Does Honey Go Bad? Here’s What You Need to Know About the Shelf-life of This Pantry Staple

We love it in everything from meat marinades and salad dressings to sleepy time tea. Yep, honey is pretty much the bee’s knees. (Sorry, couldn’t help it.) That said, we tend to use this super sweet stuff in small quantities, which brings us to the question of the day: Does honey go bad? Read on for everything you need to know about the shelf-life of this pantry staple. (Spoiler: You don’t ever have to worry about a neglected jar of honey being unsafe to eat.)

How to Tell If Potatoes Are Bad (and How to Keep Them Fresh in the First Place)

does honey go bad cat
Janie Airey/Getty Images

Does honey go bad?

Ultimately, the answer to this question is no, honey does not go bad. In fact, honey is the only food that doesn’t spoil in the true sense of the word. However, that doesn’t mean it will taste as delicious after gathering dust in your pantry for years as it did the day you brought it home from the store. Allow us—or rather the National Honey Board—to explain: “Honey stored in sealed containers can remain stable for decades and even centuries! However, honey is susceptible to physical and chemical changes during storage…these are temperature-dependent processes, [which make] the shelf life of honey difficult to define.” As such, the experts at the National Honey Board say that your best bet is to assume your jar of honey has a shelf life of one to two years, and consider bidding it adieu after that.

How do I know if my honey is bad?

When it comes to whether or not honey has gone bad, it’s really just a matter of determining whether the honey in your pantry is at its best, or if it has begun to decline in terms of flavor and texture, due to the aforementioned physical and chemical changes. Per the National Honey Board, some indications of such decline include a darkening in color, loss of aroma and crystallization.

Does expired honey make you sick?

As previously suggested, the question of whether or not to use expired honey has nothing to do with food safety concerns and everything to do with quality. In general, expiration dates are relatively arbitrary and are assigned by the manufacturer to indicate peak quality. In other words, even products that are known to spoil cannot be judged by expiration dates when it comes to freshness and food safety. As far as honey is concerned, you’re in the clear, regardless of how long that cute little teddy bear bottle has been languishing in your kitchen: Expired honey will not make you sick (but if it has crystallized it might be a real pain to squeeze out into a cup of tea).

How to properly store honey

The pantry is hands-down the best place to store this shelf-stable product. Most of us rely on the refrigerator to extend the life of food items—and for good reason—but this does not hold true for honey. In fact, storing a jar of honey in the fridge will do more harm than good, as the cold temperature causes rapid crystallization of the sticky, sugary goodness within. Of course, you’re free to stash your honey in the fridge if you don’t mind your sweetener on the chewy side, but room temperature is your friend if you want to keep that (viscous) gold flowing freely. Again, storage conditions have no bearing on whether or not your honey is safe to consume—namely ‘cause the stuff just doesn’t go bad.

My honey has crystallized. Now what?

Oops! In an abundance of caution, you sent your jar or bottle of honey straight to the fridge before stumbling upon this article. Fear not: You can restore the stuff to its former glory by (you guessed it) introducing heat. A crystallized jar of honey, be it cold or simply old, can be revived after just a few minutes in a hot water bath. That said, honey should be transferred out of any plastic container before attempting this method—particularly if you’re using piping hot water—lest you melt the plastic or cause contaminants from it to leach into the edible stuff.

5 delicious and unexpected ways to use honey

Good news: No matter how long your honey has been hanging around, it won't kill you. Hell, it won’t even give you a mild stomach ache. Celebrate this small blessing by putting honey to use in one of these scrumptious recipes

does honey go bad honey sesame sheet pan cauliflower
does honey go bad hot honey chicken thighs
does honey go bad sweet potato biscuit rolls with honey butter glaze

purewow author
Emma Singer

Freelance PureWow Editor

Emma Singer is a freelance contributing editor and writer at PureWow who has over 7 years of professional proofreading, copyediting and writing experience. At PureWow, she covers...
read full bio