Does food coloring expire?
Nothing adds pizzazz to your kitchen creations like bright splashes of colour. Food coloring in all its forms can turn a basic cake into a masterpiece. You can add whimsy to cupcakes, desserts, and homemade playdough.
Food coloring colors are so concentrated that often it is only necessary to use the smallest amount to create a palette of vibrant colors. That means these food colorings can stay for a long time.
Maybe you’ve pulled a packet of food coloring out of the cupboard and can’t quite remember how old it is. It may or may not have an expiration date. You open it up, take a look, and everything seems to be in order, but you keep wondering if it’s safe to use.
So does food coloring expire? Most food colors do not contain any ingredients that can go bad or rancid, giving them an indefinite shelf life if stored properly. If your food coloring has dried or changed color, then you should throw it away.
Read on for all the details on how to tell if your food coloring has gone bad and how to properly store your food coloring so it will last for years in your pantry.
How long does liquid food coloring last?
Manufacturers are required by law to put an expiration date on their products, even though it’s actually not safe to use them on that date. When it comes to food, it can be important to stick to these dates, as they can go bad and cause food poisoning or other problems.
Since liquid food coloring doesn’t contain any ingredients that can spoil, exactly, it can last almost indefinitely in your pantry. That being said, it sometimes thickens or hardens if it’s not tightly closed , so make sure you screw the caps on tight after each use.
If you see the liquid food coloring beginning to thicken or harden, you can add a few drops of very hot water to the jar and shake it around a bit. Adding the water should dilute it again and ensure that you can continue to use it.
Verdict : It does not have a real expiration date, as long as it is stored correctly.
How long does gel food coloring last?
Like liquid food coloring, gel food coloring doesn’t really have an expiration date, since it’s not made from materials that can rot or go rancid. That being said, gel food coloring can harden or dry out if not stored properly.
Just like liquid food coloring, you can add a bit of hot water to bring it back to life. But in general, once the gel food coloring has dried, it’s best to throw it away and replace it with something fresher.
You should also throw it away if the color starts to change. Sometimes something can get into the gel food coloring container, which can lead to contamination. If you see mold growing due to contamination, throw away the food coloring immediately.
Verdict : As long as it hasn’t dried or hardened, it’s safe to use. Watch out for contamination and mold.
How long does powdered food coloring last?
If you know you will be storing the food coloring for a long time, powdered food coloring may be your best option. Since it doesn’t have any liquid that can dry out or harden, it can last on the shelf virtually indefinitely.
Like other types of food coloring, you’ll need to make sure it’s stored properly. Also, when using it you will want to keep it safe from contamination with food products in your kitchen. If something gets into the dust, it can cause mold to grow and spoil.
Verdict : Powdered food coloring is a great option for long-term storage, since it can’t dry out or harden. Keep it safe from contamination and mold, and it will last virtually indefinitely.
How long does paste food coloring last?
By now you may have guessed that your paste food coloring also does not have an official expiration date, as long as you store it properly.
Like other food colors that contain liquid, there is a chance that they may dry out and harden, or the color may change with age.
In that case, you may be able to add a little hot water to bring it back to life, or you may have to throw it away if the color has really gone bad. If you follow the storage tips below, it should last a long time.
Verdict : Keep it tightly closed and free from contamination and it will last indefinitely.
How long does homemade food coloring last?
If you want to get really creative in the kitchen, you can make your own food coloring using natural ingredients like beets, turmeric, spirulina, blueberries, and even spinach.
While these options may not be as vibrant as store-bought brands, they are fun to make and offer a natural option. Unfortunately, they don’t last as long as the packaged options. If you want to make your own food coloring, small batches are definitely recommended.
In general, homemade food colors will last about 2 weeks in the fridge, since they are made with foods that can spoil. We recommend that you write the date you made it on a piece of masking tape and stick it to the container so you know when the expiration date has passed.
Verdict : A fun option, but unfortunately it will only last about 2 weeks tightly closed in the fridge.
The Best Ways to Store Food Coloring
To ensure that your food coloring lasts for the long haul, you’ll need to ensure that you store it properly after each use. Most food colors come in their own packaging, designed to keep them fresh and potent for a long time.
- After using your food coloring, be sure to close the container tightly, as air can dry out liquid, paste, and gel food coloring.
- If the container breaks, transfer it to another airtight container.
- You’ll also want to check that nothing has gotten into the containers that could cause contamination, as the moldy food coloring will need to be thrown away. If you are going to dip the bowl, use a clean utensil each time.
- Keep the food coloring out of direct sunlight or heat sources. If you can, don’t store it near the oven or stove, as the heat from that appliance could speed up the drying process. The best is a cool and dark closet, away from heat sources.
What is the difference between all types of food coloring?
Although all the food colors are going to be concentrated and give you the opportunity to add a variety of beautiful colors to your culinary creations, there are a couple of small differences.
Liquid food colors that come in small jars are generally the ones the home cook will use, as they are better for small batch baking and cooking. They’re cheap and easy to find at the grocery store and are great for paler, less intense colors.
Paste or gel food colors are going to be more popular with professional pastry chefs or more adventurous home bakers making large batches of icings or cakes. These food colorings can give a more vivid final tone than liquid ones.
You can also use paste or gel food coloring on foods that might seize when added to water, such as white chocolate. They’re also great to use on fondant and buttercream icings, as they don’t change the final texture or consistency.
Lastly, powdered food coloring is perfect for use on items that need to stay dry in their final form. It can be used to color coconut shavings and sugar. It’s also great to use on royal icing or gum paste. The color is not as vibrant as the other types, so it is not recommended for things like buttercream.
As you can see, most of the food colors sold in the market do not expire as long as they are stored properly. Be sure to close the containers tightly after each use and store them in a cool, dark cupboard, away from sunlight or heat.
If you are making your own food coloring, it will only last about 2 weeks in the fridge. Write the date you made it on a piece of tape and tape it to the airtight storage container so you know when to use it.
Whichever food coloring you use, if you follow the storage steps above, it should last a long time so you can create colorful kitchen magic for years to come.