Does Powdered Sugar Go Bad?

Unless you love baking, you use powdered sugar only from time to time. And that means every once in a while you stumble upon a half-open container of powdered sugar that you didn’t even know existed.

That’s okay, we’ve all been there.

And once you notice that bag hidden in the corner of the cupboard, the question “does powdered sugar go bad?” pops up immediately.

Fortunately for you and every other occasional baker (me included), powdered sugar doesn’t really go bad. If stored properly, it lasts years, so even if you bought yours a few years ago, it should still be perfectly fine.

If you’d like to learn more about storage, shelf life, and spoilage of powdered sugar, read along.

Powdered sugar bag in hand
Powdered sugar bag in hand

How To Store Powdered Sugar

You should store powdered sugar (also known as confectioners’ sugar) just like you store brown sugar or white sugar.

That means you should keep it in a cool and dry area. The pantry or a kitchen cabinet are good choices.

As long as it stays unopened, the packaging it comes in is sufficient for storage.

Once you open the package, it needs to be sealed tightly, so that any moisture or bugs can’t get inside.

Sprinkling powdered sugar over pancakes
Sprinkling powdered sugar over pancakes
Tip

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. 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. Of course, the tight seal should prevent any smells from being picked up by the product, but better safe than sorry.

Powdered sugar in a measuring spoon
Powdered sugar in a measuring spoon

How Long Does Powdered Sugar Last

As mentioned earlier, if stored properly, powdered sugar stays fine indefinitely.

Many manufacturers add a date on the label or suggest using the sugar within a year or two to get the best quality, but it’s not like the quality will be much worse after another 3 or 5 years. Oftentimes you won’t be able to tell the difference.

Info

Powdered sugar is basically 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.

Powdered sugar closeup
Powdered sugar up close

Over time, powdered sugar often forms small clumps.

Different brands use varying amounts of cornstarch, so the time it takes yours confectioners’ sugar to start forming those depends on the brand you choose.

Sooner or later, there will be some small clumps, and that’s nothing to worry about.

Tip

The easiest way to get rid of the clumps is to sift the sugar through a fine-mesh strainer before dusting a dessert.

 Pantry
Granulated sugar (unopened or opened)Stays fine indefinitely
Pancakes topped with powdered sugar
Pancakes topped with powdered sugar

How To Tell If Powdered Sugar Is Bad?

Powdered sugar doesn’t go bad unless water gets into the package. If only a couple of drops of water get into the container, there will be a few small clumps that you don’t need to worry about.

If more water finds its way to the powder, there might be mold or some other sort of organic growth. When that happens, get rid of the sugar.

Same thing if any insects get to the package.

Leftover apple pie, topped with powdered sugar
Leftover apple pie, topped with powdered sugar
Tip

If you want to use powdered sugar that was sitting in the cabinet for a long time, give it a taste before you add it to icing or frosting.

It happens very rarely, but sometimes old powdered sugar can taste stale. And if it does, adding it in baking will ruin the whole thing. It’s always better to give it a quick check before using.

If your powdered sugar tastes off, throw it out and open a new package.

Raspberry muffins sprinkled with powdered sugar
Raspberry muffins sprinkled with powdered sugar

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.

Info

Powdered sugar is not a direct substitute for granulated sugar. If the recipe calls for regular sugar, substituting it with confectioners’ often won’t get you the same results.

Dusting a cake with confectioners' sugar
(credit: Jordane Mathieu)