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14 Surprising Foods You Don’t Need To Refrigerate

During any holiday season, my fridge tends to be so full of leftovers and treats that I end up revisiting this post to remind myself which foods don’t need to be refrigerated. There’s always something you can take out of your fridge, whether it’s condiments that are high in salt or vinegar, or fresh produce that keeps its texture and flavor better at room temperature.

Here are a few items that may be taking up room in your fridge that just don’t need to be in there!

14 Foods You Shouldn’t Refrigerate

A bunch of green bananas on a wooden table that shouldn't refrigerate.

1. Bananas

Bananas taste best when they’re ripe, and if they go in the fridge too early, they will never ripen. Once the bananas are ripe, then you can transfer them to the fridge. They skins may turn black, but they taste just fine! (Did you know you can ripen bananas quickly if you are in a hurry to make banana bread or smoothies?)

A woman skillfully cutting a loaf of bread on a cutting board, emphasizing that bread shouldn't refrigerate.

2. Bread

Putting bread in the fridge dries it out, leaving your bread stale or chewy. The moisture in the fridge encourages bacteria and mold, so store it in a breadbox instead! The breadbox promotes air circulation, keeping the bread from getting too dry or too moist.

A blonde woman holding a bottle of beeswax, which shouldn't be refrigerated.

3. Honey

Keeping honey in the fridge won’t damage the shelf-life or the taste, but it will make the honey crystalize and clump. Honey actually never spoils or goes bad, but storing honey in an air-tight glass jar, away from heat and direct sunlight, is the best method!

In this kitchen, a bag of eggs is sitting on the shelf. Don't be fooled by the lack of refrigeration, as these eggs are perfectly fine to store at room temperature.

4 & 5. Onions And Garlic

The fridge makes food last longer because of the temperature, but it’s also rather humid inside. The humidity makes onions moldy more quickly than if they are stored on the countertop, plus their flavor often travels throughout the fridge. You want your onions to stay cool, dry, well-ventilated, and away from potatoes (because of the gasses emitted from the onions.)

Using a pair of nylons or a mesh bag to store onions works perfectly, and it’s thrifty, too. :-) I love these bags because you can take them with you to the store, then just hang them up when you get home. And you get a variety of six bags for under $12! Garlic is similar and would do great in nylons or bags as well; but you could also just use a basket in your cupboard or pantry.

A pile of potatoes on a wooden cutting board; these potatoes shouldn't refrigerate.

6. Potatoes

The humidity in the fridge can make potatoes rot, and the fridge actually causes the starch to break down into sugar. This makes your potatoes sweet, grainy and soft. You’re better off storing potatoes in a dry, dark, ventilated space; like a woven basket inside a cupboard. Be sure not to wash the potatoes until you’re ready to cook them, because water will also make the potatoes rot.

7. Coffee Beans

Coffee beans tend to absorb odors, so keeping coffee in the fridge is a bad idea! Plus, the moisture in the fridge makes the coffee less flavorful. Keep coffee in a dark, air-tight container and away from sunlight.

A woman is holding a bunch of tomatoes on a cutting board and explains why you shouldn't refrigerate them.

8. Tomatoes

Just like bananas, tomatoes should be kept on the counter until they’re ripe and ready to eat, and then transferred to the fridge. They lose their crunch and flavor pretty quickly, though, so try to eat them within a day or two of placing them in the fridge. When out on the counter, store them in an open basket. If they’re too close together then the tomatoes will bruise.

9. Avocados

Yet again, avocados should be left out until they’re ripe, and then put in the fridge. To develop the right flavor and texture, they need to ripen at room temperature, but they will stay good and ripe for a few more days in the fridge.

10. Cooking Oil

Cooking oil should be kept in an air-tight, dark glass container. They stay liquid at room temperature, and trying to refrigerate and then melt the oils is more hassle than it’s worth! Plus, changing the temperature around too much will make the oil go rancid more quickly.

A blonde woman holding a bottle of sauce that shouldn't be refrigerated.

11. Ketchup

Your standard ketchup has so much vinegar in it that it acts as a preservative and doesn’t need to be refrigerated! Even after you open the bottle, you can put it right back into the pantry. If you buy a “lower-sodium” ketchup, though, I would keep it in the fridge – just to be safe.

12. Berries

If you have some good, fresh berries from a farmer’s market, keep them on the counter and eat them quickly! They’ll maintain their best flavor if they stay at room temperature, but put them in the fridge if you’ll have them for more than a couple days. Be sure not to wash them until you’re ready to eat, because the water could make them mushy or moldy.

A bottle of la choy sauce on a wooden table that shouldn't be refrigerated.

13. Soy Sauce And Hot Sauce

Hot sauce that is made with large amounts of vinegar and salt can be kept out for couple months, but place it in the fridge if you don’t go through hot sauce very quickly. Soy sauce is mostly salt, so the same goes! Mild bacteria can grow after a couple months, so the fridge is best for long-term storage.

14. Winter Squash

These hearty squashes will last for a whole month in the pantry, so don’t bother taking up space in the fridge!

This certainly isn’t a comprehensive list, but it should give you an idea of some of the pros and cons of deciding “to chill or not to chill” your food.

What else do you keep in the pantry?

Jill Nystul Photo

Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.
I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

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  • I rarely use mustard and kept it refrigerated. I ended up tossing it. It definitely turned. I could tell by the smell.
    Tomatoes are usually ripe when buying them at the market and I do refrigerate them. I love plum tomatoes and eat them as a snack and cold is so much better!!!

  • I will never leave my ketchup out of the fridge. I went to a party, and they had hotdogs so of course I used the ketchup that had been sitting out as she never puts it in the fridge. It made me so sick, I had to leave. The vinegar isn’t enough to prevent it from going sour and getting moldy enough to make you sick. I always put tomato-based products in the fridge, just to be on the safe side.

  • I found this post to be an interesting read, because I put many of these items in the fridge. I can understand why I shouldn’t put onions or garlic in the fridge. However, I live in a place that is so humid that bread gets moldy after a few days and so you absolutely have to store it in the fridge to preserve it just a bit longer. How is the humidity inside the fridge different from the humidity outside?

    • Humidity is higher in the fridge because it’s a closed container filled with various items – some of which release gases and/or moisture. The fridge circulates the air to regulate humidity, but that’s just how it is! :-)

  • Sliced bread keeps a lot longer if it it FROZEN in plastic bags in the FREEZER (not the fridge). Let the selected number of slices thaw out on the bench top, inside a plastic bag. They can be thawed using the M/Wave, but this tends to make the bread tough.

  • Mustard, like catsup, is a pantry or counter item. Read the ingredient label and remember all of the diners that leave catsup and mustard on the tables with the salt and sugar packets.

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