Does Chocolate Go Bad?

You just discovered a hidden bag of chocolate chips in the back of your pantry and before you make chocolate chip cookies you are wondering if chocolate goes bad.  Let’s look into that a little deeper.

Quick Answer 

Chocolate purchased from the grocery store, regardless of whether it is white, milk, semi-sweet or dark chocolate will have a sell-by date stamped on the packaging.  This date is a good indicator of the freshness of your chocolate, but it will not definitively state its expiration.  Most chocolate is good for at least a few months after the date on the packaging and may be good even longer depending on how it is stored.  Fine chocolate will have a longer shelf life.

Now that you know your chocolate will last awhile, it’s a good idea to learn how best to store your chocolate so you’ll always have it on hand.

Does Chocolate Go Bad? How Long is Chocolate Good For?

Chocolate does not last forever, but if you know how to store your chocolate and what to look for as it ages you’ll be ready to make and eat all the cookies, brownies, and treats of your dreams.

How Long Does Chocolate Last Outside

All types of chocolate are prone to melting so temperature is very important.  Your chocolate is best stored in a cool, dark place like a pantry that is away from your oven or other sources of heat in your kitchen.  This will help to keep the chocolate as fresh as possible for as long as possible.

Chocolate stored on the counter will last longer on a cooler day than a warm one.  Think about holding a chocolate candy bar in your hand and how fast the chocolate would melt.  That is similar to the melting that will occur on a warm day.

If you’re going to a picnic or an outdoor party and you want to take something chocolate, think about takin chocolate chip cookies.  With the smaller bits of chocolate, the chocolate chip cookies will last far longer and melted chocolate chips are reminiscent of cookies that have just been baked.

How Long Does Chocolate Last in the Fridge

If you live in a warm climate or you’re hoping to keep your chocolate around longer you might be thinking of storing it in your refrigerator.  Refrigeration can prolong the life of your chocolate bars by four to six months and your chocolate chips by six to eight months, but there are a few tips you should keep in mind.

Chocolate can be stored in the refrigerator, but you should be sure to remove as much air as possible from around the chocolate and keep the chocolate in its original packaging.  Packaging for chocolate is designed to keep light out and minimize the amount of air that gets inside.

Chocolate that is not carefully stored can take on the odors of the other things in your refrigerator.  No one wants chocolate that tastes like onions so you’ll want to be careful to keep your chocolate in an air-tight container and store it deeper in your refrigerator to avoid the temperature fluctuations that come with opening and closing the refrigerator door.

How Long Does Chocolate Last in the Freezer

Storing chocolate in your freezer is an excellent way to be sure you always have it on hand for those midnight cravings.  Just like refrigerating chocolate, be mindful of temperature and moisture. Chocolate bars stored in the freezer will last an additional six to eight months and chocolate chips stored in the freezer will be good for up to two or three additional years.

Extreme temperature changes are not good for chocolate.  A white film, called fat bloom, can appear on the chocolate if the temperature changes it endures are too extreme.  The chocolate is perfectly safe to eat, but its texture may change a bit and you may not want to.

Moisture is also bad for your chocolate so you will want to store it in an air-tight freezer-friendly container.  Sugar bloom occurs when chocolate has been exposed to moisture and it can result in a gritty, sugary consistency on the surface of the chocolate.  Again, it’s safe to eat, but you might not want to.

Knowing the best place to keep your chocolate will help you to not only save money as you use it before it goes bad but also to ensure you will always be ready for any chocolate craving.  Being mindful of temperature and moisture when you store your chocolate will help too.

How To Tell If Chocolate Has Gone Bad / How To Know if Chocolate is Fresh

Chocolate is rather delicate and when exposed to temperature changes or moisture, can go bad more quickly than if it were left in a cool, dark place.  Knowing what to look for in your chocolate will ensure you only use the freshest in your recipes.

White film:  Chocolate that has been exposed to temperature swings can develop a white film on it that’s called fat bloom.  Chocolate with this white film is perfectly fine to eat, although its texture or taste may change a bit.

Sugar crystallization:  Chocolate that has been exposed to moisture can develop a gritty crystallization on it that is called sugar bloom.  This is also not harmless and perfectly fine to eat, but given the gritty change in consistency, it may be off-putting instead.

Mold:  Eventually mold can develop on chocolate and in that case, the chocolate should be thrown away and not eaten.  It won’t appear appetizing anyway so you probably won’t want to eat it.

Other ingredients:  Chocolate that is mixed with fruits and nuts, for example, may go bad more quickly than just plain chocolate.  This is more of a function of the fruit and nuts going bad and affecting the chocolate than it is a function of the chocolate going bad and affecting the fruit and nuts.  In any case, you should just throw it away as it won’t taste good.

If you’re in any doubt, you should throw your chocolate away just to be sure.  If it’s just the appearance of the chocolate that is concerning, taste it and see if it tastes good.  If it does, you could always consider baking with the chocolate, and then no one will notice the film or the sugar crystallization.

How to Store Chocolate?

Knowing how best to store your chocolate will ensure that you always have it on hand to add to your favorite recipes and that you use it before it goes bad.

Consistent temperature:  Chocolate should be ultimately stored in a cool, dark, dry place with a consistent temperature.  An ideal spot would be a pantry.

Avoid moisture:  Chocolate should be kept away from any moisture and with as much air removed from its packaging as possible.  This will help keep your chocolate fresh.

Keep in its original packaging:  The packaging your chocolate comes in is designed to keep out light, air, and moisture.  Keeping it in that packaging, if possible, is always best.

Can You Freeze Chocolate? How?

If you have a lot of chocolate on hand, freezing it will add extra time to its shelf-life, giving you more time to use it.  Keep in mind the following tips to ensure it stays as fresh as possible.

Air-tight storage:  Moisture isn’t good for chocolate so be sure to store your chocolate in an air-tight freezer-friendly container with as much air removed as possible.

Avoid temperature extremes:  Chocolate is very temperamental and doesn’t adjust well to wide swings in temperature.  It’s better to transition chocolate gradually by moving any chocolate you’d like to freeze to the refrigerator for a day or so and then move it to the freezer.  This will allow the chocolate to adjust gradually to the change.   You’ll want to do the reverse when thawing your chocolate.

Original packaging:  It’s best to keep your chocolate in its original packaging when you freeze it.  You can always place the packaged chocolate in a food storage bag or a freezer-friendly container.  The original packaging is designed to keep light and air away from the chocolate.

How to Thaw Chocolate?

Chocolate is very temperamental and does not respond well to changes in temperature.  Knowing how to gradually thaw your chocolate will help to make sure it retains its freshness.

White film is harmless: Chocolate that has been frozen should be gradually thawed.  Chocolate will react to swings in temperature by developing a white film called fat bloom.  The film is harmless, but it doesn’t look appetizing.

Gradual thawing: The best approach would be to transition your frozen chocolate to the refrigerator for a day or so and then move it from the refrigerator to your counter or pantry for another day before using it.  This will allow the chocolate to gradually transition to the new temperature.

Frequently Asked Questions About Chocolate’s Shelf Life

Is it safe to eat chocolate with a white film on it?  Yes, it’s safe to eat chocolate with a white film on the top.  The film develops when chocolate is exposed to fluctuating temperatures and is called fat bloom.  It may change the texture or the taste of the chocolate so you should always taste a bit before using it, but it should be fine to use.

If chocolate is made with milk should it be kept in the refrigerator?  Not necessarily.  You can keep your chocolate in the refrigerator, but you can also keep your chocolate in your pantry.  Chocolate responds to temperature and moisture so it’s best to keep your chocolate in a cool, dry, dark place like your pantry as long as it is away from any kitchen heat source like your oven.

Wrap Up

Chocolate is a wonderful treat to have on hand for snacking on including in your favorite recipes.  Tell us in the comments below your favorite use for chocolate chips and chocolate bars.

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