Cinnamon is a staple spice that many of us keep in our pantries throughout the year.
It’s used in both sweet and savory dishes, and while cinnamon flavors are more popular during the fall and winter months, you never know when you might want to add a pinch of cinnamon to baked goods or a cup of coffee.
Because cinnamon is such a delicious and versatile spice, it’s not unusual for home cooks to keep a fairly constant supply of this flavoring in the back of the cupboard at all times, whether it’s in ground, stick, or sugar form.
However, keeping cinnamon of any kind for a long period of time brings up an important question: does cinnamon expire?
Read on to find out how long you can expect ground cinnamon, cinnamon sticks, and even cinnamon sugar to last in your pantry.
We’ll also be covering how to tell whether cinnamon has expired and how to store cinnamon for maximum longevity.
Ground Cinnamon Shelf Life
Ground cinnamon usually has a shelf life of anywhere from a year to 2 years.
This means that if you buy a jar of cinnamon for the holiday season and don’t use it all up, you can normally rely on it to still be good by the time the holidays roll around next year – as long as you store it properly, of course!
Moreover, while it’s always a good idea to check the smell and flavor of your ground cinnamon after these 1-2 years before you use it, ground cinnamon tends to retain its quality for a minimum of 6 months beyond this point, and even after that, it’s still safe to consume even if it’s not as aromatic or flavorful.
The thing to remember is that the best-before date on cinnamon packaging isn’t actually an expiration date.
Expiration dates are put on labels to let you know when a product will be spoiled and unsafe to consume, whereas best-before dates are just there to indicate when a product is at its best in terms of quality.
Will Ground Cinnamon Expire?
So, will your ground cinnamon expire? Probably not for many years as long as you don’t leave it exposed to air and other potential contaminants.
Ground cinnamon will lose its potency after a few years, even if it’s stored carefully, but it shouldn’t actually go bad or become unsafe for human consumption.
Even after 3 years, you can normally still safely use that ground cinnamon in the back of your pantry.
However, if you don’t store your cinnamon properly or allow it to get contaminated with other food particles, it can spoil. In that case, you’ll want to throw the cinnamon out because it may not be good for you.
For example, if pantry bugs get into your cinnamon, you definitely won’t want to eat it. Similarly, if water is allowed to get inside your cinnamon container, it can cause wet spots that will eventually develop into mold.
Consuming moldy food can be dangerous, so in this situation, please throw out the cinnamon and buy some more – it’s just not worth the risk.
Your cinnamon might still be okay if it’s been contaminated with dried particles from other foods (for example, other dried spices), but any wet food contamination is a sign to throw the cinnamon away.
If you do a smell and flavor test (more on that in a moment) and find that either the taste or aroma is ‘off’ in any way, it’s best to err on the side of caution and replace your cinnamon.
How Long Does Ground Cinnamon Remain Potent?
We’ve already established that ground cinnamon shouldn’t expire for many years as long as it’s kept in the right conditions, but there’s a difference between cinnamon that is fresh and potent and old cinnamon that’s still safe for use.
Ground cinnamon stays potent until the date on the packaging, and maybe some months beyond that. So, usually, properly-stored ground cinnamon will still be potent 2 to 3 years after you buy it.
Ground Cinnamon Flavor Check
If the date on your ground cinnamon’s packaging has passed or you suspect the spice may have been exposed to air, it’s best to check the smell and flavor before you use the cinnamon.
Simply pick up a pinch of cinnamon using your fingers and hold it to your nose – not too close, you don’t want to actually inhale it!
If the cinnamon is still potent it should smell strong and the scent shouldn’t be off in any way. To double check, put a small amount of cinnamon on your tongue to taste it. Again, potent cinnamon should have a powerful flavor.
If the smell or taste of the cinnamon is a little weak, you can simply add more than your recipe calls for. However, if there’s something really odd about the taste, throw it out.
Cinnamon Sticks’ Shelf Life
Cinnamon sticks last longer than ground cinnamon, which is a good thing since most people get more use out of ground cinnamon and cinnamon sugar (see below) than cinnamon in stick form.
Most cinnamon sticks will come with a best-before date of between 3 years and 4 years, but months to years can go by after this date before cinnamon sticks will actually lose potency or go off.
Do Cinnamon Sticks Expire?
Improperly stored cinnamon sticks may go bad because exposure to air and moisture can result in mold, and openings in the packaging can allow pantry bugs to make their way inside.
As long as you store your cinnamon sticks correctly, you don’t really need to worry about them expiring.
Checking If Cinnamon Sticks Are Still Good
The best way to conduct a smell and taste test for cinnamon sticks is to remove a cinnamon stick from the packaging and use a grater or knife to grate a small amount of cinnamon off the stick.
Rub the grated piece of cinnamon between your thumb and forefinger and smell the powder before tasting it.
As long as the flavor remains in some capacity, you can still use the cinnamon sticks, although if the taste has lessened, you may need to adjust the quantities when cooking.
Complete lack of flavor or a strange taste or smell means you should probably throw the sticks away.
What About Cinnamon Sugar?
Cinnamon sugar has roughly the same shelf life as ground cinnamon (1 to 2 years according to the label, but realistically, probably a few months to a couple of years longer in the right conditions).
Since sugar has a very long shelf life, it’s mostly the quality of the cinnamon that will determine how long your cinnamon sugar is good to use.
The Best Way To Store Cinnamon
Regardless of what form of cinnamon you’re using (ground, sticks, or sugar), your chosen storage space should be cool and dry.
You should always store your cinnamon in an airtight container, whether that’s a bag with an airtight seal or a tightly sealed spice jar. This will prevent moisture, air, or bugs from getting in and spoiling your cinnamon.
According to packaging labels, ground cinnamon and cinnamon sugar last for up to 2 years while cinnamon sticks have a shelf life of 3 to 4 years.
However, all forms of cinnamon can be used well beyond the best-before date as long as they’re stored in a cool and dry area inside an airtight container.
A quick smell and taste test can tell you if your cinnamon has lost its potency and whether you can keep using it in larger quantities or whether you should throw it away.
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