You probably have a bag or two of sugar in your pantry, and its packaging may be starting to look less than ideal. Does sugar go bad? And, more importantly, is sugar safe to eat after it expires?
Sugar is an ingredient that never spoils, technically. But as a general rule, white sugar should be good for about two years after being opened. Unopened in the pantry, it may last even longer, but its quality will start to degrade. If your sugar looks or smells questionable, it’s always best to throw it out.
Let’s take a closer look at the shelf life of sugar and answer a few more questions about the sugar in your pantry.
Does Sugar Have An Expiration Date?
Yes, sugar has an expiration even though it is a non-perishable product and is usually dated for about two years after packaging.
This date is often required by governing laws, but they also include it to inform you when its quality is at its best.
For home bakers, you probably fly through the sugar in your pantry, so there is no cause to worry about it.
But if you only bake once in a while, it’s probably best to purchase 1 or 2 bags of sugar a year, no matter how cheap it is on sale.
Can Sugar Expire?
Sugar can expire if it becomes contaminated by moisture or by pests such as rodents or insects. So your opened sugar should be stored in an airtight container. It should also be placed in a cool, dry place, such as your pantry or cupboard.
However, over time the quality of the sugars in them will degrade and become less desirable.
Some sugars, such as brown sugar and molasses, which brown sugar derives from, require small amounts of moisture to remain at their best. Brown sugar will become hard and difficult to measure, while molasses will be almost impossible to measure unless warmed up.
Hard sugar is not always bad but will become unusable if you don’t take care of the problem quickly.
It also doesn’t mean you should add water when they are to become rock solid. Adding water could worsen the problem and invite unwanted pests or allow contaminates in the air to stick to it more easily.
It’s simply best to use it up in your next baked dessert. There are many methods to soften sugar, including quick rounds in the microwave or measuring your solid chunks by weight.
Does Sugar Get Old?
Yes, it does! When sugar gets old, it may start to clump up, crystalize, or absorb strong odors from around it.
But while it may suffer from cosmetic and textural changes as it gets old, depending on the storage method, it should be safe to use for as long as you need it.
If you’re worried, see signs of spoilage, or have unanswered questions about it, luckily, sugar isn’t as expensive as other ingredients, so throw it out.
What Is The Shelf Life Of Sugar?
Sugar comes in many different forms and is a great addition to many of our favorite foods. So I’ve put together this small list of the different types of sugars and their shelf life.
I didn’t include honey or syrups because I will explain them in great detail in my other guides.
- White Sugar / Granulated Sugar / Sugar Cubes – Indefinitely. It can harden and clump when exposed to moisture. Simply break it up and use it as normal.
- Raw Sugar / Cane Sugar – Lasts indefinitely. If exposed to moisture, it can become hardened and form rocks but is still edible.
- Powdered Sugar / Confectioners Sugar – Lasts indefinitely, but retains the best qualities for up to two years. Can form clumps easily if exposed to moisture.
- Brown Sugar / Golden Sugar – Lasts indefinitely, but needs to retain its natural moisture or will become hard quickly.
- Beet Sugar / Coconut Sugar – Lasts indefinitely. It’s best stored in an airtight container to avoid attracting pests due to its delicious smell.
Again, any “best by” dates on sugar packaging only indicate how long sugar can retain its best qualities of texture and taste. Sugar should last far beyond those given dates when stored correctly.
The same goes for most artificial sweeteners such as Splenda and Sweet’n Low. They have many of the same qualities as good, old-fashioned sugar, therefore, can last indefinitely.