How to Store Chocolate Long Term [Shelf Life and Storage Options]


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Last Updated: March 16, 2022

On the few times I’ve had to open up my emergency food, I’m always glad that I stockpiled luxuries like olive spread to jazz up boring crackers, marshmallows to roast on my indoor emergency stove and canned artichokes to serve with my endless rice supply.

But chocolate is by far the best luxury prepping food you can stockpile.

If you are thinking of storing chocolate long-term, here is what you need to know about its shelf life, which types of chocolate a best to stockpile, and how to package it.

Does Chocolate Go Bad?

Plain chocolate generally does not go bad in the sense that it becomes unsafe to eat.  This is because chocolate has very little moisture in it and is considered “microbiologically safe.”

However, if stored for a long time, the fats in chocolate can go rancid and give it a bad taste. The good news is that cocoa in chocolate contains natural antioxidants, so the chocolate doesn’t go rancid as quickly as other fatty foods like powdered milk or cooking oil.

Chocolate can also change in appearance and texture when stored for a long time.  The fats and sugars can migrate to the outside and cause “bloom” – a whitish film on the outside of the chocolate.  It is still safe to eat but does not look as appealing. 

Chocolate Shelf Life

The shelf life of chocolate is approximately 9-24 months. It varies depending on the type of chocolate and storage conditions.  Dark chocolate has the longest shelf life followed by plain milk chocolate.  White chocolate and chocolates with fillings have shorter shelf lives.

Note that these shelf life guidelines do not indicate when the chocolate will become unsafe to eat.  Rather, they are a guideline of how long it will take before the chocolate develops bloom, changes texture or becomes rancid.

*Temperate conditions means 26.6 °F to 64.4 °F.  Tropical conditions are above 64.4°F.

Type of ChocolateTemperate ConditionsTropical Conditions
Dark Chocolate24 months24 months
Milk Chocolate16 months12 months
White Chocolate16 months12 months
Chocolate with Cream Filling18 months12 months
Chocolate with Nuts12 months9 months

Is It Safe to Eat Expired Chocolate?

It is generally safe to eat expired chocolate.  If the fats have started to go rancid, it may have an unpleasant sour taste but it should not make you sick.  There are some rare cases where chocolate caused Salmonella poisoning, but it is highly unlikely that you’d get food poisoning from eating expired chocolate.

To play it safe, be on the lookout for signs of bacterial growth, such as a fuzzy green film on the chocolate.  It is easy to confuse chocolate bloom with bacteria growth though.

Below are some pictures of chocolate with sugar bloom and fat bloom.  It is not mold and they are safe to eat.

fat bloom on old chocolate chips

fat and sugar bloom on old chocolate

Which Type of Chocolate Is Best for Long-Term Storage?

If you want to store chocolate long-term for emergency preparedness, then opt for plain dark chocolate.

Milk chocolate is also okay for long-term storage but choose bars that have stabilizers like antioxidants or soy lecithin added to them.  Avoid any chocolate which has nuts, fruits, creams, or wafers inside.

How to Store Chocolate Long Term

1. Keep It Cool

Temperature is the most important thing for long-term chocolate storage.  Warm temperatures can cause the fats in the chocolate to go rancid.  Try to keep the chocolate in a cool place that is less than room temperature.

2. Repackage in Airtight Packaging

Oxygen will also cause the fats in chocolate to oxidize.  Exposure to humid air can also cause the chocolate to get wet, which may allow bacteria to grow in the chocolate.

To prevent this, you can repackage the chocolate in airtight packaging.  Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers is the best option.  Vacuum sealer bags are not a good long-term solution because the bags will eventually allow air and moisture through.

Normally you would need to remove food from its original packaging before putting it in Mylar.  This is not the case with chocolate: you can put wrapped bars directly into the Mylar.  The reason is that, unlike with packages of crackers or cereal, there’s very little air around the wrapped chocolate bar.

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3. If Kept in Original Packaging

While Mylar + oxygen absorbers are the best way to store chocolate long-term, you can also just keep chocolate in its original packaging.   In this case, you need to make sure it is kept somewhere cool, dry, and dark.

Ideally, you would rotate through the chocolate within 2 years.  This obviously limits the amount of chocolate you can stockpile for emergencies though.

Do you stockpile chocolate for emergency prep? Let us know what other luxury items you have stockpiled in the comments section below.

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  1. While in the Marines, I ate “survival” chocolate bars that were at least 10 years old. They were probably 95% dark chocolate and had that white “bloom” you mention in the article. They seemed fine to eat.

    Thanks for writing. Excellent information.

    Reply
        • If you use a 1-gallon mylar bag or 1-gallon jar, then you would use 1-2 300cc oxygen absorbers. So, a total of 300-600cc OA. I hope that helps.

          Reply
        • I’d use at least 625cc for a 1-gallon bag. If you want to play it really safe, throw in an extra OA. It’s hard to tell how much air is INSIDE the actual cookies in addition to around them.

          Reply
  2. Would a moisture absorber help as well? Mylar, Oxygen absorber, and desiccant, that overkill or not really add shelf time?

    Reply
    • For chocolate, you really don’t need a desiccant. They are for foods which absorb moisture, like dried fruit. In any case, when using desiccants andOAs together, the desiccant needs to be at the BOTTOM of the Mylar bag and the OA on the top (because OAs need a tiny bit of moisture to work).

      Reply

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