Does hot chocolate expire?

Here’s everything you need to know about the shelf life and expiration of hot chocolate. Learn how long hot chocolate lasts and what to do if it expires.

It’s cold and you could use some hot chocolate to warm you up. But it turns out that yours has expired a few months ago. Does hot chocolate expire?

Or maybe you bought a box or a pack and want to know how long the hot chocolate lasts.

In any case, you are in the right place.

But before we get down to it, let’s spend a minute or two on the two types of hot chocolate on the market. It’s important to the rest of the article, I promise.

carton of hot chocolate

Powdered Hot Chocolate vs. Shaved Chocolate

In general, there are two types of hot chocolate: powdered hot chocolate (sometimes called hot chocolate mix) and hot chocolate in the form of chocolate flakes.

As you can imagine, the first is a mixture of cocoa powder, sugar, and sometimes a couple of other ingredients. And it’s a powder, just like cocoa powder.

The second is, as the name suggests, grated chocolate. Here’s what it looks like:

hot chocolate before adding the milk

Both types can make great hot chocolate, but chocolate flakes often lose quality noticeably sooner than hot chocolate mix.

It makes sense if you think about it. Cocoa powder usually lasts for about 3 years, while normal chocolate maintains its quality for between 6 and 24 months, depending on whether it is white, milk or dark chocolate.

Knowing this, let’s move on to hot chocolate spoilage, expiration, and storage.

Does hot chocolate expire?

Hot chocolate can easily retain its good quality for months beyond the printed date if stored in a cool, dry, and dark place. Powdered hot chocolate and mixes tend to retain quality longer than grated chocolate, but both should taste great even a couple of months past the expiration date.

In other words, hot chocolate doesn’t spoil to the point where it’s unsafe to eat, but its quality deteriorates over time. And at a certain point, the quality drops below the point where it’s good enough to drink.

So yes, it’s okay to drink expired hot chocolate, as long as the chocolate dust or flakes are fine, and everything smells and tastes good after you make the chocolate drink.

That being said, in some cases, you have to throw the product away. Let’s talk about the signs of deterioration.

marshmallows in hot chocolate

When to throw out the hot chocolate?

Throw away your hot chocolate if

  • the bag is infested. Any pantry pest in your powdered chocolate means it’s finished.
  • Dust is moldy or has wet clumps. If moisture gets in, it forms wet clumps that will soon turn into mold. You don’t want anything to do with that dust.
  • It has lost its distinctive odor or has started to smell musty or otherwise foul. If your hot chocolate smells bad, it’s obviously not good. But if it doesn’t smell much, it probably has lost its flavor due to long storage. At that point, it’s okay to use it, but you should probably throw it away for quality reasons. After all, hot cocoa should taste good.
  • Grated chocolate doesn’t taste good. If your hot chocolate is in the form of chocolate flakes, grab a pinch or two and eat it. If it tastes good, your hot chocolate will taste good too. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true.
  • Prepared hot chocolate smells or tastes bad.

Those are typical signs of hot chocolate spoilage. If yours is in the form of grated chocolate, you may want to read my article on chocolate for more details on what’s okay and what’s not.

two cups of hot chocolate

How long does hot chocolate last?

Hot chocolate, mix or powder Better + 6-12 months for best quality
Hot chocolate, flakes Better + 2-4 months for best quality
Swiss Miss (powdered) Better + 6-12 months for best quality

Hot chocolate lasts from 3 to 24 months, depending on the type. Hot chocolate mixes and powders usually last for over a year, while grated chocolate (or chocolate flakes) retain their best quality for only 3-6 months, perhaps as long as a year.

But whatever the type, hot chocolate retains its good quality for at least a few months after the printed date. And in the case of powdered hot chocolate and mixes (like Swiss Miss), it’s usually closer to a year or even longer.

These periods also vary depending on the exact flavor you purchase. White chocolate is the one that retains its quality the least time, milk chocolate a little longer, and dark chocolate the longest.

In general, you should check your expired hot chocolate for signs of spoilage, and if it doesn’t, make a cup. It’s a much better way to check if the product is still good than relying on the date printed on the label.

bag of hot chocolate

How to keep hot chocolate

Store powdered or flaked hot chocolate in a cool, dry place, away from any heat source. Refrigeration is unnecessary and could even be detrimental to the quality of the flaked chocolate. Refrigerate hot chocolate only if directed on the label.

After opening the bag or box for the first time, remember to seal the remains tightly. This way they will preserve the quality for months.

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