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 usually comes with a shelf life of one to two years, but if stored properly, it stays fine indefinitely.
The best-by date on the label only informs how long the product should retain quality. It isn’t an expiration date and has nothing to do with food safety.
It’s there partly because people trust food products with a 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.
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.
Over time, powdered sugar often forms small clumps.
Different brands use varying amounts of cornstarch, so the time it takes your icing 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.
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 (unopened or opened)||Stays fine indefinitely|
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.
When it comes to an off or funny odor, there are two reasons why that could happen:
- You left the sugar unsealed and it absorbed the smell from a nearby food product. If you’re 100 percent sure that’s the case, the sugar is okay to use. But if you’re thinking about dusting your dessert with smelly powdered sugar, think twice.
- Something (think microbes, and the like) found its way into the box and you can’t quite see it. If that’s the case, err on the side of caution and get rid of the 10X sugar.
Besides all of that, sometimes 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
You should store powdered sugar in a cool and dry area. The pantry or a kitchen cabinet are good choices.
Once you open the package, it needs to be sealed tightly, so that any moisture or bugs can’t get inside.
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. 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.
Can You Freeze Powdered Sugar?
You can freeze powdered sugar, but there’s no point in doing that. As long as you follow the storage guidelines I outlined above, your icing sugar will last years at room temperature.
If, for some reason, you really want to put your powdered sugar in the freezer, make sure it’s sealed tightly. A freezer bag or an airtight container is in order here.
If the powder isn’t well protected, 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.
If you freeze powdered sugar, 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’ often won’t get you the same results.