Does powdered sugar go bad?

You have found in the cupboard an old bag of icing sugar that has been there for a few years. Does powdered sugar go bad?

Fortunately for you and any other occasional baker (yourself included), powdered sugar doesn’t spoil.

If stored correctly, it lasts for years. That means It is probably still safe to use, even after the label date has passed.

Do you want to know more about the storage, shelf life and spoilage of powdered sugar? Keep reading.

Powdered sugar, confectioners sugar, icing sugar, and 10X sugar are all the same thing. In this article, I use all of these names interchangeably.

Bag of powdered sugar in hand

How long does powdered sugar last?

Powdered sugar typically has a shelf life of one to two years, but if stored properly it keeps well indefinitely. Opening the bag does not change anything: you can continue to store it for as long as you want, as long as it is well covered and in a dry place.

The expiration date that appears on the label only informs the time that the product must preserve its maximum quality. It is not an expiration date and has nothing to do with food safety. In other words, icing sugar does not expire.

That date is there in part because people trust food products with a date stamp more than those without.

In almost all cases, you can’t tell the difference between a new packet of icing sugar and one that is 3 years past its date.

That means yes, you can use “expired” powdered sugar, as long as there’s nothing wrong with it. More information about it in the next section.

powdered sugar close up

Over time, the powdered sugar tends to form small clumps.

Different brands use different amounts of cornstarch, so the time it takes for your icing sugar to start forming them depends on which brand you choose. Sooner or later, some small clumps will form, and there is no need to worry about that.

You can remove any clumps by sifting the sugar through a fine mesh strainer before sprinkling on the dessert. Or breaking them with a fork. Or with your fingers, if you want.

Powdered sugar (unopened or opened) It keeps well indefinitely
Pancakes with powdered sugar

How do you know if powdered sugar is bad?

Throw out the powdered sugar if it has mold or other organic growth, wet clumps, or any pantry pests inside. The same goes if it smells funny or has some sort of bad taste. Small, dry lumps are perfectly fine.

Wet clumps, mold and other growth are often caused by water entering the container. It doesn’t matter if there are just a few moldy little dots, or an entire civilization ready to build space shuttles, throw it all away. You don’t have to take risks.

If you find any insects in the pantry (dead or alive), check nearby food items and get rid of the rest as soon as possible. Those things spread like crazy.

Leftover Apple Pie Dusted with Powdered Sugar

Powdered sugar smells like regular sugar. If yours smells bad or strange, there are two reasons why it can happen:

  • You have left the sugar unsealed and it has absorbed the smell of a nearby food item. If you’re 100 percent sure that’s the case, sugar is fine to use. But if you’re thinking of sprinkling your dessert with smelly powdered sugar, think twice.
  • Something (think microbes and the like) has crept into the box and you can’t see it. If that’s the case, err on the side of caution and ditch the 10X sugar.

On top of all this, sometimes your old powdered sugar can taste rancid. It happens rarely, but if it does, sprinkling it on fresh pancakes can ruin everything.

However, it shouldn’t make much of a difference if you use that icing sugar as one of the ingredients in pancake batters, frosting, and the like.

That’s why it’s always best to check old icing sugar before using it.

Raspberry cupcakes dusted with powdered sugar

How to store powdered sugar

You should store powdered sugar in a cool, dry place. The pantry or kitchen cabinet are good options.

After opening the container, it must be hermetically closed, so that moisture and insects do not enter.

If the container is resealable, leave the sugar in it. If not, I advise you to transfer the powder to an airtight container.

You can even buy a decorative container and put it somewhere on display if you want. But it is preferable that it is not in direct sunlight. Anything goes as long as the sugar remains in a closed environment, away from moisture and heat sources.

Last but not least, keep the powdered sugar away from any strong odors. Of course, the airtight seal should prevent the product from picking up any odors, but better safe than sorry.

As you can see, the above guidelines are the same as for brown sugar or white sugar.

Powdered sugar in a measuring spoon

Can powdered sugar be frozen?

You can freeze powdered sugar, but there’s no point in doing so. As long as you follow the storage guidelines I’ve outlined above, your icing sugar will last for years at room temperature.

If, for some reason, you really want to put the icing sugar in the freezer, make sure it is closed tightly. A freezer bag or an airtight container is best.

If the dust is not well protected, it could

  • absorb moisture and form clumps (which is not so bad)
  • get a smell similar to that of the freezer (which is much worse)

If you opt for freezer bags, squeeze out the air before sealing the bag.

If you are freezing powdered sugar, label the bag or container with a name. Otherwise, you may not have a clue what the heck that white powder is when you (or anyone else with access to your freezer) stumbles across it a couple of months from now.

Sprinkle powdered sugar over the pancakes

How to make powdered sugar using regular sugar

If you don’t have a packet to spare and are in desperate need of powdered sugar, you can make your own.

Take regular sugar and process it with a coffee grinder or mortar. It will be much better than the rancid one.

Powdered sugar is not a direct substitute for granulated sugar. If the recipe calls for regular sugar, substituting for confectioners’ sugar will not give you the same results in most cases.

Summary on Spoilage and Shelf Life of Powdered Sugar

I hope you liked this guide on the shelf life and expiration of powdered sugar. Let’s recap the most important information:

  • Does powdered sugar go bad? If you store powdered sugar in a cool, dry place and tightly closed, it will never go bad. Some clumps may form over time, but you can break them up by sieving them.
  • How long does powdered sugar last? Although powdered sugar often comes with an expiration date printed on the label, it does not expire. As long as it’s in a cool, dry place and away from any odors, it’ll last for years (or until you run out of it).

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