You found an old jar of ground cinnamon that sat in storage for ages. Now you’re wondering: does cinnamon expire? How long does it last?
Or you discovered a few cinnamon sticks in the pantry, and you’re not sure if you can still use them.
If either is the case, this article has all the answers you’re searching for. In it, we cover the storage, shelf life, and spoilage of both ground cinnamon and cinnamon sticks.
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How Long Does Ground Cinnamon Last?
Ground cinnamon comes with a shelf life of 1 to 2 years and keeps great quality for at least half a year past that date. Once you open the bag, it retains quality for at least 6 months but stays safe to use way longer.
Cinnamon, like other ground spices, comes with a best-by date on the label. It’s not an expiration date and doesn’t have anything to do with food safety.
It’s just a very rough estimate of how long the cinnamon should taste best. And since it’s pretty much always good for months longer, I don’t find that date particularly useful.
Truth be told, I rarely check the dates on spices because they keep for so much longer.
How long will your cinnamon stay potent, you ask?
Half a year past the date on the label is the bare minimum, but it’s usually much longer than that. Even if it’s 2 or 3 years after the date on the label, it might still be good enough to use.
All of that assumes you store the spice in decent conditions, of course.
Instead of thinking about dates and storage periods, think about its flavor and general quality.
If you opened it two years ago and it still does its job, keep it. But if you opened it two months ago and you find it tasteless already, discard it.
If you often find yourself grabbing a new package of ground cinnamon because the old one is flavorless, consider switching to cinnamon sticks. They retain flavor much longer. The only downside is that you need to grate them every time you need some cinnamon.
Does Ground Cinnamon Expire?
Ground cinnamon doesn’t expire or go bad if you store it properly. But if it sits in storage for a couple of years after opening, it’ll likely lose most of its flavor and aroma. And that effectively renders it useless.
Unlike salt, cinnamon gradually loses its taste and smell. And after a year or two (or a few months, if you don’t follow the storage practices I talk about later in the article), both will be mostly gone.
If things get this far, discard the spice. I’ll tell you how to check if that’s the case in a moment.
Now, there are a few cases where cinnamon is actually spoiled and you should discard it. Those are:
- pantry bugs (dead or alive) are inside the bag
- wet spots or even mold – either probably means water got inside
- any not-dried food particles contaminate the spice (i.e., it’s okay if you drop a peppercorn in there by accident and scoop it out a month later)
- the spice smells or tastes odd
Checking Cinnamon’s Flavor
Grab a pinch and rub it with your fingers, then smell it and taste it. If the flavor is hardly there and the aroma weak, that cinnamon is pretty much useless.
If the cinnamon’s taste is there, but it’s not as strong as it used to be, try using more of it in your cooking. This way, you’ll get (roughly) the same results and finish the bag quicker.
The same test works for other spices, e.g., nutmeg or oregano.
How To Store Cinnamon
Store cinnamon in a cool and dry place, sealed tight. A cupboard in the kitchen or a spice drawer both are great options.
Once you open the package, consider transferring the spice into a resealable bag or jar if yours isn’t. Or at least wrap the top (if it’s a small plastic package) to minimize access to fresh air.
As long as you won’t let water, pantry bugs, or any other contaminants get to your cinnamon, it should stay just fine for months or even years.
If you’re using a spice rack, make sure it sits away from direct sunlight and the stove. Both make the flavor dissipate quicker. And keep cinnamon on that rack only if you use it frequently (i.e., you refill the jar every couple of months).
Cinnamon sugar keeps for months if you store it in an airtight container sealed tightly. You might need to give the mix a good stir before using, but it should stay fine otherwise.
I don’t have any data to back up this claim, but I’d guess that cinnamon sugar retains quality exactly as long as ground cinnamon does.
Spice mixes most often keep as long as the least stable ingredient does. And since sugar stays fine for years, it all comes down to cinnamon.
Shelf Life of Cinnamon Sticks
Cinnamon sticks keep the best quality for at least 3 to 4 years, marked by the date on the label. But, like ground cinnamon, they can last for months or even years after that date.
As you can tell by the suggested minimum storage periods, cinnamon sticks retain flavor better than the ground variety. It’s like tea – loose leaf tea lasts longer than dust found in tea bags.
Because of the longer shelf life, cinnamon sticks might be the better option for you if you use cinnamon sparingly.
Once again, it’s impossible to tell how long your sticks will be good for after the date on the label. Chances are they’re going to keep flavor for at least a year longer, but you never know.
Fortunately, there’s an easy way to test if your sticks are any good. Let’s talk about that.
Do Cinnamon Sticks Go Bad? How To Tell?
Cinnamon sticks don’t expire but might go bad if you store them improperly.
Toss yours out if there are any pantry insects in the bag, visible mold, they smell funny, or there’s anything off in how they look.
Other than that, they should be safe to use.
Now it’s time to check if the flavor is still there. Here’s how:
- Grab your cinnamon stick and grate a bit.
- Rub the powder between your thumb and index finger, and smell and taste it.
- If the flavor is there, congratulations – your cinnamon is okay to use. Taste fading? Consider using more cinnamon in your dishes. But if you feel nothing, discard the sticks.
That’s it. The same process works for other whole spices like peppercorns.
Storing Cinnamon Sticks
Store cinnamon sticks in a cool and dry place, sealed well. An airtight bag in the spice drawer works perfectly fine.
Like with ground cinnamon, your job is to protect the sticks from bugs, moisture, heat, and any strong odors. And a tightly sealed food bug in a drawer takes care of all of that in one go.
That’s all there is to it.