Found an out-of-date bottle of sprinkles, and not sure if you can use it or go buy a new one? Do sprinkles expire?
Or perhaps you’re using sprinkles only once or twice a year for some holiday baking or a birthday cake. The package from last year is still half-full, and you’re thinking of using it. How long do sprinkles really last?
If those questions have brought you here, you’re in the right place. In this article, we talk about storage, shelf life, and going bad of all kinds of sprinkles and confetti.
There are all kinds of sprinkles out there: jimmies, nonpareils, quins, pearls (watch out, some of them aren’t edible), and more. While they differ in color, shape, and taste, the rules on how to go about them stay pretty much the same.
Do Sprinkles Expire? How Long Do Sprinkles Last?
Sprinkles typically come with a shelf life of 6 to 18 months and easily retain quality for an extra couple of months, if not years. It all depends on the ingredients and how you store them.
Once you open the bottle or bag, the deterioration process speeds up a bit due to exposure to fresh air. But it’s not like you need to use the confetti within a month or so. Using the bag that you opened last year is almost always okay.
The differences in recommended storage time between manufacturers are quite stark.
My guess is that’s caused by how various sprinkles are made, that is the ingredients used. Some have more preservatives than others, and that’s why they are supposed to keep quality for much longer than their fairly preservative-free counterparts.
Of course, sprinkles and other tiny candy are mostly sugar, and sugar lasts for years. But there’s also a bit of fat in the remaining ingredients (food dye, flavoring, thickeners, and the like). And that fat is what causes quality loss over time.
Nevertheless, the vast majority of sprinkles available keeps quality way past the date on the label (which isn’t an “expiration date”). Some sellers even mention that on their sites.
Here’s what Sprinkle Pop says about their sprinkles ([SP]):
Sprinkle mixes are guaranteed for 18 months after purchase. However, in reality there is no reason why they wouldn’t last for several years provided they are stored in a cool, and dry environment.Sprinkle Pop
|Sprinkles||Best-by date + 3 – 12 months for best quality|
All in all, it’s probably better to check the quality of your old sprinkles instead of relying on the best-before or best-by date alone. Even if you add a couple of months to it. Let’s talk about that.
How to Tell if Sprinkles Are Bad? When to Toss Them?
Discard your sprinkles if their quality isn’t good enough to use anymore. Sprinkles don’t really go bad in a traditional meaning of the word, but they lose quality over time. Here’s a step-by-step on how to check them.
Start by taking a closer look at your sprinkles.
That’s unlikely that you’ll find any mold or anything like that, but you might notice the color fading. That’s a typical cause of sunlight exposure ([SP]). Those sprinkles aren’t necessarily bad, but their taste might be compromised.
Next up, there’s the change of smell.
If they smell like plastic or “play-dough” ([SWE]), it’s time for them to go. If there’s a hint of a rancid smell, it’s up to you. Eating those won’t get anyone sick, but the experience won’t be particularly good.
Last but not least, we have the taste test, which is your ultimate tool when checking how your sprinkles are doing.
If it’s not good enough by your standards (e.g., bad taste, they are stale, or the texture has changed), go open a new pack. You don’t want to ruin your cupcakes or other baked goods with stale sprinkles. But if the flavor is okay, feel free to use them, even if the pack is like two or three years past its best-before date.
Related: Do Cupcakes Need to Be Refrigerated?
The oils in sprinkles can go rancid if they’re exposed to heat, sunlight, or if you store them for too long ([SWE]). That’s how you end up with rancid-smelling or rancid-tasting sprinkles.
To make sure your sprinkles keep for as long as possible, you need to store them properly. Let’s briefly cover that.
How To Store Sprinkles
Store your sprinkles in a cool, dark, and dry place. A cupboard in the kitchen or pantry works just fine.
Once you open the package, remember to seal it tight when you’re done with it.
If your sprinkles come in a non-resealable bag, transfer the leftovers into an airtight container or a freezer bag. Either will keep them dry.
What you’re trying to accomplish here is to avoid or limit the exposure of your sprinkles to sunlight, heat, and moisture. That’s all you need for a long storage time in good quality.