You have found a bag of sugar sitting in the cupboard for who knows how long and aren’t sure if it’s still usable. Does sugar go bad?
You know that white sugar is supposed to last a long time, but you would like to double-check just to make sure.
If that’s the case, you’re in the right place.
And to answer your question, sugar doesn’t really expire and can easily last decades, but it can go bad if you don’t store it properly.
If you’d like to learn about storage, shelf life, and how to tell if sugar is bad, read on.
Does Sugar Go Bad Or Expire?
Sugar doesn’t go bad unless it’s infested with pantry bugs or water gets to it and forms mold. If you store white sugar properly, it stays safe to use for years after the date on the label without much change in quality.
Here’s a short and a bit simplified explanation why.
Sugar is a hygroscopic substance, which means it attracts water molecules. When any bacteria lands on top of sugar, the water from the bacteria is transferred to sugar via the process called osmosis.
Osmosis moves the water from a region of higher concentration to a region of lower concentration. And since there’s pretty much no water in sugar, almost all of the water in the bacteria gets transferred to sugar. At that point, bacteria dies of dehydration.
In other words, sugar is a difficult environment for bacteria to multiply, or even live in.
Yeah, there might be some dead bacteria in your sweet tea, and that’s perfectly normal.
How To Store Sugar
Store sugar in a cool and dry place, away from any sources of heat. Once you open the package, the safest way is to transfer the sugar into an airtight container.
The most important thing is to keep sugar away from any moisture. It usually comes in paper bags that don’t provide any protection from water, so you must take care of that yourself.
A container has the benefit of protecting the sugar from any odors and pantry bugs.
Of course, leaving white sugar in its original packaging is okay too. Just make sure water or steam can’t reach it and there aren’t any strong smells nearby.
How Long Does Sugar Last
Sugar lasts pretty much indefinitely. While the label often includes a best-by date, sugar doesn’t really go bad unless water or pantry pests get to it.
That means that your package of granulated sugar sitting in the cabinet for how knows how long is most likely perfectly fine. Just as your old table salt is okay to use.
The date on the label, often called the expiration date, is there most likely because of legal reasons and because people tend to trust food products that come with a date more. It’s not that important if your label says the shelf life of your sugar is two years or five years.
If there are some small clumps in the sugar, you can break them apart with a fork. For larger ones or lots of small ones, bring out the big guns such as an electric mixer, or a food processor.
|Sugar (unopened or opened)||Stays fine indefinitely|
How To Tell If Sugar Is Bad?
Sugar basically lasts forever if you store it properly, but in certain cases you might need to discard it.
- There are insects or bugs in the bag, either dead or alive. In most cases, they find their way into the package and die there. If you find any, get rid of that sugar.
- You can see mold or any other organic growth. The presence of any type of fuzz or other microbial growth (anything that looks alive, basically) indicates that water and microbes got into the package. And by water, I mean more than a few droplets. If that’s the case, grab a new bag.
- The sugar smells off. In most cases, it’s because it caught the odor from another food. If that’s the case, feel free to throw it out for quality purposes.
Chances are that smelly sugar is perfectly fine, but if it smells off, some of that odor might transfer to whatever dish you’re using the sugar for. And, in most cases, that renders the sugar useless.
Sugar tends to form small clumps over time, and as I already mentioned in the previous section, those are perfectly fine. If need be, you can easily break them up.
FAQs about Sugar
Caster sugar, like regular sugar, lasts pretty much forever. It’s a refined white sugar that’s quite popular in Australia. It doesn’t go bad because it’s basically granulated sugar, just slightly finer than the regular one.