Cocoa powder is an ingredient we all keep in our kitchen cupboard. The rich, earthy flavor that has a hint of chocolate is the ideal complement to almost anything.
Cocoa powder can be added to smoothies or your homemade cookies. Snacking on some strawberries? Add some chocolate powder on top of them.
But before you go overboard and put this high fiber, high antioxidant ingredient on every food you eat, you might just want to find out if the cocoa powder can go bad.
So, keep on reading below to find out!
Is It OK To Use Expired Cocoa Powder?
Everybody has experienced this: You are in the middle of making a delicious chocolate cookie recipe when they realize their cocoa is expired.
While you don’t want to throw away all the dough, you also don’t want to put anyone at risk of becoming sick from using an outdated product.
Here’s some excellent news! The use of expired cocoa powder is totally fine.
How Long Can Cocoa Powder Last?
You won’t get sick from eating cocoa powder since it doesn’t expire. Instead, it gradually starts to lose its effectiveness.
As a result, if you discover a long-expired package of cocoa powder in your cupboards, don’t throw it away without a second thought.
Because unlike, for example, stale spices losing their aroma over time, cocoa remains thriving for a long, long time.
As a matter of fact, there have been many experiments conducted over the years – some were even done by accident – where people made hot cocoa drinks and cocoa cookies using fresh cocoa and cocoa that had expired six years before that date.
One of them was done by Cook’s Illustrated where of those who tried them, about 50% noticed a difference between the fresh and stale cocoa samples, describing the latter as “more monotonous”, “runnier” and “sweeter tasting”.
No one, however, described them as “tasteless”.
The same thing happened when they tried high- and low-fat cocoa powders that had expired a long time before the date of the experiment with fresh cocoa powder.
In fact, the participants couldn’t even tell the difference between the samples!
When compared to ground spices, which typically lose a lot of their flavors and scents after approximately a year, cocoa powder’s flavoring ingredients are rather volatile.
The faster a molecule evaporates and breaks down, the more volatile it is.
How Can Its (Already Prolonged) Shelf Life Be Extended?
Although cocoa powder doesn’t inherently go bad, it does gradually lose its taste.
Unused cocoa powder usually has a three-year storage life. When stored correctly, an opened cocoa powder package has a one-year shelf life.
Like in the case of most powders, spices, and baking ingredients, you should store your cocoa powder in a dry, cool environment to extend its shelf life.
Additionally, ensure that the package’s cover is airtight. But there’s no need to throw away a jar of cocoa powder that is a year or two past the expiration date provided that it isn’t moldy and doesn’t smell bad.
The package of cocoa powder should be thrown out as soon as it starts to smell bad or when you can no longer smell chocolate in the air.
There should still be a chocolate essence whenever you taste it. If the flavor is insipid or begins to resemble that of the nearby products, that means that it’s time to say goodbye to that cocoa powder and buy a new one.
How Is Cocoa Powder Made?
Given its unprocessed, extended shelf-life, you might be wondering how the cocoa powder is produced.
Well, it’s quite a natural ingredient on its own, and that plays a big part in its longevity.
It is very interesting how cocoa is made from the seeds of the cocoa tree. The cocoa tree is found in the tropical forests of Africa and South America.
When the fruit is ripe, inside which there are about 40 white seeds in a sweet pulp, it is cut from the tree and its outer skin is removed.
The seeds are covered with banana leaves. Inside the pulp, the fermentation process takes place, from which the smell and taste we know will come.
After fermentation, which lasts about a week, the seeds are spread out in the sun to dry. After drying, they acquire our familiar brown color.
Then, we break and remove their shell and grind them to obtain the cocoa.
What Does Cocoa Powder Contain?
Cocoa contains vegetable fat, carbohydrates, antioxidants, biologically active substances, caffeine, essential minerals, and vitamins.
It contains the mood enhancer, serotonin, with which we achieve a feeling of euphoria. That is why many times when we are “down” we look for some chocolate.
Cocoa Powder Benefits For Our Health
Cocoa appears to be a decoction with beneficial effects on human health.
A significant number of scientific studies show that cocoa contains high concentrations of flavonoids and procyanidins, components that have an antioxidant effect, preventing the oxidative action of free radicals and thus protecting against cancer, heart diseases, and aging.
To be more precise:
- It can lower blood pressure.
- It reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke
- It improves cognitive function and prevents the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
- It prevents premature aging, as it contains polyphenols, which are antioxidants.
- It has a high concentration of magnesium. Thus, it helps to reduce fatigue, type II diabetes, and blood pressure.
- It improves the symptoms of depression.
- It helps prevent cancer.
- In addition to magnesium, healthy fats, and many antioxidants, it contains calcium, iron, zinc, copper, potassium, and manganese. It also contains many vitamins of the B complex, such as B1, B2, B3, vitamins A, C, and E, as well as pantothenic acid.
The Bottom Line
Even if the cocoa powder is a few years past its expiration date, you can still consume it.
You will still be likely to appreciate exquisite chocolate delicacies so long as you utilize that powder within a year or two of the printed date on the package.