Does Brown Sugar Go Bad?

Old bags of brown sugar have a unique way of hiding from anyone in a kitchen cupboard. You’re sure you finished the bag a long time ago, and you stumble upon this half-opened container of brown sugar while organizing the cupboard.

The first question that you ask yourself is: does brown sugar go bad?

We all know that sugar lasts a very long time, but not everyone knows exactly how long “a very long time” is.

Plus, brown sugar tends to clump after you store it for a while, and it’s not obvious if hardened brown sugar is safe for consumption.

If you’d like to know the answers to all these questions and a few more, read on.

Brown sugar in hand

How To Store Brown Sugar

You should store brown sugar similarly to white sugar.

That means you should keep in a dry, cool place. A cupboard in the pantry is perfect, but a kitchen cabinet works well too. Just make sure it stays away from any sources of heat like ovens or heaters.

Keeping it in a dry place is especially important, as sugar easily absorbs water from its environment. And you know what happens when water gets to sugar.

As long as the package is unopened, you can leave brown sugar in its original packaging.

Once you open the container, make sure the sugar is tightly sealed. You can do that by using airtight containers or by covering the package with a plastic bag.

Tip

If you’d like to put brown sugar on display so it’s always on hand, you can buy one of those beautiful sugar containers.

A good seal also prevents any bugs and strong odors from getting into the sugar. Of course, you don’t want to store the sugar near any strong smells, but an additional layer of protection doesn’t hurt.

Brown sugar in a measuring spoon
Brown sugar in a measuring spoon

Over time, brown sugar dries out and starts to harden and form clumps because of lack of moisture.

A sugar saver is a gadget that helps you keep the moisture content of sugar at the correct level and therefore prevent it from clumping. You need to soak it before you put it into the container and resoak it every time it dries out.

Tip

If your brown sugar tends to harden when you store it for a long time, consider buying a brown sugar saver.

Of course, if your brown sugar has hardened, there are ways of dealing with that too.

Adding brown sugar to pancake batter
Adding brown sugar to pancake batter

How To Soften Hard Brown Sugar?

Brown sugar tends to dry out and form clumps.

Hardened brown sugar isn’t spoiled by any means, but it’s much more difficult to use (e.g., in baking.)

Fortunately, there are two ways of softening clumped brown sugar. The first is to manually loosen it, and you can do it in many ways:

  • break it down with a fork
  • put it into a bag and smash against a wall or counter
  • use an electric mixer or a blender
Brown sugar closeup
Brown sugar up close

The second one is to provide a new source of moisture for the molasses that’s in brown sugar. Here are some of the options:

  • put an apple wedge into the container, seal it and keep it that way for a couple of hours
  • put a slice of bread into the container
  • add orange peel into the container overnight
  • cover the sugar with a slightly damp paper towel and microwave it for 30 seconds or so (choose low or medium setting)
Tip

Go with manual loosening if you need the sugar right away. Otherwise, it’s better to soften it using a new source of moisture.

Brown sugar in a white bowl
Brown sugar in a white bowl

How Long Does Brown Sugar Last

Brown sugar lasts pretty much indefinitely. As long as any insects or water don’t get into the container, you can store it for years.

Sometimes brown sugar comes with a “best within two years” on the label, but that means exactly what it says.

Info

If your brown sugar sits in storage for a few years already, it might not be the best (quality-wise), but the taste difference will be minimal at best.

 Pantry
Brown sugar (unopened or opened)Stays fine indefinitely
Adding a spoonful of brown sugar into a cup of coffee
Adding a spoonful of brown sugar into a cup of coffee

How To Tell If Brown Sugar Is Bad

When checking if your brown sugar is safe to use, look for the following:

  • Dead (or alive) insects, larvae, or eggs in the package. Sometimes they find their way into the container, and that mean’s the product is no longer safe to eat.
  • Mold or any other organic growth. If water got into the package and there’s mold, or any other organic growth, the sugar is done for.

If everything seems to be okay with the sugar, it’s most likely perfectly safe to use.

Again, if the sugar is clumped, there are ways to soften it.