Does dark chocolate expire?

In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question “does dark chocolate expire” with an in-depth analysis of whether or not the dark chocolate expires. Moreover, we are going to discuss the shelf life of dark chocolate and the tips to properly store dark chocolate.

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

Does dark chocolate expire?

Yes, dark chocolate’s quality can degrade and ultimately it can go bad. With improper storage,these changes can be  magnified, causing an increase in particle size,which is an extremely important mouthfeel. 

Various storage conditions may lead to development of either fat bloom or sugar bloom,both of which compromise visual and textural quality. (1)

The deterioration of dark chocolate bars is characterized by unappetizing flavors and odors, as well as the development of superficial slime. Multiple authors have documented various changes observed in pralines due to mold growth. (2) 

What factors affect the shelf life of dark chocolate?

The longevity of chocolate is influenced by several factors, such as the storage temperature and humidity, the presence of oxygen in its surroundings, which is closely tied to the type of packaging utilized, and the inclusion of additional ingredients like fats, nuts, etc. (3)

Processing of these chocolates is complex owing to the interaction of their ingredients (cocoa, cocoa butter and sugar) in the formation of a complex emulsion and their production stages such as: mixing, refining, conching, tempering, molding and packaging. (4)

When the drying process is accelerated, for example, it results in the production of acetic acid, which imparts unpleasant flavors to the chocolate. Conversely, if the drying process is too slow, it promotes significant mold growth and prevents the chocolate from attaining its optimal color. (5)

What is the shelf life of dark chocolate?

Chocolate typically maintains a shelf life of approximately 12 to 24 months, but over time, structural changes take place. When stored adequately, these changes can be intensified, leading to an increase in particle size, which significantly impacts the mouthfeel experience. (1)

During the processing and storage of chocolate, fats are highly vulnerable to oxidation. These fats play a crucial role not only in the nutritional value of chocolates but also in their overall industrial quality. 

The successful prevention of their deterioration through appropriate processing techniques is vital in determining the ultimate quality of the chocolate product. (4)

What are the signs of dark chocolate spoilage?

The deterioration of traditional chocolate bars involves undesirable tastes, odors, and the formation of superficial slime. In the chocolate industry, bloom is the primary factor responsible for quality deterioration. 

Depending on the storage conditions, either fat bloom or sugar bloom can develop, both leading to changes in particle size as bloom forms. (1, 2)

Among the fats found in chocolate, monounsaturated fats are particularly sensitive and quickly degrade due to exposure to light, oxygen, temperature, and air. 

Additionally, the properties of chocolate, including hardness and viscosity, stem from the interplay between the continuous crystallized fat phase and the dispersed solid particles. 

The production process, conching, tempering (size, shape, surface), incorporation of new additives, and storage conditions all play a role in influencing these chocolate properties. (4)

What are the risks of eating spoiled dark chocolate?

Consuming old dark  chocolate can potentially cause illness if it has been contaminated with harmful substances or if any of the added ingredients have passed their expiration date.

If you have signs such as headaches, vomiting, stomachaches, or diarrhea after consuming dark chocolate, it might indicate food poisoning.

Other potential symptoms include a decreased appetite and feelings of nausea. Usually, these symptoms should improve within a day or two. However, if they persist beyond this timeframe, it is recommended to seek medical attention for further evaluation and treatment.(6, 7)

How to store dark chocolate?

Proper storage of dark chocolate is crucial to maintain its quality. It should be kept in a cool, dry, and dark place, away from direct sunlight and heat. A suitable spot would be a cool and dry corner of your pantry.

Storing chocolate in various conditions can have detrimental effects, with high-temperature fluctuations causing the most negative changes. For the best results, it is advisable to store dark chocolate at a constant temperature and relative humidity.

When dealing with open dark chocolate, it is essential to use an air-tight container or a plastic zipper bag to preserve its freshness. Wrapping it in plastic wrap is also a suitable option to prevent air and moisture from degrading its quality.

If you decide to store dark chocolate in the fridge, ensure it is placed in an air-tight container or wrapped in a plastic bag to protect it from the moisture present in the fridge, which could affect the chocolate’s quality. (1)


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


  1. Liam. Nightingale, Soo-Yeun Lee, Nick J. Engeseth.  Impact of Storage on Dark Chocolate: Texture and Polymorphic Changes. Journal of Food Science.76, 1 ,2011.
  2. Iacumin L, Pellegrini M, Colautti A, Orecchia E, Comi G. Microbial Characterization of Retail Cocoa Powders and Chocolate Bars of Five Brands Sold in Italian Supermarkets. Foods; 11 (18):2753. 2022.
  3. Mexis, S. F., Badeka, A. V., Riganakos, K. A., & Kontominas, M. G. Effect of active and modified atmosphere packaging on quality retention of dark chocolate with hazelnuts. Innovative Food Science & Emerging Technologies, 11(1), 177–186. 2010.
  4. Luz Quispe-Sanchez, Marilu Mestanza, Manuel Oliva-Cruz, Nelson Rimarachín, Aline C. Caetano, Tony Chuquizuta, Malluri Goñas, Elizabeth Renee Ambler Gill, Segundo G. Chavez, Oxidative stability and physicochemical changes of dark chocolates with essential oils addition, Heliyon, 9,  7, 18139, 2023.
  5. Sharmistha Samanta, Tanmay Sarkar, Runu Chakraborty, Maksim Rebezov, Mohammad Ali Shariati, Muthu Thiruvengadam, Kannan R.R. Rengasamy, Dark chocolate: An overview of its biological activity, processing, and fortification approaches, Current Research in Food Science, 5, 1916-1943, 2022.
  6. BM Lund, SJ O’Brien, Public Health Measures: Food Safety in Hospitals and Other Healthcare Settings, Encyclopedia of Food Safety, Academic Press, 2014, 140-148.
  7. Food Safety

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