» Does Brown Sugar Go Bad? How Long Does It Last?

Does Brown Sugar Go Bad? How Long Does It Last?

Brown sugar is a common ingredient in baking. It gives cookies, cakes, muffins, and other sweets a more vibrant color, adds to their flavor, and makes them more delectable. Now, if you’ve had a packet sitting in the pantry for a while, you may be wondering, “Is it is still good for consumption?” Well, we are about to find out!

Does Brown Sugar Go Bad?

Does Brown Sugar Go Bad

Technically, brown sugar does not go bad. Like other sugar types and varieties, brown sugar will last indefinitely so long as it is not exposed to excess heat, air, and not being visited by bugs. In other words, it all boils down to how you store it. Proper storage will always give your sugar a longer shelf life and ensure it stays in excellent condition.

If you leave your brown sugar exposed to air, for example, the moisture in it will evaporate, causing it to clump. Not just that. Like anything sweet, your sugar will be more susceptible to bug contamination.

How Long Does Brown Sugar Last?

Brown sugar has an exceptionally long shelf life. With proper storage, it can last almost indefinitely. While this doesn’t mean the sugar will retain its flavor for all that time, it will remain safe for consumption for many, many years.

Most brown sugar manufacturers recommend that the product be used within two years. This is normal, as no food item comes with a label stating that the product will last indefinitely. Nonetheless, if you want to scoop all flavors and get the best out of your brown sugar, use it within the specified timeline.

It is important to keep in mind that, as with many baking products, brown sugar will likely not come with an expiration date printed on the package. You may find a ‘best before’ date but in most cases, no expiration date is given. Because of this, you may be able to use the product even after the date has lapsed.

The following table gives a summary of brown sugar shelf life to help you use your product at its best.

Brown Sugar Pantry Freezer
By regulation 2 years N/A
Stored properly Indefinitely Indefinitely

3 Tips to Tell If Brown Sugar Has Gone Bad

Tell If Brown Sugar Has Gone Bad

As stated, brown sugar will not have spoilage problems provided that it is stored the right way. However, like all food items, it is always important to inspect brown sugar before use to make sure it is safe for consumption. Here are some things to be on the lookout for:

1.    Bugs In the Package

Sweet things will always attract pests, and brown sugar is no exception. If the item is not sealed properly, insects will find their way into the package, start feeding on it and even breed in there. If you find bugs (dead or alive), eggs, or larvae inside the sugar bag or container, it means the item is no longer safe for human consumption.

2.    Mold

Mold generally doesn’t grow on sugar. However, because brown sugar has a relatively moist texture, it is possible for it to develop mold. It is a rare occurrence though, but when brown sugar is stored in a place where it absorbs moisture, it can indeed develop mold. If you see mold starting to grow in your brown sugar, just get rid of the sugar.

3.    The Smell Is Off

It’s common for brown sugar to absorb the smells of spices and other products in the pantry. If you find yours smelling like one of the items stored near it, chances are it has absorbed that smell. It could also mean that the bag or container holding the sugar is not properly sealed.

You could still use your brown sugar in this state, but if the smell it emits is too strong, it is best to just throw it away. Otherwise, the resulting baked delicacies will emit some of that smell and you don’t want that.

What About Hard Lumps in Brown Sugar?

Clumped, hardened brown sugar does not mean the product is spoiled. The only problem is that such sugar is not usually easy to use.

Fortunately, there are several things you can do to soften it. Most of the time, breaking it with a fork or electric mixer will do the trick. But the problem could also be solved by simply covering the sugar with a moist paper towel and heating it in the microwave, as demonstrated in this video:

4 Tips to Store Brown Sugar

Brown sugar when newly opened is usually soft and fluffy, but if you are not careful, this delicate commodity can slowly turn into hard lumps in your pantry over time. Luckily, this can be avoided. Below are some tricks for storing brown sugar to keep it in good shape and ready to use indefinitely.

1.    Use an Airtight Container

Store Brown Sugar

Brown sugar gets hard because of exposure to air. If you store the product in a sealable, airtight container or Ziplock bag, it will stay soft. For best results, pack the sugar to the top. For Ziplock, however, make sure to squeeze excess air out before sealing the bag.

2.    Consider Purchasing a Terra-cotta Sugar Saver

A terra-cotta sugar saver is a small circular device usually made from terra-cotta clay. Its job is to release moisture into the sugar so it stays soft in storage. Put it in your brown sugar to keep it lump-free.

Before you do, however, soak the disk in water for about 20 minutes and dry it off. Then store it with the sugar, preferably in an airtight container or Ziplock bag. Make sure the sugar itself is soft before adding the device. If you use the sugar saver with brown sugar that is already clumped, it may take up to twelve hours to soften the sugar.

3.    Throw in Marshmallows

If you don’t have a terra-cotta device, marshmallows can do the job. Place a few in the sugar container to keep it soft.

4.    Store With Bread

Bread is relatively moist by nature. Adding a piece to your container of brown sugar can go a long way in helping keep the sugar soft. The sugar will absorb moisture from it to prevent clumping. If you are using bread with lumped brown sugar, it could take a while before the sugar starts to soften, sometimes up to 24 hours.

Can You Use Apple Slices?

Some people have argued that storing brown sugar with slices of fruit like apple can help keep the sugar soft. While this is true for the most part, if the fruit pieces are left in an airtight container for too long without being refrigerated, they will start to rot. Moreover, they will spread mold to the brown sugar, making it unfit for consumption.

So, no. You cannot use chunks of apple to store your brown sugar long-term. Only use them to soften already hardened brown sugar.

For more insights on how to properly store brown sugar for long term use, watch this video:

The Risk of Consuming Expired Brown Sugar

As we mentioned, brown sugar doesn’t really expire. Sure, it may develop hard lumps after some time but that is not a sign of expiration or spoilage. You could easily soften the lumps and use your sugar as desired. However, in rare cases, brown sugar can develop mold due to poor storage.

That said, the risks of consuming moldy brown sugar are fairly similar to those of eating other foods with mold. Mold produces toxic chemicals called mycotoxins, so, if you are wondering, moldy food can be dangerous. Depending on the amount consumed and the health of the individual, the toxins can cause illness and even death.

Can You Freeze Brown Sugar?

Yes, you can. When proper guidelines are followed, freezing can be a great way to extend the life of your brown sugar. It can keep it soft, tasteful, and full of flavor indefinitely. Here is how to do it right:

1.    Procure an Airtight Container or Plastic Bag

When freezing brown sugar, you will want a container or Ziplock bag that is completely airtight. This is not only to keep odors from adjacent food items out but also to prevent the sugar from hardening.

2.    Choose a Suitable Spot in the Freezer

Brown sugar is notorious for absorbing smells. You certainly don’t want to have your sugar smelling or tasting like onions or raw fish.

To maintain your sugar’s original taste, select a freezer spot that is less crowded. If you have many food items in the freezer, consider rearranging them so you don’t store your sugar near an unwanted flavor. It’s also important that you keep the sugar away from the door, as this part of the freezer usually experiences greater temperature fluctuations.


Brown sugar doesn’t necessarily go bad. However, if not stored properly, it can harden, absorb flavors of the nearby food items, or in some cases, even develop mold. Follow the tips shared here to store your brown sugar the right way so it can stay at its best and serve its purpose longer.


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