Does Brown Sugar Go Bad?

Sugar can be a perfect addition to some dishes and in others, it’s a requirement. However, it’s likely that you’ll buy more brown sugar than you need.

As a result, you may be wondering if brown sugar will ever go bad. The short answer is that brown sugar won’t usually go bad if it is sealed airtight in a cool container.

Does Brown Sugar Go Bad

However, there are times when brown sugar can clump or reduce in quality. This guide will examine how this happens and if brown sugar ever really goes bad.

Read on to learn more.

Does Brown Sugar Go Bad Then?

Brown sugar does not go bad in the sense that we understand it with other foods. This is because brown sugar does not support microbial growth – so you won’t find things like a fungus growing on it (unless water has seeped through). 

However, this does not mean that brown sugar won’t go bad in the sense of “no longer being good”. If brown sugar comes into contact with moisture or is poorly stored, it can lose its former glory.

Additionally to this, brown sugar can attract pests. So, if your brown sugar is not stored ideally, pests can ruin it and it must be disposed of. 

In fact, this is the case with other types of sugars too, including white granulated sugar and powdered sugar.

Signs That Brown Sugar Has Gone Bad

As we said, in the sense that brown sugar is no longer good to use, there will be clear signs that you should dispose of it and buy a new bag. 

Here are some of the most obvious signs that your brown sugar is no longer good to use:


You may see signs of pests, either dead or alive, inside the bag of sugar. There may also be signs of eggs or larvae. 

This is often due to poor storage and pests have managed to get inside the sugar. If this is the case, you must dispose of the bag safely and remove any other signs of nearby pests.

Organic Growth

Sugar will not support microbial growth on its own over time. However, water can change sugar and then it will support the organic growth of things like mold. 

Generally, water comes into contact with sugar due to poor storage conditions or by accident during cooking. If this has happened to you, you must dispose of the sugar as soon as possible. 

Afterwards, wherever you stored your sugar, you must thoroughly clean your storage container and ensure it is completely dry before you use it again. 

Signs That Brown Sugar Is No Longer Good 

As mentioned before, there may be times when your brown sugar has not “gone bad” but may not necessarily be good anymore. 

Here are some of the common signs of this:

Clumped Sugar 

There is more moisture in brown sugar than there is in white sugar. Once this moisture evaporates, the sugar begins to harden and this causes the sugar to clump together.

However, there are ways you can solve this problem which we will explore in more detail later in this guide. 

The Sugar Smells Bad 

Brown sugar has a tendency to absorb and take in other smells surrounding it. If your sugar smells like the area it is stored in, the chances are this is because it has absorbed the smell.

Generally speaking, this smell will be caused by a container that isn’t airtight enough. Depending on how strong the smell is, the sugar might still be okay to use.

Does Brown Sugar Go Bad (1)

However, if the sugar has a particularly strong smell – it’s best to dispose of it. This is because you might find any food you bake using the sugar will give off the same scent!

Solving Clumped Brown Sugar 

As we said, there are many times when brown sugar will clump together – but this does not mean that you always have to throw it out. 

However, using hardened brown sugar isn’t great – so you’ll need to try to soften it. Generally there are two ways you can do this. 


Manually softening your brown sugar is a very common choice for people. You can do this by using a fork, a spoon, a blender or even smashing it against a hard object. 

Essentially what you’re doing is breaking up any large blocks of sugar and making them into their previous smaller selves. 

The best part about this method is that if it is successful, you can use your brown sugar as it was intended right away. 

Give The Moisture Back 

Brown sugar has interesting properties and perhaps one of the most intriguing is the ability to absorb moisture in the environment.

If you want to give brown sugar its previous moisture, you can do this in a few ways. However, they are primarily the same. 

Place a good substance with a lot of moisture, such as an apple wedge, into the container with the brown sugar. 

This may take a few hours, but you will eventually notice that the brown sugar will soften back to how it used to be. 

Another way you can do this is by wrapping a wet paper towel around the sugar container and warming it up. You can do this in an oven, however it is not advised. 

You’d be much better off doing this in a warm room instead. You can even place the sugar in its container over a pan of boiling water for a while if you’d prefer.

Be prepared to wait for the sugar to soften though, as these methods tend to take much longer than manually getting your sugar back to normal.

The Bottom Line 

Brown sugar doesn’t go bad in the way that we understand it, but it can decrease in quality. Maximize your sugar’s life by following the expiry guidelines and correctly store it.

Mark Williams