Food & Recipes

Does Chocolate Go Bad — And How Do You Store It Properly?

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Having leftover chocolate might not sound like a problem, but sometimes we’re not sure how long it stays safe to eat. Does chocolate go bad? Signs like little white spots or a less intense chocolatey smell have caused us to ask this question while hunting through our cupboards for something to satisfy our sweet tooth.

First off, we know chocolate tends to be considered an indulgent snack, but let’s remember that its got plenty of health benefits, like lowering blood pressure and fighting chronic inflammation, too. But of course, enjoying it in moderation is the key to getting those perks, and knowing how to properly store your leftover stash can make it easier to eat just a small portion and save some for later.

Keep reading to find out how long chocolate can last, how to tell if it’s gone bad, and tips on how to store chocolate correctly.

How can you tell if chocolate has gone bad?

When we think about food that’s gone bad, we often have an image of it getting moldy. For chocolate, it can be a little more difficult to tell just by looking at it. Kate Steffens, a chocolate expert for Menuism, shared some tricks with HuffPost for using a couple other senses to decide if it’s safe to consume.

Steffens compared chocolate to a sponge: The longer it sits in your pantry or fridge, the more likely it is to take on other odors. So giving it a “sniff-test” is a good way to see if it smells bad or unpleasant. If it’s absorbed the scent of pungent foods like onions or fish, then we probably don’t want to bite into whether it’s gone bad or not.

Another way to tell is by tasting a tiny corner of it. Try to take the smallest nibble you can, which should still be safe to consume even if it’s gone bad, while still getting enough to taste. You want to make sure the flavor doesn’t have an overpowering bitterness (unless it’s a dark bittersweet kind) or rancid taste. If it does, it’s unsafe and certainly won’t do the job of satisfying your sweet tooth anyway. Toss it in the trash!

Can you eat chocolate with white spots on it?

You might notice chocolate developing a white coating known as a “bloom.” This happens when the sugar or fat start to separate and crystalize on the surface. It might look like it’s gone moldy, but it’s still perfectly edible and usually doesn’t affect the taste. However, it might be better to melt it down and bake a batch of brownies or truffles to disguise any of the discoloration rather than eating it plain.

Can you still eat expired chocolate?

Certain foods require paying attention to the expiration dates or else you might get sick (like if you accidentally ate moldy bread). Chocolate, on the other hand, has some leeway. It’s still considered safe to eat even three to four months after the expiration date, but the taste and the quality of the chocolate will start to decline past that time.

Can old chocolate cause food poisoning?

Eating chocolate that’s past its expiration date shouldn’t cause food poisoning as long as it’s been stored the right way. That said, when any food is not stored or handled properly, it can increase the likelihood of getting food-borne illness, according to the USDA.

When this happens, bacteria and viruses can creep into the food causing you to experience symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, and a fever, which can last anywhere from 24 hours or up to a week.

Although it’s rare for old chocolate to cause food poisoning, storing it correctly is an easy step to make sure you’re preventing an upset stomach after indulging your sweet tooth. You don’t want the painful symptoms to turn you off from eat chocolate again — what a nightmare!

How long does it last in the fridge?

To avoid frantically searching “Does chocolate go bad?” online, properly storing it to begin with can save you a lot of time and money. Keeping it in a plastic zip bag in your fridge can prolong its ability to be enjoyed months or even years past the expiration date and protect its freshness and flavor from other fridge odors.

According to PureWow, there are some handy tips for storing different kinds of chocolate to keep in mind:

  • A bar of milk chocolate can last up to a year in the fridge as long as the wrapper isn’t opened. If the packaging has been opened, it’ll last eight to ten months in a plastic zip bag. 
  • Baking, bittersweet, or semi-sweet chocolate can be put in a baggie and left in the fridge for up to two years (which also applies at room temperature) since they contain less dairy than other kinds.
  • If you got a bar of unopened dark chocolate and just haven’t snacked on it yet, you’ve got about two years to do so if you store it in the fridge. On the other hand if you have any leftover squares of dark chocolate in a plastic bag, they can keep for up to a year. 
  • And for all of the chocolate chip lovers, they’ll last for two to three years with a twist tie or rubber band keeping the bag airtight between uses.

How long does it last unrefrigerated?

Our fridge can get a little crowded at times and extra bars of chocolate might just not make the cut. Luckily, experts at The Kitchn shared clever ways of storing it in your pantry. The first thing to keep in mind is to avoid storing it near intense heat sources, like the stove or dishwasher, so that it won’t melt.

Pick a cabinet that’s in a cool, dry place in your kitchen and follow these storage tips for each kind of chocolate:

  • Dark chocolate bars can be tightly wrapped in separate plastic zip bags and tucked away for two years. 
  • Milk and white chocolate bars can be stored in a similar way to dark, but will keep for about a year.
  • Bags of chocolate chips can keep for up to two years — just make sure that you use a rubber band or twist tie to keep it sealed and prevent chips from spilling everywhere.

What can I do with out-of-date chocolate?

Considering chocolate can still be used past its expiration date, you might as well get creative with how you cook with it! This is usually a better option than just eating it on its own because some of the flavor can get lost over time.

Try melting a few squares into some hot cocoa or shaving it on top for garnish. Although it’s considered a cold weather classic drink, there’s nothing stopping you from making it all year round — especially when it can help block fat storage, boost metabolism, and stabilize blood sugar.

For a simple home baking hack, you can chop up your desired amount of chocolate and add it to a store bought brownie mix before putting it in the oven. This is an easy way to make the finished dessert taste like you made it from scratch.

Or if you have some mayo in the fridge, then you can whip up a chocolate mayonnaise cake. It might sound weird to put the condiment in cake batter, but it’s basically emulsified eggs and oil, which are common ingredients in baked goods anyway and make it taste extra delicious.

Whichever way you choose to use up your chocolate, you can’t really go wrong. And with these tips for storing it, it’s easy to enjoy it for much longer than you might think!

Want to stay on top of your food’s freshness? Check out our guides for how to store Halloween candy, how to store bread, and nine foods you can eat past their expiration date.

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