Since we use food coloring for many fun foods and desserts, gotta wonder does food coloring go bad?
Food coloring makes for lively Easter eggs and fun holiday frostings and adds a rainbow to many foods’ appearance.
Sometimes it is used for food but mainly in baking cakes, pastries, and other desserts.
The best thing about food coloring is that it can make any food lively and full of color!
The finished product may not always be up to your taste regarding the presentation.
But with food coloring, it is nearly effortless to do a quick fix.
It is made up of a dye or pigment that contributes to creating various colors for the food coloring.
There are different types of food coloring, such as liquids, gels, powders, and pastes.
And some are plant-based store-bought, homemade, and the easy-to-find FD&C food colorings.
Let’s go over it together: Does food coloring go bad?
“Bad” food coloring is usually about faded color, separation, and odd texture. And this is specific to the usual over-the-counter food colors, which contain FD&C dyes.
Food coloring has no expiry date due to it not containing any chemicals that degrade or organic components.
Make sure not to toss out your food coloring in order not to waste it, for it is more of a requirement by the FDA as to why there is an expiration date.
Chemical, food-safe food coloring does not contain any perishable materials or chemical components.
Food coloring is inorganic, meaning it does not have any materials microbes require to survive and thrive in it.
This reason is why your food coloring rarely spoils.
Note: Natural food coloring without preservatives or homemade food coloring using plant-based ingredients will eventually “turn” because it uses plant-based ingredients, and will spoil like a soup might, and has only a few days kept in the fridge before you should throw it out and start fresh. So keep an eye on your labels and think about what kinds of food coloring you have in front of you.
How long does food coloring last?
The shelf life of your food coloring may be indefinite.
Store-bought food coloring does not have raw or natural ingredients that can make it go wrong.
However, it may be different regarding homemade, all-natural food coloring.
Its shelf life is much shorter in comparison to store-bought food coloring.
Using natural products in your food colorings, such as vegetables, spices, and fruits, to create raw food colors will eventually go rancid like other kinds of food.
Once you store your natural and homemade food coloring in the refrigerator, it will last up to 6 weeks.
Yet once again, store-bought food coloring doesn’t spoil.
They can last for several years once stored properly since they contain no ingredients that can spoil.
How long does liquid food coloring last?
Since store-bought liquid food coloring doesn’t contain ingredients that go rancid, it can last for a couple of years or indefinitely as long as you store it correctly in your cupboard.
Also, you can use liquid food coloring for as long as possible, ensuring that it has been stored with tightly sealed lids.
Only the quality of your food coloring will deteriorate, as it may not offer the best hue and color as it had when you first bought or made it.
When the best-by date passes, how well the colors integrate into your frosting or dough or the intensity of colors may be compromised.
From ColorGarden, maker of plant-based food coloring:
Color Garden® pure natural food colors are packaged to be shelf-stable for one year in your pantry provided you do not open the plastic packet. Once opened, [they] should be used within a day and consumed within a couple of days … if you have leftover color, close the packet with a paper clip or staple and store remaining color in the refrigerator.
How long does gel food coloring last?
Gel paste and gel food colorings must be appropriately stored, sealing the lids tightly shut to prevent evaporation.
Gel food colors do not expire; as long as they are safely stored, they can last indefinitely.
Even years after the expiration date, you may still consume them because they contain synthetic ingredients.
However, your gel food colors may still dry out or not have the desired consistency and color you want.
Once this happens, you must throw them away and find a better gel food coloring to use.
Likewise, you should stop using a food gel color only if it changes its consistency or color, not because the expiration date has long been overdue.
This is so you don’t have to waste your food coloring, which you can still use in the future.
In conclusion, expired gel food coloring poses no health risks, but it may not be as consistent and ready-to-use anymore.
If your gel food coloring becomes crystals or dries out with time, they may not batter evenly or mix up into your frosting and will remain separated from your frosting or dough.
How long does powdered food coloring last?
Powdered food coloring is popular for coloring high-fat foods, like buttercream frosting.
Powdered food coloring can last indefinitely as long as you keep it dry, which means don’t dip moist utensils in the container, or leave it open around the sink or during cooking.
As per its storage process, you can store powdered food coloring in an airtight container just like the other variations of food coloring, but for another reason: to keep the moisture out.
They are very shelf-stable at room temperature, between 65 and 85 degrees.
You don’t have to freeze or refrigerate your food coloring.
It would be best if you also kept the food coloring stored in a dark cabinet.
Make sure to be wary of the color of your food coloring, as most powder natural food coloring might fade within 24 hours as soon as they are exposed to sunlight.
How to store food coloring
No matter what food color you use, if it is stored correctly, it will last longer.
Just make sure to keep your store-bought food coloring in a dry and cool place, and it should not be in contact with direct sunlight.
From AmeriColor, regarding how to properly store their food color:
Store in ambient temperature, like a kitchen cabinet. Keep out of sunlight.
Meanwhile, for homemade food coloring, the best place to store the ingredient is in the refrigerator; here’s how to do it:
- Homemade food coloring
- Airtight container
Instructions for storing homemade food coloring in the fridge:
- Put your homemade food coloring in a clean airtight container.
- Store the natural food coloring in your refrigerator within six weeks.
Moreover, don’t store your food coloring container or bottle near a stovetop or an oven, as the heat from the appliance could quickly dry out your food coloring.
This method of storing allows the colors to stay bright for longer.
It may also reduce possible temperature changes that could affect the coloring.
Once you are done with using food coloring, make sure to wipe off the lid and rim of the bottle with a tissue or clean cloth to avoid any residue from appearing, and seal the bottle tightly.
Make sure to seal your bottle correctly because if it is not closed, you may risk contaminants contaminating your food coloring.
This misuse will then become a breeding ground for molds and bacteria.
Take some with a clean teaspoon when you want to use food coloring.
Always make sure that the teaspoon or any utensils you use are clean.
Don’t let the mouth of the bottle touch your food while using it.
This precaution will help prevent cross-contamination and keep the bottle clean.
If the food coloring bottle breaks, move the coloring to another airtight container.
How to tell if food coloring has gone bad
When your food coloring has poor quality, you should stop using it.
You may still consume expired food coloring, but there will be specific issues compared to fresh food coloring, especially if the food coloring has been stored for years past the expiration date.
While food coloring may indefinitely last, foreign substances may find their way you’re your bottle and allow it to spoil or go bad.
There are two significant signs that you need to inspect.
First up is a change in texture.
No matter what form of food coloring you use, if the texture has changed, it means the quality of your food coloring is poor.
Gel food coloring may become stiff or dried up or possibly separate.
Liquid food coloring may have a thicker and sloppier consistency than it typically has.
For powder food coloring, there may be clumps, usually from moisture reaching the powder.
Once these texture changes happen, you must throw your bottle out and get a new one.
The second sign is if your food coloring has molded.
If you don’t store your food coloring properly like previously discussed, molds may form in your bottle.
If you see any white fuzzy growth or dark spots in your food coloring surface, bottle opening, or even the bottle’s cap, make sure to discard them as soon as possible.
Can I use expired food coloring?
You may use expired food coloring to some degree, but it is best to use fresh food coloring instead.
Make sure that no molds are present in your food coloring or any telltale sign of spoilage and that your food coloring is safe to consume.
If you still want to use expired food coloring, put it in a bowl and crush the food coloring with a blender or a spoon.
As long as you ensure they are not natural or homemade food coloring, store your food coloring safely and correctly, and check for any molds, you may use food coloring past its prime.
The bottom line
Food coloring in your food and baked desserts are lovely.
You can use them almost anywhere; they are a staple in the baking industry, whether with cakes, cookies, macarons, or cupcakes.
Using food coloring while baking is perfect for doing a leisure activity with your family and friends, baking up some sweet goods in the kitchen.
It adds a new dimension of beautiful colors to the finished product.
The best part is that, as long as it is properly stored, not natural or homemade, and has no molds, you may use it even past its expiration date.
Make sure to know how to properly store your food coloring and use them wisely and correctly.
Once you do, it will reward you with quick know-how on properly handling food coloring for your baked goods.
A few recipes of our BEST Holiday Coffee Drinks, Sangria Cocktails, and Oreo Desserts feature food coloring; better check them out!
How To Store Food Coloring
Here’s our FAQ for how to best store homemade AND store-bought food coloring to keep its texture and color longer.
- Food coloring
- Airtight container
- Put your homemade food coloring in a clean, airtight container.
- Store the natural food coloring in your refrigerator and use it within several days.
- For open store-bought containers, if using plant-based colors, store in the refrigerator tightly capped.
- For FD&C food colors, store out of direct sunlight tightly capped.