Can Brown Sugar Go Bad?

So you need to know whether brown sugar goes bad. If you’ve stored brown sugar for a pretty long period of time (like a couple of years) in the pantry and you’re not sure if you can use it now, that’s a very reasonable question. Fortunately enough, the answer in almost all cases is affirmative – the sugar will be fine and safe tu use. If you would like to learn a little about storing brown sugar and how to tell if it should be discarded, read along!

How to store brown sugar

Storing brown sugar is plain and simple – keep it in a cool, dry place. You can store it in a cupboard in the pantry or somewhere in the kitchen. Just make sure it’s away from any sources of heat (like ovens, radiators) and water. Sugar is capable of absorbing water from its environment and moisture is the reason why sugar hardens into large clumps.

As long as the package of sugar is unopened, you can store it as-is, in its original package. Once the package is opened, it’s a good idea to transfer it into an airtight container or put the package into a plastic sealable bag, so the brown sugar will be sealed tightly. That will help with preventing moisture from reaching the sugar. That will also prevent any bugs from getting into the package. That’s about it when it comes to storing brown sugar – keep it away from water and heat and don’t let any bugs get into the package.

Teaspoon of brown sugar
(credit: warrenski)

Dealing with hard brown sugar

If the sugar hardens, it doesn’t mean it’s spoiled – it’s safe tu use. The only issue here is that we usually need only a teaspoon of it, not a large clump. Fortunately, there are a few ways of dealing with hardened brown sugar. If you need the sugar right away, you can break it with a fork or an electric mixer. If it’s too and that doesn’t help much, pot the clump into a bag and smash it against the counter. In most cases that will do the trick. You can also put it into the microwave for a minute or two to soften it. Chances are after microwaving you’ll be able to break it with a fork. If you have a couple of hours before the sugar will be needed, put an apple wedge into the container/bag and leave it there for a couple of hours. That will help as well.

How to tell if brown sugar should be discarded

If you’ve found any dead or alive bugs in the sugar, discard it. If any contaminants have found their way into the package, discard it as well. The sugar is probably fine, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. As I mentioned earlier, large clumps of sugar are quite normal and that’s not a reason to toss the sugar.


As you should know by now, brown sugar will stay fine for years and chances it will go bad are minimal. If it’s in a sealed container where water and bugs can’t get into, it’s safe and can be kept there for years. If there are any bugs or contaminants in sugar, it should be discarded.