Did you find a package of marshmallows in your pantry and you are now asking do marshmallows go bad? We have this FAQ for you.
Marshmallows are soft, squishy, sweet, and sometimes sticky confections that come in various colors, flavors, and sizes.
Just look around your local market or grocery, and you’ll see lots of these – from the bland white ones to the rainbow-colored varieties to the chocolate-coated ones.
Marshmallows are great finger food snacks during midday and afternoon breaks, ingredients for pastries, pies, cakes, and other popular desserts, or even a campfire classic.
I’ve gotten on a kick of eating Hello Kitty Chocolate Filled Marshmallows and some are individually wrapped and some aren’t. I love these things, but I’ve noticed that they fare better if I keep them cool and dry with the bag clipped closed tightly.
We may even forget about the bag of marshmallow leftovers kept in our kitchen and refrigerators for some time to the point that it has already reached the “best before” date.
Of course, there are specific rules for these date labels, particularly in terms of their quality for consumption.
However, do these rules apply to marshmallows too?
Do marshmallows go bad?
If so, how long can marshmallows be stored and safely consumed?
Should we be worried if we have eaten an old marshmallow?
Like every other food item, marshmallows can worsen after some time, even making them unsafe for consumption.
However, there’s no definite shelf life for marshmallows, but these products are known to have a longer life span.
Yet, their longevity will depend on the “best before” date labeled on their packaging, indicating the period before their quality deterioration.
This is especially the case for marshmallows with preservatives to retain their best quality for a couple of months.
Despite having the date label, the quality and safety of marshmallows for consumption would also depend on, among other things, how they are being stored.
For instance, typical marshmallows that have been freshly bought and newly opened are deemed to be of the best quality if they have a soft, squishy, powdery texture, mild aroma, and slightly sweet taste.
However, these qualities can alter if the packaging has been left open for a while or has not been stored properly in a tightly-sealed pack or jar.
For one, marshmallows owe their spongy and expanded texture to tiny air holes or pockets but can collapse if they are exposed to air and moisture.
As a result, your marshmallows can become smaller, less soft, and much stiffer.
Marshmallows that have been kept in storage that are above the average room temperature could also lead to alteration of their appearance and melting if the temperature has risen further.
Not to mention, these sweet confections can also be exposed to insects and bacteria.
These can further alter the appearance of marshmallows while being less edible and safer for consumption.
It probably won’t hurt to eat a couple of dried out marshmallows, but avoid eating discolored, moldy or smelly foods of any kind, even marshmallows.
How long do marshmallows last?
While marshmallows do not have a definite shelf life, people can estimate the period in which these sweet treats are best consumed.
The most immediate reference for this could be the “best before” date provided by manufacturers and labeled in marshmallow bags in grocery stores and supermarkets.
Yet, others estimate that marshmallows retain their best quality for around six to seven or even eight months.
It is worth noting that these estimations are only applicable when marshmallows have been unopened, which is the case for grocery store marshmallows, or have been stored properly in your kitchen and fridge.
However, marshmallows that have been exposed to air, moisture, heat, bacteria, or insects due to improper storage will end up having a much shorter, even immediate shelf life.
At best, you could consume an opened bag of marshmallows for two to three days.
Yet, these treats can still be edible and safe enough for consumption for six to eight months if proper storage is ensured.
How to tell if marshmallows are bad
Typical marshmallows are known to have a bite-sized, elastic, and squishy texture and mildly sweet aroma, which makes them distinct from other popular candies and confections.
We could know that the packet of marshmallows that we have bought is of the best quality through these attributes.
However, marshmallows do not retain these best qualities forever, though these are known to have a relatively long shelf life.
Not to mention, these characteristics could change due to the way these are being stored.
We can still tell if our leftover marshmallows have a deteriorated quality to the point of being unsafe for consumption.
In this case, listed below are some things to look for in inspecting leftover marshmallows:
1. Change in color (discoloration)
Marshmallows have a wide array of colors, from the typical white ones to the rainbow fluffs to even those mallows that have been coated in chocolate.
However, these lovely marshmallows would not retain their colorful appearances forever and can change naturally over time or through improper storage practices.
In fact, the color change could occur when the marshmallows seem to have a change in texture.
2. Change in appearance and texture
Marshmallows that have gone old, unconsumed for some time, and haven’t been tightly closed in the pantry can dehydrate and shrivel, becoming much smaller and lose their original shape.
Apart from this, old mallows can also have a hardened texture, which means that their elasticity has not been retained over time.
This can also mean that these mallows are not chewy anymore, even dry and hard to bite in some instances.
Furthermore, marshmallows can also melt if stored at an above-normal temperature or under direct sunlight, making them much more sticky and less compact.
3. Change in odor and taste
Like every other spoiled food item, old marshmallows can also have a somewhat different, unpleasant smell that is undesirable for consumption.
Alongside this is the change in how they taste, which is also different from the mildly sweet flavors that marshmallows are familiar with.
However, tasting old marshmallows is not a good idea, particularly if they are exposed to dirt, bacteria, and insects.
4. Presence of ants
Ants are known to be attracted to sweets, which can be a problem for marshmallow bags that have been left open in the pantry.
You can either notice a trail of ants towards the marshmallow bags or that the marshmallows themselves have small insect bites.
Do marshmallows expire?
Marshmallows do expire, much like every other food item you can think of.
However, marshmallows have a long shelf life and can still be consumed for a couple of weeks or months if in excellent condition or stored correctly.
Still, the most accurate reference that you should look for are the “best before” or “best by” dates labeled in these marshmallows’ packaging.
Please note that, as defined by the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, these dates refer to when these products can retain their best quality.
Thus, you can expect that the quality of these marshmallows can deteriorate past the “best by” date indicated in the packaging.
Do marshmallows go bad once opened?
When you open a newly-bought bag of marshmallows, you’ll be welcomed with its lightly sweet and powdery aroma, fluffy appearance, and soft, squishy texture that indicate that what you have bought is of ideal freshness and quality.
Ideally, marshmallows are expected to retain these attributes until the “best by” date indicated on the packaging.
However, as you open the bag, air will come in contact with these marshmallows, making them vulnerable to certain changes in their fluffy and expanded texture.
Yet, marshmallows that have been opened can still be consumed for two to three days and still expect the best quality of these edibles.
It is highly recommended to properly put these marshmallows in an enclosed jar or ziplock bag and store them in a pantry with a relatively cool temperature to retain their quality against air, moisture, and heat.
If you’ve discovered ants in your package of marshmallows, they are too dry to use, or haven’t kept their shape, here are some substitutes for marshmallows in recipes.
How long do marshmallows last in the fridge?
If you try to research the effectiveness of refrigerating marshmallows, you will get some mixed responses.
Some would say that storing marshmallows inside the fridge is effective since it retains their quality for up to four months.
Others would say moving cold marshmallows to room temperature causes condensation to settle on food, which can cause mold to form over time and lots of back and forth.
Tip: If you want to keep your marshmallows in the refrigerator, it’s best to take out only what you need at one time and not the whole package so the cold ones stay cold.
Some believe that refrigerating marshmallows is effective for those who reside in areas with humid climates because the humidity eventually reaches them and will cause them to stick together in their packaging.
Nonetheless, you can still use your freezer to preserve the freshness of your marshmallows for quite some time by smothering powdered sugar or cornstarch on your mallows before storing them in zip-lock bags or Tupperware.
Can I use old marshmallows?
Using old marshmallows depends on how “old” the marshmallows are in the first place.
Ideally, you can still consume your marshmallows if they are not stored poorly and if the product is still within the period before the “best before” date.
However, old marshmallows can be prone to changes in texture, appearance, odor, and taste, so it could be risky to take a bite out of them.
Here are some ideas for how to use old marshmallows:
- String old marshmallows together for kids’ necklaces.
- Rejuvenate dried out marshmallows by adding a fresh piece of bread to the bag and leave them closed tightly overnight.
- Add tiny marshmallows with cocoa mix to create hot cocoa bombs. We’ve used these tiny dehydrated marshmallows.
Depending on how old, I’ve found the best use for old marshmallows is in hot drinks like cocoa, since the heat changes them into a melted state.
If they are dehydrated to begin with, it will take a bit longer for old marshmallows to melt in the hot liquid.
Otherwise, the best thing you can do is to discard your leftovers, buy another bag of marshmallows and practice proper storage.
How to fix marshmallows that have stuck together
Old marshmallows, particularly those exposed to moisture and high heat, can get stale and sticky once they melt.
Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do about marshmallows that have melted or adhered together to the point that you can barely recognize them from their original appearance.
But you can always pull them apart or use kitchen shears to just cut them up.
They won’t have their original shape, but they will probably taste the same.
Some uses for marshmallows that have stuck together:
- Melt them all the way and make SOFT rice krispies treats.
- Tear off pieces and melt them in a mug of hot cocoa fast in the microwave.
- Add them to a fondue pot to make Chocolate Marshmallow Fondue.
- Make your lump of ugly marshmallows into marshmallow creme.
Otherwise, some marshmallows have just been stale and have stuck together due to moisture.
In this case, you may be able to separate these by simply powdering them with sugar or cornstarch and shaking them to cover all marshmallows in powder. Shake the bag to see if they separate.
The bottom line
Like every snack or other food item, marshmallows have a limited shelf life.
Despite having a varied “best before” date, these can have a diminished quality in an instant if not immediately consumed and properly stored.
Nonetheless, you could ensure the freshness of your marshmallows by practicing proper storage of these products and knowing what makes these confections lose their quality.
Otherwise, if you’re unsure of the quality of your leftover marshmallows, you can just discard them altogether and just buy another one!