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

Brown sugar is one of those items that we think will last forever and it turns out true. But this depends on a range of factors.

Can brown sugar go bad? Brown sugar can go bad if you don’t store it properly. If you want it to have a long, almost indefinite shelf life, store brown sugar in a dry and cool place. The most important condition is storing brown sugar in an airtight container or bag. The only two reasons that make brown sugar go bad quickly are bugs and mold. The latter occurs as a result of water getting into the container with sugar. If you can avoid these two, you can keep your sugar indefinitely.

In this article, you will learn all about the shelf life of brown sugar and get the answer to the most popular question, is hard brown sugar bad?

Does Brown Sugar Go Bad?

Brown sugar is one of those kitchen staples that can last indefinitely if stored right. While this doesn’t mean that it will taste as good as fresh, brown sugar will remain safe for consumption for years.

The manufacturers usually state that brown sugar should be used within 24 months. This is natural as no food usually comes with an indefinite shelf life label. But if you want brown sugar at its best, use it within 6 months.

Brown sugar can go bad as a result of improper storage conditions. As brown sugar is sweet, it attracts pests. Thus, bug contamination is a more common reason for brown sugar going bad than anything else.

Additionally, long-term storage results in texture changes of brown sugar. It loses moisture, hardens, and becomes clumpy. But this doesn’t mean that brown sugar has gone bad!

Nonetheless, it is quite challenging to use. While for sauces or marinades you can scrape off a few teaspoons of brown sugar, it gets tough when you need brown sugar for baking and it is all hardened up.

In such cases, use a fork to break the brown sugar and restore its original texture to a certain extent. This may be a tiresome task. Thus you can use a blender to speed up the process.

How to Store Brown Sugar?

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The best way to store brown sugar is in the pantry. Here are the key rules for storing brown sugar so that it keeps well.

  • Store brown sugar away from pests. While cleaning the pantry and kitchen cabinets may help you prevent bug contamination, no measure can guarantee your products against being invaded by insects. The thing that you can do and that will work is storing brown sugar in a container with a tight-sealing lid so that no bug can get into it.
  • Keep it in an airtight container. Sealable zip-top bags work well too.  Airtight containers or bags are the key to preserving the quality of your brown sugar. They keep the bugs away and help to prevent the sugar from losing all its moisture. These containers also prevent sugar from absorbing odors.
  • Store brown sugar in a cool area. Keep it away from direct sunlight and heat. Don’t store brown sugar near the widows, ovens, or heaters.
  • It is best to store brown sugar somewhere dry. While many sources recommend keeping brown sugar in a humid area, this is risky as you can’t always control the humidity level.  It should be noted, however, that a low humidity level can prevent the sugar from hardening.

An unopened bag of brown sugar can be stored as is if the plastic packaging is not damaged. If you buy brown sugar in a paper bag, transfer it into an airtight container right away to prevent bug contamination as well as water being absorbed by the paper bag.

For extra protection, you can always put the unopened bag with brown sugar into a sealable plastic bag.

Once you open a bag of brown sugar, follow the rules above to make it last longer.

Should Brown Sugar Be Refrigerated?

Storing brown sugar in the fridge is not recommended. Considering that brown sugar has the potential to last for years at room temperature, there is no reason to refrigerate it.

Can You Freeze Brown Sugar?

Freezing is an option for brown sugar if you want it to have a long shelf-life with no efforts of trying to maintain the perfect storage conditions.

To freeze brown sugar, it is best to use sealable plastic bags.

If the sugar is its original unopened packaging, simply put it in a Ziploc bag. If you have already opened the package, put the sugar into a tight-sealing bag, remove excess air, and seal it. Put the bag with sugar in it into another bag for added protection.

Freeze in smaller batches for convenient use.

Using frozen brown sugar is easy. Simply pour the needed amount on a baking sheet, spread it out, and let the sugar thaw for a few minutes.

Freezing brown sugar is a great option especially for those who live in areas where moisture, bugs, and high heat are inevitable.

How Long Does Brown Sugar Last?

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While brown sugar comes with a ‘best before date’, it really doesn’t have one. It all depends on how you store it.

See also
How Long Does Mayonnaise Last? Can it Go Bad?

If done right, brown sugar will keep forever. Another question is, why would you want to keep your brown sugar forever?

As we have mentioned before, it is best to use brown sugar within 2 years.

Signs that Brown Sugar Has Gone Bad


If you have not stored your brown sugar properly, there may be a few signs to tell you that.

Firstly, the bugs. This is the most apparent sign that it is high time you discarded your brown sugar. Secondly, mold. If you see mold in the container or bag with brown sugar, discard it. This happens as a result of water getting into the sugar. When it comes to such products as sugar, even a droplet may cause an entire container to go bad.

If the only thing wrong with your brown sugar is that it is hard, then you can go ahead and use it.

How to Fix Hard Brown Sugar?

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Brown sugar getting hard is a common issue. This is caused by improper storage conditions. If you keep the brown sugar in its original plastic packaging without closing it tightly, it will lose its moisture content.

But hard brown sugar is not necessarily spoiled. You can still save it by reintroducing moisture into it. There are a few ways you can do it.

If you need to soften brown sugar and use it right away, the best method to go for is microwaving brown sugar with a damp paper towel.

Simply put the sugar in a microwaveable bowl along with a moist paper towel. Microwave for 10 to 15 seconds and you will end up with softened brown sugar.

You can also soften brown sugar with the help of a few slices of bread or apple. Put the hard brown sugar in an airtight container. Put 2 to 3 slices of bread or apple next to the brick of brown sugar. Wait for 24 hours. The moisture from bread or apple will be reintroduced in the sugar. It will soften and be good to use again.

You may be surprised to learn that marshmallows are also good at softening brown sugar. Put a couple of them in a bag or container filled with brown sugar and wait for 24 hours until the sugar is all soft and crumbly again.

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