Can you eat a Christmas pudding that is 3 years out of date?

In this article, we will answer the question “Can you eat a Christmas pudding that is 3 years out of date?”, and how long does pudding last?

Can you eat a Christmas pudding that is 3 years out of date?

Yes, you can eat a Christmas pudding that is 3 years out of date. Soaked Christmas pudding made with dried fruits does not go bad for years unless you help it. As long as the Christmas pudding is stored correctly, you don’t have to worry about your pudding being spoiled. 

Outbreaks of diarrheal and emetic syndromes caused by this organism have been widely reported in many parts of the world. Outbreaks caused by B. cereus have usually been associated with rice or other grains and vegetables that contain starch in their composition. About 95% of emetic-type food poisoning is due to the consumption of rice, macaroni, cheese, and vanilla pudding (7).

Certain combinations of preservatives, e.g ethanol or sorbic acid, or vinegar and calcium propionate (0.10% each), have proved to be useful measures to improve the life of baked goods (5).

An aging time of 2-3 years is normal for Christmas pudding but you must always inspect the pudding for spoilage before you devour it.

According to scientists at the University of Nottingham, bacteria cannot grow in the Christmas pudding because there is no water available. Although there is moisture, there’s a difference between food appearing moist to eat and the availability of water which microbes need to grow. Because the water molecules are bound to sugar and alcohol molecules, there is no free water for the development of bacteria.

How long does pudding last?

In a study, the concentration of ethanol in common Christmas puddings ranged from 0.260 to 1.685 g per 125 mg slice (3). This is enough to prevent microbial growth. The results of studies suggest that ethanol could act as an effective additional barrier to inhibit fungal growth in bakery products. Thus it represents an interesting alternative to the use of chemical preservatives and merits further research (4).

The shelf-life of the Christmas pudding is greatly determined by its ingredients. A pudding will inevitably have a shorter shelf-life if it contains fresh fruits or perishable ingredients like milk, eggs, etc. 

Shelf-stable pudding is a starch-based dairy dessert, which, in addition to milk, requires the use of many ingredients (sucrose, thickeners and/or gelling agents, flavors, and sometimes colorants) in order to preserve quality during storage. Typically, sterilized puddings have a shelf-life of 12 to 18 months, mostly limited by biochemical, chemical, and physical changes rather than microbial changes (6).

How to tell if the pudding is bad, rotten or spoiled?

Your senses are the best tools to identify a bad or rotten pudding. The first thing you may notice in a spoiled pudding is phase separation. This appears in the form of watery pockets all over the pudding. 

The phase separation is accompanied by a change in taste. A spoiled pudding exhibits a bitter taste. Another obvious sign of spoilage is the formation of mold patches or spots on the pudding. These spots or patches are colored and cannot go unnoticed. Changes on the texture are related to the starch retrogradation i.e., crystallization of amylopectin, allowing the network to contract; and the destabilization of casein micelles with the release of β-lactoglobulin/ κ-casein complexes and the subsequent aggregation and formation of a three-dimensional protein network. During long storage of pudding, there is an increase in sour taste, cooked flavor, and rancid flavor, and a significant decrease in the pudding aroma intensity. Cooked and rancid off-flavors have been associated with heated and lipolyzed milk. The formation of volatile sulfur compounds and Maillard reaction products contributed to the cooked flavor (6).

A spoiled dry pudding mix develops clumps and sometimes colored moldy patches. As long as the pudding mix is dry and within the expiry date, it is safe to use.

However, studies showed that two outbreaks of giardiasis indicated a role for zoonotic transmission, namely the consumption of a Christmas pudding contaminated with rodent feces (1).

Do I need to make my Christmas pudding ahead of time?

Traditionally, Christmas pudding has to be made on the stir-up Sunday(the last Sunday before the main event. But it is not a compulsion. Some people would tell you that the Christmas pudding that was allowed to mature for weeks has a better taste.

It may or may not be true because the freshly cooked Christmas pudding tastes just as delicious as the pudding that was allowed to develop and mellow. You can even make the Christmas pudding on Christmas if you could not find time to do it earlier. 

Spices for a Christmas pudding 

Spices are the essence of the Christmas pudding. Without the spices, the Christmas pudding is a plain sponge with lots of dried fruits and nothing is exciting about that. 

For ease, you can work with store-bought mixed spice powder. If you are in your creative mood, find spices and aromatics that best complement the fruits in the pudding. For example, you can pair Cloves with apples, fennel seeds with dried figs, and cinnamon with clementine.

Do I need to soak the fruit for a Christmas pudding?

The soaking step is optional since the heat and steam during the cooking do the same job. The cooking process of Christmas pudding is such that it plumps up the fruits which enables them to absorb more booze.

When water molecules are bound with ethanol through weak hydrogen bonds, this leaves less free water available, and microbes have less water to survive on. This resulted in a preservative effect towards certain food products, when alcohol is added as an ingredient in the food formulation, before cooking. As ethanol reduces the water activity in food, this characteristic helps preserve high moisture food by delaying microbial spoilage, as free water which is available for the microorganisms are reduced, through reduction of water activity (aw). An example of such a product is the Christmas pudding, cherry in wine alcohol or mixed fruit cake. Brandy or whiskey provide a prolonged shelf life (2).

What’s the best sugar for a Christmas pudding?

Dark soft brown or dark muscovado sugars are the top picks for sweetening your Christmas pudding. The molasses content of these sugars adds a whole lot of flavor and depth to the Christmas pudding.

What’s the best booze for a Christmas pudding?

Rum, brandy, whisky are more traditional picks for Christmas pudding. But you can also use Cointreau, cider or perry, etc. Do not use cream liqueurs because they do not fit in.

How do I make a lighter Christmas pudding?

If you are not a fan of rich and heavy Christmas puddings, try making a steamed sponge something like this

How do I reheat a Christmas pudding?

You can reheat your pudding in a steamer or a microwave. Replace the old lid with a fresh piece of parchment paper and secure it with a kitchen tie. Microwave on medium for 3-5 min depending on basin size, until the pudding is piping hot in the center.  

To check for doneness, insert a metal skewer into the center of the pudding. If it comes out clean, the pudding is ready. Alternatively, you can rely on a thermometer that reads at least 65-70C.

Other FAQs about Pudding that you may be interested in.

How to reheat Christmas pudding?

Do you eat Christmas pudding with custard?

How to steam Christmas pudding in an oven?

How do you fix a soggy Christmas pudding?


In this article, we answered the question “Can you eat a Christmas pudding that is 3 years out of date?”, and how long does pudding last?


  1. Smith, H. V., et al. Cryptosporidium and Giardia as foodborne zoonoses. Veterinary parasitology, 2007, 149, 29-40.
  2. Rahim, Alina Abdul, and Siti Mashitoh Abdul. The uncertain halal status of edible products with natural or added alcohol. J Fatwa Manage Res, 2014, 3, 109-126. 
  3. Brieger, Daniel G., et al. What proof is in your Christmas pudding? Is caring under the influence possible?. Med J Aust, 2014, 201, 702-704.  
  4. Axel, Claudia, Emanuele Zannini, and Elke K. Arendt. Mold spoilage of bread and its biopreservation: A review of current strategies for bread shelf life extension. Crit Rev food sci nutr, 2017, 57, 3528-3542.
  5. Needham, Rachel, et al. Early detection and differentiation of spoilage of bakery products. Sens Actuat B Chem, 2005, 106, 20-23.
  6. Moufle, AL., François, PA., Jamet, J. et al. Accelerated Aging Test of Sterilized Acidic Pudding: Combined Effects of Temperature, Headspace Volume, and Agitation. Food Bioprocess Technol, 2018, 11, 1286–1299.
  7. Alvarado-Zárate, A., Vázquez-Roa, F., Briseño-Lora, D., & Cerda-Godínez, V. M. Bacillus cereus in Samples of Pre-cooked and Cooked Rice for Sale to the Public in Colima State, Mexico. J Microbiol Amp Health Educ, 2020, 2, 24–29.