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.

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 last a long time). 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.

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

 

1. Baking Powder

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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.

2. Baking Soda

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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.

3. Chocolate Chips

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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.

4. Cocoa Powder

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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.

5. Confectioners’ Sugar

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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.

6. Cooking Oils

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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.

7. Corn Starch

Cream corn starchClaire Krieger/Taste of Home

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.

8. Corn Syrup

Golden Barrel Corn Syrupvia goldenbarrelbp/instagram

How long does it last: Forever

How to store corn starch: Keep corn syrup sealed tightly and stored in the pantry.

9. Dried Fruit

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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.

Need to use up that extra package of Craisins or dried apricots? Mix them into homemade granola.

10. Extracts

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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.

11. Flour

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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.

12. Food Dye

Four bottles of food coloring.tmcnem/Getty Images

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).

13. Molasses

Golden Barrel Molassesvia goldenbarrelbp/instagram

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.

14. Nuts

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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.

15. Oats

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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.

16. Peanut Butter

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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. Need help polishing off a jar? Try these peanut butter recipes.

17. Salt

Salt containers on countertopClaire Krieger/Taste of Home

How long it lasts: Forever

How to store salt: Keep salt in a cool, dark, dry place, where temperatures remain constant.

18. Shortening

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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.

19. Shredded Coconut

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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.

20. Spices

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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.

21. Sprinkles

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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.

22. Sugar

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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.

23. Yeast

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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!

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Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is an associate editor at Taste of Home where she gets to embrace her passion for baking. She pours this love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.