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Does powdered sugar go bad?

Did you just find an old bag of powdered sugar in your pantry? Are you now wondering if powdered sugar goes bad?
You are not alone.

Recently when cleaning our pantry I found a bag of half-used powdered sugar and I couldn’t find an expiration date on it.

I don’t have a clue when I bought it.

It turns out that technically powdered sugar has an indefinite shelf life but that is only true if it is stored properly. Also, the flavor can degrade over time and start to taste stale. You will also want to make sure you don’t have pantry pests, like weevils, ants, or meal moths in your old bag of powdered sugar.

We will get into all of those important details down below.

By the way, if you realize that your powdered sugar has gone bad and you need some right away, you can make your own.

Scroll down and learn how to make powdered sugar at home.

What is powdered sugar?

Powdered sugar is sugar that has been finely ground and mixed with an anti-caking agent. Generally, it is mixed with cornstarch. The cornstarch keeps it from clumping when mixed with liquids.

Powdered sugar is the same thing as confectioners’ sugar and is sometimes referred to as icing sugar.

It is often used in icing or frosting because it dissolves easily and creates a creamy texture. If you used regular granulated (table) sugar, the icing would be more gritty, sandy, or grainy.

Powdered sugar is also excellent for dusting pastries and baked goods. A famous use of this confectioners’ sugar is on beignets. 

Powdered sugar is sometimes referenced as 10X sugar. It is called 10X because it is sugar that has been processed ten times longer than normal granulated sugar.

How long does powdered sugar last?

If it has been stored properly, powdered sugar can last forever. Depending on how it was stored or how old it is, it may taste a bit stale. Most manufacturers put a best-by date of one to two years after the sugar was packaged.

This date doesn’t mean that the powdered sugar has gone bad. It just means that it may taste a bit old.

How to tell if powdered sugar has gone bad

The best way to tell if powdered sugar has gone bad is to do a visual inspection and give it a sniff test. The powdered sugar should not have any clumps in it and it should smell sweet and fresh.

If you found a bag of unopened powdered sugar and notice that the date has passed, do a visual inspection and then sniff it. If it was stored in high humidity, toss it

Visual inspection:

Do you see any large clumps? If so moisture has gotten inside and you should not use it. Note that some small clumps are often present in a fresh bag.

Do you see any pantry pests? Yes, you need to look for those too. If you see them, throw out the powdered sugar right away. (And probably check your other dry goods in the pantry, because they spread easily.)

Do you see any discoloration? If the sugar doesn’t look perfectly white, you should throw it out.
If it passes the visual inspections above, move on to the sniff test.

Sniff the powdered sugar. Fresh powdered sugar has a very sweet, almost vanilla smell, and it’s pretty strong. Over time, this heavy scent will fade.

Best way to store powdered sugar

The best way to store powdered sugar is in an airtight container. Then place that container in a cool place and dry place such as your indoor, climate-controlled kitchen cabinet or pantry.

I recommend against storing powdered sugar in the refrigerator or freezer. While you can technically use these options they open up the opportunity for moisture to find its way into the sugar.

Moisture is the enemy of powdered sugar. If you can keep the powdered sugar dry and pest-free it could last you for years. But sugar that is exposed to moisture and humidity could develop mold and that will make you sick. We always recommend the freshest ingredients, because like I always say, you deserve the best, every time you eat.

Step one: Properly contain it

The best way to store confectioners sugar is to place it in a freezer bag, press as much air as possible out of it, and seal it. Then I recommend placing that baggie in a storage container.

This double storage method may seem extreme, but it’s worth taking care of things like this type of sugar you want to last in long-term storage.

Step two: Store it under the best possible condition

Next, place that container of sugar in a dry, dark place and up high. Even though you have bagged the sugar and have put it in a second container you still want to protect it from moisture, heat, and pests.

If you have an unopened package of powdered sugar, the best way to store it is also in a moderately cool and dry place. I would also recommend that you place that container in a large sealable plastic bag.

How to make powdered sugar

Yes, there is good news! It’s easy! If you don’t have any powdered sugar on hand, you can make it yourself. Basically, to do this you will take some regular sugar and grind it into the form of fine sugar.

You will need:
• 1 cup of sugar
• 1 T of cornstarch
• A food processor (You could also use a coffee grinder or blender)
• Rubber spatula

Tip: For each cup of icing sugar you make, add 1 T of cornstarch.

Instructions:
Step one: Add the sugar and cornstarch to your food processor.

Step two: Pulse or grind for a long time (about five minutes) until you start to see a fine powder. Stop every minute and use a rubber spatula to remove any sugar that is stuck to the walls of the food processor.

Step three: Pick up a bit of the ground sugar and run it between your fingers. If you feel the grit, grind it for another minute or two. You are done when you feel a powdery consistency.

Step four: Store any leftover powder sugar properly and it will have a long shelf life.

Fresher is still better, and a new bag of generic powdered sugar is probably $2. You deserve good things.

Note: If you are using a coffee grinder, work in smaller batches and be patient. In that case, I would only make the amount of sugar that you need at a time.

The bottom line

If your powdered sugar stays dry at room temperature and insect free it can last a good long time. This is why you should properly store sugar so that it can last for months, if not years.

How to make powdered sugar

How to make powdered sugar

Yield: 1 cup
Prep Time: 1 minute
Cook Time: 2 minutes
Total Time: 3 minutes

You can make your own confectioners sugar at home.

Ingredients

  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 T corn starch

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients into a food processor
  2. Process for 1-2 minutes or until the sugar is soft and fluffy.

Notes

Be sure to store the powdered sugar in an airtight container.

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