Magazine cover image Get the Fall Issue

20 Surprising Foods You Don't Need to Put in the Refrigerator

Certain items taste better—and are actually healthier for you—when they're stored at room temperature.
20 Surprising Foods You Don't Need to Put in the Refrigerator

The only thing more crowded than the subway car I cram into every morning? My refrigerator. And no, I don't have one of those college dorm-sized ones, either. I also don't have a house full of growing children. My fridge issues all stem from one simple fact: I was raised by a family that literally kept everything from bread to nut butter at a chilling 35 degrees Fahrenheit. (Fun fact: You should set your refrigerator temperature at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or cooler.) The first time I tried a room temperature PB&J was a magical, unforgettable moment. So, unless I really focus when I'm unpacking groceries, I typically go on autopilot, shoving 95 percent of my bounty inside my fridge, which isn't always good news for my food. But it turns out, that's not the best way to do it—there are plenty of foods that don't need refrigeration.

While certain things simply taste better and maintain a better texture when they're kept out of the cold, other foods actually maintain more of their nutrients when left out. Cold air can break down the antioxidants in certain fruits and stop the ripening process of others, for example. Then, of course, there are the items that simply just don't need to be in there, like soy sauce.

Here are 20 foods that don't need refrigeration. Your icebox just got way roomier!

1

Tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes on wooden cutting board Shutterstock

One easy way to make your produce last longer is to keep tomatoes out of the fridge. They're best stored in a cool, dry place at room temperature, where they'll maintain their moisture.

2

Bananas

bunch of yellow bananas on wicker background Shutterstock

To keep bananas fresh, store them at room temperature with plastic wrap around the stems. The plastic wrap will stop them from releasing ethylene gas, which speeds up the ripening process.

3

Citrus Fruit

Tangerines in a basket Shutterstock

Citrus favorites like lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits are all great examples of food that doesn't need to be refrigerated. These juicy fruits are best preserved in a countertop fruit basket instead. If you don't think you'll get around to eating your fruit for a few weeks, carve out a cool, dry, well-ventilated place, like your cupboard, for them to hang out in until you're ready to gobble 'em up.

4

Avocados

Avocados at different stages of ripeness Shutterstock

Unlike fully ripe avocados, which should be stored in the fridge, underripe berries (yup, the green superfood is technically a berry) should be kept at room temperature. Not sure whether an avocado is ripe yet? Avocados that are ready to be turned into guac will yield to light pressure.

5

Hot Sauce

Hot sauce bottles Shutterstock

Capsaicin, the compound that gives chiles their signature kick, has been shown to increase body heat, boost metabolism, and decrease appetite. Oh, and it has an addictive fiery taste that makes everything from chicken to popcorn tastier; there's really no wrong way to eat the stuff. But there is a wrong way to store it. After opening a new bottle, most people pop it in the fridge. But according to Frank's RedHot, an uber-popular hot sauce manufacturer, that's almost always an unnecessary move. Check the label of your favorite brand to see if you can get away with keeping it in your cabinet.

6

Butter

Softened butter with knife Shutterstock

There are two distinct camps of people in this world: those who would rather eat a chip off the floor than use butter that's been out all night, and those who wouldn't dream of storing their butter any other way. Since butter is a dairy product, it's easy to see why most people think it needs to be kept cold. But that's not actually the case: It turns out, butter can be stored safely outside the fridge in an airtight container.

7

Cake

slice of coconut cake with fork Shutterstock

While some cakes need to be stored in the fridge, frosting-free cakes and those topped with ganache or buttercream will be fine for up to three days stored in an airtight container on the counter.

If you're worried that a whole cake will spoil before you can eat it, cut it into small slices and store them in the freezer, where they will be less apt to dry out.

8

Bread

sliced bread with milk Shutterstock

In warmer climates, many people store their bread in the fridge as a means of keeping it away from hungry ants. Though it's a decent strategy, it's one that will leave your loaves of rye and whole wheat harder than a rock. Unless it's a variety that's supposed to be frozen (like Ezekiel bread), store your bread in a cool, dry place. If you tend to take a very long time to polish it off, opt for freezing your bread over refrigerating it. And make sure to let it thaw completely before eating or toasting for the most enjoyable texture and flavor.

9

Basil

bundle of basil on wood Shutterstock

Think about it: This leafy green herb grows just fine on a sunny window sill, so why could it possibly also thrive in an icebox? After trimming off its ends, store this flavorful plant in a glass or mason jar filled with fresh water, where it will thrive until it's ready to be used.

10

Potatoes

Potatoes Shutterstock

Stored inside a paper bag in a cool, dark place like your pantry, potatoes should last for about three weeks. Popping taters in the fridge will cause their starch to convert to sugar, resulting in spuds with an unpleasantly sweet taste, according to the United States Potato Board.

RELATED: Easy, healthy, 350-calorie recipe ideas you can make at home.

11

Sweet Potatoes

sliced sweet potatoes Shutterstock

Like regular potatoes, these root veggies are best kept in a cool, dark place that isn't the fridge. If you notice your potatoes are sprouting, it's a sign that they might be getting too much light. In addition to being one of the foods that don't need refrigeration, sweet potatoes also need to be kept in the dark so they don't spoil.

12

Melon

Watermelon and melon balls Shutterstock

Watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew are all filled to the brim with antioxidants like vitamin C, zeaxanthin, lycopene, and beta-carotene, which neutralizes cell-damaging free radicals. To preserve these health-protective nutrients, store melons whole—as opposed to sliced—on your kitchen counter. Chilly air will break down their delicate antioxidants.

13

Stone Fruit

peach halves on wooden tabletop Shutterstock

Allow peaches, apricots, nectarines, and plums to ripen at room temperature. Once they're soft and ripe, you can store them in your refrigerator for up to three days.

14

Coffee

Coffee beans with metal scoop Shutterstock

Java lovers, listen up! If you're currently storing your grounds or beans in the refrigerator or freezer, relocate them to a pantry stat! The fridge creates condensation that can alter the flavor of your favorite brew. The best way to store coffee is in an airtight container at room temperature.

15

Bell Peppers

orange yellow and red bell peppers on wood cutting board Shutterstock

Bell peppers, one of the healthiest foods on the planet, stop ripening once they're placed in the fridge. If you prefer a sweeter-tasting pepper, keep them out of the cold; instead, store your veggies in a cool, well-ventilated place, like your kitchen counter.

16

Hot Peppers

bowl of chili peppers with chili pepper sliced in half Shutterstock

Spicy peppers are great for your health, and they add flavor to pretty much any dish. But like bell peppers, they're better off being kept at room temperature.

17

Tropical Fruit

mango chunks on a plate Shutterstock

There's a reason tropical fruit like kiwis, mangos, and pineapples grow in warmer climates. They hate the cold, and they're all foods that don't need refrigeration. If you won't get around to eating your fruit within two or three days of taking it home, slice it up, place it in an airtight container, and pop it in the freezer, where it will remain fresh for up to a year.

18

Onions

chopped onions on a cutting board Shutterstock

Onions don't need to be kept in the cold before they're sliced. In their whole form, onions are one of the foods that don't need refrigeration. They fare best in the pantry, away from potatoes. The root veggie emits ethylene, which can cause your onions to prematurely rot.

19

Soy Sauce

red chopsticks and bowl of soy sauce on dark background Evgeny Karandaev/Shutterstock

Sodium-filled condiments like soy and fish sauce keep fine in a kitchen cupboard. The salt prevents the growth of bacteria and other organisms that can cause spoilage.

20

Pickles

Pickles in jar Shutterstock

Like salty condiments, pickles do just fine outside the fridge. The sodium-filled water they spend their lives in acts as a natural preservative.

Now that you know all about the 20 foods that don't need refrigeration, you'll never store your favorite products wrong again. It might seem like a small change, but you'll notice the change in taste right away.

Get the Fall Issue

Featuring delicious weight loss recipes, quick and easy sheet pan suppers, slow cooker tips and much more!

Filed Under