Does Powdered Sugar Go Bad? (And How Long Can It Last)

Does Powdered Sugar Go Bad

Also called confectioner’s sugar and icing sugar, powdered sugar is used as a dusting for cakes, cookies, and donuts.  It’s also used to make frostings.  Basically, powdered sugar is granulated white sugar ground to a dust.  It ends up as a chalky substance.  Many commercial companies add a bit of cornstarch that prevents it from clumping.  Though it has a variety of purposes, powdered sugar is not used often, unless you’re an avid baker. If you have a bag of powdered sugar in your pantry, you may be wondering: does powdered sugar go bad?

Powdered sugar does have a “best when used by date” that indicates quality. The recommended shelf life of powdered sugar is two years.  This is often a date of optimal freshness, but it will last a lot longer if it’s stored properly. Proper storage includes keeping powdered sugar in a glass or plastic container with a good sealing lid.

Unless you bake a lot, powdered sugar is something that might sit in your cabinet for quite a while.  We’ll talk about how to best store it for longer shelf life, how long it lasts, and how to tell if you should toss it and purchase a new container. Let’s dig in!

Does Powdered Sugar Go Bad Over Time?

Powdered sugar can last ages if kept clean, dry, and sealed.  The biggest enemies of powdered sugar are contaminants, hungry bugs, odors, and water.  Water is less of a problem as you can work around it. Commercial powdered sugar may contain a tiny bit of cornstarch to prevent clumping, but cornstarch lasts an indefinite period of time as well.

How Long Does Powdered Sugar Last?

The recommended shelf life of powdered sugar is two years.  This is often a date of optimal freshness, but if stored properly, it will last a lot longer; some say almost indefinitely.  The “best by” date on the package is a guideline for freshness.  After this, it might lose some flavor, or it might just be fine.  The only way to tell is by doing some checking with your senses.

How Long Does Homemade Powdered Sugar Last?

If you forgot to buy powdered sugar for your recipe or want to make your own with pure ingredients, homemade powdered sugar is super easy to make.  Add 1 cup granulated sugar and one tablespoon of cornstarch to a blender and process until it is a powder.  You can store it the same way as store-bought, and the shelf life is just as long.

How Can you Tell if Powdered Sugar Has Gone Bad?

Powdered sugar has some sure-tell signs that it’s not optimal.

  • If contaminants get into the package, mold might form. It would be best if you threw the entire package away.  Even if you scrape the mold off the top, the smell can permeate throughout.
  • If you find insects, bugs, eggs, or any remnants in the package, throw it out.
  • If the powdered sugar has changed color, there definitely something wrong with it.
  • If odors permeate powdered sugar, it is probably not bad, but that smell will transfer to your baked goods. Don’t risk ruining a whole cake.
  • Tasting the powdered sugar is a sure-fire way to gauge its freshness. It won’t make you sick, but it might put a bad taste in your mouth for just a bit.
  • Clumps in the powdered sugar are not a worry. You can sift the sugar through a fine mesh, and it will be just fine.  If half the container is a big mass, toss it.

How to Properly Store Powdered Sugar

When I buy powdered sugar from the store, I often need a little bit for a small recipe, or I plan on making frosting for a cake and never get around to it.  It comes in a plastic bag, and I use a twist tie or place it in a plastic bag.  Powdered sugar is such a fine powder that I end up getting it all over my cupboard.  Take a lesson for me and store it better.

  1. If the powdered sugar comes in a canister with a lid or a heavier plastic bag with a resealable zipper, you are good to leave it in its original package. If it comes in a plastic bag that is not resealable, store it that way until you open it.
  2. Put it in a glass or plastic container with a good sealing lid for long-term storage. It’s neater and cleaner.  Make sure the container is completely dry before adding the powdered sugar, and don’t forget to label it!  Many baking ingredients look the same.
  3. Store the powdered sugar in the pantry at room temperature, away from moisture and odors. This is where a good sealing container can help as well.  Some even advocate double sealing powdered sugar – meaning placing it in a sealed zip-lock bag and then placing that bag into a sealed glass container.
  4. Do not store powdered sugar in the refrigerator – it’s too humid, and there are a lot of odors in there.
  5. Use clean utensils to scoop out the sugar you need. Try not to let dirt or other particulates into the container while it’s open.

Can you Get Sick from Eating Old Powdered Sugar?

Old, powdered sugar might make your brownies or frosting taste weird, but it is not harmful.  We do advocate not taking any chances, and if it is discolored, massively clumpy, tastes a bit weird, or anything else that makes you question it, toss it and get a new container.   Unless you bake regularly using powdered sugar, get enough for your recipe, or a small container to have around to sprinkle on your pancakes.

Alternatives to Powdered Sugar

Wholesome Powdered Confectioner’s Sugar

Wholesome Sweeteners, Inc., Organic Powdered Confectioners Sugar, 16 oz (454 g) - 2pcs This brand is organic, kosher, non-GMO, gluten-free, fair-trade certified, and naturally vegan.   It is made with organic cane sugar and organic tapioca starch.  You can feel good about yourself and your connection to the earth while enjoying a dusting of sweetness on your waffles.   Use the same amount of this sugar as you would conventional powdered sugar.

Domino Confectioner’s Sugar

Domino Confectioners 10-x Powdered Sugar, 1 Pound Box (Pack of 2) One of the oldest sugar companies, Domino, is found in most supermarkets.  I wanted to point out that this package is the 10-X powdered.  Powdered sugar is available in different consistencies depending on the fineness of the grains.   10-X is the finest and will result in smooth frostings.  Finer particles also absorb more moisture.

C&H Pure Cane Sugar CONFECTIONERS POWDERED 16oz (2 Pack) C&H Pure Cane Sugar – Confectioners Powdered

This other very well-known brand is C&H.  Made of sugar and cornstarch; this is basic powdered sugar for use in all of your baking needs.  The ingredients are conventional and GMO.

King Arthur Baking Sugar Alternative

King Arthur, Baking Sugar Alternative, Made with Plant-Based Ingredients, Keto-Friendly, 1-to-1 Substitute for Granulated Sugar, 12 Ounces This is a substitute for granulated sugar-containing erythritol, soluble corn fiber, allulose, cane sugar-derived fructan fiber, monk fruit extract, natural flavor, and stevia leaf extract.  It is gluten-free, kosher, vegan, and keto-friendly.  To substitute this for powdered sugar, blend it into a powder.

Madhava Organic Coconut Sugar

MADHAVA Organic Coconut Sugar 3 Lb. Bag (Pack of 1), Natural Sweetener, Sugar Alternative, Unrefined, Sugar for Coffee, Tea & Recipes, Vegan, Organic, Non GMO Any type of sugar can be ground up into powdered sugar, including coconut sugar.  Blend one cup coconut sugar with one tablespoon of arrowroot powder for a refined, non-GMO product.   Madhava is part of the Clean Label Project, which tests for over 130 toxins and contaminants, so you have ensured a pesticide-free, pure product that is full of antioxidants.

Date-Datte Powdered Sugar

Organic Date Powdered Sugar 12 oz resealable bag This powdered sugar is technically not made from sugar but from dried and ground dates.  It is organic and gluten-free.

Related Questions

Does Powdered Sugar Dissolve in Water?

It takes a lot of powdered sugar to make a little icing.  This is because most sugar dissolves in the water, and you need to get to the point where the solution is saturated.  At this point, the icing will start to thicken.  The more sugar you add, the thicker the icing will become.  As the icing sits on your cake or donut, the air molecules will start to evaporate, and the icing will harden.  Icing consistency is easy to correct – if the icing is too thin, add more powdered sugar; add more water if the icing is too thick.

Can you Substitute Powdered Sugar for Granulated Sugar?

If you only have granulated sugar in your house, you can place some in a blender and have powdered sugar with the push of a button.  The other way around is not recommended.  Powdered sugar has a much finer texture and often has a bit of cornstarch in the mix; the final results of your baked goods will not be the same.  Sugar plays many roles in a recipe, including moisture retention, tenderizing, stabilizing, and fermentation.  Although powdered sugar and granulated sugar come from the same source, they will react differently in your recipes.

What Happens When You Heat Powdered Sugar?

Powdered sugar is designed to be added to dishes after they are baked.  When you sprinkle some on your pancakes or put a glaze on your cake, the heat of the hot dish will hold the sugar in place.   Some say you can use it in baked cooking by using 1 ¾ cups powdered sugar for every cup of sugar.  Some do not recommend this practice at all.  Our suggestion is to follow the recipe.

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Choosing Nutrition Team

Here at Choosing Nutrition, our goal is to help people with making smarter food choices. Whether you're wondering about vegan, keto, paleo, or other diets, we'll help you determine which options fit your nutritional lifestyle. Our staff is composed of registered dieticians, nutritionists, and health-conscious individuals.

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