Does brown sugar ever go bad?

In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question “does brown sugar ever go bad” with an in-depth analysis of whether or not the brown sugar expires. Moreover, we are going to discuss the tips to properly store brown sugar.

Sugarcane cultivation and processing currently provide livelihoods for 100 million people across the world.3 Looking at the country level, the sugarcane industry employs over 1 million people in Brazil, nearly 25% of its rural workforce. The Thai sugarcane supply chain employs 1.5 million people, including 107,000 smallholders, and around 0.5 million people depend on the sugarcane industry for their livelihoods in South Africa (1).

So without much ado, let’s dive in and figure out more about it.

Does brown sugar ever go bad?

So the brown sugar does not really expire but it can go bad if not stored and handled properly. The absorption of moisture from the environment can result in non-reversible caking and deterioration (2). In addition, even being a microbiologically safe product, due to its low water activity, when brown sugar is exposed to moisture, microorganisms, especially molds, grow, causing negative effects to human health (4). 

How long does ground brown sugar last?

It won’t be wrong to say that the brown sugar lasts for ages when it is kept in a cool, dry, and dark place in an air-tight container. But it is recommended to use it within 2 years to enjoy its peak quality (3). 

You can easily store your brown sugar in an air-tight bottle or container in a cool and dry corner of your pantry away from direct sunlight and humidity. A packaging material with an efficient moisture barrier should be used to store sugar (2).

The package of brown sugar would have the best by date but that does not mean that your brown sugar would expire afterward. So you can use your properly stored brown sugar for ages.

What is the meaning of different dates written on food packages?

  1. “Sell by” date indicates the particular date before which food item should be sold to the customer, it is the recommended date before which food item should be sold.
  2. “Best before” or “Best by” date tells the time during which the food item has its best or peak quality. It is an indicator of quality rather than safety.
  3. “Expires on” date refers to the date after which the flavor and overall quality of the food item begin to deteriorate gradually.

You can read more about the dates on food labels here.

How to properly store brown sugar?

  1. Brown sugar should be kept in air-tight containers or air-tight jars to reduce its exposure to air. The exposure to oxygen accelerates the degradation of food (2).
  2. You should never use wet spoons to take the brown sugar out of its container or jar.
  3. It is best practice to store brown sugar at room temperature as the fluctuations in temperature can affect the quality of brown sugar negatively. Moreover do not store them near a stove or air conditioner. 
  4. It is not advised to store the brown sugar in the refrigerator as the moisture content of the refrigerator is quite high and it can reduce the quality of the brown sugar. If you still want to store it in the refrigerator then it is recommended to keep it in vacuum-sealed containers.
  5. Brown sugar should be kept in a cool, dry, and dark place. A cool and dry corner of your pantry can serve this purpose nicely.
  6. Do not unnecessarily open the lid of the brown sugar jar or bottle and seal it again as soon as possible after scooping out the brown sugar that you need.

Other FAQs about Sugar which you may be interested in.

Does Sugar Go Bad?

Does powdered sugar go bad?

Does brown sugar go bad?

Does the presence of lumps mean that brown sugar has expired?

No, the presence of lumps does not necessarily mean that your brown sugar has gone bad.

Moreover, brown sugar, like all other sugar types, attracts insects and rodents because of its sugary flavor so if you see some insects in your sugar container, it is better to get rid of them owing to the sanitation and cleanliness concerns.

Does the texture of brown sugar change with time?

Yes, the texture of brown sugar can change with time. Brown sugar tends to make hard lumps if it has been sitting for a while in your pantry or kitchen cabinet. The formation of lumps takes place when the brown sugar is exposed to air and absorbs moisture from the environment. If the absorbed moisture is not too high, it is still safe to consume the product (4).

Why does sugar not expire?

Sugar may contain microorganisms, such as spores and yeast. However, they don’t grow unless moisture from the environment migrates into the product. Sugar contains a very low amount of water molecules in its composition. It is a food of low water activity, which does not favor the growth of microorganisms, because there is not enough water for their development. If sugar is stored properly safe from moisture, it will last for years. 

So sugar is hygroscopic in nature which means that it has the ability to absorb water molecules from the air (it attracts the water molecules).


In this brief guide, we answered the question “does brown sugar expire” with an in-depth analysis of whether or not the brown sugar expires. Moreover, we discussed the tips to properly store brown sugar.


  1. Voora, Vivek, Steffany Bermúdez, and Cristina Larrea. Global Market Report: Sugar. Winnipeg, MB, Canada: International Institute for Sustainable Development, 2020.
  2. Kilcast, David, and Persis Subramaniam, eds. The stability and shelf-life of food. 2000.
  3. Storing sugar. Utah State University.
  4. Jesus, Daniele Almeida de. Qualidade microbiológica de amostras de açúcar mascavo. Diss. Universidade de São Paulo, 2010.