A crispy and juicy apple can be a delightful snack.
Still, like other fruits and vegetables, apples only stay fresh for so long before they start to go bad.
Apples far past their expiration date can eventually become unsafe to eat, making it important to know when they’re no longer fresh.
This article examines how long apples typically last, which factors influence their shelf life, and how to keep apples fresh for as long as possible.
How long do apples last?
How long an apple lasts depends largely on when it was harvested, how it has been stored since that time, and whether it has been washed, cut, or cooked.
Many fruit distributors store apples in controlled conditions that keep them fresh for several months before reaching grocery stores. For instance, apple bins are often treated with a gas called 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP).
Using 1-MCP prevents apples in storage from ripening by blocking the effects of ethylene, a colorless gas that drives the produce ripening process. However, ripening resumes once the apples are removed from these conditions.
What matters most to consumers is how apples are kept at home, including the temperature at which they are stored and whether they have been washed or cut.
Here are the approximate shelf lives of apples, depending on how they are prepared and stored:
- On the counter: 5–7 days
- In the pantry: 3 weeks
- In the refrigerator: 4–6 weeks
- Once cut: 3–5 days in the fridge, 8 months in the freezer
- Made into applesauce: 7–10 days in the fridge, 2 months in the freezer
- Cooked, as in the case of apple pie: 3–5 days in the fridge
Summary: The shelf life of apples varies from a few weeks to a few months, depending on how they are prepared and stored.
How to tell whether an apple has gone bad
Fresh apples feel firm, have bright skin, and smell pleasant and fruity. They won’t have bruises, soft spots, or areas of discoloration. When you bite into them, they are crispy and juicy.
Here are a few indications that an apple has begun to go bad:
- soft spots or bruising
- wrinkled skin
- holes and brown blemishes
- liquid oozing from its skin
- a mushy texture
- a mealy or bland and grainy taste
It’s best to discard apples that are soft or show other physical signs of expiration, as moisture content under the skin can indicate contamination.
Summary: Examining its appearance usually tells whether an apple has started to go bad. Apples that have gone bad should be discarded.
Risks of eating expired apples
Although eating apples that are starting to age isn’t always dangerous, apples are subject to mold growth just like other fresh produce.
Microorganisms cause mold and may cause allergic or respiratory reactions in some people. Some microorganisms grow mycotoxins, which are responsible for many foodborne illnesses.
Apples are subject to a mycotoxin called patulin, produced by the Penicillium expansum species. When patulin is consumed in large amounts, it can cause nausea and bleeding ulcers and may even increase your risk of cancer.
Mycotoxins can also disrupt your gut bacteria, which may negatively affect your immune system and increase your risk of developing other illnesses.
Summary: It’s best to discard apples that show signs of expiration, as they carry the risk of toxic mold. Apples are especially at risk of growing mycotoxins like patulin, which can be dangerous to consume.
How to increase the shelf life of apples
Increasing the shelf life of apples can be as simple as practicing good produce storage habits at home.
Here are a few things you can do to help keep your apples as fresh as possible:
- Do not wash your apples until you are ready to prepare and eat them.
- Leave your apples in whole form until you are ready to eat them, as exposure to oxygen can increase the rate of oxidation and deterioration.
- Store whole apples in the refrigerator crisper drawer instead of the pantry or counter, as colder temperatures retain freshness longer.
- Submerge cut apple slices in a mixture comprising 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of lemon juice per 1 cup (240 ml) of water to slow the browning as part of the natural oxidation process.
- Wrap apples individually in plastic or a paper bag to prevent the spread of ethylene gas, which can promote the ripening of any surrounding apples.
Practicing some of these simple preparation and storage tips at home allows you to enjoy fresh apples for longer.
Suggested read: How long does bread last?
Summary: Increase the shelf life of apples by storing them individually, unwashed, and whole at colder temperatures, such as in the fridge or freezer. Apple slices can be kept fresher with the help of an acid like lemon juice.
The shelf life of apples can vary from a few weeks to a few months.
The temperature, form, and location in which they are stored significantly affect how long apples retain their freshness.
The best way to keep apples fresh and ready to eat is to store them unwashed, in whole form, and individually wrapped in the refrigerator. This can keep them fresh for up to 6–8 weeks.
If you notice physical signs of expiration, such as bruising, soft spots, or oozing, it’s best to discard apples to prevent the intake of potentially dangerous compounds called mycotoxins.