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You know what they say: “You eat with your eyes first.” Using food coloring is the perfect way to make your dull, boring-looking food more appetizing by turning it bright and colorful — be it a cake, your favorite cocktail, and even homemade cake. Even a tiny bit of some good ol’ food coloring can help create beautiful vibrant colors in your food. But does food coloring expire?
If you're thinking of stocking up on your favorite food coloring, you might wonder how long it can last.
The good news, food coloring typically has ingredients that don't spoil quickly. So it has a relatively long shelf life. However, you still need to ensure you store the food coloring properly to avoid changing its color or texture
Keep on reading to find out how long does food coloring last exactly, the best way to prolong the shelf life of your food coloring and when it's time to bid it farewell.
What is the shelf life of food coloring?
If stored properly, food coloring can last for many years. Perhaps the best thing about food coloring, besides the vibrant colors it imparts to your food, is its indefinite shelf life.
Food and other edible items, which contain a lot of additives and raw materials, have a relatively shorter shelf life because their ingredients tend to go bad quickly. Food coloring, however, doesn’t contain such additives or raw ingredients that will spoil and turn funky anytime soon. So it's safe to hoard your favorite food colors in the pantry for a long time.
If you’re, however, using homemade food coloring made with vegetables, fruits, and spices, your food coloring will last for up to two weeks — if stored properly, of course!
How to store: Extend the Shelf Life of Food Coloring
For the longest shelf life, you should store food coloring in an airtight container in a pantry, cupboard, or cool dry place, away from direct sunlight and temperature extremes.
Store the product in a cool, dark, and dry place — away from heat sources like ovens and stoves — to prevent any unwanted changes.
Additionally, make sure you tightly seal the container after each use to prevent it from drying or hardening. You should also make sure that you’re using clean utensils for scooping out the product to prevent mold and bacterial growth.
Homemade food coloring, though, should be stored in the refrigerator for the longest shelf life.
What is food coloring made of?
Artificial food colorings comprise of synthetic ingredients, artificial dyes, water, and stabilizers. Natural food dyes, on the other hand, use dyes from natural ingredients like chlorophyll from plants and spices like turmeric
When it comes to food coloring, they’re basically four different types: powder, liquid, and oil and gel-based.
Liquid food coloring contains synthetic colors and a water base. Gel-based food coloring also includes a water base in addition to glycerine and corn syrup. Oil-based food coloring has an oil base and is typically used for coloring chocolate.
Does food coloring expire? Shelf life of different types of food coloring.
While we’ve established that food coloring has a long shelf life, the question is; does it never expire? And what about the different types of food coloring? How long can they stay good for? Let’s find out!
Does gel food coloring expire?
No, gel food coloring doesn’t expire. This is because it has no raw ingredients that tend to spoil. It only contains a bonding agent, some sugar, and artificial color. While gel food coloring does not expire, it can dry out or harden if not stored properly.
Does liquid food coloring expire?
No, liquid food coloring also doesn’t really expire, even though it may be labeled with an expiration date. So the dye can last almost indefinitely in your pantry. It, however, can harden or thicken if not stored properly. Make sure to screw the cap on tight after each use.
Does powdered food coloring expire?
Out of all the four types of food coloring, powdered food coloring — the traditional one — lasts for the longest time. You can easily stock up on your favorite powdered food coloring without worrying about the product going rancid.
Though, you must store it properly — in a cool, dry place and away from moisture — to prevent the powder from clumping together.
Does natural food coloring expire?
Yes, natural food coloring can expire. Since it’s made from natural plants or animal material, natural colors can go bad and shouldn’t be used past the expiration date.
If you're making your own homemade food coloring using natural ingredients, it will last for up to two weeks if preserved in the refrigerator.
Does oil based food coloring expire?
Oil-based food coloring, like traditional and other types of food coloring, doesn’t expire. You need to, however, store it properly, so it doesn’t change its texture or lose its color.
Expired food coloring - How do you know if food coloring has gone bad?
While homemade food coloring can expire quickly and synthetic food coloring typically doesn’t, it’s still best to err on the side of caution when using either.
Look out for the following signs to make sure you aren’t using a product that’s no longer fit for consumption.
- Changes in appearance - Changes in appearance, like color changes, are a clear cut indicating that the food coloring has gone bad. Food coloring that shows visible changes in texture is best tossed out. Your powdered food coloring, for instance, might get all clumpy, and the gel-based will harden or dry out entirely. Furthermore, if you see dark spots or something white and fuzzy anywhere near the food coloring, including the bottle, throw the product out immediately.
- Mold growth - Mold usually grows when food coloring is stored improperly or when other substances contaminate the dye or the bottle. If you see mold in your food coloring, it’s best to discard it asap.
- Changes in smell - If your food coloring has a funky smell, it's time to bid it farewell and get a new product. You should also look out for any color changes. If the color has faded, it’s best to throw it away since it wouldn’t do that good of a job coloring your food anyways.
Can you use expired food coloring?
Yes, expired food coloring is generally safe to use. You don’t have to throw away your food coloring just because the packaging says so. Better Health backs this up by stating that most products can be used even beyond the “Best Before” date, granted that they’re stored properly.
Manufacturers are required to print expiry labels for edible items, including food coloring. That being said, make sure your food coloring hasn't gone bad due to improper storage by ensuring it doesn’t smell funky, have any mold growth, and show any apparent changes in color and texture. If any of these are the case, do not eat to prevent food poisoning.
Food coloring expiration FAQ's
Food coloring has an expiration date because manufacturers are legally required to print one. Fret not, though; the date doesn’t really matter.
Your food coloring should be safe for consumption for an extended period, even after the expiration date — as long as you don’t notice any signs that the product has gone bad, of course!
You can do a lot of fun things with old food coloring. Consider adding it to slimes and playdough. You can also use it in DIY science projects. Moreover, you can use old food coloring for a fun tie-dye session.
Store-bought food coloring doesn’t need to be refrigerated. However, homemade and natural food colors should be preserved in the fridge to prevent spoiling.
No, out-of-date food coloring doesn’t make you ill. Synthetic, store-bought food coloring is suitable for use, even if it’s past the expiration date. You still need to make sure there’s no mold growth and that the product hasn’t changed its color or texture.
Homemade food coloring, however, can make you ill if used past its expiration date — i.e two weeks in the refrigerator in a sealed container.
More kitchen tips
Does Food Coloring Expire? How To Store
- 1 bottle food coloring
- Place leftover food coloring bottle or tubes in a cool, dry place to store.
- You can also place them in an airtight container or bag to keep fresh.