Does Brown Sugar Go Bad


Brown sugar is a common ingredient for baking delicious food items including cookies, breads, candy, muffins, and cakes. If you’re storing it for any length of time, you’ll likely want to know does brown sugar go bad?

brown sugar in spoon
brown sugar in spoon

We’ll answer that question as well as include tips on storage, shelf life, and restoration of brown sugar. Perhaps your sugar has turned hard, and you’re wondering if it’s spoiled. Don’t throw it away yet. We’ll tell you how to restore it.

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

Can brown sugar go bad? Yes, it can go bad.

The circumstances that create the greatest potential for it to go bad is if it’s not stored properly or if it’s been contaminated with other food items and has the potential to grow bacteria.

How to Tell If Brown Sugar is Bad

Here are some things to watch for in your brown sugar. Even though it really never expires, it’s best when used within 2 years. But if stored properly, it can last longer.

Here’s how to tell if it is bad. These are the spoilage signs to watch for.

Bugs or insects. If you find bugs or insects in your sugar, it has gone bad and should be thrown away.

Wet spots or mold. The presence of wet spots, mold, or growth of any other organic matter indicates that it has gone bad. Throw it away instead of consuming it.

Smells off. If you take a sniff of your sugar and it smells off, you should throw it away. Chances are the change in smell indicates bacteria is beginning to grow.

background of sugar cubes
background of sugar cubes

Can You Bake with Expired Brown Sugar?

Yes, baking with expired brown sugar is fine. However, baking with spoiled sugar is something you’ll want to avoid.

Technically speaking, sugar doesn’t really ever expire. Yes, brands are required to print an expiration date on packaging.

But it can be used for a long time as long as it doesn’t spoil.

What to Do if You’re Out of Brown Sugar

To make brown sugar from white sugar, just add molasses and mix it together until you achieve the desired darkness.

We’ve included a link to our post about how to create the best brown sugar substitute.

How to Store Brown Sugar

Proper storage for sugar is either at room temperature or in the freezer. We recommend avoiding storing it in the refrigerator as it tends to turn hard there. Instead you can use sealed bags or insulated containers.  

For sugar that you intend to use in the near future, you’ll want to choose to store it at room temperature.

It’s fine to keep it in its original packaging from the store until you intend to use it.

scoop of brown sugar
scoop of brown sugar

Once the packaging has been opened, you’ll want to transfer the contents to a sealed container such as a zipped storage bag or a glass jar that can be sealed with a lid. The key is to ensure the storage space is cool and dry.

Preventing Brown Sugar from Hardening

The best way to prevent it from hardening is to store it properly.

Keeping it sealed in an airtight container, such as a glass jar with a lid, is the best way to store it for the longest shelf life.

Hard Brown Sugar Doesn’t Mean It Has Gone Bad

Is brown sugar still good when hard? Yes, just because it turns hard or gets hard clumps doesn’t mean it has gone bad.

Here are some ways you can remedy sugar that’s turned hard. We’ve included some ideas for how to soften hard sugar.

Take Out the Sugar Beforehand

If you’re storing it in the freezer, you’ll want to take it out beforehand to give it a chance to defrost.

Use an Electric Mixer or Fork

This is one of the best ways for how to restore brown sugar when hardened.

If you have clumps in your sugar, the best way to get rid of those is to use a fork and smash them or place it in an electric mixer and turn it on a low speed. Allow a few minutes for the hard spots to work out.

If you don’t have access to an electric mixer or if it doesn’t do the job, you can also try using a food processor or coffee grinder using the same method.

Smash With the Bag

If the hard spots are minimal, you might be able to work them out while the brown sugar is still inside its bag, by manually loosening it using the palm of your hand to smash it out.

cane brown sugar
cane brown sugar

Use an Apple Wedge or Slice of Bread

The reason that it becomes hard is because it loses too much moisture.

You can try restoring moisture to clumped brown sugar by adding an apple wedge inside the container where it’s stored.

A slice of bread can potentially provide the same results when placed inside an airtight container with the brown sugar.

When Should You Be Concerned?

You should be concerned about using it if it shows any change in appearance, smell, or flavor.

If mold has developed, the taste of it has changed, its consistency has been altered, or its flavor seems off, you can assume it has gone bad and should be thrown away. 

Uses for Leftover Brown Sugar

There are so many uses for leftover brown sugar. In fact, we kind of feel like the sky’s the limit when it comes to options.

One word to the wise about storing leftover brown sugar. Whatever you do, don’t put it in the refrigerator. That will make it turn into a hard brick.

brown sugar in jars
brown sugar in jars

Instead, to store leftover sugar, seal it in an airtight container such as a glass jar for the best results.

Here are some recipes you might like to try:

Panera Bread Cinnamon Rolls
Glazed French Toast Cinnamon Swirl
Cinnamon Toast Crunch Churros
McDonald’s Cinnamon Melts

How Long Does Brown Sugar Last?

We recommend using it within 2 years of purchasing it for the best quality.

After that it can become hard or clumpy which can make it more challenging to use, although sugar that’s become hard doesn’t mean it has spoiled.

The Risk of Consuming Expired Brown Sugar

There is no risk of consuming expired sugar as long as its quality hasn’t deteriorated.

If you notice any signs of spoilage, you should throw it away rather than consuming it.

Can You Freeze Brown Sugar?

Yes, freezing sugar can be a good idea if you intend to store it for any length of time.

Because otherwise it can be come hard or clumpy quite quickly under the right conditions.

When thawing, use a fork to help smash out any clumps and store it at room temperature to allow it to defrost.

Frequently Asked Questions

Following are frequently asked questions that relate to does brown sugar go bad. If you have a question that’s not answered here, feel free to drop it to us in the comments box below and we’ll be happy to answer it.

Is it safe to use expired brown sugar?

The fact of the matter is that it never really expires. Unless the appearance, flavor, or smell of it has been compromised, you can likely still use it.

brown sugar cubes
brown sugar cubes

When should you throw out brown sugar?

You should throw it away if it has gone bad. Signs of spoilage include a change in appearance such as the growth of mold or other cause in a change of its color.

If it smells bad, you should assume it’s no longer safe to use.

Or, if it tastes strange, we don’t recommend eating it and you should throw it away instead.

Can brown sugar mold?

Yes, brown sugar can potentially mold if it has been contaminated or if it has significant moisture content along with warmth.

If your sugar has developed mold, it’s no longer safe to eat and should be thrown away.

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Sarah is known for her extra fancy yeast breads, melt in your mouth pies, and everything salads. She has won awards as a home cook, and is passionate about helping others feel smarter in the kitchen. Sarah is the cooking genius of the sister duo.

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