Coconut sugar is growing in popularity as a natural sweetener, but many wonder – does coconut sugar go bad? With proper storage, coconut sugar has an indefinite shelf life. However, there are signs of coconut sugar going bad if it absorbs too much moisture.
What is Coconut Sugar?
Coconut sugar, also known as coconut palm sugar, is made from the sap of the coconut palm tree. The sap is extracted from the flower bud of the coconut palm and then heated to evaporate the water content. This process leaves behind a nutrient-rich brown sugar that retains minerals like iron, zinc, calcium, and potassium.
Coconut sugar has a caramel-like flavor and can be used as a substitute for regular granulated sugar. It has a lower glycemic index, meaning it does not spike blood sugar as dramatically. Coconut sugar also contains small amounts of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that regular sugar lacks.
How Long Does Coconut Sugar Last?
When properly stored, coconut sugar has an indefinite shelf life. Unlike other sugars, coconut sugar does not go bad in the sense of spoiling or becoming unsafe to eat. However, there are some signs that coconut sugar has gone “bad” in quality:
- Clumping into solid blocks
- Hardening in texture
- Change in color
- Absorption of off smells from the pantry
These changes do not necessarily mean the coconut sugar has spoiled, but that it has absorbed excess moisture from the environment. Coconut sugar readily absorbs humidity and moisture from the air if it is not stored in an airtight container.
Exposure to heat and light can also cause coconut sugar to harden over time. But this does not make it unsafe to consume either.
Proper Storage of Coconut Sugar
To prolong freshness and prevent coconut sugar from hardening, it is best to store it in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Ideal storage conditions include:
- Airtight container like a mason jar or opaque plastic container with tight lid
- Place in pantry or cupboard, no need to refrigerate
- Away from heat sources like oven or stove
- Avoid direct sunlight which can accelerate moisture absorption
Storing coconut sugar properly will help prevent clumping and hardening. If it does start to clump or harden, don’t worry! The coconut sugar can be revived by breaking up the chunks into a fine sugar again.
Using Expired Coconut Sugar
Since coconut sugar does not truly expire or go rancid, it is safe to use after the printed “expiration date” on the package. However, expired coconut sugar that has hardened may have reduced quality in texture and flavor.
To test if expired coconut sugar is still good, inspect its appearance and aroma:
- It should have a dry, grainy texture without excessive clumping
- Color should be light to dark brown without graying
- Should have slight caramel/butterscotch smell
If the expired coconut sugar passes these checks, then it is perfectly safe and fine to use! It can be incorporated into cooking, baking, and other recipes as usual.
However, coconut sugar that is extremely hardened or has an off smell may be stale in quality. You may want to use it only in recipes where texture and flavor are not imperative.
Health Benefits of Coconut Sugar
Coconut sugar provides some health advantages over regular table sugar:
- Has a lower glycemic index. Coconut sugar has a GI of 35 while regular sugar is 65. This means it does not cause blood sugar to spike as dramatically.
- Contains nutrients. Coconut sugar contains small amounts of vitamin C, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron and copper.
- Has antioxidants. Coconut sugar contains phytonutrients and antioxidants that may help lower inflammation in the body.
The lower glycemic index and presence of vitamins/minerals give coconut sugar a slight edge over regular sugar. While it should still be eaten in moderation, coconut sugar is a better option for sweetening.
Cooking and Baking with Coconut Sugar
The uses of coconut sugar are similar to regular granulated sugar. However, it has some unique properties to keep in mind:
- You can substitute 1:1 for sugar in recipes. Use the same amount of coconut sugar as your recipe calls for regular sugar.
- It has a slight caramel flavor. Coconut sugar has a subtle butterscotch or caramel flavor that comes through in recipes.
- The brown color affects baked goods. It will add specks of brown and result in browner baked goods overall.
- May need to reduce baking temperature. Since coconut sugar can brown faster, reduce oven temp by 25°F to prevent over-browning.
- Moisture affects texture. Absorbed moisture can result in clumping, so break up any clumps before baking.
Coconut sugar works wonderfully in cookies, cakes, muffins, breads and other baked goods. It also pairs well with caramel, butterscotch and creme brûlée type flavors. Try using coconut sugar to add sweetness and depth of flavor to your recipes!
Coconut sugar is a shelf-stable sweetener that does not spoil or go rancid. With proper airtight and dry storage, it can last indefinitely. Signs of coconut sugar absorbing excess moisture are clumping, hardening, graying and off smells. However, this does not make the coconut sugar unsafe to eat.
Expired and hardened coconut sugar can be revived and used in cooking/baking. While it may have reduced quality of texture and flavor, it is not hazardous if it looks and smells normal. With a slight caramel taste and lower glycemic index, coconut sugar offers some benefits over regular sugar. Give this versatile sweetener a try in your recipes!