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This Is Exactly How Long Baking Staples Last

How long does flour last? What about sugar? Chocolate chips? Here's how long your baking staples will keep in the pantry so you can bake your best.

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Chart on shelf life of baking staples shortenedClaire Krieger/Taste of Home

If you’re a keen baker like myself, you like to have a well-stocked pantry so you can bake almost anything at any time. When my cookie cravings hit, I want chocolate chips and vanilla extract at the ready for these giant chocolate chip cookies. And when I get asked to make a birthday cake for a last-minute party, I need to have plenty of confectioners’ sugar on hand.

Part of having a baker’s pantry, though, is making sure that all your ingredients are fresh and ready for action. The good news is that many baking staples have long shelf lives (much like these foods that never expire). When kept in sealed containers in a cool place, baking staples will last you a good, long while. Here’s how long the most common baking ingredients will last in the pantry.

 

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1. Baking Powder

How long does it last: One year

How to store baking powder: Keep it in a sealed container

It’s surprising to even serious bakers, but baking powder doesn’t last forever. It can lose its effectiveness over time. If you’re unsure if your supply is still powerful enough to give your bakes lift, learn how to test baking powder.

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2. Baking Soda

How long does it last: Up to three years

How to store baking soda: Don’t keep baking soda in its cardboard packaging. Transfer to an airtight container.

Baking soda, like baking powder, can lose potency over time (using the expired stuff won’t hurt you—it just won’t be effective in your recipes). You can keep an unopened package in the pantry for up to three years without much consequence. Once opened, try to use it within six months, though you can extend the life by a few years by moving it from that cardboard box to a glass jar or canister. Here are 17 of the most brilliant ways to fix things with baking soda.

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3. Chocolate Chips

How long do they last: Up to two years

How to store chocolate chips and other baking chocolate: Keep them sealed in the original bag or transfer to an airtight container. Make sure you know this step almost everyone makes when making cookies.

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4. Cocoa Powder

How long does it last: About three years

How to store cocoa powder: Keep cocoa powder in an airtight container in the pantry away from direct sunlight and heat.

Cocoa powder that’s past its “best by” date won’t do you any harm. However, that cocoa flavor you’re looking for won’t be as strong. Do your best to use cocoa powder within a year or so of that preferred date. Here’s the difference between cacao and cocoa.

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5. Confectioners’ Sugar

How long does it last: Forever if unopened; two years once opened

How to store confectioners’ sugar: Keep confectioners’ sugar in an airtight container much like other baking essentials. Here are 35 recipes you should know before you turn 35.

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6. Cooking Oils

How long do they last: Up to two years

How to store cooking oils: Keep them in the pantry and out of direct sunlight and heat. Make sure you know the scary reason why you shouldn’t reuse cooking oil.

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Cream corn starchClaire Krieger/Taste of Home

7. Corn Starch

How long does it last: Forever

How to store corn starch: Keep corn starch its original container, stored in a cool, dark place away from moisture. Corn starch starts to dissolve the second it hits water, so make sure it’s safe from any spills or leaks. Here are 20 genius uses for cornstarch you’ll wish you already knew.

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pouring corn syrupJupiterimages/Getty Images

8. Corn Syrup

How long does it last: Forever

How to store corn starch: Keep corn syrup sealed tightly and stored in the pantry. If corn could talk, here’s what it would tell you.

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9. Dried Fruit

How long does it last: One year

How to store dried fruit: Keep dried fruits in their sealed packages or transfer to tightly sealed containers. You can extend their shelf life by six months popping them in the freezer. Here are the best granola brands you should try.

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10. Extracts

How long they lasts: Forever

How to store vanilla and other extracts: Keep extracts in a dark container, away from sunlight, heat sources, and moisture.

Extracts are essentially liquor, so they keep indefinitely. Keep them in their original bottles. If you make your own extract, keep the extract in a dark-hued bottle for best results. Vanilla extract is the one ingredient this baker uses in all of her baked goods.

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11. Flour

How long does it last: Up to two years

How to store flour: Don’t store flour in the paper bag its sold in. Transfer it to an airtight container.

It might seem silly, but you can freeze flour to extend its shelf life. If you’re a regular baker, you’ll likely never have to rely on the chill chest to keep your flour fresh, but it’s good to keep in mind if you’re not using flour regularly. This is the real difference between all-purpose flour and bread flour.

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Four bottles of food coloring.tmcnem/Getty Images

12. Food Dye

How long does it last: Forever

How to store food dye: Keep food dyes in their original containers and be sure to seal them securely. Keep your collection together in a larger sealed container to prevent any leaks (no one likes cleaning up spilled red food dye). Here are a few homemade dyes you can make yourself.

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Organic Black Cane Sugar Molassesbhofack2/Getty Images

13. Molasses

How long it lasts: Up to 10 years if unopened, up to five once opened

How to store molasses: You can keep your molasses in the pantry with the rest of your baking supplies. Make sure the cap is on tight. Here’s the difference between blackstrap, dark, and light molasses.

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14. Nuts

How long do they last: Up to two years

How to store nuts: Keep them in a cool, dark, dry place and store them in their sealed original package or in an airtight container once opened.

If you keep nuts in the pantry, be sure to eat them within a year (or by the best-by date). The freezer is a great place to store them if you want to ensure their freshness. They’ll keep in the freezer for two years—that’s lots of time to make your way through this collection of great nut-centric recipes. Here’s the reason why peanuts aren’t actually considered nuts.

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15. Oats

How long they last: Up to two years

How to store oats: If you plan on keeping your oats long-term (for more than a year), remove them from the cardboard canister and transfer them to an airtight container. If oatmeal could talk, here’s what it would tell you.

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16. Peanut Butter

How long it lasts: One year

How to store peanut butter: Keep it in the pantry. Extend its life for another three months by keeping peanut butter in the fridge.

Be sure to use opened jars of peanut butter within about three months of opening. Here are 9 genius kitchen hacks to keep last week’s groceries fresh.

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Salt containers on countertopClaire Krieger/Taste of Home

17. Salt

How long it lasts: Forever

How to store salt: Keep salt in a cool, dark, dry place, where temperatures remain constant. Here are 13 things you probably never knew about salt.

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18. Shortening

How long it lasts: Up to two years

How to store shortening: You can keep shortening in the pantry, though if you live in a warm climate, you can also stash it in the fridge.

Unopened, shortening will keep for two years according to Crisco. Use opened packages within a year.

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19. Shredded Coconut

How long it lasts: Up to a year

How to store shredded coconut: Unopened, shredded coconut lasts for a year. You can prolong the shelf life for another year by keeping it in the freezer. Once opened, keep it sealed in a bag or container.

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20. Spices

How long they last: Up to four years

How to store spices: Store spices in airtight jars in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

Spices don’t last forever, but if stored properly, they can stay in your spice rack for up to four years. Whole spices—whole cloves, whole nutmeg, cinnamon sticks, etc.—can last four years. If you prefer your baking spices pre-ground, be sure to use them within three years. Spices used past their prime won’t hurt you (much like cocoa powder), but they aren’t as flavorful. So if you want sweet and spicy gingersnaps, make sure that ground ginger and cinnamon is fresh. Here’s more information on how long spices really last.

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21. Sprinkles

How long do they last: Five years

How to store sprinkles: Store them in sealed jars or other airtight containers

Since sprinkles and other edible decorations are mostly sugar, they aren’t prone to going bad. Moisture is the enemy here—it can cause decorative sugars to clump or colored sprinkles to discolor, so keep it away from these decorations.

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22. Sugar

How long it lasts: Forever

How to store sugar: Keep sugar in a dark, dry place. An airtight container is best.

Brown sugar also keeps for a long time since sugar and molasses have extensive shelf lives. As many home bakers know, brown sugar does get hard after a while. It’s not the end of the world—you can soften brown sugar with a slice of bread or a few marshmallows tossed in the canister. Here’s the difference between light and dark brown sugar.

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23. Yeast

How long it lasts: Up to two years

How to store yeast: Keep yeast in a cool, dark, dry place

Try to use yeast by the best-by date marked on the package. You can extend its life by stashing it in the freezer for up to two years. If you have yeast that is past its prime, don’t count it out. Test the yeast—you might find it’s still active and ready for homemade bread.

Now that you know how long all of your baking staples last, grab your label maker, mark all the packages with correct dates, and keep baking! Next, here’s what the terms “best by,” “sell by,” and “use by” actually mean.

Originally Published on Taste of Home