Here’s Why Expired Cocoa Powder Is Still Fine to Use

There's no need to toss that year-old jar just yet.

As any waste-conscious cook will probably tell you, plenty of foods are safe long after their expiration dates. But when it comes to dry goods like spices or cocoa powder, you might be wondering how much the taste will change after the expiration date. So, does cocoa powder expire? The answer might surprise you. (If you’re not sure about an item in your fridge, here’s how long it’s safe to keep foods past their expiration date.)

Is expired cocoa powder safe to use?

We’ve all been there: In the middle of baking a tasty chocolate cake recipe, and we see our cocoa is out of date. We don’t want to abandon the batter, but we also don’t want to make anyone sick by using an expired ingredient. There’s good news here! It is safe to use.

But how long will it last?

Cocoa powder doesn’t spoil so it won’t cause you to become ill. Instead, it starts to lose potency over time.

Cooks Illustrated conducted a test to determine if cocoa still tasted good months and years after it’s considered expired. The team’s taste testers couldn’t tell a difference between cookies baked with fresh cocoa powder and cocoa powder that was a year or two old. But when the team tried out six-year-old cocoa powder, the taste testers did notice the difference. (For a tasty way to use up that cocoa powder before the six-year mark, try making this chocolate cake with cocoa frosting.)

So as long as you use that cocoa within a year or two of that stamped date on the carton, you should still be able to enjoy delicious chocolate treats.

How to extend its (already long) shelf life

In order to maximize your cocoa powder’s shelf life, you’ll want to keep it in a dry, cool place. And make sure the lid on the container is airtight, too. But as long as it’s not moldy and it doesn’t have an unpleasant odor (key indicators of anything being too old to eat), there’s no reason to toss a jar of cocoa powder that’s a year or two past its expiration date. And now that buying a new jar isn’t on your to-do list, you can sit back and think about all of the chocolaty recipes to make with your original cocoa powder jar.

Next, find out the difference between Dutch process and regular cocoa powder.

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Meghan De Maria
Meghan is an entertainment and lifestyle writer with a soft spot for nostalgic snack foods. Whether it's a new Pop-Tarts flavor or a new menu item at Taco Bell, there's nothing she won't try in the name of research... or just in the name of a junk food craving.