Powdered sugar, also known as ‘confectioners’ sugar’ or ‘icing sugar,’ is finely grounded granulated sugar.
Characteristic fluffy, powdery consistency is due to the cornstarch that is mixed along with the sugar. Furthermore, it is commonly used as an ingredient for cake mix, cake icing, toppings, and frostings.
If you like baking in general or you’re a professional cook, you are probably familiar with powdered sugar. But if like us, you use it only from time to time, that means you definitely have some powdered sugar hidden in your pantry.
Well, now, you need it because freshly baked brownies just won’t taste the same without it! But you quickly realize that the half-open package you’ve stumbled upon has been sitting in your pantry for quite some time.
Wait… Does powdered sugar go bad?
If you’re interested in finding out whether powdered sugar goes bad, how to store it, and extend its shelf life, read along!
Does Powdered Sugar Go Bad?
We have some good news for you – powdered sugar can last indefinitely if stored properly.
As long as it is stored away from moisture, heat, and light sources, there’s a big chance it will taste good even after a couple of years of sitting in your pantry.
Moreover, this product has a best-before-date, but it only indicates the time by which you will get the best possible quality. The optimal life of powdered sugar is said to be 3 years, but oftentimes you won’t be able to tell the difference in quality even after another 5-7 years.
It doesn’t mean it won’t deteriorate in quality over some time, as sugar is prone to absorbing odors, and it can be infested with bugs. So keeping the container sealed tightly in the proper storage place will maximize its shelf life.
Sugar, like salt, prevents bacterial growth because it tends to dehydrate. That means there isn’t enough water in it for microbial colonies to feed on, and the foods with sugar in their content will have a much longer shelf life.
But the fact that powdered sugar contains 2-5% of the anti-caking agent (which prevents clumps and lets it flow) such as cornstarch makes it more perishable than sugar alone. Thus, powdered sugar is very sensitive to moisture and heat and needs to be appropriately stored.
How To Store Powdered Sugar?
Powdered sugar is known for its fine form and fluffy texture. Because of that, it is crucial to store it properly as it can catch odors, moisture, and even pests.
You should store your powdered sugar like you store any other sugar or flour, for example. It means you should keep it in a cool and dry area, at all times. The pantry and a kitchen cabinet are the perfect storage places. If it is unopened, you can keep it in its original package as it is sufficient enough.
It is essential you keep it away from sources of heat, moisture, and sunlight, as those are the main spoilage culprits, and they can degrade its quality quickly.
As for the opened package, it is better to transfer it in an airtight container, either a glass or a plastic one. You can even put it in two containers; just put the sugar in the freezer bag and seal it (push the excess air out), and then put it in another airtight container. This way, it will stay fresh for a more extended period, plus it won’t catch any bad odors.
Don’t store powdered sugar in the refrigerator, as there’s a lot of humidity. You can also freeze it if you must, like any other food, but it is not necessary as it will keep indefinitely at room temperature. Moreover, freezing can cause lumps, and you may expect some changes in the texture.
Additionally, there are also special powdered sugar containers available on the market that can provide excellent sugar storage.
How To Tell If Powdered Sugar Is Spoiled?
As we’ve already mentioned, powdered sugar can last indefinitely. Although there are a few ways in which this product can go bad. If that happens, it will not taste as good as the fresh one does, and it will only ruin the recipe. However, it’s unlikely to happen, but it is better to discard it if it does.
Sometimes its consistency can turn hard or clumpy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it has gone bad. It only means that it has been exposed to a little bit of moisture or heat. You just need to break the clumps, and you can use it.
On the other hand, if it has been exposed to too much moisture and water, there can be discolorations, texture changes, and even mold spots. That happens rarely, and only in terrible storage conditions.
If you have a powdered sugar package that has been sitting in your pantry for too long, it’s maybe for the best you first try it before you sprinkle your cookies. Because in some cases, powdered sugar can taste stale, and if this is the case, throw it away.
Also, it could be infested with some bugs, if not sealed tightly and adequately stored. You don’t want ants on your cake, so if you have a package that has been sitting in your pantry for too long, you should check it first, just to be sure.
Furthermore, it can sometimes catch some odors, so that’s one more reason to keep it sealed tightly.
Overall, it is almost impossible for powdered or any other sugar to go bad, but it can undoubtedly degrade in quality if you don’t store it properly.
Can You Make Powdered Sugar At Home?
Yes, you can!
Whether you need a cup or two or don’t have any powdered sugar at home, it’s straightforward to make, and this method is a time saver for last-minute needs.
All you need is white granulated sugar, a blender, a measuring cup, a clean dish towel, and cornstarch (if you choose to add it).
How To Make It
Firstly, it is best to use small quantities of sugar (1-2 cups at a time), so it can blend as best as possible.
In addition, you can use any type of sugar you want, white, brown, or even coconut sugar as it contains some minerals like iron and zinc, which are lacking in regular sugar.
Put the sugar in the blender and seal the lid tightly.
Place the dishtowel over the blender to prevent powder from going out and making a mess.
Blend it for a couple of minutes, using a pulse method until it ultimately turns into fine, fluffy powdered sugar.
Additionally, you can also use a food processor, coffee grinder, or spice grinder, just have in mind that sugar can scratch plastic, so think of that before getting into the heart of the matter.
One more thing – homemade powdered sugar won’t taste the same as the one from the store, as store-bought usually has cornstarch and other additives added. If the taste doesn’t match, try adding 1 tbsp of cornstarch for each cup of sugar and blend it all together.
Note: Powdered sugar gives it a slightly different taste and consistency than regular sugar. It is important to remember that granulated sugar is not a direct substitute for powdered sugar and vice versa. So, if a recipe calls for powdered sugar, you should oblige because using the granulated one won’t get you the same results.
Does Powdered Sugar Go Bad? – Conclusion
Altogether, powdered sugar can last indefinitely, but it won’t stay at peak quality forever. Still, it is crucial how you store it, as the proper storage will ensure an extremely long shelf life.
Powdered sugar can degrade in quality after a while. In some cases, it can be infested with insects or have mold spots, but that is rare.
The fantastic thing is that you can make your own powdered sugar by grinding the regular one. It can be a great replacement if the one you already have tastes stale.
You should always keep your powdered sugar at room temperature, in a dark and dry area. Keep it away from moisture and heat, and the container sealed tightly. Pantry and kitchen cupboards are the perfect storage places, and the glass jar, airtight container, or original package will do the job.
Even if you see clumps in your sugar, that doesn’t mean that it has gone bad, it just means that a little bit of moisture found its way into the package. All you need to do is break up the clumps, and start baking!