Sugar is said to last forever and never expire. However, sugar can go bad
sometimes. What is the shelf life of sugar?
Sugar is a non-perishable food that resists bacteria. You can leave it in your pantry for a long time; you don't have to use it fast. However, sugar will still go bad given certain conditions.
You have to store sugar properly to have an indefinite shelf life. After you open a bag of sugar, it will only last for one and a half or two years before it goes bad without proper storage. Brown sugar, white sugar, and syrup all expire in two years or less in open bags.
If you don't open a bag of sugar, and the bag is airtight, it may last for many years in its original package. After opening a package, you can re-pack it and use oxygen absorbers to store the sugar long-term.
After several years, I have opened bags of sugar stored in buckets with airtight lids and found the sugar to be completely fine. I have also had sugar go bad fairly fast after it was exposed to a small amount of moisture. Even if you only need your sugar to last for the rest of the year, you still have to keep it in a dry location.
How Long Does Sugar Last Without an Airtight Container?
Even without an airtight container, sugar can last a long time. Brown sugar lasts for about 18 months. Other types of sugar (white sugar, powdered sugar, syrup, and honey) last for more like 24 months.
You do not necessarily have to do anything if you only want your sugar to last for the rest of the year. If you buy a bag of sugar and open it, you can leave it opened in your pantry (as long as the air is reasonably dry) for the rest of the year, and it will still be good.
Airtight Containers for Storage
In my experience, the best thing to store sugar in is a bucket with an airtight seal. You can use these buckets to store other non-perishable foods such as grain for years.
Oxygen Absorbers for Sugar Storage
By protecting your non-perishable food from oxygen, you can keep it fresh for decades. Oxygen absorbers are a simple technology. They are small packets containing iron, with the iron absorbing the oxygen.
If you put these oxygen-absorbing packages into an airtight bucket with your sugar, they will absorb nearly all the oxygen in the air. Once the air in the bucket has nearly no oxygen, your sugar won't go bad.
Oxygen absorbers work in the following ways:
- Preventing bacteria from growing (most bacteria need oxygen to grow, as does mold)
- Preventing your food from oxidizing
- Prevent tiny pest eggs from hatching
Does Sugar Often Last for 2 Years?
People often use two years as an average shelf life for sugar. While two years is a reasonably good average shelf life, it is not a minimum or maximum.
It depends on whether or not bacteria can affect the sugar. Sugar is fairly bacteria-resistant, but moisture allows bacteria to attack it. Slightly damp sugar will expire in much less than two years; properly stored sugar seems to last forever.
How Long Does White Sugar Last?
White sugar lasts somewhat longer than brown sugar because it is dry. However, it won't last for a few years unless you take special precautions to store it.
What Happens When White Sugar Expires?
First, white sugar may turn into clumps as it absorbs moisture. This does not mean the sugar is expired; you can still use clumpy sugar. Sugar can also absorb odors, which can ruin the taste of any food you make with it.
White sugar eventually becomes moldy or gets covered in tiny bugs. If there is any mold, throw all of the sugar out. You don't want to risk it.
How Do You Tell if Sugar is Still Good?
You can tell by the appearance, smell, or taste of the sugar. If it looks, smells, and tastes fine, it very likely is still good. Mold in sugar is noticeable.
How Can You Make Sugar Stay Good for Longer?
If you don't plan to use it all up this year, you need to put your sugar into some sort of long-term storage. Airtight buckets/bags plus oxygen-absorbing packets are necessary.
Does Brown Sugar Last as Long as White Sugar
Brown sugar expires somewhat faster than white sugar - one and a half rather than two years. This is because brown sugar is not as dry as white or powdered white sugar. The moisture attracts mold and bacteria.
Despite the moisture, you can usually expect an opened bag of brown sugar to last for the whole year. Brown sugar is still a non-perishable food that you can leave in your pantry for a long time.
You Can Revive Brown Sugar that Has Become Hard
Sometimes, brown sugar will clump together and harden without going bad. If this happens, you can soften the sugar in the oven (a low temperature for less than ten or less than five minutes) or in the microwave (put a damp paper towel over it first and take it out quickly enough). Storing brown sugar isn't any different from storing white sugar.
How Long Does Powdered Sugar Last
Powdered sugar is similar to regular white sugar, except ground more finely. It also usually contains another ingredient that prevents the sugar from caking.
It often lasts for about two years, the same as regular white sugar does. With excellent storage methods, it will last a lot longer than two years. There is no clear limit on its shelf life.
How to Store Powdered Sugar
Use the same tricks you use to store white or brown sugar. If you store it in an airtight container and use an oxygen absorber, it will last a long time. You might also use airtight bags to store it.
How Long Does Honey Last?
Some say that honey lasts for two years. However, it can last much longer if you store it properly. The sugar kills bacteria and can help honey last for years without decomposing.
Just because the appearance of honey has changed somewhat doesn't mean that the honey is no longer edible. Sometimes, honey can darken or harden over time without expiring. Darkened, hardened, or crystallized honey can still be good to eat.
If honey goes bad, it sometimes does so because it is contaminated with something. If other food ends up mixed with the honey, it may make the honey rot. Dirt and dust can also cause honey to decompose despite its normal resistance to bacteria.
How Can You Tell if Honey is Still Good?
If honey tastes or smells like vinegar, it is not still good. Bad honey may also have visible mold or smell like mold. If it smells or tastes somewhat bad, don't use it.
Honey that is hard or foggy is still good. You can soften it by using hot water or a microwave.
To store honey, use an airtight container. Metal containers are bad for storing honey; use glass instead. There is no reason to put honey in the fridge.
About THE AUTHOR
I have over a decade of experience in food and beverage management, including a ServSafe food safety qualification. As part of this qualification, I have been professionally trained in safe food storage.Read More About Mark Walker