You’ve probably experienced this. You mix your baking ingredients, ready to whip some delicious munchies. But when you add baking soda, the ingredients don’t rise as they did last time you baked. So, you check its expiration date, and alas, that box doesn’t even have one! And you start to wonder – has my baking soda gone bad? Will it make my pastry unsafe to eat? Let’s find out.
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Does Baking Soda Go Bad?
No, baking soda stays good indefinitely. However, like most leavening agents, baking soda may lose its potency over time, and the resulting baked goods won’t rise well or won’t rise at all. But the product doesn’t become unsafe to eat, and consuming foods containing baking soda that has been in storage for an extended period won’t make you sick.
Some containers will come with a best-by date on the side to indicate how long the product is estimated to retain its leavening power. But baking soda almost always stays potent beyond this date.
If yours is already pushing that date and you are doubting its leavening capabilities, it’s best to perform a potency test (which we will discuss later in the article). Of course, if the product works, you can still use it in your recipes.
How Long Does Baking Soda Last?
Because baking soda has an indefinite lifespan, a lot of brands these days do not include a best-by date on the label. If the one you are using doesn’t indicate its shelf life, use a rule of thumb of two to three years for an unopened packet and six to eight months for an opened packet.
While old baking soda will likely not produce excellent results, as mentioned, the baked goods can still be safely consumed.
One of the reasons baking soda lasts much longer is that unlike most leavening agents like the baking powder, the former requires an acid to activate. Simply soaking up moisture from the atmosphere won’t get it to activate.
That’s why you see most brands package the product in cardboard boxes that open with a simple flap, unlike baking powder that comes in a tightly sealed container. If baking powder absorbs moisture, it will go bad pretty fast.
The only time baking soda might spoil is if it is exposed to acidic moisture. For instance, if you place it on the kitchen counter and it gets soaked with water containing lemon juice, vinegar, or another acid, or it just picks up acidic residues from the counter, it may activate. You will probably see a bubbling action in places where the product has gotten wet.
The following chart summarizes the estimated shelf life of baking soda stored at room temperature.
|Baking soda||Room Temperature|
|Unopened package||2 to 3 years|
|Opened package||6 to 8 months|
How to Tell If Baking Soda Has Gone Bad (Potency Test)
As we have stated, baking soda doesn’t go bad to an extent of making the resulting baked goods unsafe for human consumption. But it can lose its potency over time and when it does, that batter and dough won’t rise.
The only way to be sure if the product still has its leavening power is to perform a potency test. It’s an easy two-step process that takes only a few minutes. Here is how to go about it.
- Put one teaspoon of baking soda in a cup or bowl.
- Add a few drops of citric acid (lemon juice), vinegar, or any other acid. If you see some bubbling action, then the product is still good. If you get very little fizzing or nothing happens at all, the baking soda has lost its potency, and chances are it won’t produce the desired results. Get a new box.
When you add baking soda into a bowl containing your baking recipes, it reacts with any acidic ingredients in the recipe, producing carbon dioxide. The bubbles is what causes the dough to rise. Ideally, the more the fizzing, the fresher the baking soda is, and the more effective it will be in cooking.
If your baking soda has spoiled, that is, lost its potency, no reaction will take place and definitely your ingredients will not rise. But don’t toss out that box just yet; you can still use it for other purposes like scrubbing kitchen and bathroom surfaces, deodorizing the refrigerator, and more.
For more insights on how to test for baking soda freshness, watch this video:
3 Tips to Store Baking Soda
Although baking soda has an extremely long shelf life, it will only last for that long if stored correctly. Here are some tips to help you keep the product fresh and potent for as long as it lives.
1. Store Baking Soda in a Cool, Dry Area
Always keep your baking soda dry and away from heat sources. The pantry would be the perfect place, but if yours is near the sink or dishwasher or close to the stove, the food items stored in it may get exposed to heat or moisture as you operate your stove or dishwasher.
In that case, you may want to choose a kitchen cabinet that meets the requirements needed to keep your baking soda cool and dry.
Do not store baking soda in the refrigerator unless you are intentionally using the product to eliminate odors. If that’s the case, make sure to replace your baking soda at least once a month and do not use it for baking, as it will have soaked up all fridge smells.
2. Keep Baking Soda Tightly Sealed
Unopened boxes of baking soda will be just fine in their original packaging. But as soon as you open the product, make sure to transfer it into an airtight container or Ziplock bag.
This simple trick will not only keep moisture out; it will also prevent the product from absorbing flavors from nearby foods, enabling it to retain its freshness and original flavor much longer.
3. Use Clean, Dry Spoons to Scoop Baking Soda
Using wet utensils or spoons that have been dipped in other ingredients when handling baking soda can transfer particles of those ingredients to the powder, which could contaminate the product. Not just that. Using utensils that contain vinegar or lemon juice residue can activate the product and reduce its shelf life.
To learn more about storing baking soda, check out this video:
The Risk of Consuming Expired Baking Soda
When you ingest expired baking soda, nothing will happen because baking soda does not really expire. Your box may have a date printed on it but that date has a different meaning altogether. It shows you how long the product is estimated to retain its potency and freshness for. If stored correctly, baking soda will still retain its leavening power beyond this time.
Over time, however, you may notice that the baked foods are not rising as they did when the box was new or the product doesn’t fizz at all. Sure, the foods may not be enjoyable to eat, but they will certainly not cause food poisoning or do you harm of any kind.
Replacing the box would be the right thing to do but not because it makes the baked goods unsafe to eat but because it is not doing the job it is made for. The only time baking soda can be unsafe to use is if it has absorbed substances considered harmful to your health.
Can You Freeze Baking Soda?
Yes, you can freeze baking soda but it is not necessary because the product itself has an extremely long shelf life even without the help of the freezer. Also, keep in mind that most brands specifically state that the product be stored in a dry place, so the freezer may not be the best place to keep your baking soda if you are really looking to enjoy it long-term.
But if you live in hot climates without air conditioning, the freezer could be the most reasonable place to store your baking soda. In that situation, the first thing you need to do is find an airtight container.
Baking soda is notorious for absorbing smells from adjacent foods, so you want to keep the powder as tightly sealed as possible especially if there are strongly-scented foods in the freezer.
Do not place the product directly in the freezer in its original box, as the moisture in the freezer can cause it to go damp and stale much quicker.
A tightly sealed container will not only lock out flavors; it will also keep the product dry so it doesn’t lose its potency. Simply transfer the powder into the container, close the lid tightly, then place the container in the freezer.
Baking soda lasts indefinitely and you can stock huge boxes without worrying about the product becoming unsafe to use. However, it must be stored in a cool, dry place to retain its potency. If you are not sure about the freshness of a box that has been sitting in storage for some time, perform a potency test.