17 Foods That (Almost) Never Expire, from Dry Beans to Honey

They're in it for the long haul

foods with no expiration date: hot sauce, dry pasta and tea, side by side
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When it comes to the shelf life of most foods, there are a lot of dates to remember. Best-by, sell-by, use-by, and when all else fails (read: when the expiration wipes off), there’s always the good ol’ sniff test. (TBH, we trust our nose over all.) Not sure what can stay shelf-stable for the long haul? We've got your back. Just so you don’t need to worry before cracking open that ancient can of tuna, tin of rice or tub of sugar, here are 17 foods that basically never expire, meaning you can enjoy them whenever.

12 Foods You Don’t Need to Refrigerate, from Butter to Hot Sauce

honey list

1. Honey

Thanks to the magical handiwork of bees (they have special enzymes that basically inhibit bacterial growth) and the way honey is processed for storage, it's the longest-lasting food of the bunch. Honey is mostly sugar; its low water content makes it tough for bacteria and mold to live. Its thickness and acidic pH also keep microbial growth at bay, says Eating Well.

As long as it's properly stored and uncontaminated, it'll last indefinitely. Keep the container tightly sealed to avoid crystallization, but if your honey hardens over time, just place the jar in a bowl of warm water and stir gently until it melts.

rice list

2. Rice

White, wild, jasmine or basmati—rice keeps for years. Just make sure to store your grains in a tightly sealed container so dust, moisture and pesky little bugs don't get in. The only exception? Brown rice and other whole grain rices, which have natural oils in the bran that cause them to go rancid faster, according to USA Rice, an organization supporting the rice industry in America. (The milling and polishing process that makes white rice removes some of the oil and fat content, says Healthline.) Still, both types are shelf-stable as long as they're stored in a dry, cool place.

coffee list

3. Instant Coffee

Whenever you’re desperate for a caffeine fix (aka always), it's good to know that the plastic container of Maxwell House in your cabinet is always a safe bet. Instant coffee has a very low moisture content, so unopened jars or packages of it can last years.

As for fresh coffee grounds and whole beans, those won't necessarily go bad either if they stay dry. Once wet, they can grow mold. That said, coffee does lose its quality over time due to oxygen exposure, which will reduce its flavor and intensity. But drinking a cuppa made from old beans won't make you sick, even if it's technically expired.

foods with no expiration date: white vinegar
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4. White Vinegar

Because it's an acid, vinegar has a nearly infinite shelf life, says The Vinegar Institute. That means a big bottle of white, distilled vinegar will remain unchanged to the very last drop, which is great considering we use it for every salad dressing, recipe and stain solution ever.

Bacteria can technically grow on vinegar once it's exposed to air though. If you ever see cloudy sediment in yours, strain it off and move along—it's still good, says Southern Living. (P.S.: Wine, balsamic, apple cider and rice vinegars last for years, but aren't as invincible as white vinegar.)

foods with no expiration date: vanilla extract
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5. Vanilla Extract

The pure, 100 percent vanilla extract that flavors all of our favorite desserts lasts basically forever, thanks to its alcohol content. Keep it in a cool, dark cabinet and you'll be good to go. That said, the flavor may strengthen (due to alcohol evaporation) or weaken over time. If it smells off, it's time to replace the bottle. (BTW, Imitation vanilla extract will also last long past its expiration date, but it tends to fade faster than the real stuff, says Real Simple.)

salt list

6. Salt

Odds are you've wondered (since it seems you'll never finish that giant box you've had in the pantry for years...): does sea salt expire? Salt, or sodium chloride, is a naturally occurring mineral found in the earth. So it’s no surprise that this essential seasoning stays fresh for the long haul. Iodization, however, reduces the shelf life to about five years, so stick to kosher or sea salt for maximum durability, says Readers Digest.

beans list

7. Dried Beans

Dried legumes are the gift that keeps on giving. They contain a ton of protein and fiber, have a lengthy shelf life and, unlike their canned counterparts, are low in sodium. They won't go bad if they're kept in a cool dry place, but they do begin to lose their nutritional value after two to three years, says Good Housekeeping. And after five years, most of their natural vitamins will be gone. But as long as you don't see pantry bugs, mold or smell something off, your beans are fine to use.

foods with no expiration date: sugar
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8. Sugar

Sugar—white, brown and even confectioners'—never spoils because it doesn’t support bacterial growth. You may have to soften it every so often (with a marshmallow) as it does tend to dry out over time. But as long as you keep it away from moisture, it'll last indefinitely, says Food & Wine. Anyone want to bake a cake?

liquor list

9. Hard Liquor

You know that fancy bottle of whiskey that’s been collecting dust in your cabinet since last Christmas (or was it two holidays ago...)? You can take a swig of the stuff whenever you want. Certain boozes can lose flavor over time, but they'll never actually spoil, says Spruce Eats. The exception? Flavored spirits that may contain sugar and additives and low-proof liqueurs. Anything 80 proof will likely outlive you if stored in a cool, dry place.

foods with no expiration date: dry pasta
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10. Dry Pasta

This shelf-stable pantry staple won't go bad in terms of molding or rotting. So essentially, dry noods last forever, but realistically, they taste freshest for two years after buying. (Almost all dry pasta comes with a best-by or best if used by- date, but that's not an expiration date. It’s just the manufacturer's best guess at how long the product will remain at peak freshness.) As for fresh pasta, it should be eaten within two days of purchasing, since it contains moisture and eggs, making it perishable.

foods with no expiration date: dehydrated vegetables and fruits
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11. Freeze-Dried Vegetables and Fruits

Whether it's kale chips or freeze-dried strawberries, produce that has all its water removed basically can't go bad. According to Food & Wine, it can last up to eight years in your pantry with no issues—as long as it doesn't reabsorb any moisture. To keep a close eye, store it in a glass container so you'll be able to see any moisture that collects on the inside, suggests the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

foods with no expiration date: cornstarch
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12. Cornstarch

As long as it's kept in a cool, dry place and remains well sealed when not in use, cornstarch will last you forever. The key here is keeping moisture (and pantry bugs) out. If you manage that and don't notice a sour taste or off color, you're in the clear. Even better, cornstarch doesn't lose its potency over time, so it can be used long after its best-by date, says Real Simple.

foods with no expiration date: canned fish
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13. Tinned Fish

2022's trendiest food lasts a looong time in your cabinet, thanks to the canning process. It removes all the air and vacuum-seals the fish, eradicating any existing microorganisms and keeping new bacteria from getting in. Same goes for other low-acid canned goods, like beans, peas, soups and veggies, according to Real Simple. One caveat? Cans need to be stored in a cool, dry place and away from moisture and extreme temperatures.

foods with no expiration date: powdered milk
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14. Powdered Milk

Buy a carton of nonfat powdered milk now, store it in a cool dry place and it'll be useable for more than 10 years. Oh, and it'll last basically forever if you store it in the freezer, says Eating Well. Both the water and milk fats are extracted to turn it to powder, so it's essentially impervious to spoiling. The more you know.

foods with no expiration date: tea
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15. Tea

Like coffee and herbs, loose and bagged teas don't exactly spoil. They do, however, lose flavor and quality over time. But you won't need to worry about getting sick from a bag of old tea leaves. One rule to keep in mind: Loose tea tends to hold its intensity longer than bagged tea, and dark teas stay fresh for longer than light.

foods with no expiration date: maple syrup
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16. Maple Syrup

Thanks to the sticky stuff's low water content, an unopened bottle of maple syrup can last indefinitely in a cool, dry place, says the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association. Once opened, it'll keep longer in the fridge and forever in the freezer; storing it this way prevents mold. However, if you do see mold, you can still save it: Bring the syrup to a slight boil on the stove, skim the mold off the surface, pour what's left into a clean container and refrigerate.

foods with no expiration date: hot sauce
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17. Hot Sauce

Sure, keeping your collection of spicy sauces in the refrigerator will extend their shelf life. But with all that vinegar and salt (both natural preservatives), they'll likely be just fine in a cool cupboard, if you want to free up space on your fridge door. On the other hand, if your hot sauce is fermented, made with fruit, oil-based or isn't stabilized with vinegar or lemon juice, it should be kept cold to prevent microbial growth, says Epicurious.

taryn pire

Food Editor

Taryn Pire is PureWow’s food editor and has been writing about all things delicious since 2016. She’s developed recipes, reviewed restaurants and investigated food trends at...