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.
Table of Contents
- How Long Does Powdered Sugar Last?
- How To Tell If Powdered Sugar Is Bad?
- How To Store Powdered Sugar
- Can You Freeze Powdered Sugar?
- How To Make Powdered Sugar Using Regular Sugar
- Summary on the Spoilage and Shelf Life of Powdered Sugar
How Long Does Powdered Sugar Last?
Powdered sugar can last indefinitely if you store it sealed tight in a cool, dry place away from heat sources. But if you notice mold or any other organic growth, wet clumps, pests, or contamination in the bag or container, you should toss it.
Powdered sugar usually comes with a best-by date that’s one to three years after it’s been packaged, but if stored properly, it doesn’t ever expire. The worst that’s likely to happen is that it’s going to clump a bit, which you can easily fix by sifting.
Opening the bag doesn’t change anything – you can still store it however long you want, as long as you cover it well and keep it in a dry place.
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.
Expired powdered sugar is perfectly fine to use as long as it doesn’t show any signs of spoilage such as wet clumps, mold, pantry bugs, or any other evidence of contamination.
The best-by date on the label only informs how long the product should retain top quality. It isn’t an “expiration” date and has nothing to do with food safety. In other words, icing sugar doesn’t go out of date.
That date is there partly because people trust food products with a printed 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.
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.
Over time, powdered sugar often forms small dry clumps.
Different brands use varying amounts of cornstarch, so the time it takes your icing sugar to start forming clumps depends on the brand you choose. Sooner or later, there will be some small ones, 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 smells like regular sugar, so if yours smells off or funny, either something that you can’t see (think microbes) got its way into the package, or it absorbed the smell from another food product.
If you can easily explain why your icing sugar smells the way it does because it smells exactly like the product next to it, that sugar is okay to use. But if you’re thinking about dusting your dessert with smelly powdered sugar, think twice.
If that’s not the case, assume that the sugar has gone bad and get rid of the 10X sugar. Better safe than sorry.
Stored long enough, 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
Store powdered sugar tightly sealed in a cool, dry area away from heat sources and strong smells. The pantry or a kitchen cabinet are good choices.
After opening the package, the sugar needs to be sealed tightly so that any moisture or bugs can’t get inside. So 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, so it doesn’t get warm. 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. That’s especially important if it’s in a paper bag because strong smells can often penetrate those. So if there’s something smelly nearby, it’s best to transfer your icing sugar to an airtight container or seal it in a zip-top bag.
As you can tell, the guidelines above are the same as those for brown sugar or white sugar. And if you’re interested in reading more about storing sugar, here’s my guide to storing sugar long term.
Can You Freeze Powdered Sugar?
You can freeze powdered sugar, but it’ll last years if you just leave it sealed tightly at room temperature. Freezing doesn’t help much with extending its shelf life but might get you in trouble if the sugar absorbs any moisture or strong smells from the freezer. In most cases, it’s not worth it.
If you really want to put your powdered sugar in the freezer, make sure it’s sealed tightly. A freezer bag (or two) or an airtight container is in order here.
If you don’t protect your confectioner’s sugar, 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.
Last but not least, 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’ won’t get you the same results in most cases.
Summary on the Spoilage and Shelf Life of Powdered Sugar
I hope you liked this guide on the shelf life and expiration of powdered sugar. Let’s recap the most important information:
- Does powdered sugar go bad? If you store your powdered sugar in a cool and dry place and sealed tight, it won’t ever go bad. Over time, some clumps might form, but you can sift the sugar to remove them.
- How long does powdered sugar last? While confectioner’s sugar usually comes with a best-by date printed on the label, it doesn’t go out of date. As long as it sits in a cool, dry place and away from any smells, it will last years (or until you finish it up).
Baking and Baked Goods
Powdered sugar (or confectioner's sugar) can last indefinitely if stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place away from heat and any strong smells. If your powdered sugar shows signs of moisture like moist clumps, contains pests or evidence of contamination, be safe and throw it out.Why does my powdered sugar taste bad? ›
Why does my powdered sugar taste chalky? Some people notice the corn starch anti-clumping agent that's been added to the sugar as an anti-caking agent. Some brands have more or less corn starch. If it's noticeable to you, you could add some homemade powdered sugar to balance out the flavor.What does old powdered sugar taste like? ›
Depending on how it was stored or how old it is, it may taste a bit stale. Most manufacturers put a best-by date of one to two years after the sugar was packaged. This date doesn't mean that the powdered sugar has gone bad. It just means that it may taste a bit old.How do you store confectioners sugar long term? ›
- Pour the powdered sugar into a freezer bag. ...
- Place the freezer bag into an airtight container.
- Place the bagged powdered sugar in a cool, dry location away from humidity. ...
- Store the powdered sugar in this location, as long it does not form lumps.
Commercial sugars (granular, syrup, and honey) have an indefinite shelf life due to their resistance to microbial growth. However, sugars have a best-if-used by date of approximately 2 years for quality concerns.How do you know if powdered sugar is bad? ›
Powdered sugar (or confectioner's sugar) can last indefinitely if stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place away from heat and any strong smells. If your powdered sugar shows signs of moisture like moist clumps, contains pests or evidence of contamination, be safe and throw it out.What are the black specks in powdered sugar? ›
The black stuff is called burnt sugar! But seriously, this is what happens when you heat or burn things that contain carbon. It reacts with oxygen and "oxidizes" (burns). The black stuff itself is mainly carbon.Does powdered sugar taste like sugar? ›
What Does It Taste Like? Confectioners' sugar tastes just as sweet as granulated sugar. Its fine texture gives it a smoother mouthfeel that's like eating a powder.Does sugar get old or stale? ›
"Technically sugar never spoils," explain food safety experts from the US Department of Agriculture's Food Service and Inspection Service, though they do add, "for best quality it is recommended to use within two years of opening."What the heck is powdered sugar? ›
Powdered sugar is simply blended granulated white sugar. Yep, it's true, and it's just that easy. You know those times when you want to make buttercream frosting, and halfway through, you realize you have no powdered sugar? Those days of worrying are gone!
Powdered sugar has an indefinite shelf life and should be stored similar to granulated sugar. We have found the best way to store powdered sugar is to purchase it in 2 pound bags and then seal those bags in food grade plastic bucket.Can powdered sugar go rancid? ›
The good news is that confectioner's sugar will keep indefinitely in an airtight container so you can hang on to it until the next time you want to dust a cake, make whipped cream, or bring a touch of sweetness to your fresh fruit.What can you do with expired sugar? ›
Technically, sugar never spoils. While it's recommended that granulated sugar be discarded after two years, chances are it will still serve its baking purpose even beyond that. The same guidelines apply to brown sugar and confectioner's or powdered sugar.Can bacteria grow on sugar? ›
In addition, while it was shown that high sugar concentrations inhibit bacterial growth, very low concentrations show the opposite effect, that is, they stimulate bacterial growth, indicating that there is a threshold concentration upon which sugars cease to act as antimicrobial agents and become media instead.Does sugar get bugs? ›
Psocids (or flour weevils) are tiny brown or black insects which live in dry foods, including flour and sugar.Can you use flour 5 years out of date? ›
Most packaged flours have expiration dates — also called best-by dates — printed on the bag to indicate how long they'll stay fresh. However, these labels aren't mandatory and don't denote safety. Thus, your flour may still be safe to eat even after the best-by date (9).Why does powdered sugar disappear? ›
But put powdered sugar on something that's too hot or too moist and it'll eventually dissolve and disappear. Sure, you could continue piling on the powdered sugar when this happens, but you may risk an overly sweet outcome.How do you keep powdered sugar from getting hard? ›
Store powdered sugar in a cool, dry location (not the refrigerator). When it gets moist, it develops lumps. And because of its physical properties, it may absorb strong odors if left unsealed. Powdered sugar however cannot adequately be restored if it forms lumps because of the cornstarch used in the sugar.Why is my powdered sugar lumpy? ›
Powdered sugar usually clumps from improper storage, either by the grocery store or the consumer. If the sugar is not in an airtight environment, moisture can cause it to coalesce and create lumps.What removes lumps from powdered sugar? ›
Sifter- Used to blend dry ingredients and remove lumps from powdered sugar.
It's simply the amount of molasses in it: Dark brown sugar contains about 6.5% molasses. Light brown (or sometimes labeled golden brown) sugar contains about 3.5% molasses.What is the white powder sugar called? ›
Confectioners' sugar is regular granulated white sugar that's pulverized to a powder so fine it's basically sugar dust.What is difference between powdered sugar and confectioners sugar? ›
Like powdered sugar, confectioners' sugar is made of finely ground granulated sugar. However, the key difference is the addition of cornstarch. Adding cornstarch to powdered sugar serves to prevent the sugar from caking up and getting clumpy over time. It protects the integrity of the sugar's powdered form.Why does my powdered sugar taste like metal? ›
The starch added to most powdered sugar can make frosting taste slightly metallic.Is confectioners sugar and powdered sugar the same thing? ›
Yes! Powdered sugar, confectioners' sugar (including confectioners sugar and confectioner's sugar too), icing sugar, and 10X (a reference to the size of the particles) are all the same.Can you eat 20 year old sugar? ›
Although their textures might change, sugar never completely expires and is safe to use well after its expiration date.Does salt expire? ›
While salt itself has no expiration date, salt products that contain iodine or seasonings that contain other ingredients such as spices, colors and flavors can deteriorate over time.Does salt go bad? ›
Plain salt does not expire, but iodized salt has a shelf life of about five years because the stability of the iodized salt decreases over time with exposure, especially in the presence of moisture or metal ions.Is powdered sugar good after expiration date? ›
Expired powdered sugar is perfectly fine to use as long as it doesn't show any signs of spoilage such as wet clumps, mold, pantry bugs, or any other evidence of contamination. The best-by date on the label only informs how long the product should retain top quality.Is there a substitute for confectioners sugar? ›
Granulated Sugar and Tapioca Starch
Tapioca starch, which is made from cassava plants and is sometimes referred to as tapioca flour, can also be combined with granulated sugar to make a powdered sugar substitute.
The best temperature to store grains, including rice, is 40°F or below; however, rice stored at a constant 70° F with oxygen absorbers will store well for up to 10 years. In cooler storage areas rice sealed in oxygen-free containers can be stored for up to 30 years.Can I store brown sugar in Ziploc bags? ›
Brown sugar can also be stored in any type of re-sealable, moisture-proof plastic bag. The quality of brown sugar is best when consumed within six months of purchase and opening. Don't store brown sugar in the refrigerator.How do you store salt long term? ›
The best way to store salt is to keep it away from moisture. So, the salt storage container should not permit water or damp in. The container should be able to stay sealed for a long time without contaminating the salt or allowing moisture in.How long does sugar go bad? ›
With sell-by dates and expiration dates displayed on packaging, it's easy to assume that all foods—even shelf-stable pantry items—eventually expire. Not so with sugar! According to Domino Sugar, "Sugar... has an indefinite shelf life because it does not support microbial growth."Does flour go bad? ›
Does Flour Expire? Flour does have "expiration" dates, but that doesn't necessarily mean you can't use the flour. There are a few things to check before you toss that bag of expired flour. All flour sacks have a "best by" or "best if used by" date printed on their packaging.What foods never go bad? ›
- Honey. Thanks to the magic handiwork of bees (they have special enzymes that basically inhibit bacterial growth) and the way it's processed for storage, honey is the longest lasting of the bunch. ...
- Rice. ...
- Instant Coffee. ...
- White Vinegar. ...
- Vanilla Extract. ...
- Salt. ...
- Dried Beans. ...
The general rule of thumb is: when stored properly, baking soda will last for two to three years sealed in its original container. Once opened, it will keep for at least six months.Which bacteria grow in sugar? ›
Sugar thick juice, therefore, typically favours the emergence of the extremely xerotolerant bacterium Tetragenococcus halophilus (Table 1; Justé et al., 2008b,d).Can sugar grow fungus? ›
Conditions and food where mold grows best
Molds tolerate salt and sugar and can survive on high-acid foods like jams, pickles, fruit, tomatoes and cured salty meats such as bacon, ham and bologna.
Instead, consuming sugar markedly altered the composition of the gut microbiome, the "good bacteria" in the gut that keeps the digestive system and metabolism operating smoothly. Specifically, sugar had this negative microbiome effect by feeding one bacterial species named Akkermansia muciniphila.
Cockroaches are attracted to your home by the smell of food. They are most attracted to starch, sugar, grease, meat, and cheese. Rotting fruits and vegetables can also give off a very pungent smell that will definitely attract these pests.What house bugs are attracted to sugar? ›
- Ants. If you have ever accidentally spilled a small amount of a sugary drink like a soda or lemonade and delayed cleaning it up, you have probably experienced how short of a time it takes for ants to descend upon the spill. ...
- Mice & Rats. ...
- Flies. ...
Sugar is by far the most attractive substance to a cockroach. They love sugar and can smell it from anywhere. This means you'll want to keep your sugar containers, fruits, and other sweeteners sealed in air-tight containers that are up off the floor.Is 7 year old flour still good? ›
Can you use flour past its best by date? Probably. If it doesn't show any signs of deterioration, and it's been stored in a cool, dry place, it should be fine for a few months past the printed date. Most of the time, using expired flour won't make you sick.Can you eat year old flour? ›
The bottom line: White flours have a long shelf life (one year at room temperature) and should be stored in airtight containers. Spoiled flour will smell slightly sour, but eating it typically doesn't cause any real harm.Is 3 year old flour still good? ›
If wrapped and stored properly, refined flours will keep for six to eight months at room temperature, up to one year in the fridge and up to two years in the freezer. Whole-wheat flours will keep for three months at room temperature and up to a year in the fridge or freezer.Why does sugar taste weird to me? ›
Dysgeusia is a taste disorder that causes foods to taste weird. In most cases, this altered sense of taste goes away on its own. Dysgeusia can be triggered by a virus like COVID-19 or the common cold. It can also be a side effect of chemotherapy or other medication.Why does my icing sugar taste like soap? ›
It is likely caused by bad powdered sugar or vanilla extract. Not all powdered sugars are created equal. Make sure you use a good quality powdered or confectioners sugar that only contains cane sugar and corn starch. If it contains anything else, it will affect the taste and the texture.How do you cut the taste of powdered sugar? ›
You can add 1.8 of a teaspoon of salt and one teaspoon of lemon juice for each four cups of powdered sugar in your recipe. This is the perfect blend, and you just need to make sure that it pairs well with the flavor of your cake.What happens if you use expired powdered sugar? ›
Expired powdered sugar is perfectly fine to use as long as it doesn't show any signs of spoilage such as wet clumps, mold, pantry bugs, or any other evidence of contamination. The best-by date on the label only informs how long the product should retain top quality.