You found an old bag of confectioner’s sugar in the cupboard that’s been sitting there for a few years. Does powdered sugar go bad?
Fortunately for you and every other occasional baker (including yours truly), powdered sugar doesn’t really go bad.
If it’s stored properly, it lasts years. That means it’s probably still safe to use, even if it’s way past the date on the label.
Want to learn more about the storage, shelf life, and spoilage of powdered sugar? Read along.
Powdered sugar, confectioner’s sugar, icing sugar, and 10X sugar are one and the same thing. In this article, I use all of these names interchangeably.
How Long Does Powdered Sugar Last?
Powdered sugar can last indefinitely if you store it sealed tight in a cool, dry place away from heat sources. But if you notice mold or any other organic growth, wet clumps, pests, or contamination in the bag or container, you should toss it.
Powdered sugar usually comes with a best-by date that’s one to three years after it’s been packaged, but if stored properly, it doesn’t ever expire. The worst that’s likely to happen is that it’s going to clump a bit, which you can easily fix by sifting.
Opening the bag doesn’t change anything – you can still store it however long you want, as long as you cover it well and keep it in a dry place.
Powdered sugar is a mix of very finely ground granulated sugar and an anti-caking agent to keep it in a powdered consistency. In most cases, that anti-caking agent is corn starch.
Expired powdered sugar is perfectly fine to use as long as it doesn’t show any signs of spoilage such as wet clumps, mold, pantry bugs, or any other evidence of contamination.
The best-by date on the label only informs how long the product should retain top quality. It isn’t an “expiration” date and has nothing to do with food safety. In other words, icing sugar doesn’t go out of date.
That date is there partly because people trust food products with a printed date more than ones without.
In almost all cases, you can’t tell the difference between a new package of confectioner’s sugar and one that’s 3 years past its date.
That means yes, you can use “expired” powdered sugar, as long as there’s nothing wrong with it. More on that in the next section.
How To Tell If Powdered Sugar Is Bad?
Throw out your powdered sugar if there’s mold or any other organic growth, wet clumps, or any pantry pests inside. The same applies if it smells funny, or tastes bad in any way. Small and dry clumps are perfectly fine.
Wet clumps, mold, and any other growths are usually caused by water getting into the package. No matter if there are only a few small moldy dots or an entire civilization ready to build space shuttles, throw out the whole thing. There’s no need to take risks here.
If you find any pantry insects (dead or alive), check nearby food products and get rid of the rest of them as soon as possible. Those things spread like crazy.
Over time, powdered sugar often forms small dry clumps.
Different brands use varying amounts of cornstarch, so the time it takes your icing sugar to start forming clumps depends on the brand you choose. Sooner or later, there will be some small ones, and that’s nothing to worry about.
You can get rid of the clumps by sifting the sugar through a fine-mesh strainer before dusting your dessert. Or by breaking them up using a fork. Or with your fingers, if you like.
Powdered sugar smells like regular sugar, so if yours smells off or funny, either something that you can’t see (think microbes) got its way into the package, or it absorbed the smell from another food product.
If you can easily explain why your icing sugar smells the way it does because it smells exactly like the product next to it, that sugar is okay to use. But if you’re thinking about dusting your dessert with smelly powdered sugar, think twice.
If that’s not the case, assume that the sugar has gone bad and get rid of the 10X sugar. Better safe than sorry.
Stored long enough, old powdered sugar can taste stale. It happens rarely, but if it does, sprinkling it all over fresh pancakes might ruin the whole thing.
It shouldn’t, however, make that much of a difference if you’re using that icing sugar as one of the ingredients in pancake batter, frosting, and the like.
Because of that, it’s always better to give old powdered sugar a quick check before using it.
How To Store Powdered Sugar
Store powdered sugar tightly sealed in a cool, dry area away from heat sources and strong smells. The pantry or a kitchen cabinet are good choices.
After opening the package, the sugar needs to be sealed tightly so that any moisture or bugs can’t get inside. So if the packaging is resealable, leave the sugar in it. If not, I suggest transferring the powder into an airtight container.
You can even buy a decorative container and put it somewhere on display if you like. Preferably not in direct sunlight, though, so it doesn’t get warm. Anything goes as long as the sugar stays in a sealed environment, away from moisture and sources of heat.
Last but not least, keep the powdered sugar away from any strong odors. That’s especially important if it’s in a paper bag because strong smells can often penetrate those. So if there’s something smelly nearby, it’s best to transfer your icing sugar to an airtight container or seal it in a zip-top bag.
Can You Freeze Powdered Sugar?
You can freeze powdered sugar, but it’ll last years if you just leave it sealed tightly at room temperature. Freezing doesn’t help much with extending its shelf life but might get you in trouble if the sugar absorbs any moisture or strong smells from the freezer. In most cases, it’s not worth it.
If you really want to put your powdered sugar in the freezer, make sure it’s sealed tightly. A freezer bag (or two) or an airtight container is in order here.
If you don’t protect your confectioner’s sugar, it might:
- absorb moisture and form lumps (which isn’t that bad)
- pick up a freezer-like smell (which is much worse)
If you go with freezer bags, squeeze out the air before sealing the bag.
Last but not least, label the bag or container with a name. Otherwise, you might have no idea what the heck is this white powder when you (or anyone else who has access to your freezer) stumble upon it in a couple of months.
How To Make Powdered Sugar Using Regular Sugar
If you don’t have a spare package and desperately need powdered sugar, you can make it yourself.
Take regular sugar and process it using a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle. It will be so much better than the stale one.
Powdered sugar is not a direct substitute for granulated sugar. If the recipe calls for regular sugar, substituting it with confectioners’ won’t get you the same results in most cases.
Summary on the Spoilage and Shelf Life of Powdered Sugar
I hope you liked this guide on the shelf life and expiration of powdered sugar. Let’s recap the most important information:
- Does powdered sugar go bad? If you store your powdered sugar in a cool and dry place and sealed tight, it won’t ever go bad. Over time, some clumps might form, but you can sift the sugar to remove them.
- How long does powdered sugar last? While confectioner’s sugar usually comes with a best-by date printed on the label, it doesn’t go out of date. As long as it sits in a cool, dry place and away from any smells, it will last years (or until you finish it up).
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