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Does brown sugar go bad? Here is what you really need to know!

Does brown sugar go bad? Here is what you really need to know!

Finally an answer to the rumor – does brown sugar go bad? Does it also mean it is expired and is unusable? To cut to the chase – Yes, brown sugar does go bad but not in a way that it is not usable as an ingredient. IF your brown sugar has gone bad, we have brown sugar substitute ideas for you that will keep you cooking. 

So why do you still see best before dates for that pack of brown sugar? I prepared some surprising answers and other facts that you need to know so you can make better use of your brown sugar which is used for cooking or baking. Let us start.

It is important to define what we mean by a “bad” brown sugar for us to have a common understanding on the question and a common understanding of the answer at the very end. Here are some of the ways that brown sugar can go “bad”:

In terms of texture

When brown sugar is stored for a very long time and is exposed to moisture, it hardens and clumps together. Instead of being separately granulated, it forms various sizes of sugar balls. I’ve seen clumps forming the whole base of a jar and changing to a darker brown color. That jar of sugar was at least a year old.

Brown sugar with a “bad” texture is not at all bad to use as sugar. It retains its sweetness and the clumps can just be broken down into smaller particles for almost the same use as it was before. Clumping of sugar is normal when there is extra moisture in its storage containers.

In terms of external contamination

Brown sugar itself does not allow any bacteria to dwell in its crystals. Sugar factories store raw sugar for an indefinite amount of time before packing them. So why do you still see best before dates on your brown sugar?

Dust and other contaminating materials may accumulate your brown sugar during storage. They could become the breeding grounds for bacteria which can make those parts of the sugar go bad or contaminated. But the sugar itself is redeemable once you have removed the “contaminated” parts.

Let’s say you have a whole sack of brown sugar in your kitchen with the bottom part contaminated by dirty water, you can still use the top parts as the bacteria is not free to cross the sugar crystals. Amazing isn’t it?

Do note that clumped sugar should be differentiated from contaminated sugar. Contaminated sugar is already bad sugar, it is no longer sugar. But clumped brown sugar is still very much sugar and is sweet in taste.

How do I Reuse an “Old” or “Clumped” Brown Sugar?

There are various techniques for restoring brown sugar back to its original granules. I’ll share just two which are easy to do.

Softening using the microwave

This method is best if you are in a hurry and want to try to reuse your leftover year-hardened sugar. You will need paper towels, a microwaveable bowl, a microwave, and hardened sugar.

Follow these steps:

1. Place the hardened brown sugar in your microwaveable bowl.
2. Place a dampened paper towel above the sugar. Make sure that your paper towels are well damped so they would not burn inside your microwave.
3. Set your microwave to 20-30 seconds. Keep in mind not to prolong the time or your paper might burn.
4. Redo the heating until you see your sugar melt like as though it was water and brown sugar crystals.
5. You may now use this liquid as though you would use sugar in your dishes.

Softening using Bread or Apples

This technique is best if you know at least a day or two prior to when you need your brown sugar. Yes, you heard that right – using bread or apples. In case you happen to have many apples from your backyard apple tree or extra bread slices and some sugar you want to melt, this technique is for you.

Follow these steps:

1. Secure a clean airtight plastic or glass container.
2. Place your clumped brown sugar in the container along with bread or apple slices.
3. Keep the mixture in your kitchen and remember not to expose them to the sun.
4. A day or two later, your bread or apple would go stale that is because the moisture will have transferred to the hardened brown sugar softening it for use.

How long does brown sugar stay good for?

If stored properly brown sugar will stay good in a pantry for about 18 months. Brown sugar doesn’t ever really go bad but it may harden if exposes to moisture. The key factor to keeping brown sugar good indefinitely is to keep it free from moisture and insects. If you find an old bag of brown sugar that is unopened you can use it. If it is clumped up you can also soften it again.

Can brown sugar be frozen?

Yes, you can freeze brown sugar but it isn’t necessary to freeze it to prolong its shelf life. As long as brown sugar is stored in a dry and cool area of your house or pantry it will last indefinitely. However, you are free to freeze brown sugar if you would prefer. Just allow it to slowly defrost in room temperature.

How can I Keep my Brown Sugar from Hardening?

Well, if you are like most organized restaurants and how chefs do it in their homes, you would not want to make your sugar become hardened in the first place. Not only will it save you the time of restoring it but it will also make you want to use it since it is easily dispensable.

Here are some ways to keep your sugar from going bad:

  • Don’t keep brown sugar in its original plastic packs unless that container can be shut close.
  • Before buying brown sugar in packs, make sure you have airtight containers to store it into.


Well, if you are like most organized restaurants and how chefs do it in their homes, you would not want to make your Brown sugar does not go bad unless it is contaminated. But even when it is contaminated, only the contaminated parts are unusable for dishes and desserts. Hardened brown sugar can still be redeemed and it can take some time. So the best thing to do is to keep your brown sugar stored right the first time. After all, it will be part of your food and we don’t want food made from unclean ingredients.

Did you have any family secret concerning Brown Sugar? Feel free to share it with us in the comments section below.