Does Chocolate Go Bad?

So there’s this chocolate bar you got as a gift for your birthday. You stored it with other sweets and didn’t touch it since. It’s an expensive bar, so you wanted to save it for a good occasion, and one didn’t present itself. Now, one and a half years later, you start to wonder: does chocolate go bad?

Or maybe you’ve opened a fairly new chocolate bar and noticed that it has some grey streaks. Now you’re not quite sure if that chocolate is safe to eat, or should you toss it out.

In either case, learning more about storage, shelf life, and going bad of chocolate, should help you with deciding what to do with the bar. Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of chocolate.

Chocolate cubes
(credit: peterpearson)

How to Store Chocolate

You should store chocolate in a dark and dry place. The ideal storage temperature is between 54°F and 61°F (or 12°C and 16°C). Of course, if the temperature is a few degrees higher, it’s quite okay too. That means the pantry is the best choice for storing chocolate, but a cabinet in the kitchen will work too. Just remember to keep the bar away from any sources of heat, as heat can negatively affect the quality of the chocolate. Store the bar away from any strong odors too, as they can taint the flavor. Once you open the package, remember always to wrap the chocolate well before you put it back into storage.

Let’s touch upon other storage options, namely the fridge and the freezer. Many sources advise against keeping chocolate in the fridge, as it will attract moisture and spoil. You can easily counteract that with putting the bar in a freezer bag. However, the temperature in the fridge isn’t ideal for storing chocolate, so unless you live in a hot and humid climate, the pantry it the better option. When it comes to freezing chocolate, it doesn’t really lengthen the shelf life much, so it’s of little help. Nevertheless, if you ever wanted to freeze chocolate, make sure it’s in a freezer bag or an airtight container.

How Long Does Chocolate Last

First of all, chocolate, just like chocolate syrup, comes with a best-by (or best-before) date. That date informs you for how long, approximately, the product will retain freshness. Of course, that date is only a rough estimate. And chocolate usually lasts much longer because of the flavonoids that keep the oxidation of fats from occurring. According to David Lebovitz, author of The Great Book of Chocolate, dark chocolate lasts much longer than its milk or white counterparts. That should be partially reflected in the date on the label. But you can also assume that your dark chocolate will stay good for longer past the best-before date than a white or milk one will.

When it comes to various chocolate products, such as chocolates, candy bars like Kit Kat or Twix, and others, their shelf life depends on ingredients other than chocolate. That’s because chocolate is usually the least perishable ingredient on the list. When in doubt, stick to the best-by date on the label.

Pantry
Milk chocolate (unopened or opened) Best by + 3 – 6 months
White chocolate (unopened or opened) Best by + 3 – 6 months
Dark chocolate (unopened or opened) Best by + 9 – 12 months

Please note the periods above are estimates and for best quality only.

How To Tell If Chocolate Is Bad

Chocolate contains little to no water, and the flavonoids protect the fats from oxidation. Because of that, chocolate is not prone to spoiling. It will often last for years if stored properly and retain a fairly good taste for the whole time. Please note the word “fairly.” That means that chocolate, like many other products, degrades in quality over time. So a 10-year-old bar won’t be nearly as good as a fresh one. If your chocolate seems to be perfectly okay but is somewhat flavorless, it’s past its prime, and you should toss it out.

If there are some grey streaks on the bar, or the chocolate turned white-ish or grey-ish, fear not. That’s called chocolate bloom, and it’s not harmful in terms of food safety. In other words, it’s unattractive but harmless, and there isn’t a good way to get rid of it. The discoloration is cocoa fat rising to the surface because the chocolate was exposed to heat. If you can see some crystals forming on the surface, it’s often referred to as “sugar bloom,” and it’s harmless too. While blooming chocolate is safe to consume, its quality is somewhat changed, and you will likely notice the altered taste.

If there is anything green or mold-like on the surface, toss the chocolate out. The presence of mold most likely means moisture got to the product.

1 thought on “Does Chocolate Go Bad?”

  1. This is a first for me, having baked for 35 years. I made a large pan of brownies, including a thick, chocolate icing. When I cut a piece
    to taste before freezing, I notice an unusual odor. I DID smell something odd while mixing the ingredients, however, I ignored it,
    believing it was me. I tasted the brownie and the icing and new instantly, that something was wrong. I took everything back out of
    the cupboard, tasted everything, and my name-brand cocoa was bad–unbelievably bitter. It’s been two hours and I’m still tasting it. I have
    no idea what caused this. Anyone?

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