Want to stock up on quinoa but not sure how to store it? It’s a great gluten-free emergency food.
Here’s what you need to know about stockpiling quinoa, including shelf life and the best storage methods.
Does Quinoa Go Bad?
Even though quinoa is considered shelf-stable, it can still go bad if not stored properly. The main reasons quinoa goes bad are:
- Moisture: Exposure to moisture can cause the quinoa to get moldy or even grow bacteria. In this case, the quinoa will be unsafe to eat.
- Heat: Heat causes nutrients in quinoa to break down. It also causes the natural oils in quinoa to go rancid. In this case, the quinoa won’t make you sick, but it won’t be as nutritious and will have a bad taste.
- Air: Exposure to oxygen causes nutrients in quinoa to degrade. Fats also go rancid faster when exposed to air.
- Light: UV light also causes nutrients in food to degrade faster.
- Pests: Weevils and moths love dried staples like quinoa. Rodents could also get to your quinoa if not stored properly. Read about how to prevent and get rid of pantry pests and how to mouse-proof your food storage.
If you want to stockpile quinoa long-term, you’ll need to store it in a way that protects it from all five of these things.
Uncooked Quinoa Shelf Life
If kept in a dry, cool place, quinoa can easily last 2-3 years. Some nutrients may degrade, and fats might get a bit rancid, but the quinoa will still be safe to eat. If stored somewhere humid and warm, quinoa might only last 6 months in the pantry.
Types of Quinoa and Shelf Life
Some types of quinoa have more natural fats in them than others. These types of quinoa will go rancid faster than others, especially if stored somewhere warm.
Black quinoa has less fat than red and white quinoa. It also has more antioxidants, which act as natural preservatives. For this reason, black quinoa is best for long-term storage.
Quinoa Flour Shelf Life
Grinding quinoa into flour increases its surface area, which means it will be more exposed to more air. For this reason, quinoa flour doesn’t last as long as whole quinoa. The same applies when storing other foods, such as nuts and coffee.
Storing Quinoa for Sprouting
If you plan on planting or sprouting the quinoa, be warned that it is very susceptible to high temperatures and humidity.
One study found that, when stored in semi-permeable packaging under uncontrolled temperature and humidity conditions, the quinoa seeds were only viable for 180 days. Even when stored in impermeable packaging at approximately 40F, the quinoa was only viable for 300 days.
The bottom line? If you want to sprout or plant quinoa, don’t stockpile more than you can rotate through within 6-10 months.
How to Store Quinoa Long-Term
Quinoa will last a long time without any special storage methods. However, because pantry pests can infest it and nutrients can degrade, it’s generally best not to stockpile more quinoa in your pantry than you can use within 2 months.
For long-term bulk quinoa storage, you’ll need to use one of the methods below.
If you have room in your freezer, this is one of the easiest and best ways to store quinoa. Oxidation slows at freezing temperatures, and mold and bacteria can’t grow. You’ll need to put the quinoa in an airtight container or a vacuum-sealed bag. Otherwise, it can absorb bad smells from your freezer.
Quinoa will last indefinitely when stored in the freezer. However, quinoa might not sprout as well after being frozen.
Airtight Containers with Oxygen Absorbers
Oxygen absorbers are packets of iron that remove oxygen from the air. You create an oxygen-free storage environment when you put the quinoa in a sealed, airtight container, such as a Mylar bag or mason jar.
Even when stored this way, the nutrients in quinoa will still eventually start to degrade. Likewise, the fats will ultimately go rancid (especially in warm temperatures). However, the process is much slower if you use oxygen absorbers.
Airtight Containers without Oxygen Absorbers
If you don’t want to use oxygen absorbers for quinoa, you can just put it in airtight containers.
I highly recommend using oxygen absorbers, though. Not only do they help the quinoa last longer, but they prevent insect infestations. There are often insect eggs already in the quinoa when you buy it (they get there during transport or in the warehouse). Those insect eggs will eventually hatch and infest your food!
You’ll need to take preventative measures like freezing the quinoa or microwaving it to kill insect eggs before storing it in containers. Insect eggs can’t survive or hatch without oxygen. So you don’t need to worry about infestations if you use oxygen absorbers in the airtight containers.