How to Tell if a Lime is Bad [Definitive Guide]

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Limes are great for refreshing cocktails, desserts, and seasoning. They are a kitchen staple in the summertime. But, it can still be difficult to know when to throw them out and when they’re still deliciously fresh. This article will cover how to tell if your limes are bad and other common questions surrounding its storage.

Signs That Lime is Bad


Limes begin to lose their lovely texture when they are bad. Limes become overly soft, wrinkly, and shrivelled when they have spoiled. If the lime looks like a deflated balloon, you should dispose of it. If the lime is only a little soft it’s definitely going bad, however, it may still have some life in it. It’s best to eat these limes within the coming days. 


Mould is the most obvious sign limes have gone bad. Limes will easily grow mould if they have been left out for too long, or after you cut them into slices. As soon as you see pale fuzzy spots on the skin of the lime, you know it’s time to throw it out!

Browned Skin

Browned skin is a sign the limes have started to decompose. You’ll probably notice spots of murky brown starting to appear on the skin when the limes have lost their freshness. Brown skin is a key sign of an overripe lime. Use them straight away, or just discard them. It’s likely the inside will be as bad as the outside.

How to Tell if Limes Are Good

Fresh, good limes have gorgeous bright yellow skin with flecks of vibrant green. You should be able to smell the quintessential limey, citrusy smell wafting from them. Limes should be firm, but not rock hard. If they are completely solid the lime is underripe and needs to be left for a couple more days. You’ll know the lime is ready to eat when it is slightly malleable, a lovely shade of yellowy-green, and it smells fresh. 

How Long Are Limes Good For?

Limes are good for different amounts of time depending on where they are stored.

In the Cupboard

Fresh, whole limes will keep well in the cupboard for a week. If you’re lucky, they may even keep for 2 weeks. Whole limes are surprisingly hardy and can keep fresh for a while. Sliced limes should not be left in the cupboard as they can contract mould or salmonella at room temperature. 

In the Fridge

Whole limes will be good in the fridge for a month. The high acidity of citrus fruits protects them from bacteria for a significant period. Once the lime has been sliced it won’t last for as long. In the fridge, sliced lime will be fine for 3-4 days. After this point, the slices can become susceptible to bacteria, toxins, age, and dryness. Try to store slices of lime in an airtight container to keep them fresh and juicy. 

In the Freezer

Limes will be good in the freezer for up to 4 months. After 4 months, the limes will start to lose their flavour in the harsh conditions. The best way to freeze limes is to pre-juice them. It can be a pain juice semi-frozen, dry, whole limes. It’s far better to squeeze the fresh juice out, transfer it into some tupperware, and then pop it in the freezer.

Are Brown Limes Okay to Eat?

It really depends on how brown the limes are. It’s perfectly natural for limes to turn a bit brown when they are old. It doesn’t mean it’s time to get rid of them all though. Brown spots are harmless if they haven’t yet tainted the inside of the lime. Cut open the lime and make sure it looks juicy and fresh. If it’s all clear then the limes are fine. It’s good to note that browned skin is a sign the limes are in the process of decomposition. The brownness will eventually take over the entire lime and the inside will become overripe and inedible. Look out for flesh that has a brown tint, a sour smell, and a lack of moisture. These signs all mean the lime has passed its prime and should not be eaten. 

What Happens if You Eat a Rotten Lime? 

It’s best to avoid rotten limes! Rotten limes will contain nasty bacteria and toxins that can make you sick. Additionally, rotten limes won’t taste nice at all. Rotten limes have an unpleasant texture and a bitter, sour taste. Using rotten limes in your food could completely ruin the whole meal. There’s no point keeping rotten limes around. It is potentially dangerous to eat them and they taste horrible. Bite the bullet and just get rid of them.

How to Soften Hard Limes

What do you do when your limes are hard as rocks and you need to use them in the meal you’ve started cooking?  It sounds like a nightmare, but don’t fret, there are a few ways to go about it.

With a Microwave

Pop the lime in a microwave on high for around 15 seconds. The heat will soften the skin and the flesh inside. The softness will encourage the juice to dribble out and will make the lime easier to squeeze. 

By Rolling

Roll the lime with the palm of your hand on the kitchen counter. The pressure of your hand will soften the hard exterior and promote juiciness. You can be quite rough with the lime, especially if it is very solid. Roll for 2-3 minutes until it is malleable and a bit squishy. 

With a Juicer

A sharp citrus juicer is the most effective way to get every last drop of juice from your limes. The juicer penetrates the flesh of the lime and removes all the juice. It’s a good idea to roll or microwave the lime before you juice it. It’ll be easier and quicker to juice a soft lime than a rock hard one!  

By Zesting

Zesting is the final thing you can do to salvage that unwaveringly solid lime. Adding zest to the recipe won’t add any acidity to your meal, but the recipe will still have a lovely lime infusion. Zesting is the last ditch effort to make the most of a hard lime! 

Are Limes Bad When They Turn Yellow

Contrary to popular opinion, lime should be more yellow than green. A completely green lime is an underripe lime. We are all guilty of incorrectly associating limes with a beautiful, luminous green shade If you purchase green limes from the supermarket you will have to wait at least a week to eat them.  Limes are perfect for eating when they are mostly yellow with a touch of green. Don’t ever throw out a yellow lime. These are the best ones. Limes have gone bad when they are brown, not yellow. Limes with spots of brown are starting to age, whereas limes with completely browned skin are expired. 

Can You Get Salmonella From Limes?  

Salmonella can grow and live on limes. A 2019 study from the “International Association For Food Protection” found that salmonella can be present on slices of lemon or lime used for beverages in the hospitality industry. Salmonella can transfer from slices of lime into the beverage. In fact, salmonella survives far better on lime slices than on lemon.  Salmonella can easily grow on slices of lime that have been left out at room temperature for several days. Unfortunately, a lot of bars and restaurants do store their lime this way. At home, you shouldn’t worry about salmonella on lime if you practice good food hygiene. In particular, wash your limes before you use them and store slices of lime in the fridge.

To Sum Up

Limes add a zesty, acidic, fresh boost flavour to meals and drinks. They are a kitchen staple you will use time and time again. Ready to eat limes should be bright yellow with flecks of green. If they are completely green and very hard, the limes are underripe and need to be left a bit longer before eating. You can microwave, roll, juice, or zest hard limes if you are desperate to use them straight away.  The main signs of spoiled limes are mould, browned skin, and softness. You should dispose of the limes when they look completely deflated, have turned brown all over, or have grown mould. These limes shouldn’t be eaten as they have expired and likely are harbouring nasty bacteria. Finally, it’s good to remember that sliced limes can carry salmonella. To reduce the risk of infection and sickness, always store sliced lime in the fridge.