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Can Brown Sugar Go Bad?

So you need to know whether brown sugar goes bad.

If you’ve stored brown sugar for a couple of years in the pantry and you’re not sure if you can use it now, that’s a reasonable question.

While brown sugar definitely can go bad, in almost all cases yours will be fine and safe to use.

If you would like to learn a little about storing brown sugar, its shelf life, and how to tell if it’s off, read along!

How To Tell If Brown Sugar Is Bad

Discard your brown sugar if:

  • You’ve found any dead or alive bugs in it.
  • There are any other contaminants in the package.
  • You see any signs of mold.

Did you notice that I didn’t mentioned clumps? Clumps of brown sugar are normal and form often after prolonged storage. You can break them in a couple of ways.

How To Store Brown Sugar

Storing brown sugar is plain and simple – keep it in a cool, dry place. Just like you do with table sugar or confectioner’s sugar.

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 you open the package, it’s a good idea to transfer it into an airtight container or put the package into a plastic sealable bag. Anything that will keep the product sealed tightly, really.

A tight seal will prevent moisture from reaching the sugar and any bugs or pantry pests from getting into the package.

If you’re going to use the sugar within a couple of months, and don’t have issues with pantry pests, you can just wrap the product using its original packaging.

Teaspoon of brown sugar
(credit: warrenski)

How Long Does Brown Sugar Last

This might be obvious at this point, but I want to state it explicitly: brown sugar lasts pretty much indefinitely.

Sure, there’s usually a date on the label, but it’s only an indicator of how long the quality of the product should remain best.

Once the brown sugar is past its date, it’s a bit more likely to clump, but that’s about it. And as I describe in the next section, fixing clumped brown sugar is easy.

So if you wanted to know if you can use your “expired” brown sugar, the answer is: you definitely can. Remember to first check if it’s safe to eat, though.

Softening Hardened Brown Sugar

As you already know, if the sugar hardens, it doesn’t mean it’s spoiled. 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 to soften the sugar right away, you can break it with a fork or an electric mixer. If the clump is too firm, put it into a bag and smash against the counter.

In most cases that will do the trick.

If you’re really struggling, put the blob into the microwave for a minute 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 you need the sugar, put an apple wedge into the container or bag and leave it there. That will help as well.


  • Brown sugar stays fine for years. Unless you store it improperly, it won’t go bad.
  • Brown sugar tends to harden over time. That’s normal and reversible.
  • Keep brown sugar in a sealed container to protect it from water and pantry bugs.
  • Discard brown sugar if there are any bugs or contaminants in the package, or if you notice mold or any other organic growth.