Brown sugar

How Long Does Brown Sugar Last?

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My preference is by far brown sugar over white sugar in our home. Each time I go shopping, brown sugar is on my shopping list — the other day, to my surprise, I found a secret stash of brown sugar bags in my grocery cupboard, and suddenly I knew I had too much! I needed to find out how long brown sugar lasts, to know how much time I had to use it all.

Brown sugar has a shelf life of 18-24 months. This period is an estimate of how long it retains optimum quality. The date on the ‘best by’ label is marked by the end of this period. However, brown sugar will last indefinitely if you store it correctly, away from bugs and excessive moisture.

All non-perishable foods are given an ‘expiration date.‘ With brown sugar, it is not for the safety of the food item but rather more to do with its quality, as this deteriorates as time passes after the expiry date. Brown sugar can last beyond its ‘best before date,’ but as with all foods, there are things to look for in your brown sugar if you plan to keep it long-term.

Does Brown Sugar Go Bad?

Brown Sugar

The excellent news is brown sugar does not ever really go bad. Although manufacturers will usually print the best-by label within two years as advised to use, it lasts far longer than this suggested date. Brown sugar does have a long shelf life as it is a preservative food type. It can stay good to consume for many years without issue.

You can safely use brown sugar indefinitely after the use-by date if your sugar has sufficient internal moisture. It is sensible to store it in an airtight container to prevent air exposure and pesky insects from getting into the sugar.

Brown sugar doesn’t go bad if you store it sealed tight in a cool and dry place. Of course, brown sugar’s taste and overall quality gradually change slightly over time, but it is generally safe to use way past the “expiration” date.

While brown sugar does not go completely bad, the texture will change over time despite being usable. When brown sugar has been around a while, it will solidify into a hard lump.

Why Does Brown Sugar Have A Long Shelf-Life?

Sugar in Container

Brown sugar doesn’t go bad as it does not support microbial growth. Microbial growth refers to an increase in several cells rather than an increase in cell size. In granule or powder form, brown sugar of any type has a long shelf-life because it does not facilitate microbes’ growth or proliferation.

Whether it is white, brown, or powdered sugar, if you keep your sugar in an airtight container to preserve its internal moisture content and protect it from insects and pantry pests, it will remain safe to use.

If your brown sugar were to stay in storage for several years, it might decrease in quality slightly, but in taste, there will be a slight difference at best, if at all.

When To Stop Using Your Brown Sugar?

Despite the long shelf life and the fact that brown sugar can last indefinitely, there are some cases in which it is advisable to discontinue using your brown sugar and instead open a new package.

When checking if your brown sugar is still good to use, look out for the following signs, which will indicate that your brown sugar is no longer suitable for consumption. If you see these signs, you can discard the sugar:

Insects, Larvae, Or Eggs In Your Brown Sugar

Bugs or other types of insects in your sugar are a problem — whether dead or alive. You can notice this visibly in the sugar. If you find dead insects in your brown sugar, removing them will not be enough to save the food.

These are tiny insects — and you wouldn’t be able to tell if they have broken into pieces and some of their body parts have been left behind in the sugar or have already deteriorated in the mixture. Eek, gross!

If there are live insects in your sugar container, for example, bugs, ants, etc., it would be best to throw the sugar away.

Although not unclean, ants still eat food that they have been on. So if they are present in your sugar, avoid food contamination by ants and other insects and discard any food, including brown sugar, exposed to them.

Mould Or Other Organic Growth In Your Brown Sugar

Under normal circumstances, mold doesn’t grow on sugar because the mold bacteria need moisture to thrive. Brown sugar is by nature moist, and when left in a humid environment, mold can begin to grow.

If it looks as if this has happened, or your sugar gives off a musty aroma, throw it in the rubbish bin. However, this does not happen often, but mold can grow when brown sugar is exposed to humid conditions. If you suspect mold in your brown sugar, and if it smells moldy instead, do not use it.

Your Brown Sugar Smells Bad

Brown sugar has a definite smell — it smells sweet and pleasant. If you find that your brown sugar smells strange — or worse, smells terrible — do not use it. Having a bad smell means that there’s something wrong with it, so instead, discard it.

Sugar does have the ability to absorb other smells, so if your sugar smells like another product in your cupboard, chances are your brown sugar absorbed that smell. This means that the bag or container it is being stored in does not seal well enough.  If the scent it gives off is strong, it is best to get rid of it.

Other Concerning Factors To Look For In Your Brown Sugar

Apart from the three signs to signal that you can no longer use your brown sugar mentioned above, there are other factors to be aware of and look out for when deciding whether your brown sugar can still be used. These factors may require intervention, but it may not mean you need to discard the package altogether.

Here is an essential factor to look out for:

The Brown Sugar Is Clumpy

Brown sugar contains a higher moisture content than white sugar, and if that moisture evaporates, the sugar becomes hard. This happens as a natural reaction, and despite the sugar becoming hard, it is still good to use.

Whether raw, refined, or unrefined, all brown sugar types will eventually dry out once the original packaging has been opened. How you store it can make little difference.

Unfortunately, whether you put it into a bag or an airtight container, in time, clumps will form, and it will cake and become hard. However, that doesn’t mean that it has become inedible.

What Does It Mean If My Brown Sugar Goes Hard?

When its moisture evaporates over time, brown sugar goes hard. It might start to clump and turn rancid over time, but this is not a sign of spoilage, and you can quickly fix hardened brown sugar.

How To Break Down Hardened Brown Sugar?

Brown sugar tends to dry out naturally after being opened, and it will start to form clumps, especially if it is stored for an extended period and if the container is not airtight. While hardened brown sugar is not spoiled, it can become challenging to use. This is the reason you would want to soften it.

Softening clumped brown sugar isn’t too complicated. There are several ways to go about breaking it down:

Manually Loosening Brown Sugar

As one would imagine, there are several ways you can go about manually loosening brown sugar. The main advantage to manually loosening the sugar is that it is an instant solution and enables you to use the brown sugar immediately after it has been broken up again.

Here are some of the popular options most people will choose:

  • Using a fork to break it up
  • Place it in a plastic bag and apply pressure with a utensil or crush it against a hard surface to break up clumps.
  • Putting it inside a blender and using an electric mixer

Microwave Method Of Breaking Up Brown Sugar

  • Put ½ pound of the complex sugar into a bowl
  • Cover the sugar with a wet piece of paper towel
  • Cover the bowl with cling-wrap
  • Heat on high in the microwave for 1.5 – 2 minutes
  • Mix up sugar with a fork
  • Allow to cool and use immediately

If you don’t have a microwave to make use of, you can use the oven too. The sugar will become hard again when it cools down, so grab as much as you need right away.

Using Bread To Soften Brown Sugar

  • Add a bread slice or a moist piece of paper towel to the sugar package for 1-2 days.
  • Separate the sugar and bread with a piece of cling wrap.
  • Make use of organic orange peel in place of the bread as an alternative.
  • Put an apple wedge or a few marshmallows into the container and follow the same method.

The paper towel or orange-peel method will soften brown sugar within several hours while the bread will soften brown sugar in 1-2 days, but it is the preferred method.

Softening sugar by adding back the moisture to it is the better option as it combats the underlying issue of the sugar dehydrating. The difficulty with this method is that it takes a bit of time, and it’s not ideal if you need brown sugar right now.

How To Store Brown Sugar Optimally?

Here are some tips to stop your brown sugar from going hard by storing it correctly and prolonging how long it takes the sugar from becoming hard and clumping.

Glass Jar Filled with Brown Sugar

Brown sugar should be stored:

  1. In a cool, moist, but not overly humid area
  2. In a rustproof container
  3. With a tight-fitting lid
  4. Away from heat such as ovens and heaters
  5. Not in the refrigerator
  6. Away from any strong smells

Note: Brown sugar can be frozen if you do not need it for an extended period.

Thaw frozen sugar entirely before use and use a fork to separate clumps before using.

Once open, be sure to seal the sugar tightly. You can do that by using an airtight container or by placing the package in a plastic bag.

Top 4 Best Brown Sugar Storage Containers

After testing and research, the below four storage containers have come through as the best options to store your brown sugar. See name, reviews, pros, and cons for each below:

Glass Jar Filled with Brown Sugar
Name of Container  Pro’sCon’sWhere to Purchase
Prep Solutions by Progressive Brown Sugar Keeper with Lid, 1.5 Quarts    • Durable
• Tight-sealing silicone lid
• Stainless steel hinges
• Removable terra cotta disk  
• Cleans on a low setting in the dishwasher  Amazon
OXO Square Pop Brown Sugar Storage Container  • Made from BPA-Free plastic
• Airtight silicone lid
• Stackable design
• Only one size is available
• Only silicone lid dishwasher safe  
Rubbermaid Airtight Brown Sugar Storage Container  • Dishwasher safe
• Freezer safe
• No BPA plastics
• Modular design that is stackable with other containers  
• One size only
• Could use clay additive for freshness  
Enjoy Brown Sugar Storage Container Set  • Multipack that ships with four containers
• Hermetically sealed airtight design
• High-quality stainless steel  
• The design is not clear.
• Advise hand washing  

How Long Does Brown Sugar Last When Prepared In A Dish?

Brown sugar is not only used in a cup of coffee in the morning but has an extensive range of functions in both cooking and baking dishes. Generally, brown sugar will be one of the last expiring ingredients in any dish you cook, including savory and sweet dishes — but it does still expire along with the other ingredients that it is mixed in with.

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