Crispy, crunchy and with a hint of salt, the humble saltine cracker is the unsung hero of the snack world.
What makes them so wonderful, aside from their flavor, is the wide variety of ways they can be used.
As a snack, what’s better than a slice of aged cheddar or thick fruit spread piled high? Love soup, chili or chowder? Why not crumble up a heaping handful, or toss in the saltines’ rounded cousin, the oyster cracker and stir it right in to add an extra dimension of satisfying crunch?
No matter how you might like to munch on them, no one can deny that it’s their crunchiness that makes them special.
As a cracker lover myself, I know that’s the first thing I notice when I bite into a saltine. If it’s the slightest bit off, I can tell, and I’m sure you can as well.
So, how long do they last?
Well, that kind of depends, but there are a couple of general guidelines you can use.
Unopened saltines can last anywhere from six to nine months before the expiration or “best by” date or about a month after it. A package of previously opened saltine crackers will last about a week.
While you may not know it, there are a few tricks and tips that’ll help you extend the shelf life of your saltines.
As always, we’ll be covering each of them for you because our goal is to help enjoy your crackers as intended – crisp, flavorful and filled with a satisfying crunch!
If there’s one thing I think we can all agree on, it’s that we want to avoid the dreaded stale cracker – at all costs!
How Long Are Saltine Crackers Good for After the Expiration Date?
The expiration date shown on the packaging is the last date you can expect your saltines to maintain their maximum flavor, crispness and appearance. Manufacturers sometimes show this as the “best by” date.
Whether they are still good past the expiration date is hard to know for certain without opening the package and tasting them.
However, it’s possible that saltines can remain fresh for up to a month after the expiration date if they’ve not been previously opened.
How Long Do Saltines Last Unopened?
Unopened saltines can last for six to nine months. To maximize the chances of them remaining fresh, it’s always a good idea to store any unopened bags of saltines in a dry area of your kitchen or cupboard.
Can I Eat Stale Saltines?
Yes, you can eat stale saltines, but they’re not going to be very satisfying.
Because a saltine is stale doesn’t necessarily mean it’s gone bad, but if you’re at all concerned, then throw them out.
Alternatively, some adventurous cooks have found ways to use stale crackers as we’ll see next.
What Can I Do With Stale Saltine Crackers?
If you’ve found yourself with a boxful of stale saltines but you’re also the type of person who hates to waste food, then there’s hope for you yet! Here’s a few things you can try.
Use Them as a Binder
Crushed up stale crackers can make a good substitute for breadcrumbs in dishes like meatloaf. The breadcrumbs help to hold the meatloaf together while it’s cooking and the chances are good that saltines can do the job almost as well. This technique works for other recipes that use binding agents like meatballs or crab cakes.
Use Them to Coat Food or as a Breading
In this situation, you can use pulverized saltines as a substitute for flour when using an egg wash for frying. If you’ve ever fried food before, this will be pretty straightforward since all you’re doing is swapping out the flour and using crushed crackers in their place. For the best results, you want the crackers to be crushed as fine as possible. While you won’t reach the same granularity as flour, it’s still worth a try.
It’s also possible to “recrisp” your saltines. Here’s a simple method from the good folks at Cook’s Illustrated that helps you restore your crackers’ crunch.
Simple spread your saltines evenly on a baking sheet, taking care not to let them overlap. After baking them at 225 degrees for about twenty minutes, you should be able to recapture much of the lost texture and flavor.
|Use as a Binder
|Crushed and mixed with meatloaf
|Substitute for breadcrumbs to hold meatloaf together while cooking
|Use as a Breading
|Pulverized and mixed with egg wash
|Substitute for flour when using egg wash for frying
|Baked at 225 degrees for 20 minutes
|Restore lost texture and flavor of crackers
Why Do Saltine Crackers Taste Stale?
The reason saltines taste stale is that they’ve been exposed to excess moisture, which has been absorbed by the starches present in the cracker.
This causes a texture change from the familiar crispiness you expect to something more soft and crumbly.
This texture change is what causes you to sense “staleness” in the cracker.
How Do You Keep Saltine Crackers Fresh?
The best way to keep your saltines fresh is to leave them unopened in the original packaging until you’re ready to eat (or use) them.
If you’ve already opened your saltines, the clock is ticking, so to speak. As soon as the cracker is exposed to moisture in the air, it will immediately begin absorbing it. However, there are a couple of storage methods you could try to extend the freshness of a newly opened package.
Place Them in an Airtight Container
Since you want to reduce the contact that the starches present in the cracker have with moisture in the air, you need to seal them off from it. Plastic storage containers that snap closed are a great option for this.
Place Them in Sealable Plastic Bags
Similar to the plastic containers mentioned above, using plastic bags that you can seal closed is also a good choice for helping to maintain the freshness of your saltines. Simply drop some crackers in a baggie and seal it tight, doing your best to remove as much excess air as possible prior to closing it.
Keep in mind that while both methods are effective at helping your saltines last longer, they’re not foolproof. No matter how hard you try, there will still be some moisture present in the containers or bags.
Over time, this will change the taste and texture of your crackers, so make sure to consume them within a couple of weeks for the best results.
|Leave unopened in original packaging
|Keep crackers fresh until ready to eat
|Place in an airtight container
|Reduce contact with moisture in the air
|Within a couple of weeks
|Place in sealable plastic bags
|Help maintain freshness by removing excess air
|Within a couple of weeks
Do Saltines Go Bad or Expire?
Yes, like most foods, saltines can expire over time.
The most common way to determine whether your saltines are bad is to taste them. If they are stale, then that might not necessarily mean they are harmful to consume, but they definitely won’t taste as good as when you first opened the package.
While we didn’t mention smelling the crackers first, it seems as though there have been complaints in recent years regarding the saltines of some major brands like Nabisco, Keebler and others which have been found giving off a rancid, chemical odor.
Obviously, if you smell anything like that, it’s not a good idea to eat it but instead return it to the grocery store and get a refund!
Hi, I’m Jenny. I have many interests and, some would say, eclectic passions. A few words that best describe me? Hmm, well… Amateur surfer, professional traveler, food lover and writer extraordinaire. Oh, and lover of all furry, four-legged creatures!