Does Sugar Go Bad?


Does Sugar Go Bad

No kitchen is complete without sugar, and there are many reasons why that is the case. 

If you love making pastry and cakes, it’s pretty obvious why you should always have sugar in your kitchen. There is almost no recipe for a sweet dish or a dessert that doesn’t include sugar. 

But sweets aren’t the only dishes you need sugar for

Even if this sounds mindblowing to sweet-tooths, many people don’t like sweets. They would rather eat something salty than a beautifully decorated sweet dish. However, even those of you who dislike cakes and pastries always have some sugar in the kitchen. 

Sugar is also used as an addition to sour foods like tomato soup or Shakshuka. Why? Because adding sugar in such meals enhances the taste and gives them a fantastic savory flavor. 

Even if you don’t consume sugar at all, you’ll always have some sugar if you have guests who like to drink their coffee or tea with a cube or two of sugar. 

So, you can easily see why sugar is unavoidable in any kitchen. 

Because sugar is so prevalent in every kitchen, you may forget you already have some and buy some more just to be sure. After some time, maybe while cooking, you search the cupboard for sugar and discover an old and already opened pack of sugar. 

What to do now? 

You may already know that sugar can last long but aren’t sure for exactly how long it can last. The opened pack of sugar you discovered in your cupboard seems old. It has probably been lying there for ages without anyone noticing. 

Does sugar go bad? How long does sugar last? How to tell if sugar has gone bad? These are just some of the questions you ask yourself when you stumble upon an old sugar bag.

In this article, we’ll cover all your questions and talk about storing sugar properly. 


Does Sugar Go Bad? 

The answer is NO! Sugar does NOT go bad!

  • The same also applies to brown sugar
  • No matter how long the sugar pack is lying in your kitchen cupboard, it’s still good and safe to eat. There is almost no reason to worry or to throw the sugar away.
  • With that said, that doesn’t mean that sugar can’t become unsafe to use. We’ll touch upon how to tell that sugar has gone bad a bit later in this article. 

You may ask yourself why sugar can’t go bad, so here is a short explanation. 

  • Microorganisms like bacteria, mold, and fungi are attracted to sugar. However, they also need a certain amount of water to grow further. In sugar, these microorganisms can’t grow because sugar is hygroscopic. This means that sugar is a substance that attracts water molecules. 
  • When in contact with water, sugar will suck in all the water around it. So, basically, if a microorganism lands on the sugar, the water from the organism will be transferred to the sugar via a chemical process called osmosis
  • We can say that osmosis strives to create balance because it moves water from a place with a higher concentration to a region with a lower concentration of water. Because sugar contains almost 0% of water, the microorganisms die due to dehydration. 
  • To sum this all up, thanks to osmosis, sugar isn’t a good environment for microorganisms to live, grow, or survive. This is why sugar is an excellent preservative for food. 
  • You may now conclude that sugar contains dead bacteria and maybe some other microorganisms. You are right, but that isn’t a reason to worry. That is perfectly normal because you’re consuming dead bacteria in practically every food. 

See Also: Does Powdered Sugar Go Bad?


How Long Does Sugar Last? 

Sugar, just like honey, can’t go bad and, therefore, can last indefinitely. 

You may be confused because the label on the sugar has a best-by date. The best-by date must be on every food label because of government regulations. The sugar you bought won’t go bad unless a high amount of water gets into it. 

Shelf Life Of Sugar

Here’s a neat little table detailing how long do different types of sugar last.

Opened/UnopenedHow Long Does It Last
Granulated white sugarIndefinitely
Sugar CubesIndefinitely
Raw sugarIndefinitely
Brown sugarIndefinitely (recommended to use within 2 years)
Powdered sugarIndefinitely (recommended to use within 2 years)
Substitutes for sugarIndefinitely
SaccharinIndefinitely (recommended to use within 2 years)

Signs That Sugar Has Gone Bad

As we already discussed, sugar can’t go bad, but there can be some reasons you should throw it away. So, let’s dive into when it’s time to get rid of the sugar. 

Sugar attracts many insects and bugs like bees, wasps, ants, flies, and silverfish. Because these insects and pests are tiny, they can easily find their way into the sugar container. This is especially true for ants. If you leave the pack of sugar open, even larger bugs can crawl in. 

So, it’s quite common to find some bugs or insects in your sugar. If that happens, we recommend you throw the sugar away. 

Sometimes greater amounts of water can get in the sugar container, which creates a good environment for microorganisms to grow. So, even if microorganisms can’t grow directly in sugar, they can live in the container. 

In case some mold has formed in the sugar container, it’s time to throw the sugar in the trash can. Yes, you can just pour the sugar into another container, but we don’t recommend that. 

If you keep sugar in your kitchen near the stove, some aerated water can get into the container. When that happens, the sugar will clump up. But that isn’t a reason to worry. Just break the clumps apart with a spoon or a fork and continue using it. 

Note that sugar can sometimes soak up other smells, especially if you keep it in the kitchen. If you notice that the sugar smells odd, that isn’t a sign of spoilage. We recommend you throw it away because this smell can affect the taste of your dish. 


How To Store Sugar?

When it comes to storing sugar, it’s recommended to keep it in a cool and dry place. A good place would be your pantry or in the kitchen cupboard.  

This applies to all types of sugar, not just regular white sugar. 

Sugar usually comes in paper packaging. Unfortunately, paper packaging doesn’t offer a lot of protection, and it’s really easy for water to reach inside it. So, we recommend pouring the sugar into an airtight container so that water can’t get in. 

What’s more, keeping sugar in an airtight container will also protect it from bugs and insects crawling in. If you’re keeping sugar in your kitchen, the sealed container will protect the sugar from soaking up cooking smells. 

Of course, you can keep sugar in its original packaging. You should just keep it away from water, and seal it up with a rubber band so that no bugs and insects can get into it. The cupboard in your kitchen is the perfect place. 

If you’re using sugar almost every day, you can keep it in a display container like salt, pepper, or coffee. You’ll probably use it all up before any water or bugs get to it. 


Does Sugar Go Bad – Conclusion

Just like honey, sugar does not go bad. This is because sugar is hygroscopic, which means it attracts moisture. So, any bacteria that lands on “raw” sugar has its moisture instantly sucked out by the sugar’s tendency to draw in moisture. 

Still, that doesn’t mean that sugar can become unsafe to eat. Although this condiment is deadly to bacteria and fungi, it’s a heaven for insects. If you leave your sugar container open, insects can easily get in and wreak havoc. When that happens, you should throw out the sugar and clean the container.

What’s more, if a large amount of water reaches into the sugar container, the excess moisture can become a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi. While these pathogens can’t survive in the sugar itself, they will form colonies in the moisture that’s collected on the walls of the container.

This is why it’s essential you keep your sugar in an airtight container and away from water and heat.

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