Canning + Pickling | Food

How Long Will Pickled Eggs Keep?

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Do you have a jar of pickled eggs sitting in your fridge? Maybe you just made them, or maybe they’ve been there for months. You’re probably wondering how long will pickled eggs keep? The National Center for Home Food Preservation states that when refrigerated, pickled eggs should be consumed within three to four months for best quality. And yes, you’re supposed to refrigerate them!

Pickled eggs are a classic dish that can be enjoyed year-round. If you’ve never tried them before, they’re worth a shot! While there are many different pickled eggs recipes, most varieties have a mouth-puckering tangy flavor from a pickling solution made of vinegar and spices.

Like other low-acid foods, pickled eggs are prone to botulism when improperly packed or stored. To prevent this dangerous foodborne illness, it’s important to follow a few food safety practices when storing and making pickled eggs.

Do you need to keep pickled eggs in the fridge?

Yes, the National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP) states that pickled eggs must be kept in the fridge. This is because there are no reliable recipes for homemade canned pickled eggs.

Eggs are a low-acid food. When home canning, low-acid foods such as meat, poultry, fish, and most vegetables require processing in a pressure canner to effectively kill harmful pathogens. Unfortunately, most home pressure canners are not able to sufficiently or reliably kill bacteria when it comes to pickled eggs.

And in case you’re wondering, regular, unpickled store-bought eggs need to be stored in the fridge too. Read more about egg refrigeration and how long store-bought eggs last.

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Credit: Green Mountain Girls Farm / Flickr

Can you keep pickled eggs at room temperature?

No, please don’t keep pickled eggs at room temperature. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports a man who died of botulism poisoning from consuming homemade pickled eggs stored at room temperature.

Scouring through different online forums, there are many who claim they’ve kept pickled eggs on their countertops, and their grandparents did the same, and no one has ever gotten sick. Others say that pickled eggs kept at room temperature are a mainstay in British pubs as free grub.

First, even the risk of developing botulism isn’t worth it. I would rather be safe than sorry. Secondly, do the British use a special kind of pickling vinegar? I can’t be sure. But my general distrust of “free” bar food (which includes pretzels, nuts, and now pickled eggs) prevents me from trying this.

Why are pickled eggs prone to botulism?

Botulism toxins are produced from the bacterium called Clostridium botulinum. While botulism is rare, it can be lethal and cause paralysis and respiratory failure.

Pickled eggs provide an ideal environment for botulism to thrive. When food is improperly processed or stored, it allows harmful pathogens to develop. In particular, botulism likes:

  • Low pH foods: This includes low-acid foods like eggs, meat, and most vegetables.
  • Low-oxygen environment (anaerobic conditions): The bacteria can grow and produce the toxin without any outside interference.
  • High moisture: Pickled or canned foods provide plenty of liquid and moisture for botulism spores to reproduce.

Pickled eggs safety tips

Now that we scared you about botulism, there are several ways you can prevent it from occurring by following a few food safety practices.

  • Keep it clean: This includes washing your hands (remember to sing Happy Birthday twice), using clean utensils, wiping down countertops, and sterilizing jars. To safely sterilize jars, submerge them in boiling water for at least 10 minutes.
  • Avoid room temperature: Only keep pickled eggs at room temperature when you’re just about to serve or eat them. Leaving them at room temperature for more than 2 hours is a general no-no as this is the “danger zone” which provides the perfect temperatures for botulism spores and other nasties to reproduce and grow.
  • Leave boiled eggs intact: This is advice from the CDC after discovering that the man who died of botulism had poked holes in his eggs. The practice of poking holes in pickled eggs is actually common practice: it’s meant to allow the flavor of the brine and seasoning to soak into the eggs. However, the CDC says that this can provide another way for bacteria to contaminate pickled eggs.
  • Be patient: Wanna know the secret to great tasting pickled eggs? Let them sit in their seasoning (in the fridge of course!) for around two weeks before eating.

Tip: Avoid using brass or copper cooking utensil when working making pickled eggs, or when working with vinegar in general. These metals may cause discoloring in the food (and nobody wants that!). Stick with stainless steel, glass, or ceramic pots and utensils.

How are pickled eggs made?

You’ll find tons of pickled eggs recipes online calling for different ingredients. Most use a pickled brine consisting of vinegar, sugar, salt, and spices. Some recipes use beet juice which gives eggs a pinkish hue.

The general homemade process for making pickled eggs is as follows:

  • Sterilize jars.
  • Boil eggs until cooked. Remove from hot water and place in a cold water bath (this makes it easier to remove the shells). Peel and discard shells.
  • Prepare the brine on the stovetop. Bring to a boil.
  • Pour brine over eggs in jars.

Here’s a pickled egg recipe from the NCHFP:

Red Beet Eggs

  • 1 cup red beet juice (from canned beets)
  • 1½ cups cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • Several canned whole tiny red beets (or several slices of beets)

How can you tell when pickled eggs are bad?

With most foods, you can generally do a sniff test but this won’t work well with pickled eggs as all you’ll smell is pickling vinegar.

Many old pickled eggs develop a rubbery texture, or an off-taste. The best way to prevent yourself from accidentally eating an old, rubbery egg is to label the jar with the date (in the case of homemade pickled eggs).

If you have a batch of old pickled eggs, it’s best to toss them for safety’s sake.

Read up more about the shelf life of eggs here.

Can you freeze pickled eggs?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) does not recommend freezing eggs as this alters the texture. In other words, your lovely pickled eggs once frozen, can turn simply gross. 

How to store store-bought pickled eggs

The USDA says that commercially-processed eggs may be kept on a shelf at room temperature for several months if unopened. Once opened, they need to be refrigerated and used within 7 days.  

The takeaway: how long will pickled eggs keep?

Pickled eggs are a favorite of many and they can be made at home. However, it’s important to store these in the fridge for up to 4 months or you could risk botulism growth. If you love pickled eggs but don’t have time to make them from scratch, there are commercially-processed products that will keep on your shelf for several months if unopened. Once opened, they need refrigeration and should be eaten within 7 days. 

Related questions

Can you pickle eggs in a plastic jar?

No, it’s best to stick with a glass mason jar or a canning jar. Plastics have a tendency to absorb odors. Depending on the type of plastic, it may not withstand heat well when pouring hot brine over the eggs.

How can you tell if hardboiled eggs are cooked after boiling?

There’s a trick to tell if an egg is hard boiled or raw: spin it. A hard boiled egg spins in a circle evenly while a raw egg wobbles.

  1. National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP), Pickled Eggs, https://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_06/pickled_eggs.html. Accessed May 2021.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Foodborne Botulism From Eating Home-Pickled Eggs, https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm4934a2.htm. Accessed May 2021.
  3. Treiber, Lisa (11 April 2014). “Extra eggs? Pickle them!” Michigan State University, Accessed May 2021.
  4. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Shell Eggs from Farm to Table, https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/eggs/shell-eggs-farm-table#37. Accessed May 2021.
  5. Egg Farmers of Canada, How to Make the Perfect Hard Boiled Egg, https://www.eggs.ca/eggs101/view/6/how-to-make-the-perfect-hard-boiled-egg. Accessed May 2021.

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