How To Tell If A Lime Is Bad

How To Tell If A Lime Is Bad – Look Out for These Tell-Tale Signs

I buy limes with the best intentions. I always plan on using them in Thai curries, lime pies, or salsas.

What actually happens is that I cut one slice of lime and use it as a garnish in a margarita.

The rest of the lime ends up in my fridge for weeks until it’s as wrinkled and dry as old leather.

Ideally, you want to be able to spot the bad lime before it gets to quite an extreme condition.

After all, keeping gone off or rotten food in your fridge is unhygienic and just plain gross. 

So how can you tell if these zesty little fruits are off? 

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A good lime is... 

Before we can decide if a lime looks, feels, or smells ‘off’ we need to know what it should look, feel, and smell like. 


We tend to think of limes as being green. That’s just what they’re supposed to be, right? Limes are green and lemons are yellow. 

Well, the truth is a little different. 

Green limes are actually underripe. Just like bananas, limes are ripe when they’re yellow. However, we prefer to eat and use under ripe limes than their ripened counterparts. This is why we have green limes in our produce sections. 

When fully ripened, limes turn pale yellow and are much less acidic. There’s not much call for these limes so we don’t see them often. 

You may have a lime that has patches of yellow on its skin. In this case, it’s probably because a leaf or branch blocked that part from the sun. It’s still good to eat. 

So, a good lime is green or pale yellow in color. Remember this. 

The inside of a good lime is juicy and segmented. It should have clearly definable segments that all touch. It should be a pale green in color with white flesh around the edges and segments. 


A ripe, whole lime should be fairly firm in the hand. If you give it a squeeze you’ll feel a bit of give but it won’t squash easily in the hand. 

The skin should be waxy and dimpled and it should have a bit of a shine. Marks or cuts in the skin can cause a lime to go bad more quickly. Try to avoid choosing these when you’re shopping. 

A ripe lime should feel heavy in the hand. The heavier it is, the more juice is inside. 


You shouldn’t be able to smell an uncut lime however if you scratch the skin a little you should get a nice zesty scent. Essentially, it should smell like a lime. Tangy, sweet, and fresh

When you cut the lime, this smell should increase. If you’re wondering whether a cut lime is still fresh enough to eat, the smell is a great indication. If you can still smell that pleasant lime scent then it should be good. 

A bad lime is…

Let’s now take a look at a bad lime. What are the differences? Which clues tell us that the lime has gone off?


On the outside, you may notice a brown tinge creeping into the green skin. This is a good sign that your lime is going bad.

On the inside, you’ll notice the segments have begun to shrink as they dry out. They will look wrinkled and dull and appear to pull away from each other and the flesh. The brown color from the outside will begin to creep inside too. 


One of the first things you’ll notice when you pick up a spoiled lime is how light it is. This is because the lime dries out as it goes off. 

The texture of the skin will be wrinkled rather than dimpled, and it won’t feel as waxy. It will have a rougher surface texture. 

If you squeeze a bad lime, you’ll probably leave a dent. It will be soft and squishy in your hand.


If you scrape the skin of a bad lime, you may not smell an awful lot. However, you might also get a very acid smell. This will be acidic beyond the usual lime smell. 

The same is true of a cut lime. The smell will either be nearly nonexistent, or it will be bitterly acidic and unpleasant. 

How long do limes last?

Because limes are so acidic, they tend to last longer than other fruits. The acidity is a natural preservative. They won’t, however, last forever. 

Fresh, uncut limes will last between 2-4 weeks on the counter. They’re not usually labeled with a best before date so you will need to work with the day you bought the lime. 

Once cut, limes will expire the same day if left uncovered on the countertop. Oxygen will dry out the lime and bacteria will establish themselves. 

If stored in the refrigerator you can almost double the life of the lime. An uncut lime can last 1-2 months. A cut lime will last 2-3 days. 

How to store limes

If the limes are whole and uncut you should store them in the salad drawer of the refrigerator. You’ll also need to remove any plastic bags that they may have been sold in. Plastic bags will trap moisture that can soften the skin and spoil the lime. 

If the lime has been cut, you need to store it in a sealable container. A Tupperware box is ideal. At a push, you can tightly wrap the open end of the lime to prevent oxygen and bacteria from entering the lime. 

Final Thoughts

Limes are delicious additions to lots of dishes and drinks. They help to lift the flavors in a dish, freshen up a salad, and look wonderful as a garnish in your drink. 

You should make the most of your limes while they’re good. You have a pretty large window of time, providing you store them correctly so get adventurous.

Try to use each part of the lime, the zest, the fruit, and the juice. 

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