Does Cocoa Powder Go Bad?

Cocoa Powder Shelf Life and Storage Tips

Written by Elisa Chan. Updated on Does Cocoa Powder Go Bad

A mug of hot cocoa adds coziness to any family gathering the same well as to the weekend evening spent alone. It is an irreplaceable attribute of Christmas parties and family celebrations.

Naturally, we store cocoa powder sometimes in enormous amounts! And of course, we want to be sure that it will last to its longest.

Does cocoa go bad? No, Cocoa powder doesn’t go bad. The shelf life of unopened cocoa powder is up to 2-3 years. An opened cocoa powder lasts up to 1 year if it’s stored properly. Keep an open cocoa powder in an airtight plastic bag at 40 °F or 60°F in an airtight plastic bag in a dark, dry place.

That’s what we are about to figure out today!

Is Cocoa Healthy?

Some say that cocoa is useless, others state that its regular consumption makes people get fat. Where is the truth?

Well, cocoa powder is indeed quite fat even though today it is simple to find low-fat variants, too.

How do you usually use cocoa powder?
I drink cocoa
I'm making chocolate
I cook desserts

If, for instance, we are talking about the chocolate cookies that contain regular fat cocoa powder, the amount of fat in these sweets may reach fifteen to twenty-five grams of fat per one hundred grams on average. Of course, certain variations are possible.

The recipes of more fatty desserts like a chocolate cake of muffins are even more fat-consistent both due to the use of fat cocoa powder and melted chocolate (which contains that cocoa, too). 

It is, however, possible to decrease the fat level in such recipes by using low-fat cocoa powder or by replacing it with various similar products, for instance, carob.

As you’re probably already aware, such replacers, though tasting almost the same as traditional cocoa, contain far less fat and can be safely consumed even by those who are prohibited to eat cocoa-containing foods.

Nevertheless, this simple product does have certain health benefits that you might not even be aware of.

  • It is a natural antioxidant and helps to struggle inflammation, make the blood flow better and lower blood pressure.
  • Cocoa powder balances our cholesterol level and the level of blood sugar.
  • Pure cocoa powder decreases the risk of heart attacks and heart strokes.
  • It boosts our brain functions.
  • It improves the bad mood.
  • Products with the high content of cocoa (70 percent and more) tend to help us to lose weight better, of course, if we don’t consume them too much!

So how can we keep such a useful thing at home longer? 

Cocoa Powder Shelf Life and Storage Tips

Does cocoa go bad
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Keeping cocoa powder consumable may seem simple. Why fuss so much?! Just toss the packet to the cupboard and forget about it!

However, if we do like this, we will most likely get a spoiled product and get it pretty soon.

How often do you eat cocoa powder?
Almost every day
I don’t eat cocoa powder at all

Since nobody wants to waste money on products that turn bad because of our own fault, it would be more reasonable to spend little time on learning the basic requirements regarding the cocoa storage, its specifics, and conditions in particular.

No matter what you think, cocoa powder can expire just like any other product in our kitchen even though it is in powder state.

How long does cocoa powder last?

Normally, if we keep it unopened under the correct conditions following all the requirements, the powder will remain consumable for two or even three years. Note that this term includes the years past the cocoa powder expiration date.

Cocoa Powder Shelf Life
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However, keep in mind that the longer cocoa stays on the shelf the more it loses its flavor and taste so you’d better use it fast enough.

As for storage, just memorize these simple tips:

  • Always keep the cocoa powder in a cool, dry, and dark place. It will slow down the process of losing the flavor.
  • It can stay in the original package, otherwise, when being re-packed, make sure that the new tank is sealed tightly to prevent any vermin from getting in.
  • Never store cocoa powder frozen or refrigerated in its original package or in any other tank that is not airtight.

Such an environment is still rather humid for the product which can cause mold.

So, How long does cocoa powder last? Cocoa powder lasts up to 2-3 years unopened and up to 1 year in an open container. Keep opened cocoa powder, in an airtight plastic bag or glass jar at 40 °F with a relative humidity of 95% or at 62°F at room temperature in an airtight plastic bag in a dark, dry place.

What if some of these rules were broken and the powder began spoiling? To make sure that it is not a mistake and cocoa is indeed under the risk of spoiling, check it for the appropriate symptoms. Being aware in advance, you can protect your health.

How to Correctly Store Cocoa

How long does cocoa powder last
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Proper storage conditions are a must if we want to enjoy the flavorous drink anytime.

Note several simple rules of cocoa storage and you will forget about any worries regarding its expiration.

  • Never keep its package over the stove since hot air is harmful to the product.
  • Always seal the tank where it’s kept tightly to prevent the flavor loss and sooner spoilage.
  • A dark and cool (60-70°F) place is the best “home” for powdered cocoa.
  • Leave it in the original tank but if it was sold in a carton packet, re-pack it to the tank that can be tightly sealed.

It will contribute a lot to the extended shelf life of any cocoa powder or the product that contains it.

How to Choose a Proper Cocoa Storage Container

How to Choose a Proper Cocoa Storage Container
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Each time there is a need to buy a container for cocoa or chocolate powder, you’re in a panic since it’s so hard to choose which tank to buy! 

Sounds similar? Then you’re in the right place! Today we will tell you what tanks fit your cocoa and choco cookies best.

  • Since cocoa picks external odors easily, search for the tanks that have a tightly screwed lid
  • As for the material the tank is made of, pick either glass or plastic but ensure that the plastic one will not transfer any odors like many cheap containers unfortunately do. We would advise you to ask the seller in a store which plastic tank would be the best for storing cocoa since not everyone can tell the difference between the good and bad plastic
  • Choose the tank that has a lid that is screwed or has a latch. Like that the content will be protected from the contact with the air and will last for more than one year for sure
  • Since cocoa powder doesn’t tolerate temperature fluctuations and moisture, storing it refrigerated is not a good idea the same as keeping the tank on the shelf.

What we recommend is to buy a wine fridge, set it to the desired regime of 60-70 F, and leave the tank with the cocoa powder there. 

The product will be protected from any other odors except for chocolate, besides, it will be possible to keep the temperature on the same level!

These fridges don’t dehumidify so keep the foodstuff properly closed and your cocoa will remain consumable even after a year of storage!

Signs of Expired Cocoa Powder

cocoa powder expiration date
Photo by Delphine Hourlay: Pexels

So what does bad cocoa powder look like?

Don’t worry, there will be no worms or moths inside the tank, as well as no unbearable stinking!

Even though it is quite durable, it’s good to know the basic signs of spoilage.

  • Give it a try. Bad cocoa doesn’t taste like chocolate
  • Smell it. Rancid cocoa will have a somewhat off and unpleasant odor.
  • Take a look at it. If there’s any mold, discard instantly without hesitation.
Expired Cocoa Powder
Photo by samer daboul: Pexels

Does baking cocoa go bad?

Yes, baking cocoa goes bad. Cocoa powder can get spoiled if stored improperly. Spoiled cocoa loses its properties, the smell and taste change, such cocoa can spoil the baking dough. Store fresh baking cocoa in paper bags or plastic containers in a dry, dark place at 60°F at room temperature for no more than 1-2 weeks.

Why not? If it is stored in a very hot surrounding, it will most likely turn spoiled sooner that you expect.

Does unsweetened cocoa powder go bad?

An opened unsweetened cocoa powder can go bad if stored improperly. Unsweetened cocoa powder will generally stay at its best quality for about 3 years at 60°F at room temperature. To maximize the shelf life of opened unsweetened cocoa powder, keep the package tightly closed.

The presence or absence of sugar doesn’t matter. Any cocoa powder can get spoiled.

Can expired cocoa make you sick?

Cocoa powder doesn’t spoil, so it won’t cause you to become ill, but the taste and aroma may not be delightful. Don’t use cocoa powder, if you see mold on, you may have health problems related to mold. Store baking cocoa in paper bags in a dry, dark place at 60°F for no more 1-2 weeks.

It will cause some digestive problems and, in case you have a sensitive stomach, may even be the reason for food poisoning so be careful.

What Can I Make Of Cocoa Powder?

What Can I Make Of Cocoa Powder
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What do we usually do when having a jar of powdered cocoa? That’s right, we make a drink! The most creative ones will add some to the muffins, cakes, or other bakery recipes. But is that all?

No! This product has far more variants of use!

  • Make a mug of hot cocoa using a simple recipe: some cocoa powder plus milk, and whipped cream, and lots of marshmallows!
  • Want to have a bite of something sweet? What about a mug cake? One of the simplest recipes ever!
  • Cocoa will make a boring oatmeal a brand new meal!
  • Try out some healthy sweets, e.g. avocado truffles powdered with cocoa
  • Making pancakes? Add a pinch of cocoa to have delicious brown choco crepes!
  • Ever tried to use cocoa for freezing berries? No? Then try to dip them into a thick choco drink before tossing to the freezer. You’ll see how delicious it is!
  • Probably one of the most exotic recipes is to apply cocoa powder as a face mask! Makes your skin better and gives it a delicious choco flavor!

Except for these ideas, there are far more recipes on how to use cocoa powder both for culinary and less traditional purposes. Don’t be afraid and experiment! It’s such fun!

Chocolate ganache with cocoa powder / Instant chocolate GanacheChocolate ganache with cocoa powder / Instant chocolate Ganache

Frequently Asked Questions

Does baking cocoa go bad
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Cocoa is used not only in its pure state, but it is also added in many cocoa-containing drinks.

Since we already figured out what can be done to extend the cocoa shelf life, let’s see what questions cocoa-lovers ask most often. Maybe, some of these answers will be handy for you, too.

Does Nesquick powder go bad?

No, Nesquick powder doesn’t go bad if stored improperly. Nesquick contains sugar and flavorings, it will last up to 1-2 years if kept dry and unopened. Opened Nesquick keep 1-3 months at 60°F at room temperature in a dark, dry place.

If it’s kept under wrong conditions (which means too hot surrounding) or if the powder gets moist, it will spoil. Otherwise, it can be consumed even past its expiry date.

Does hot chocolate powder go bad?

Yes, the hot chocolate powder goes bad. Hot chocolate is made up of ingredients that go bad quickly. The shelf life becomes much shorter if it is not stored properly. To maximize the shelf life of hot chocolate powder, keep it in a tightly closed package at 60°F with a relative humidity of 95% at room temperature.

If it contains pure cocoa, then it will not become unsafe to drink but it will lose some taste after it’s expired. But if it’s a mix, then the answer is not clear and you’d better avoid drinking it.

Can expired cocoa make you sick
Photo by Isaiah Quindo: Pexels

Does hot cocoa mix expire?

Yes, the hot cocoa mix can be expired. An unopened package of cocoa mix will generally stay at best quality for up to 3 years. For longer-term use, keep the unopened cocoa mix store in a cool, dry place. After the expiration date, the cocoa mix’s texture, color, the flavor may change but, it will be safe to consume.

Since there’s cocoa in it, the product can last pretty long without becoming dangerous to drink. Let’s say, it can still be consumed after two years past the expiry date if stored properly.

Can I use expired cocoa powder?

If the general state of the powder is satisfying (e.g. there’s no mold, the odor is fine and rich, and the texture is also fine), drink it as usual without fear.

But if any suspicious signs appear, you’d better check the product for spoilage.

Can you freeze cocoa powder?

Yes, you can freeze cocoa powder. Freeze Cocoa powder at 35°F for more than 3-6 months in a tightly sealed container. Freezing will not change the texture and taste. To defrost the cocoa powder, put the bag on the plate for up to 15-20 minutes at 60°F, and wait until it is completely defrosted.

Cocoa powder must not be exposed to frost unless it’s packed in the airtight packet. Any other package is allowed for such a way of preservation.

Can expired cocoa make you sick
Phoo by Lisa Fotios: Pexels

As it comes from everything written above, taking care of cocoa powder is not that complicated as it could seem at first.

Nevertheless, certain rules must be followed and conditions must be provided to make sure that the product will remain consumable to its most. Besides, it will not only protect it from spoiling but will preserve the rich chocolate taste and aroma that cocoa is so much loved for.

Cocoa powder can be not only used for drinking, but it is also a perfect match for baking various cupcakes, cakes, as well as for making desserts. Decoration of the sweets is another sphere where this product can be widely applied.

Written by
Elisa is a passionate cook who will advise you on healthy and delicious food topics! With her help, you will discover how to properly store and freeze food, as well as learn important nuances about preserving vitamins in your meals to make them stay nutritious.
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