Food & Drink

Does Sugar Expire?

Published on February 16, 2024 | 0 Comments
a variety of different types of sugar on a gray surface

Does sugar expire? Is it safe to use past its date? Most foods have a natural way of telling us when they’re no longer safe for consumption. When food smells bad, has changed in texture or mold develops, we know it’s only good for the trash. 

But what happens when food doesn’t give us these clues? Sugar is one of these mysterious ingredients that doesn’t display obvious changes telling us about its age. How long does sugar last? What does it mean when it goes lumpy? We’re delving into all these sweet topics to ensure you get everything you want and need out of your supply of sugar. 


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Does Sugar Expire?

You’ll be pleased to know that sugar is one of the rare food items that doesn’t have an expiration date. It has an indefinite shelf life that doesn’t technically expire but will degrade in quality over time. If sugar sits in your cupboard too long, it is likely to crystalize and harden. The color and flavor can change too, so it is recommended to use sugar within two years.

Sugar does not expire, but it's best to use it within two years.
via Canva

How To Store Sugar

One of the best ways to keep sugar fresh is to store it correctly; keeping an open bag of sugar in your cupboard is a surefire way to ensure that your sugar will turn into a solid mass. Moisture can creep into the bag easily, spoiling your sugar and affecting its texture and taste. The most effective way to store sugar is to decant it into an airtight container and store it in a cool, dry place. Does sugar expire? No. Does sugar get lumpy and unusable if not stored properly? Absolutely.

air-proof containers of sugar, rice, pasta, etc. in a pantry
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Does Brown Sugar Expire?

Did you know that brown refined sugar is essentially the same as white sugar but with the addition of molasses? As well as having a different color and flavor, brown sugar also attracts more moisture and is known for magically morphing itself into an unusable solid brick — not ideal when you just need a little for your coffee! So you may be wondering, “Does brown sugar expire or last indefinitely?” Luckily, brown sugar is much the same as white in that it doesn’t expire but will lose its freshness after a while.

a bowl of brown sugar beside the cube and crystallized form
via Canva

Does Powdered Sugar Expire?

Powdered sugar is standard white granulated sugar that has been finely milled and is often blended with an anti-caking agent such as cornstarch. Because the texture is different, does this mean that the sugar can spoil? Does sugar expire when it’s powdered? Again, not really. Sugar can last up to two years if it isn’t exposed to moisture, which will harden the consistency and can radically change the taste and texture. 

a chef shaking powdered sugar onto brownie bites
via Cozymeal

Does Confectioners Sugar Expire?

Confectioners sugar is powdered sugar that has had starch added to it to help prevent caking. Does it expire? Like other types of sugar, no: If you've kept the moisture out of your confectioners sugar, it should last indefinitely, with a general rule of two years being the best-by date.

doughnuts with sugar sprinkled on top
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How To Soften Lumpy White Sugar

If you’ve found a hard, lumpy pack of sugar in your cupboard, then follow these tips to make it soft and useable again:

The paper towel method 

  1. Dampen a paper towel, making sure that it is just damp and not wet.

  2. Place the paper towel on top of the sugar in an air-tight container.

  3. Leave overnight.

  4. Remove the paper towel and gently break up the sugar with a fork to fluff it back up to its natural state.

The microwave method

  1. Place the sugar into a microwave-safe bowl.

  2. Cover the bowl with a damp paper towel.

  3. Microwave the sugar in 10-second increments until the sugar is soft and crumbly. 

You can also use your standard oven for this method on its lowest heat setting. Be sure to check every few minutes while breaking up with a fork.

Sugar doesn't expire, but it can get lumpy over time.
via Canva

Does sugar expire?  Technically not. Sugar will stay good for a very long time if you keep it away from moisture, but it will lose its natural texture and flavor when stored in a damp cupboard or left in the pack. 

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