Does chocolate go bad? The short answer is yes, it can go bad. But how can you tell, and what can cause it go bad or stale? Not to worry, by the end of this post you’ll know everything you need to know about how long chocolate lasts.
Does Chocolate Go Bad? How Long Does It Last?
One good thing about chocolate (on top of how amazing it tastes) is that it doesn’t go bad quickly. Especially if it’s pure dark chocolate (bakers chocolate/chocolate liquor).
But there are some things you need to look out for to make sure you’re getting the best out of your chocolate and cocoa powder. Let’s take a good look at the shelf life of chocolate and see how you can tell when it has gone bad.
2 Ways Chocolate Can Go Bad
Chocolate going bad can mean different things to different people. One person might be talking about it going stale (losing aroma and flavor), another might be talking about it spoiling.
Let’s begin with chocolate spoiling.
How can you tell if chocolate has gone bad?
If your chocolate has spoiled it may be easy to tell. For example, if you can see signs of mold and if it smells terrible.
You might also see that the chocolate has been contaminated in another way, perhaps by a rodent (or bugs) getting into it.
In either case, it’s best to discard the entire bar or bag because it could make you ill.
Sometimes it can be a little harder to tell if chocolate has gone bad.
Chocolate is generally safe when it’s dry but if it has melted (or been otherwise exposed to moisture) it could be subject to the growth of bacteria.
- Melted and Rehardened Chocolate: So even if the chocolate has hardened again after melting the moisture that was there could have allowed mold and bacteria to grow. So if you notice that the chocolate doesn’t smell or look right, and/or you don’t know if it has stayed at a stable temperature it may be best to throw it out.
- Bloomed Chocolate: Another way to tell is if the chocolate has bloomed. You’ll be able to tell if bloom has happened if there is a white film covering the chocolate. Not all bloom is bad and we’ll talk more about that later. But a powdery bloom could mean that moisture has been a problem at some point and it may be best not to eat it – especially if there is a lot of bloom and the chocolate is well past its expiration date.
3 Factors in Chocolate Spoilage
- The purer the chocolate is, the longer it will last – provided it has been sealed properly and kept in a cool dry place.
- The more ingredients added to the chocolate, like milk, cream, nuts, dried fruit… the more susceptible it is to mold and bacteria growth.
- Chocolate made from raw beans (uncooked) and chocolate with raw and or unpasteurized milk ingredients may be more likely to be contaminated with salmonella and other bacteria.
When it comes to food safety, we are better safe than sorry. No one likes to throw out good food, but taking a chance on food that has spoiled may leave you wishing you hadn’t.
All food goes bad at some point, so trust your eyes, your nose, and your better judgment.
But when we ask “does chocolate go bad?” we may just be wondering if it goes stale. Let’s talk a little bit about that.
How can you tell if chocolate has gone stale?
The main ways to tell if chocolate has gone stale are to check how it smells and how it tastes.
If you don’t notice that delicious chocolaty aroma when you open the container (or wrapper) there may be a problem. The longer chocolate has been on the shelf the less “chocolaty” it will smell.
Chocolate will also absorb the aroma and flavor of food items it’s stored with (if it’s not in a properly sealed container) so that may lead to a wonky smell and flavor.
If it does not have much of a chocolaty smell it probably won’t have much flavor.
After sniffing the chocolate in question you could taste a small portion. If there isn’t much flavor than your chocolate is probably stale and won’t be very satisfying.
Can chocolate chips go bad?
Chocolate chips, like other chocolate products, can last a long time (2 – 4 months in the pantry) if they are stored properly.
But if they are exposed to moisture either because of a hot humid environment or because of condensation due to temperature change they could go bad. The moisture could allow mold/bacteria growth.
The more ingredients (like milk, sugar, flavorings) in your chocolate chips the shorter their shelf life.
You would be able to tell if your chocolate chips have gone bad based on how they look, smell, and taste. If they are covered in a dry chalky film it could just be “sugar bloom” but if they also smell bad they may be experiencing mold or bacteria growth, in which case it would be best to throw them out.
Does cocoa powder go bad?
Cocoa powder can go bad if it gets contaminated with bacteria and moisture, but if it stays dry and properly stored it can last a long time.
An unopened container of cocoa powder can last for two to three years, and once you open it (as long as it is in a tightly sealed container stored in a cool dry place) it will be good for up to a year.
But if you notice it’s clumping and not tasting (or smelling) as chocolaty as it should – it’s probably starting to go stale and it may be time to buy some fresh cocoa powder.
Does chocolate go bad in heat?
Chocolate can go bad in the heat. If the chocolate melts or if condensation forms because of temperature changes then bacteria and mold could start to grow on the chocolate.
Although cocoa butter has a long shelf-life (due to its antioxidants and its low polyunsaturated fat content) if other oils have been added there may also be a concern of the oils in the chocolate going rancid.
In hot humid climates, it’s best to store chocolate in a sealed container in the fridge.
And as always, it’s best to eat chocolate as fresh as possible. This is probably even truer in a hot humid climate.
Does chocolate go rancid?
Chocolate can go rancid especially if it has additional oils/fats.
Pure chocolate (baker’s chocolate/chocolate liquor) is made of fairly equal parts cocoa solids and cocoa butter. Cocoa butter is a pretty stable vegetable (plant-based) fat that is low in polyunsaturated fats, so it is resistant to rancidity.
But chocolate that has added ingredients with other fats/oils will be less resistant to going rancid and will not have as long of shelf life.
If the oils/fats in your chocolate bar have gone rancid it may not smell or taste very good. If your chocolate is very old, has been exposed to moisture or has been stored improperly it may be best to throw it out and pick up some fresh chocolate.
Rancid oils can cause health concerns if consumed over long periods of time. So if you eat a little bit of rancid chocolate by mistake it’s not likely to cause problems but it’s always best to talk with your doctor if you’re concerned about your health.
Can chocolate mold?
This is a debated topic in the world of chocolate because chocolate is resistant to mold growth, especially dark chocolate. One of the main reasons being because there is no moisture (water) in it.
Some people are more sensitive to mold than others so even small amounts can cause problems. So can mold grow on chocolate? Yes. It’s possible.
Mold spores are in the air and will grow just about anywhere moisture is present so while chocolate is not likely to go moldy it could support mold growth under certain conditions. For example, if it was stored open in warm humid conditions or if your chocolate was to experience condensation or melt – that moisture could allow mold growth.
The more added ingredients in the chocolate, milk, cream, nuts, dried fruit… the more susceptible it could be to bacteria and mold when not stored properly.
There is also a type of mold which produces mycotoxins which cocoa beans are susceptible to. Mycotoxins are stable during food processing so it is possible that some chocolate will contain them. If that was the case and the chocolate was exposed to moisture any present mold spores could grow.
I’ve never seen mold on chocolate. Sometimes there will be a whitish powder on chocolate but that is referred to as bloom which I talk more about below. I would imagine mold would make the chocolate smell bad, so that would probably be your best indicator unless there is unmistakable visible mold growth.
Mold growth is not very likely, but it is possible so if you’re worried about it your best bet is to store your chocolate in a sealed container in the fridge.
Does chocolate go bad when it turns white?
The most common reason chocolate turns white is because of chocolate bloom, either fat bloom or sugar bloom.
This is usually due to processing problems (improper tempering), temperature variation, and/or moisture exposure. This does not mean it has gone bad.
Bloom happens when:
- The cocoa butter separates and rises to the surface of the chocolate. This whitish film will feel oily. It usually happens because it hasn’t been processed and/or stored properly and has experienced changes in temperature.
- The sugar in the chocolate crystallizes and is seen on the surface. This whitish film will be powdery. It usually happens when the chocolate has come into contact with moisture, either from condensation or another source.
While bloom is not really supposed to happen, it’s not necessarily dangerous/unhealthy.
If a lot of bloom has taken place, it could change the consistency of the chocolate and it may not be as pleasant to eat – it may not have that same melt in your mouth appeal. Melting it down, stirring it, and allowing it to cool again will usually cause the sugar and fat to mix back in properly.
As mentioned earlier, because sugar bloom can indicate the presence of moisture (at some point) there could also be a possibility (although slim) of mold growth.
If there is a lot of sugar bloom and the chocolate smells funny I wouldn’t be too keen on eating it.
Can you get sick from old chocolate?
Yes. Old chocolate can make you sick.
If the chocolate has been contaminated by mold or bacteria growth then it could make you feel sick.
If the chocolate is very old and has added oils (other than cocoa butter) the oils may turn rancid which could also cause problems. But this would only be a concern if you’ve eaten a lot of chocolate (containing rancid oil) over an extended period of time. A little bit shouldn’t be cause for alarm.
Stale chocolate (which has lost some of its aroma and flavor) is not likely to cause health concerns.
How long does chocolate last?
Chocolate has a pretty long shelf life. In this section, we cover the shelf life of dark, milk, and white chocolate.
And it’s helpful to know that the best before date is not the same as an expiration date, it’s there to indicate how long the manufacturer feels it will taste its best.
Chocolate can still be enjoyed after the best before date as long as it has been stored properly.
How long does dark chocolate last?
Based on my research, the common thought is that unopened pure dark chocolate will still be fine to eat from six months to a year past its best before date(as long as it has been stored properly in a cool dry place).
Some people will eat it well past that as long as it still looks, smells, and tastes fine. But each person has to use their own judgment when it comes to what is safe to consume.
Dark chocolate lasts a long time because of the lack of added ingredients, the fewer ingredients the longer the shelf life of the dark chocolate.
Once dark chocolate is open it should be eaten or used up as soon as possible. But if it is stored in a sealed container in a cool place it should be fine to consume within a few months.
How long does milk chocolate and white chocolate last?
Milk chocolate and white chocolate is generally good around 6 months past the best before date. This is true if it is unopened and stored properly (in a cool dry place).
Milk chocolate and white chocolate won’t last as long as dark chocolate (cut in half) because they have more ingredients that are susceptible to spoilage and bacteria growth (milk, cream, dried fruit…).
These kinds of chocolate treats can still be enjoyed for some time after their best before date because they usually have added preservatives that help keep them free of bacteria growth.
Once open it’s best to eat milk and white chocolate as soon as possible. But with proper storage (a sealed container in a cool place) milk and white chocolate, along with other chocolate treats with added ingredients like cream, dried fruit, nuts… should be eaten within a couple of weeks.
What kind of chocolate lasts the longest?
When asking does chocolate go bad, the next question is usually which kind lasts the longest?
Pure baking chocolate lasts the longest because its only ingredients are cocoa solids and cocoa butter.
Once other ingredients are introduced the shelf life can start to reduce. Of the sweet chocolates, dark chocolate will last longer than milk or white chocolate.
Both milk and white chocolate have added ingredients like milk, cream, sugar, flavorings… which shorten their shelf life
High-quality dark chocolate made with cocoa butter (and no other oils) will last longer than chocolate made with other oils like vegetable oil because cocoa butter has a longer shelf life than some other oils.
Why does chocolate last so long? 3 reasons
Pure chocolate (chocolate liquor/baking chocolate) has a long shelf life because of the cocoa butter, caffeine, and the absence of water.
- Cocoa butter is stable, rich in antioxidants, and low in polyunsaturated fatty acids which make it resistant to rancidity.
- Caffeine is resistant to mold (fungal growth).
- Both bacteria and most molds need water to grow so because pure chocolate does not have added water then it does not tend to harbor mold or bacteria which extends its shelf life.
While pure chocolate lasts a long time, the shelf life starts to reduce when other ingredients like milk, cream, nuts, dried fruit, oils, flavorings… are added. But many chocolate producers counteract that with added preservatives.
How to make chocolate last longer
The best way to make your chocolate last longer is by storing it properly.
For best flavor, chocolate should be stored between 15 – 17°C (59 – 63°F) and properly sealed so its exposure to air and moisture is kept as low as possible. This will keep it tasting fresh and discourage any possibility of mold or bacteria contamination/growth.
If you live in a warm climate, your chocolate may last longer if you store it in the fridge or freezer. Again it is important to store it in a properly sealed container because chocolate acts like a sponge, sucking up the flavor and aroma of other foods.
If you store your chocolate in the fridge/freezer and don’t plan on eating it all at once you should put the uneaten portion back in the fridge as soon as possible. That way you’ll avoid condensation which could lead to “bloom” as mentioned earlier in this post.
Even if you don’t live in a warm climate you may prefer to keep your chocolate in the fridge as I do. I enjoy the cool feel and the satisfaction of the flavor evolving as it melts in my mouth. The increased snap when I bite into it also adds to the experience.
Shelf Life of Chocolate and You
I hope I’ve answered your questions about how long chocolate lasts. In my research, I compiled information to give you the best resource possible. If you have any more questions or tips please let me know in the comments.
And if this article helps you improve your chocolate experience I would love to hear about it and would really appreciate it if you share it with your chocolate-loving friends.
A recent order of Dove semi-sweet chocolate bars came melted badly as it wasn’t refrigerated. Now, after letting them sit in the refrigerator they have not regained their original solid consistency and the taste is not the same as fresh from the store. Are these bars a health hazard now?