Sugar is one of those foods which will last forever, even without any special packaging. However, it’s not recommended to keep sugar in its original packaging.
Here’s what you need to know about storing sugar for the long term.
Does White Sugar Go Bad?
White sugar has a forever shelf life and will never go bad. However, if exposed to moisture, sugar can turn into a rock-hard clump. This does not mean the sugar has gone bad but does make it harder to use.
Likewise, if sugar is not stored properly, insects and other pests can get into your sugar and contaminate it. Sugar can also absorb bad smells from whatever is stored nearby.
Best way to store white sugar:
White sugar needs to be kept in air-tight containers. This will protect it from pantry pests and also help prevent it from turning into a rock-hard clump. You’ll also want to make sure the sugar is kept away from household chemicals or anything with bad smells. If sugar is kept in your basement, for example, it will start to get a musty smell to it.
Smaller quantities of sugar can be stored in mason jars or food-grade plastic containers with air-tight seals. If you want to store larger amounts of sugar, food-grade buckets with gasket lids are a good option. The gasket lid (aka gamma lid) provides a tight seal.
As an extra precaution, some people put the sugar in sealed Mylar bags before putting it into the bucket. This helps keep the sugar from clumping. It also protects the sugar from damage from natural disasters, such as earthquakes and flooding, and also makes it easier to use the sugar.
Gasket lids (above) are recommended when storing bulk sugar in buckets.
Does Brown Sugar Go Bad?
Like white sugar, brown sugar lasts forever. However, brown sugar contains a lot of moisture. As it dries out, the texture can change, it can clump, or it can turn into a rock-hard lump. Because of this, most sources will only put the shelf life of brown sugar at around 2 years. You can still use brown sugar which is clumpy or rock-hard though.
Best way to store brown sugar:
Brown sugar should be kept in an air-tight container. Put a clay disk in the container with the sugar. This will keep the brown sugar moist and prevent it from clumping. If stored long enough though, the brown sugar will still eventually clump.
For emergency preparedness, a lot of people don’t bother storing brown sugar. Instead, they store white sugar and molasses. The two can be mixed together to make brown sugar.
Does Powdered Sugar Go Bad?
Powdered sugar never goes bad. However, because it quickly starts clumping, most manufacturers will usually put a “best by” date of 2 years on powdered sugar. However, It is subject to the same issues as white granular sugar though, so you’ll want to make sure it is stored in an air-tight container.
Best way to store powdered sugar:
Store powdered sugar in air-tight containers away from bad smells. If you want to store powdered sugar long-term, your best option is to put the bags of powdered sugar directly into a bucket with a gasket lid; it will be fine indefinitely. Alternatively, you can put the powdered sugar into sealed #10 cans or Mylar bags.
Can I Use Oxygen Absorbers with Sugar?
Do NOT use oxygen absorbers with sugar. Sugar doesn’t go bad, so there is no reason to use oxygen absorbers: it won’t help the sugar last any longer. Further, oxygen absorbers will turn the sugar into a rock-hard clump.
There is also some debate as to whether oxygen absorbers could result in botulism poisoning with brown sugar (botulism only grows in moist, oxygen-less environments). While it isn’t likely you’d get botulism from brown sugar, it’s still better not to use oxygen absorbers with it.
Read more about using oxygen absorbers for food storage.
Can I Vacuum Seal Sugar?
You can vacuum seal sugar but there really isn’t much of a point. Air doesn’t cause sugar to go bad, so vacuum sealing to remove the air won’t help the sugar last longer.
Further, vacuum sealer bags aren’t completely impervious: they will let some air and moisture through. In the short-term, vacuum sealing will prevent brown sugar and powdered sugar from clumping. But, if you store them long enough, they will still clump.
Can I Freeze Sugar?
You can freeze all types of sugar but it isn’t recommended. Sugar has a high surface area so will quickly absorb bad smells from inside your freezer. Freezing won’t help prevent clumping either. The only real reason to freeze sugar is if you have issues with pests getting into your sugar supply. If you do want to freeze sugar, make sure it is in an air-tight container.
Can I Refrigerate Sugar?
You definitely don’t want to refrigerate any type of sugar. The main reason is that refrigerators typically have lots of bad odors in them which the sugar will quickly absorb. Refrigerators are also very high humidity, so the sugar will clump quickly in the refrigerator. If you have issues with pests getting into your sugar, it is better to invest in better-quality storage containers or freeze the sugar.