Does sugar go bad? How long does sugar really last?

Here you have everything about the shelf life, storage and expiration of sugar. Learn whether or not it expires, how best to store it, and when to throw it away.

Have you found a bag of sugar in the cupboard for who knows how long and you are not sure if it is still usable? Does sugar go bad?

Or maybe you just want to know how to store sugar after opening the bag, or when to throw out an old bag.

If either of these sounds familiar to you, you’re in the right place. Keep reading.

Sugar cubes

Does sugar go bad or expire?

Sugar doesn’t go bad unless it’s infested with pantry bugs or water gets on it and mold grows. If you store white sugar properly, it can be used for years after the date on the label without much change in quality.

Here is a brief and slightly simplified explanation of why.

Sugar is a hygroscopic substance, which means that it attracts water molecules. When any bacteria lands on the sugar, the water from the bacteria is transferred to the sugar through the process called osmosis.

In other words, sugar is a difficult environment for bacteria to multiply or even live.

Yes, there may be some dead bacteria in your sweet tea, and that’s perfectly normal.

Sugar cubes on red background

How to store sugar

Main article: How to store sugar?

Store the sugar in a cool, dry place, away from any source of heat. Once the package is opened, it is safest to transfer the sugar to an airtight container.

As you can see, sugar is stored in the same way as other dry goods, like rice or a popular sugar alternative: xylitol.

The most important thing is to keep the sugar away from any moisture. It usually comes in paper bags that do not protect from water, so you have to take care of it yourself.

A container has the advantage of protecting the sugar from any odor and pantry bugs.

Of course, leaving white sugar in its original container is fine too. You just have to make sure that water or steam cannot reach it and that there are no strong odors nearby.

How to store white sugar bag closed with a clip

how long does sugar last

Sugar lasts almost indefinitely. Although the label usually includes an expiration date, sugar doesn’t really go bad unless water or pantry pests get on it.

That means your packet of granulated sugar, which has been sitting in the cupboard for who knows how long, is probably perfectly fine. Just like your old table salt it’s fine to use.

The date on the label, often called the expiration date, is there probably for legal reasons and because people tend to place more trust in food products that come with a date. It’s not that important if the label says the shelf life of your sugar is two or five years.

If there are any small lumps in the sugar, you can break them up with a fork. For the largest or many small ones, take out the heavy artillery, such as an electric mixer or a kitchen robot.
Sugar (unopened or opened) It keeps well indefinitely
Xylitol Expiration + 2+ years
erythritol Expiration + 2+ years

eggs and sugar

How to know if sugar is bad?

Sugar basically lasts forever if you store it properly, but in certain cases, you may need to throw it away.

These are

  • There are insects or bugs in the bag, dead or alive. In most cases, they enter the container and die there. If you find any, get rid of that sugar.
  • You may see mold or any other organic growth. The presence of any kind of lint or other microbial growth (anything that looks alive, basically) indicates that water and microbes have entered the container. And by water, I mean more than just a few drops. If that’s the case, get a new bag.
  • Sugar smells bad. In most cases, it is because it has picked up the smell of another food. If so, feel free to throw it away for quality reasons.
Smelly sugar is most likely perfectly fine, but if it smells bad, part of that smell can be transferred to the plate for which you use the sugar. And, in most cases, that makes sugar useless.

Sugar tends to form small lumps over time, and as I mentioned in the previous section, they are perfectly fine. If necessary, you can easily break them.

Frequently asked questions about sugar

Does homemade sugar go bad? How long does it last?
Powdered sugar, like regular sugar, lasts pretty much forever. It is quite a popular refined white sugar in Australia. It doesn’t spoil because it’s basically granulated sugar, just a little finer than regular.

Alternatives to sugar

Besides sugar, there are a couple of sugar alternatives worth talking about. Let’s see them one by one.


Xylitol has a shelf life of about two years after the date of production. But as long as you store it properly, it should retain its quality for months or even years longer, just like sugar.

This sweetener has only become popular in the last two years, so it is virtually impossible to find people who have stored xylitol for more than 5 years to ask if it retains quality for that long. But I’m pretty sure it does, there’s no reason it shouldn’t.

As for the storage rules for xylitol, they are the same as those for sugar. You should store it in a cool, dry place, away from heat sources.

Also, remember that xylitol, like sugar, is hygroscopic. That means it attracts moisture.

Therefore, try to always keep the container tightly closed. If it’s not resealable, use a zip-top bag or an airtight container.


Swerve’s main ingredient, erythritol, has a shelf life of one to two years, but lasts longer. I recently finished a bag of erythritol that was almost two years past the expiration date listed on the label, and the sweetener was perfectly fine.

As for storage, there is not much new: you should keep it tightly closed and in a cool, dry place. In addition to a cabinet in the kitchen or pantry, the refrigerator or freezer are also good options.

Although the last two are what Swerve suggests as optimal options, you can stick with your favorite cabinet in the kitchen and call it a day. If you’re like me, you don’t have the space to store shelf-stable produce in the fridge or freezer anyway.

If it’s too hot where you store your erythritol, it can start to clump up. Not a big deal – use a food processor or blender to get rid of any clumps.

Erythritol (and Swerve) became popular because it’s an alternative to sugar that tastes very close to the real thing, but with far fewer calories. For example, there are 88 calories in a pound of granulated Swerve, compared to 1,546 in a pound of sugar.


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