Chocolate has a longer shelf life than many other types of food but if you leave it too long, its taste and appearance can change. In this article, we will look at how long chocolate is good for and what affects it.
Does Chocolate Go Bad?
Chocolate doesn’t spoil or go bad in the same manner that most foods do. Cocoa butter is very shelf-stable and long-lasting so if chocolate is stored correctly in a cool and dry place, it will last for a very long time.
However, chocolate does also include ingredients such as milk, fat bloom, and sugar bloom, and can have other flavors or ingredients that might expire and spoil.
Added ingredients such as nuts, caramel, or other liquid fillings can go bad, as can other ingredients such as butter oil. It’s important to check the ingredients list for these types of ingredients as they will reduce the shelf life of your chocolate.
How Long Is Chocolate Good For?
As we just learned, there are some ingredients that can cause your chocolate to spoil more quickly than cocoa butter alone would do. But how long are different types of chocolate good for?
Dark chocolate is generally good for around two years. If it is stored correctly and kept in a dry and cool place, this timescale can be extended to three years.
Cocoa contains natural preservatives, called flavonols, so the higher the cocoa percentage in the dark chocolate, the longer it will keep. Dark chocolate that is 70 percent cocoa solids will last longer than one that is 50 percent cocoa solids, for example.
Milk, Ruby, and White Chocolate
These types of chocolate aren’t good for as long as dark chocolate, but you can expect them to be good for around a year. They should last for around two years if they’re properly stored.
The reason for the shorter lifespan is the additional ingredients they have compared to dark chocolate. Milk, ruby, and white chocolate are all made with milk powder and this will spoil if exposed to either high temperatures or water.
As dark chocolate doesn’t include any milk powder, it will take longer to go bad.
How Can You Tell Chocolate Has Spoiled?
There are a few ways to tell that your chocolate has passed its best.
Any good quality dark or milk chocolate will smell of cocoa. Even white chocolate should have a hint of this scent about it, although it will smell more buttery.
If the cocoa smell has been replaced by something that smells more savory, then your chocolate might be passed its best.
Cocoa butter will absorb flavors and odors over time.
This means that if your chocolate doesn’t taste as chocolatey as you expected and instead tastes more strongly of the other ingredients used in the chocolate, such as fruits or nuts, the chocolate has been left too long.
You should also be careful when storing chocolate in the refrigerator. Chocolate melts easily so often, a fridge can seem the best place for it.
However, keeping chocolate cold prevents some of the flavors from being released from the cocoa and can make your chocolate taste like it has gone bad when it hasn’t.
If the chocolate has an overpowering bitter taste, however, this is a sure sign that your chocolate is no longer any good.
This is the most obvious and reliable way to tell if your chocolate is passed its best. When you look at the chocolate, you may see that instead of being its normal color, it has a white or gray hue instead.
If this is the case, then it has a fat bloom. This makes the chocolate look different and removes the usual shine you see with chocolate, but shouldn’t affect the taste.
If the chocolate has a grainy and bitter texture instead of its usual smooth one, then it has a sugar bloom. This type of bloom can occur when your chocolate has been exposed to either rapid temperature changes or humidity.
As is the case with fat bloom, it won’t affect the taste of your chocolate but the change in texture can make it less enjoyable to eat.
What Causes Fat and Sugar Bloom?
Fat bloom is caused by the crystallization of the liquid fat contained in cocoa butter. When the structure of the fat becomes unstable, it can rise up to the surface of the chocolate and cause it to turn a gray color.
Sugar bloom occurs through a different process. In this case, the sugar in the chocolate becomes destabilized because of water. It doesn’t need to be much water as even a little condensation can cause sugar bloom.
The sugar crystals dissolve and result in a grainy texture.
Can Out of Date Chocolate Make You Ill?
Chocolate generally has a best before date instead of an expiration date. Expiration dates are used for foods that are unsafe to eat after a certain date whereas best before dates are used for foods that are safe, but won’t taste as nice.
Chocolate doesn’t have the right conditions for nasty bacteria to grow as it doesn’t contain water. If you eat chocolate that has gone past its best before date, it might not taste, smell, or look as good as fresh chocolate but it won’t make you ill.
The exceptions to this rule are any additional ingredients added to the chocolate. Nuts and fruit can go bad, so be careful with any chocolate that includes these.
A solid bar of high-quality dark chocolate, however, will still be safe to consume even after several years.
Generally, dark chocolate will remain good for two to three years and other types of chocolate for one to two years.
Chocolate doesn’t spoil in the same manner as other foods, however, so it can still be safe to consume after these dates although it won’t be as good.