Does Cocoa Powder Go Bad?

You’re preparing to bake your favorite chocolate cake. You gathered the ingredients to make sure you have everything that’s needed before you start and bam, cocoa powder is past its date.

Does cocoa powder go bad? Can that powder make anyone sick? Those are the questions that are going through your head right now, and you need answers.

Valrhona Cocoa Powder and Cadbury Cocoa Powder
Image used under Creative Commons from jamieanne

In this article, you can find all the information about cocoa powder you need. We go through storage, shelf life, and going bad of this baking good. If that sounds interesting, read on.

How To Store Cocoa Powder

In short, you should store cocoa powder the same way you store other dry goods, like baking powder, or wheat flour. That means you need to keep it in a cool and dry area. The pantry is great, but a kitchen cabinet will work just fine too.

Once you open the container, the most important thing to remember is to keep it sealed tightly.

Tip

If the cocoa powder comes in a plastic packaging that’s not easily resealable, consider pouring it into an airtight container. That will keep the moisture and any contaminants at bay.

Dark chocolate covered in cocoa powder
(credit: Mae Mu)

How Long Does Cocoa Powder Last?

Pretty much every package of cocoa powder comes with a best-by date on the label. That date lets you know for how long the powder should retain its quality.

Like with other dry goods, that date is only a rough estimate. You can easily use the cocoa past that date. As long as you stored it properly and it looks and smells just fine, of course.

For how long past the best-by date can I use it, you ask? It’s difficult to say, but you should think about years, not months.

Like baking soda, which loses potency over time, cocoa powder loses its taste over time. That means that your cocoa that’s a year past the best-by date will probably be perfect, but in the next few years, its taste will degrade noticeably.

Tip

If you’re thinking about using ancient cocoa for an important baking project, taste it beforehand.

 Pantry
Cocoa powder (unopened or opened)Best by + 2 years

Please note that the period above is for best quality only. Cocoa powder will stay safe to use pretty much indefinitely if you store it properly.

How To Tell If Cocoa Powder Is Bad

If you notice that there is something is wrong with the powder, like it developed a funny odor, there is some organic growth or big wet clumps, discard it. Do the same if anything else feels off.

Cocoa powder doesn’t go off if you store it correctly. If you open up the package and notice small clumps, you can easily break them up with a fork or a sift.

If there aren’t any visible changes to the powder and it smells just fine, you can safely use it. As I mentioned earlier, if it’s ancient cocoa, then it might not taste all that great, but it will be safe to use nonetheless.