Here’s all you need to know about the shelf life and expiration of sprinkles. Learn if sprinkles ever expire, how long they last, and what’s the best way to store them.
Found an out-of-date bottle of sprinkles, and not sure if you can use it or go buy a new one?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.
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?
Sprinkles have a shelf of 6 to 18 months that’s noted on the label. But if you store them in a cool and dry place, they typically retain quality for an extra couple of months, if not longer. It all depends on the brand, ingredients used, and how you store them.
Different brands have different recommendations.
Fancy Sprinkles, for instance, recommends using their sprinkles within 4 to 6 months of receiving the package and within a month of opening. That’s, of course, for best quality, so it’s not like the tiny candy will spoil once they pass the 6-month mark.
On the other hand, Sprinkle Pop guarantees their mixes for 18 months of buying. And they even say there’s no reason their sprinkles shouldn’t last way longer if you store them in a cool and dry environment.
As you can tell, the differences in recommended storage time can be quite stark.
I guess that it’s caused by 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. Others may contain a bit more fat (food dye, flavoring, thickeners, and the like) that’s likely to go rancid at some point.
All in all, it’s a mixed bag. But one thing’s for sure: sprinkles and other tiny candies are mostly sugar, and sugar lasts for years. And that’s why the vast majority of sprinkles available keep quality way past the date on the label.
Once you open the bottle or bag of sprinkles, 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.
Of course, some brands recommend using their sprinkles shortly after opening. Fancy Sprinkles is one such brand that I already mentioned, and they suggest using their products within a month of opening.
And while it’s true that most candies taste best when fresh, they don’t lose quality that quickly.
So instead of relying on the printed date or other shelf life recommendations, I suggest you assess the quality of your old sprinkles. This way, you both check if they’re safe to use and if the flavor is still good enough.
Let’s talk about that.
How to Tell if Sprinkles Are Bad?
Discard your sprinkles if their quality isn’t good enough to use anymore. Sprinkles don’t really go bad in the 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. 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 playdough, it’s time for them to go. If there’s only a tiny hint of a rancid smell, it’s up to you. Eating those won’t make anyone sick, but the experience won’t be particularly good. I’d give those a pass, too.
Last but not least, we have the taste test. That is your ultimate tool when checking how your sprinkles are doing.
If they’re 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. 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 bag that’s not resealable, 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.