Dried Dates Last?
Stored in a cool, dry, and dark place, such as in a dark cupboard or in the pantry, dried dates have a shelf life of 4 months to 1 year.1“Packaging and Storing Dried Foods,” National Center for Home Food Preservation, https://nchfp.uga.edu/how/dry/pack_store.html
This applies to commercially dried dates as well as dates dried at home, as long as the latter have been conditioned properly to a moisture content of about 20 percent.
According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, the optimal storage temperature for dried dates is 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius). The warmer and more humid it is in your home, the shorter the shelf life.
Unopened dried dates can be kept in the original packaging. Once opened, dried dates should be packed in dry, scalded glass jars or airtight freezer containers. Label the date and, for best quality, be sure to use them up within 6 months to 1 year.2Drying Fruits — 9.309, Colorado State University Extension, https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/nutrition-food-safety-health/drying-fruits-9-309/
Generally, glass jars are a better option for storing dried dates than plastic containers because they sweat if there’s too much moisture on the inside, in which case you know to redry and repackage the dates or to throw them away in case they are moldy.
To store dried dates for a longer period of time, vacuum-seal them in small, serving-sized bags, throwing in an oxygen absorber packet in each bag. (You can buy a decent vacuum sealer at the thrift store. Oxygen absorbers are carried by well-stocked supermarkets and home improvement stores.)3J. Languille, D. Luther, T. Pennington, S. Wells, The Prepper’s Ultimate Food Storage Guide
How Do You Tell If Dried Dates Are Bad?
The number one rule of food safety is, “When in doubt, throw it out.” Dried dates are no exception.
If the dried dates in your pantry smell bad, have mold, or appear discolored, you have no way to determine whether or not they are safe for consumption. Throw them away immediately so that others in your household don’t make the mistake of trying to eat them.
If you find that your dried dates are infested with pantry pests, throw them away and clean the cupboards or shelves where they were stored thoroughly.4”Pantry Pests: Inspects Found in Stored Food,” University of Minnesota Extension, https://extension.umn.edu/product-and-houseplant-pests/pantry-pests-insects-found-stored-food
If your dried fruits look good and smell fine, but they taste bitter or sour, spit them out and throw the rest of the package away. Safe dried fruit should be pleasantly sweet and not have bitterness or sourness to it.
All in all, trust your senses and let common sense prevail; they are there to protect you. Never eat dried dates that raise your eyebrows or make you cringe.
Can You Soften Dried Dates?
The longer the dried dates sit, the more moisture they’ll lose (provided they are stored properly). This means that dried dates that are a few months old can become very—and we mean very—hard to chew.
The good news is that you can soften them!
To soften dried dates, you simply need to soak them in a liquid, refrigerate them, and wait for 60 to 90 minutes. You can use water, fruit juice, milk, or a plant-based milk alternative; it comes down to the recipe if you’re following one and your personal preferences if you are not.
Put the dates in the fridge during the soak. Because you’re rehydrating them, you’re also transforming them from shelf-stable to perishable, and perishable foods shouldn’t be left to sit out at room temperature for more than 1-2 hours.5”What Is the ‘2-Hour Rule’ With Leaving Food Out?” Ask USDA, https://ask.usda.gov/s/article/What-is-the-2-Hour-Rule-with-leaving-food-out
Some dried dates are pitted, and others are not. Be mindful when you’re eating pitted dates; a fruit or two in the package may nevertheless have a pit. You don’t want to swallow it or break a tooth.
- 1“Packaging and Storing Dried Foods,” National Center for Home Food Preservation, https://nchfp.uga.edu/how/dry/pack_store.html
- 2Drying Fruits — 9.309, Colorado State University Extension, https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/nutrition-food-safety-health/drying-fruits-9-309/
- 3J. Languille, D. Luther, T. Pennington, S. Wells, The Prepper’s Ultimate Food Storage Guide
- 4”Pantry Pests: Inspects Found in Stored Food,” University of Minnesota Extension, https://extension.umn.edu/product-and-houseplant-pests/pantry-pests-insects-found-stored-food
- 5”What Is the ‘2-Hour Rule’ With Leaving Food Out?” Ask USDA, https://ask.usda.gov/s/article/What-is-the-2-Hour-Rule-with-leaving-food-out