Surprising Foods You Should Be Storing in the Refrigerator (But Probably Aren’t), According to Experts


While eggs don’t necessarily need to be refrigerated, keeping them cold helps preserve freshness and prevent bacterial growth like salmonella. The refrigerated section of your grocery store should be your first clue that eggs belong in the fridge at home too. Make sure to store eggs in their original cartoon and place them on a shelf, not in the door where the temperature fluctuates.


You may be used to keeping tomatoes out on the counter, but chilled tomatoes actually retain more flavor and firmness. The cold environment slows down the ripening process and enzymatic breakdown. Just be sure not to refrigerate tomatoes long-term, as temps under 50°F can make them mealy and bland. Keep them towards the front of the fridge and use within a few days.


Potatoes prefer cool, dark storage for optimal freshness. Unless you have a root cellar, the refrigerator is the next best option. Keep potatoes in a perforated plastic bag in the fridge and they’ll stay fresher longer. Avoid exposure to light which can cause potatoes to sprout and turn green.


Once opened, ground and instant coffee quickly loses its flavor and aroma when left at room temperature. Protect your coffee’s fresh-roasted quality by storing it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. As a bonus, the chilled temperature helps lock in the coffee’s aromatic compounds.

Nut Butters

Natural nut butters without stabilizers and hydrogenated oils tend to separate when left out of the fridge. The oils rise to the top while the solids settle at the bottom. Storing them chilled prevents this separation, keeping the nut butter evenly blended and spreadable. Just remember to let it come to room temp before using.


Bread may seem like a pantry staple, but refrigerating it can double its shelf life. The cold and steady environment retards the starch crystallization process that makes bread go stale. For maximum freshness, store bred in an airtight bag in the fridge. It helps prevent mold as well.


Ripe avocados should be kept in the fridge to slow down ripening. The cold environment will double their shelf life from a couple days at room temp to up to a week chilled. Place ripe avocados in an airtight bag or container to prevent oxidation. Let firm refrigerated avocados come to room temp before eating.


After opening, vinegar is best stored in the refrigerator to maintain flavor, aroma and acidity. The cool environment helps prevent evaporation and preserves the vinegar’s beneficial probiotics as well. Transfer to an airtight container and use within 6 months. Apple cider and balsamic vinegar in particular benefit from refrigeration.


Keeping chocolate properly chilled prevents “chocolate bloom” – that dusty white coating that develops on the surface of chocolate over time. Store chocolate in an airtight container in a cool, dry place like the refrigerator to extend its shelf life and maintain texture. Just avoid temperature fluctuations.

Hot Sauce

Once opened, hot sauces like sriracha can be refrigerated to maintain fresh flavor and prevent separation. The cold environment slows down the chemical reactions that affect hot sauce so it stays fiery fresh longer. Store in the fridge for up to a year.

Beer & Wine

Alcoholic beverages like beer, wine, and hard kombucha need refrigeration after opening to preserve carbonation and prevent oxidation. Transfer opened wine to a smaller bottle to minimize air exposure before chilling. An unopened bottle of wine can sit out at room temp, but refrigerate once open.


Ketchup contains vinegar and salt which help prevent bacterial growth at room temperature. However, refrigeration can extend opened ketchup’s shelf life far beyond a month by slowing the chemical reactions that affect flavor. The chilled environment retains ketchup’s thick, pourable consistency too.

Fruits like Apples, Berries, and Citrus

Many raw fruits like berries, peeled apples, and citrus slices should be refrigerated to slow down spoilage. The cold environment preserves texture, nutrients, and juiciness since chilling reduces the fruits’ respiration rate. Cover cut fruit to prevent drying out. Whole uncut fruits can sit out on the counter.


Fresh herb sprigs often come bundled in the produce section. While they don’t necessarily require refrigeration, it helps herbs like cilantro, parsley and mint last longer by a week or more. Simply trim stems, stand bundled herbs in a glass of water, and refrigerate, changing the water every few days.


It should go without saying, but leftover foods like meats, dairy, grains, and cooked veggies shouldn’t be left out more than two hours. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers in airtight containers right away to prevent bacterial growth. Date leftovers and use within 3-4 days.


Butter maintains its spreadable consistency and fresh flavor when stored in a refrigerator. Use an airtight container and follow “best by” date for maximum freshness. Softened butter left out on the counter can quickly become rancid. For the best baked goods, let refrigerated butter soften at room temp before using.


Many condiments like mayo, mustard, salad dressings, and sauces should be refrigerated after opening to prevent bacterial growth and maintain fresh flavor. Tightly seal containers and store in fridge for up to 8 months (or follow product dates). Keep oil-based dressings relatively close to the front.


You may be tempted to display your baked pie on the counter, but it’s safer to refrigerate it. Cover leftover pie well and chill within 2 hours of baking to prevent spoilage. Store refrigerated pie for 3-4 days maximum. Allow to come to room temp before enjoying so the crust doesn’t get soggy.

Fresh Squeezed Juice

Juice made from fresh, raw produce like citrus, carrots, greens or combinations contain enzymes and nutrients that deteriorate quickly at room temperature. For best nutrition and flavor, drink fresh juices right away or store in an airtight container in the fridge up to 24 hours.

Iced or Hot Coffee

Brewed coffee that has been chilled or heated should be stored in the refrigerator if not consumed right away. Transfer to an airtight container to preserve fresh taste and prevent dilution from melted ice. Drink refrigerated coffee within 5-7 days and reheated coffee the same day.

Soy Sauce

The high sodium content of soy sauce inhibits bacterial growth at room temp to an extent, but refrigeration can extend its shelf life even longer—up to a year or more. Keeping an opened bottle in the fridge helps retain flavor too. Soy sauce may thicken when chilled but returns to normal at room temp.

Hard Cheese

Though perfectly shelf-stable, hard cheeses like cheddar and parmesan stay fresh longer when refrigerated. Wrap cut pieces to minimize moisture loss. Soft cheeses like brie, feta, and mozzarella require refrigeration. Allow refrigerated cheese to stand at room temp before serving for the best flavor.


Raw packaged bacon contains preservatives that inhibit bacterial growth when sealed. However, refrigeration preserves freshness and flavor once opened. Cooked leftover bacon also needs refrigeration. Wrap cooked bacon pieces or strips carefully in foil or an airtight container.

Deli Meats

Pre-packaged sliced deli meats need to be refrigerated as soon as you get them home from the store. Keep deli meats no longer than 5-7 days for safety and maximum freshness. Separate meat slices with wax paper to minimize sticking together.

Fresh Fish and Seafood

Fresh fish/seafood like salmon and shrimp are highly perishable, so they need to be kept chilled at all times, even when transporting from the store. Use an insulated bag and refrigerate immediately at home. Cook, freeze, or consume fresh seafood within a day or two.

Summer Sausage

Though preserved and smoked, summer sausage still requires refrigeration after opening to maintain quality. The intact casing helps prolong shelf life at room temp when unopened. Once sliced, wrap tightly in plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate up to 3 weeks.


Factory-sealed tortilla packages don’t need refrigeration. But once opened, it’s best to store leftover tortillas in the fridge to retain softness and prevent mold growth. Allow refrigerated tortillas to come to room temp before using to prevent cracking.


Commercially prepared pickles can sit unrefrigerated until opening since the brine preserves them. But for maximum crispness and to slow down fermentation, refrigerate opened pickles, especially artisanal varieties. Keep refrigerated up to a year—just watch for softening.

Canned Foods After Opening

Once opened and unused, canned foods like vegetables, beans, and tuna should be transferred to airtight containers and refrigerated. This prevents contamination and extends shelf life. Use refrigerated canned foods within 4-5 days (or follow can directions).

Fresh Pasta

Whether store-bought or homemade, fresh pasta and filled pastas like ravioli need to be refrigerated to prevent bacterial growth and spoilage. Store dried pasta at room temp. For refrigerator storage, place fresh pasta in an airtight container for up to 5 days.


Active dry or fresh yeast needs refrigeration after opening to maximize viability and shelf life. Yeast left too long at room temp loses potency to properly leaven doughs and baked goods. Store yeast in an airtight container in the fridge up to two months.

Molasses and Honey

Due to their density and antimicrobial properties, molasses and honey can be safely stored at room temperature. However, refrigeration can help honey and molasses retain their flavor, consistency and beneficial nutrients longer term after opening.


Freshly baked pizza or leftover slices need quick refrigeration to prevent spoilage and softening. Rapidly chill pizza, then wrap tightly in foil or an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to 4 days. Reheat chilled pizza slices in an oven until hot and crispy.

Cooked Grains

Cooked grains like rice, quinoa, and barley should be refrigerated within two hours of cooking. Store cooked grains in an airtight container for 3-5 days. Spreading grains in a thin layer helps them chill quickly in the fridge. Reheat thoroughly before serving.

Jam & Jellies

Due to their high sugar content, commercially prepared fruit jams, jellies, and preserves are shelf-stable when unopened. However, refrigeration prolongs fresh flavor and consistency once opened. Keep refrigerated up to 3 months after opening.

Dark Chocolate

Although it’s naturally shelf-stable, refrigerating or freezing higher percentage dark chocolate helps it retain peak flavor and texture longer term. Store in an airtight container for up to one year chilled or even longer frozen. Allow to come to room temp before eating.

Whipped Cream

Homemade whipped cream requires immediate refrigeration to maintain its light, billowy texture. Refrigerate leftover store-bought whipped cream canisters too. Tightly cover and use chilled whipped cream within 2 days. Shake canisters before dispensing once refrigerated.

Sourdough Starter

An active, fermenting sourdough starter needs to be refrigerated to slow down fermentation between uses. The cool environment helps maintain starter viability for weeks so it doesn’t become over-fermented. Let chilled starter come to room temp before baking.

Vanilla Extract

Pure vanilla extract can be safely stored at room temp for years when unopened. However, refrigeration can help opened bottles retain more nuanced vanilla flavor for longer vs. room temp storage. Keep refrigerated and use within 2 years.

Brown Sugar

Brown sugar tends to dry out and harden when stored in the pantry. But refrigerating opened boxes of light or dark brown sugar in an airtight bag or container can keep it moist and clump-free for up to 6 months. Use immediately upon opening again.


Unopened, shelf-stable shortening has a long shelf life at room temp. But refrigerating opened cans prevents rancidity of shortening’s vegetable oils, extending shelf life up to a year. Use chilled shortening immediately upon bringing to room temp.

Frosting and Icing

Unused canned frosting and homemade icings and frostings should always be refrigerated to prevent spoilage and maintain spreadable consistency. Place in an airtight container and refrigerate up to 10 days. Let chilled icing come to room temp before decorating baked goods.

Fresh-Squeezed Lemon & Lime Juice

For maximum shelf life of vitamin C-rich citrus juice, refrigerate leftover lemon and lime juice immediately after juicing. To retain flavor and nutrition, store in the fridge up to 5 days. Use as a chilled beverage or let come to room temp before cooking.

Dry Yeast

While dry yeast can be stored at room temp until opened, it’s best to refrigerate or even freeze it after opening to maximize viability and leavening power. Simply place yeast in an airtight container. Refrigerate up to 2 months or freeze up to one year.

What Not to Refrigerate

While refrigeration prolongs the shelf life of many foods, there are some items that do not benefit – or even could be damaged – by chilled storage:

  • Whole uncut fruits and vegetables ( exception for some like berries and citrus)
  • Bananas (refrigeration causes skin darkening)
  • Potatoes (chilling converts starch to sugar, unless pierced for microwave cooking)
  • Onions (cold temperature makes them mushy)
  • Melons
  • Hot peppers
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Winter squashes
  • Garlic and shallots (may sprout and become bitter)
  • Tropical fruit like pineapple, mangos, papaya
  • Tomatoes (cold breaks down texture and flavor unless short term)
  • Eggplant
  • Cucumbers
  • Olive oil (congeals and becomes rancid)
  • Stoneground mustard (separates when chilled)
  • Honey (crystallizes and hardens when cold)
  • Canned foods (until opened)
  • Bread (until sliced to retain crust)
  • Hard liquor
  • Dried herbs and spices
  • Dried pastas and grains
  • Vinegar (until opened)
  • Soy sauce (until opened)
  • Chocolate (unless humidity is very high)
  • Molasses
  • Pickles (until opened)

Key Takeaways

  • Refrigeration helps prolong the shelf life and preserve the quality of many surprising foods that you may be used to keeping in the pantry.
  • Chilled storage maintains freshness, texture, flavor, nutrients and food safety of perishable foods.
  • It’s important to promptly refrigerate prepared, cooked and opened foods.
  • Make sure to store refrigerated foods properly – well sealed, in thinner containers and not in the door.
  • Allow chilled foods to come to room temp before eating for best quality and taste.
  • Conversely, some foods become damaged, mealy or spoiled when refrigerated.
  • Organizing your fridge with a mix of fruits, veggies, eggs, dairy, meats, leftovers, and even condiments can streamline meal prep.

Maximizing the shelf life of all your refrigerator foods through proper cold storage helps cut food waste and makes your groceries go further. Just be sure not to overcrowd your fridge or block air circulation. Investing in some clear storage bins can help organize all those surprise fridge items too!