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As ubiquitous as it is humble, lime juice is often a household staple that it is used for a variety of things, from jazzing up salads and foods to adding flavor to cocktails to zesting up desserts and more. Most kitchens will have a stash of lime juice, homemade or store-bought, lurking around in the pantry or fridge. It is one of the most uncomplicated ingredients to splash on top of food to give it a little refresh. A dash of lime juice elevates a dish and gives food some lightness and zing. Despite how commonly it is used, we rarely know its shelf life, if it can spoil or if it’s time to procure a new batch.
Lime juice is highly acidic, which makes bacteria and other decay highly unlikely. The most it will do is lose a little bit of zest and flavor. Sometimes, certain people do develop stomach pain from consuming old or expired lime juice, this is because of the declining nutritive value.
In this article, we break down everything you need to know about lime juice, its life span, storage instructions, how to recognize signs of decay, and more.
How Long Does Lime Juice Last?
There is no simple answer to this as lime juice lasts for anything from 2 days to years. Like most food substances, the shelf life of lime juice depends on a number of external factors, including:
- The freshness of the limes
- Where it was stored
- How it was stored
- Whether it was homemade or store-bought
Freshly squeezed lime juice that is made at home, is freshest for the first six to eight hours. It does not spoil immediately after, but the quality starts deteriorating. If you don’t refrigerate it after that time, it will spoil. After refrigeration, it will still be usable for another day or two at the most. You need to discard it after.
Store-bought lime juice on the other hand has a much longer shelf life and can remain safely in your pantry (if unopened) or in your fridge (if opened) for many months. Store-bought lime juice is made with preservatives and additives that automatically increase its shelf life.
|Type of Lime Juice||Storage in Pantry||Storage in Fridge|
|Homemade||4-6 hours||1-2 days|
|Store-bought||1 day||Several months|
Now, if you have store-bought lime juice that you haven’t opened, it can remain in the pantry till you open it, but once you do, it must be refrigerated. Having said that, keep in mind that boxed or bottled lime juice from the store comes with a “best-by” date and an expiry date. If unopened, the lime juice will be usable 1-2 months past the “best-by” date. It can even be used past the expiry date, as long as you are sure it hasn’t gone bad. Lime juice, because of its high acidity takes a long time to spoil. So, the lime juice can still be used after the best-by and expiry dates because these dates are indicators that the quality of the juice has reduced, it has lost some of its nutrients and it might not pack as much of a punch as expected.
How to Recognize Signs of Spoilage?
If you aren’t sure if your lime juice is up to scratch, there are a few quick ways to determine if it has turned. Citrus fruits and citrus products like lime juice have very strong and distinctive smells. Your first sign of trouble with your lime juice would be the smell. The usually strong and refreshing smell will be a little dull, not as powerful, and might have a slightly sour odor. This doesn’t necessarily mean it is spoiled, it can indicate that it is on the decline.
For more proof, take a look at the color of the juice, pour it onto a clear glass and check for discoloration. If there is brown residue or a tinge of brown to the juice, then it is on its way out.
A quick taste will settle the matter. Lime juice generally does have a bitter taste, albeit refreshing. But if the lime juice has spoiled, it will taste extremely sour.
How to Store Lime Juice?
Even though lime juice has a long life span already, and is easily available in most stores and supermarkets, it is still practical and economical to store it correctly and reduce wastage.
- If you are using freshly squeezed, homemade lime juice, don’t leave the lime juice lying outside. The juice peaks within hours of making and the quality starts declining soon after.
- The first thing to do is to transfer it into an airtight container, preferably a glass jar or bottle, and store it in the fridge. A clear bottle is recommended only because it is easy to detect discoloration and signs of spoilage. Also, since homemade lime juice does not last beyond a day or two, either make a small batch or use up as much as you possibly can as you must discard it after that.
- Make sure the container is dry and do not reuse an old lime juice bottle as it will spoil faster.
- Whether you are leaving it out, which is not recommended for too long, or storing it in the fridge, make sure it is away from direct heat and sunlight and where it will not be subject to constantly changing temperatures.
- Now, if you want to have homemade lime juice that will last longer, freezing it is an option. Pour the lime juice into an ice tray or ice mold and freeze it. Once frozen, remove the frozen cubes of lime juice and store them in a freezer-friendly airtight box or Ziplock. You can leave them in the freezer for as long as you want and take out the cubes as you use them. You can thaw them overnight or leave them in the fridge. I do not recommend leaving the frozen lime juice cubes in the open in the trays as not only will they lose their smell and intensity, but also everything else in the freezer will start smelling like lime juice.
- For store-bought lime juice, you can keep them in the box or bottle it came in, in the pantry till you open it. Once you open it, immediately refrigerate. It will last in the pantry for a day or two, but to preserve quality and freshness, keep it in the fridge as soon as you open it.
- You can freeze store-bought lime juice the same way as homemade juice, but it is not necessary as its shelf life is already long.
Next time you are not sure if your lime juice is still usable, sniff, see and taste to make sure. If you’re still uncertain toss it out.