Does Cinnamon Go Bad? – Shelf Life and Storage of Cinnamon

So there’s this half-open package of ground cinnamon sitting in the pantry for quite a few months. You use it only every once in a while, and each time it’s just a pinch. Last time you checked, it was approaching the date on the label. Does cinnamon go bad?

Or maybe you decided to experiment with cinnamon sticks and wanted to use freshly grated cinnamon in your recipes. While the whole experiment turned out a huge success, you still have 40 sticks two years after buying the package.

You know that it will take you at least another year or two to use the rest, so you start to wonder how long do they last. Or if they go bad at all.

The good news is, you’re not the only person asking those questions. In this article, we go through storage, shelf life, and going bad of cinnamon. We talk about both ground cinnamon and cinnamon sticks, so we’ve got you covered.

If you’re interested in learning more about this spice, read on.

A pile of cinnamon
A pile of cinnamon

How To Store Cinnamon

When it comes to storing ground cinnamon, it’s no different than storing other ground spices, like chili powder. That means you should keep it in a dark and cool place, away from sunlight and heat sources.

For an unopened package, the pantry is probably the best choice. Once you open it, you’ll probably want to keep it handy, so a cupboard in the kitchen will be a better choice.

As usual, make sure the spice is sealed when not in use. A sealed container keeps any moisture at bay so you can be sure it will last for years.

Cinnamon on a rhubarb pie
Cinnamon on a rhubarb pie
Tip

If it didn’t come in a bottle or jar that’s resealable, consider pouring it into such container. That’s especially important if you plan on storing the cinnamon for months.

The guidelines above apply to cinnamon sticks too. Cinnamon sticks quite often arrive in plastic packaging. If that’s the case, you should transfer the sticks into a jar after opening the package. This way the sticks aren’t exposed to fresh air and will retain freshness for longer.

Cinnamon sticks
Two cinnamon sticks

How Long Does Cinnamon Last

Pretty much all packages of ground cinnamon come with a best-by or best-before date on the label. That date indicates how long, at the very least, the product should stay fresh.

Of course, since ground cinnamon is a powdered spice, you can easily store it for years past that date. However, like other spices, it can lose some of its flavors over time.

At some point you might notice that you need to add much more ancient cinnamon than you used to when it was fresh. Generally, try to finish the package within a year past the best-by date to get the best quality.

Rhubarb pie with cinnamon
Rhubarb pie topped with cinnamon, my favorite

When it comes to cinnamon sticks, they retain flavor longer than the ground counterpart. The same is true for other spices, like whole nutmeg. That means the sticks will stay flavorful and fragrant for about 3 to 4 years.

 Pantry
Ground cinnamon (unopened or opened)Best-by + 1 year
Cinnamon sticks (unopened or opened)3 – 4 years

Please note the periods above are for best quality only. Cinnamon will last for years if stored properly.

Cinnamon from above
Cinnamon from above

How To Tell If Cinnamon Is Bad

Like other powdered spices, ground cinnamon doesn’t go bad unless water gets to it.

If you notice any signs of mold, any other organic growth, wet spots, or big clumps, throw out it spice. Those are sure signs that water got to the cinnamon. If the powder looks perfectly fine, it’s safe to use.

Tip

If you’d like to know if your cinnamon still has some flavor left, rub a pinch between your fingers, then taste and smell it. When cinnamon is fresh, it has a rich, sweet aroma and a delicate, spicy flavor. If the aroma is gone and flavor weak, it’s probably better to open a new package.

The rules above apply to cinnamon sticks as well. When it comes to checking if the sticks are still potent, start with grating a bit, then proceed as outlined above.