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Does cocoa powder go bad?

Cocoa contains flavonols, which act like a natural preservative, so cocoa powder has a long shelf life. It will go bad eventually, but as long as you store it correctly (see below), it should stay fresh for at least three years, even after it’s been opened. 

Your cocoa powder will have a ‘best-before’ date on it. The taste might start to gradually mellow after that date or it might go a bit ‘clumpy’, but it’s unlikely you’ll notice much difference. It’s still safe to eat as long as it doesn’t feel moist or smell unpleasant. 

Does chocolate go bad?

Similar to cocoa, chocolate has a long shelf life. Dark chocolate, in particular, can stay fresh for a very long time. Chocolates don’t have an expiry date, but they do have a best-before date. After this date, the chocolate might eventually start to lose some of its flavour. It may also go slightly gritty or discoloured. This usually doesn’t happen for quite a while after the best-before date and doesn’t make it unsafe to eat. 

Save money on chocolate and cocoa

Who doesn’t love a bargain? At Food Thoughts, we sell cocoa powder, chocolate chips and other products at a discount when they’re nearing their best-before date. They’re still perfectly fine to eat and bake with.  Food Thoughts’ CEO Fiona Esom has no qualms about using cocoa powder that’s past its best-before date: “I recently used some that supposedly expired two years ago. I honestly couldn’t tell any difference.”

Choose from our range of discounted powders, chocolate chips and nibs.

How to store cocoa powder

It’s important to keep your cocoa powder away from moisture and too much heat. So, keep it in a cool, dry place. A kitchen cupboard is ideal. 

cocoa powder stored in air tight container

If your kitchen often gets very steamy, you might want to keep your cocoa powder in an airtight container. Otherwise, it’s fine to just leave it in the tub. Make sure the lid is firmly in place to stop too much oxygen getting to the cocoa powder. 

Remember to only use a dry, clean spoon to scoop the powder out. If you use a wet spoon, it introduces moisture so the cocoa powder will spoil much quicker. 

Can you freeze cocoa powder?

You can freeze cocoa powder, but it’s not usually necessary. We only recommend it if your kitchen is often very hot or humid. You’ll need to transfer the cocoa powder to an airtight container before you freeze it. 

Out-of-date cocoa and chocolate: All your questions answered

Does cocoa powder expire?

Cocoa powder doesn’t have an expiration or use-by date. It does have a best-before date, but it’s still safe to eat after this date has passed. 

How long does cocoa powder last once opened?

Cocoa powder is best to eat within three years of opening, but it’s usually still safe to eat after this. 

How can you tell if cocoa powder has gone bad?

If you think your cocoa powder has gone off, do the following checks:

  • Can you see any mould growing on the cocoa powder?
  • Does it smell unpleasant?
  • Rub some of the powder between your fingertips. Does it feel moist?

If the answer to all of these is ‘no’, the cocoa powder is most likely still fine to use. Cocoa powder can discolour slightly if the fats start to separate. This is nothing to worry about. It can also occasionally go a bit gritty after a while, especially if it’s been exposed to heat. Again. it’s still safe to eat, but it might affect the texture of your bake slightly. 

Can you cook with expired cocoa powder?

Yes, you can cook with expired cocoa powder as long as it doesn’t smell bad or feel moist. The cocoa powder will eventually start to lose some of its flavour, but it’s unlikely you’ll notice much difference within a year or so of the best-before date. 

Can chocolate go out of date?

Chocolate doesn’t have an expiry date and is usually fine to eat for several months after the best-before date. So, if you’re wondering “Can you eat out-of-date chocolate?”, the answer is yes. 

Is it safe to eat chocolate after the expiration date?

Yes, it’s perfectly safe to eat chocolate after the date on the wrapper, as long as it doesn’t smell bad or taste funny. 

How long can you eat chocolate after the expiration date?

There’s no hard and fast rule here. As long as the chocolate doesn’t smell unpleasant or taste funny, it’s usually safe to eat. However, the flavour can start to reduce in time. You probably won’t notice much difference if you’re eating chocolate just a few months after its best-before date, but after five months or so, you might find it doesn’t taste quite as rich and flavoursome. Dark chocolate tends to have the longest shelf life.

How long can you eat chocolate after it’s opened?

If you’ve opened a chocolate bar or packet of chocolate chips, and can resist eating it all, we recommend storing it in an airtight container. As long as you do this, the chocolate should stay fresh for several weeks or even longer. 

How can you tell if chocolate has gone bad?

If the chocolate smells OK, taste a small portion. If it tastes good, then you should be fine to eat the rest. 

Chocolate sometimes gets white patches of discolouration when the sugar crystallises or the fat splits. This tends to happen because the chocolate has been exposed to moisture (for example if you live in a humid climate) or because it’s been stored in the fridge. These patches don’t mean you can’t eat the chocolate, but the texture might not be quite as pleasant. 

Can you use expired cocoa powder without getting ill?

Cocoa powder is very unlikely to ever give you food poisoning. However, it might give you an upset stomach if it’s gone rancid. To check, just give it a good sniff. If it doesn’t smell unpleasant, feel damp or have signs of mould, it’s usually fine to eat, even years after the expiry date. 

Can I get food poisoning from out-of-date food?

Some food should never be eaten past its use-by date, especially meat, fish, eggs and dairy products. That said, if you buy something from the chilled cabinet and then freeze it straightaway, it’s usually safe to eat several months’ later. Most food that you keep in the fridge can be frozen, including milk and cheese. 

You can also cook something on its use-by date, let it cool and keep it in the fridge for up to two days before eating it. Some food can be frozen once cooked, such as potatoes! 

If something has a ‘best-before’ date rather than a ‘use-by’ date, it’s usually fine to eat for quite a while afterwards. Cocoa and chocolate are perfectly safe to eat past their best-before date. 

What’s the difference between ‘use-by’ and ‘best-before’?

According to the Food Standards Agency, use-by dates are about safety and best-before dates are about quality. In other words, if something is past its use-by date, it’s not safe to eat (unless it has been cooked or frozen before the date). But if something is past its best-before date, it can usually be eaten safely. Cocoa and chocolate have ‘best-before’, ‘best-by’ or ‘best-until’ dates, so they’re safe to eat after the expiration date. Just check that there’s no mould or unpleasant smell. 

How can I tell if out-of-date food is safe to eat?

If the product is past its use-by date, and hasn’t been cooked or frozen before that date, throw it away. Eating it now could mean that you’re risking a nasty dose of food poisoning. However, if it’s only past its best-before date, check for mould or discolouration, and give it a sniff. If all seems fine, it’s probably safe to eat. 

Where can I buy cheap out-of-date food?

Several websites now sell food past its best-before date. Best Before it’s Gone, for example, sells everything from soup to soft drinks. 

At Food Thoughts, we offer a discount on products that are nearing their best-before dates. They’re still safe to eat. And they still taste great. Have a look – you will be pleasantly surprised!