Ingredient Intelligence

Spoiler Alert: Yes, Honey Can Go Bad. Here Is What to Watch For.

updated Jun 24, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Honey is a straight-up wonder ingredient to have on hand. The pantry staple tastes incredible in both sweet and savory dishes, and it also has a reputation for basically never expiring. Sure, sometimes honey can crystalize in the bottle, but that can be quickly remedied with a little low, slow heat. But while honey has an exceptionally long shelf-life, it isn’t completely spoil-proof.

Since you’re very likely to be using honey every day — whether for sweetening tea or making a quick dressing — here’s what you need to know about storing honey, what to watch out for in case of spoilage, and how to know if your honey has gone bad.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Does Honey Go Bad?

Honey is primarily sugars. Sugar is naturally low in moisture, which most bacteria needs to grow and thrive. In order for honey to spoil, it needs moisture or other containments inside its storage container or jar. When tightly sealed in a cool, dark place, honey can last basically forever (there are reports of thousand-year-old honey pots pulled from tombs and full of perfectly preserved honey). However, if honey is left open and exposed — especially in humid environments — it can go bad.

How to Tell If Your Honey Is Spoiled

It is important to note that spoiled honey is a very uncommon experience — especially if the honey has been filtered (most grocery store brands are) and is stored in a cool, dark place. Like most food stuff, a sight and sniff test can determine if the pot of honey you left out for weeks has gone bad. Watch out for physical sightings of mold on the honey’s surface. Good honey has a sweet, slightly acidic smell, but should not smell rancid.

The Best Way to Store Honey for a Long Shelf-Life

Keeping your honey tightly sealed in a jar or bottle in your pantry will make it last for years, if you don’t use it up. Double checking your opened jar for excess moisture or contaminants before you store it will also keep your honey from spoiling after opening and before you use it up.

Some of our Favorite Honey Recipes