Does brown sugar go bad? (+3 interesting facts)

In this brief guide, we will address the question, “does brown sugar go bad” as well as other related questions pertaining to the subject at hand like how much time does brown sugar take to go bad and the storage practices needed to prolong the shelf life of brown sugar.

Brown sugar is commonly one of the components which are found in almost every house. And because of its importance, you might worry about how long it lasts. Along with that, you would want to know how to store it properly, how to determine whether it is bad or not, and even how to restore brown sugar as well. But, does brown sugar go bad? Let’s dive in for some interesting details about 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).

Does brown sugar go bad?

Brown sugar falls in the category of dry and stable food commodities; it might not go as rancid or bad for your health as many other foods do, but by the course of time, the quality of the sugar does drop substantially. This compromised quality will eventually affect the quality of whatever food you are making.

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).

Once properly stored, brown sugar can be kept for a long period of time and is safe to use. But the worst probable situation that might happen is when bugs, insects and rodents reach the sugar. Once there is a bug in the package, there is a need for you to get rid of this package immediately and simply open another one.

The shelf life of brown sugar

Brown sugar lasts pretty much indefinitely, you can store it for about 2 years (3). The taste and texture of the food can change over time, but the brown sugar will still be completely safe to eat as long as any insects, bugs and rodents don’t get into the container.

Since brown sugar is a huge water absorber so it absorbs even a tiny bit of water and might begin to harden leading to clump formation. There are proper ways of storing it in order to avoid certain issues.  A packaging material with an efficient moisture barrier should be used to store sugar (2).

Why does brown sugar harden?

Over time, brown sugar will change. The texture will become a hard, almost completely solid lump. This can be attributed to moisture in the sugar. When moisture evaporates, the brown sugar clumps together. You can break these lumps in many ways.

Other FAQs about Sugar which you may be interested in.

Does Sugar Go Bad?

Does powdered sugar go bad?

How to counteract too much sugar?

How to store brown sugar

Whatever type of sugar you have, it should be stored in a dry and cool place such as a cupboard or a specialized container which is away from sources of extreme temperatures like those of microwave ovens and stoves.

Since we have already established that just like other sugars, brown sugar is also a great absorber of water. So, in order to prevent it from hardening, always keep it away from moisture. Even if the sugar has hardened or in clumps, you could just break it up with a fork or with the use of an electric mixer.

If the package of brown sugar is unopened, it must be safe from any bugs in its original packaging. But once it is opened, it would be great that you transfer the sugar into an airtight container as you could be sure that there would be no bugs or insects that could crawl inside it. 

Storing brown sugar in an airtight container would also guarantee that it will not absorb any  bad odor from the environment. If your brown sugar develops a strange odor, it could be due to poor storage methods. It probably got the said smell from the other foods.

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 (4).

3 Nutritional facts about brown sugar

Good for obese patients:

Brown sugar contains a mixture of molasses and white sugar. The molasses is what gives the sugar it’s particular color. They also boost the metabolism and give a sense of satiety, which is the sensation of feeling full.  Studies showed that the excessive consumption of both white sugar and brown sugar has negative effects on insulin resistance, and body weight. The negative effects of brown sugar on these factors are less than those of white sugar. However, the consumption of high amounts of sugar is not recommended, because it causes metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes mellitus, obesity, and cardiovascular disease (5).

Energy booster:

Since brown sugar has carbohydrates in good quantities, therefore it can be used to give an energizing effect on the body. It should also be noted that brown sugar contains trace amounts of calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium (6).

The small amount is rather insignificant for a one time use, but including brown sugar in your daily diet can gradually add up to your daily mineral requirement

Relieves flatulence: 

Research has proven that consuming brown sugar can help relieve flatulence. It should be noted that while flatulence is just a normal process for many individuals, not having a bloated belly is just better! 

According to studies, brown sugar contains nutritional prebiotic oligosaccharides that are nondigestible food ingredients which selectively stimulate the growth of advantageous bacteria in the human colon (6). A detailed study carried out in healthy subjects noted that while flatulence does initially increase after consumption of prebiotics, levels return to baseline within a couple of weeks. Gas production correlated with changes in the gut microbiota, which likely resulted in less gas being produced and more being consumed by microbes (7).


Brown sugar will generally not spoil because of its indefinite shelf life. Once properly stored, it can last for the longest period of time. Keep brown sugar in a cool and dry odor-free location. Use tightly sealed containers or jars. By doing  so, you could still use it safely even after the indicated expiration date. Discard brown sugar if there is presence of a mold,  bugs or pantry pests in the bag.


In this brief guide, we have addressed the question, “does brown sugar go bad” as well as other questions pertaining to the subject at hand like how much time does brown sugar take to go bad and the storage practices needed to prolong the shelf life of 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.
  5. Shamsi-Goushki, Ali, et al. Effects of high white and brown sugar consumption on serum level of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, insulin resistance, and body weight in albino rats. J obes metab syn, 2020, 29, 320.
  6. Eggleston, Gillian. Positive aspects of cane sugar and sugar cane derived products in food and nutrition. J agric food chem, 2018, 66, 4007-4012.
  7. Lockyer, S., and S. Stanner. Prebiotics–an added benefit of some fibre types. Nutrition Bull, 2019, 44, 74-91.