Does Honey Go Bad?

Are you one of the people for whom it takes literally forever to finish a jar of honey? I know I am. Every time I buy a big ol’ jar or honey, I know it will sit in the cabinet for at least a few years. Some time ago the question: “does honey go bad?” came up, and I decided to do some research. Naturally, when you store any food product for long enough, you start to think about its shelf life and when exactly it will go bad. Same thing for honey. If you’d like to learn a bit more about storage, shelf life, and crystallization of honey, read on.

Jars of honey
(credit: zizzy)

How To Store Honey

When it comes to storage, honey is similar to other liquid sweeteners, like maple syrup or molasses. That means you should keep in a tightly closed jar in a dark place. Room temperature is perfectly fine, so a kitchen cabinet is the best choice. A cupboard in the pantry will work too, but the honey will crystallize faster. The same thing happens in the fridge. In short, temperatures lower than room temperature don’t affect the quality of this sweetener but have an impact on when it’s going to crystallize.

How Long Does Honey Last

Honey has a practically indefinite shelf life, provided it’s stored properly. If your jar comes with a best-by date, that date is most likely there only for legal reasons. The honey will stay perfectly fine for years to come. Unless it’s a heavily processed honey, in which case its quality can start to deteriorate over time slowly.

Room temperature
Honey (unopened or opened) Stays fine indefinitely

Does Honey Go Bad?

The most important piece of information here is that crystallized honey is not bad by any means. It’s normal for honey to crystallize over time. The time it takes to do that depends on the variety of honey and the temperature at which it’s stored. Raw natural honey tends to crystallize faster than a commercial one. Also, the cheap, heavily processed honey takes forever to crystallize, so the fact that your honey crystallized is a good thing.

Now let’s touch upon spoilage of honey. Honey consists mostly of sugar, which is hygroscopic. That means that it absorbs water from the environment. Typically honey contains about 18% of water, and any kind of yeast or bacteria cannot survive in such environment. When the percentage of water in honey rises (that happens when the honey is able to absorb enough water from its environment), some yeasts become able to live in there. If certain yeasts develop in honey, they produce alcohol and the honey ferments. You can easily tell if there’s something wrong with the honey when you taste it. If the taste doesn’t resemble normal, natural honey taste, it has gone bad. Once again, this situation is extremely uncommon, but to give you all the information you need, you should know that technically it is possible.

Honey FAQ

What To Do When Honey Crystallizes?

Liquifying honey is not that difficult. There are a couple ways you can do this:

  • Place the opened jar in warm (not boiling) water and stir it.
  • Microwave the jar in short intervals (15-30 seconds) and stir after each session.
  • Scoop as much honey as you need with a spoon into a glass bowl. Put that glass bowl in warm (not boiling) water. This method is much faster than liquifying the whole jar, but also involves a bit more cleanup. I usually use this method when I’m preparing honey for my baking projects.

Of course, the honey will crystallize again. Take note that reviving honey a few times might contribute to loss of taste and change of color. Because of that, it’s probably best to liquify only as much honey as you need at a time.

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