Do Bacon Bits Need to Be Refrigerated?

Bacon bits are a popular way to add smoky, savory bacon flavor to salads, baked potatoes casseroles and more. But when it comes to proper storage, bacon bits can be confusing. Do they need to be refrigerated like regular bacon? Or can they be stored in the pantry like other shelf-stable foods? Here’s a comprehensive look at whether various types of bacon bits require refrigeration.

Real Bacon Bits

Bacon bits made from real cooked and crumbled bacon are essentially a cured meat product. Even though they are fully cooked real bacon bits still need to be refrigerated after opening to maximize freshness and prevent bacterial growth.

According to the USDA cooked bacon bits can be kept refrigerated for up to 7 days. For longer storage they can be frozen for 1-2 months. Some key tips for refrigerating real bacon bits include

  • Transfer opened bacon bits to an airtight container or resealable plastic bag.

  • Make sure to remove as much air as possible before sealing.

  • Store in the main refrigerator compartment, not the door.

  • Label package with opening date and use within 7 days.

  • Do not store at room temperature more than 2 hours after opening.

So real bacon bits made from cured and cooked bacon require refrigeration. Leaving them out too long increases the risk of foodborne illness.

Shelf-Stable Real Bacon Bits

Some real bacon bits are packaged to be shelf-stable. These are processed and packaged in ways that prevent microbial growth without refrigeration. Shelf-stable bacon bits will have instructions on the label indicating they can be stored in the pantry until opening.

However, it is still best practice to refrigerate shelf-stable real bacon bits after they are opened. The USDA recommends using within 3-4 weeks and keeping them chilled at that point. Refrigerating opened shelf-stable bacon bits preserves freshness and flavor.

Imitation Bacon Bits

Many bacon bits today are not made from real bacon at all. Imitation bacon bits can be made from soy protein, wheat gluten, or other vegan protein sources. They are flavored and colored to resemble real bacon bits.

Since they do not contain any actual meat components, imitation bacon bits do not require refrigeration before or after opening. Unopened packages have an ambient room temperature shelf life of 9-12 months.

Once opened, imitation bacon bits will keep for 6-8 weeks in the pantry. Some tips for storing imitation bacon bits include:

  • Store in a cool, dry location away from heat and moisture.

  • Transfer opened bits to an airtight container.

  • Keep container tightly sealed between uses.

  • Watch expiration dates and don’t use if they have expired.

As long as the ingredients label confirms your bacon bits are imitation, made from soy or other vegan proteins, they can stay fresh in your pantry without refrigerating.

Homemade Bacon Bits

DIY bacon bits made from cooking bacon at home do require careful refrigerated storage. Since they are raw before cooking, bacon prepared at home can still harbor bacteria without proper chilling. Here are some refrigeration guidelines for homemade bacon bits:

  • Refrigerate cooked bacon bits within 2 hours of preparation. Do not leave at room temperature.

  • Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Glass storage jars work well.

  • Only keep for 3-5 days maximum before discarding.

  • To freeze, spread in a single layer on a pan and freeze until firm. Then transfer to a sealed freezer bag.

  • Frozen homemade bacon bits will last 1-2 months before the fat can go rancid.

Always be diligent about chilling and using up homemade bacon bits promptly. Without preservatives or curing agents, they are at higher risk of spoiling versus commercial versions.

Signs Bacon Bits Have Spoiled

Check bacon bits for the following signs of spoilage before eating:

  • Mold growth
  • Foul, unpleasant odors
  • Slime formation
  • Change in coloration
  • Very soft or mushy texture

Discard any bacon bits displaying these warning signs. With real bacon bits, odor is often the first indicator of spoilage. Off-smelling fats can mean rancidity or bacterial growth has occurred. When in doubt, throw it out.

Proper Storage for Maximum Freshness

To keep all types of bacon bits fresh as long as possible:

  • Store in the refrigerator or freezer if required.
  • Keep in an airtight container to prevent air exposure.
  • Check best by dates and don’t exceed them.
  • If repackaging, label the container with the date.
  • Keep away from high heat, moisture, and possible contaminants.

Follow all label instructions to determine if refrigeration is needed. When chilling is required, limit time spent at room temperature after opening. Proper storage keeps your bacon bits crunchy, flavorful, and safe to use in recipes and toppings for months.

Can You Travel with Bacon Bits?

Air travel and road trips often involve time out of refrigeration. So can you safely take bacon bits along when traveling? Here are some tips:

  • Only pack shelf-stable imitation bacon bits or unopened shelf-stable real bacon bits.

  • For road trips, use a cooler with ice packs to keep refrigerated real bacon bits chilled.

  • Never store opened refrigerated bacon bits at warm temperatures.

  • At hotels, keep real bacon bits in the refrigerator. Ask for a fridge if the room lacks one.

  • Limit time spent out of refrigeration to less than 2 hours total.

  • If unsure of storage conditions, play it safe and leave bacon bits at home.

With proper care in packing and storage, shelf-stable bacon bits can travel well. But opened real bacon bits with refrigeration requirements are riskier propositions. When road tripping, research how you will keep them consistently chilled.

To summarize, real bacon bits require refrigeration while imitation soy-based bacon bits can stay shelf-stable. Read the packaging carefully to determine if chilling is necessary. If you make your own bacon bits at home, promptly refrigerate in a covered container. Follow all storage instructions and guidelines to ensure your bacon bits stay fresh, crunchy and safe to consume in recipes and toppings. Proper refrigeration when required keeps the essence of bacon from going bad.

What’s the Best Way to Store Bacon? – CHOW Tip


Can you eat bacon bits that have been left out?

If bacon has been sitting out for more than 2 hours, especially if it is uncooked, then play it safe and toss it.

Do McCormick bacon bits go bad?

McCormick Culinary® Bacon Flavored Bits has a shelf life of 720 days when tightly closed and stored in a cool, dry place to protect against flavor loss and moisture. Avoid exposure to heat, humidity, direct sunlight and fluorescent light to maintain flavor and color.

How do you store bacon bites?

Fry over a medium high heat until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. You can freeze this for later use by placing the bacon bits in a single layer on a cooking sheet. Once they are frozen, place them in a zip lock bag for use in recipes, salads or baked potatoes.

How long do bacon bits last in the fridge?

According to Eat by Date, refrigerated bacon bits made with real bacon can last anywhere from 6 weeks in the refrigerator to 6 months in the freezer. However, the range of dates is only as good as your storage method. It’s important to store your bacon bits in an airtight container and label them with the date they were opened.

Can Bacon be refrigerated?

Always keep your bacon in a refrigerator or a freezer. Unopened bacon will last for one to two weeks in the refrigerator and for six to eight months in the freezer. Opened and uncooked bacon will last for one week in the refrigerator and up to six months in the freezer. How can you tell if refrigerated bacon is bad?

Does Hormel Bacon need to be refrigerated?

Yup, zero. Sustainable farms provide responsibly raised pork. Make the Natural Choice. Hormel Natural Choice Fully Cooked Bacon is fully cooked uncured bacon with no preservatives and nothing artificial. It is shelf-stable, great for the pantry, and does not require refrigeration until after opening.

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