17 Pantry Foods That Never Expire
Many staple foods can sit for years or even decades in a cool, dry pantry and still be perfectly fine to eat. In fact, these pantry goods pretty much never expire. Now go stock up!
Pantries date back to medieval times, and in those days were rooms that only stored bread. In most of today’s homes, these spaces are dedicated to housing a wider variety of foods, sometimes as much of it as we can cram onto its shelves. Under the right conditions, some pantry staples can last for years and still be safe to eat, which is great to know if you’re stocking up for emergencies. While you should always use your best judgment before eating the contents of a container that’s been sitting on a shelf for years, you can find some peace of mind knowing that these foods never expire, if they’re kept in cool, dry conditions.
1. Canned Food
Because the canning process locks out oxygen, most canned food will stay fresh long past the expiration date printed on the can. Remember, though, that eating improperly stored canned goods can cause botulism, so if your cans look rusted or have deep dents or bulges, don’t eat what’s inside.
If you’re trying to build up your stores of nonperishable food, feel comfortable stocking up on salt. When stored in an airtight container, this natural preservative will last forever. So, go ahead—shake that salt shaker.
It may be a liquid, but this viscous sweetener has a very low water content, which helps it last for years. Even when honey changes color or crystallizes, it’s still good—as long as the container is sealed.
Does sugar go bad? Nope! All kinds of sugar, including brown, powdered, and white sugar, will last indefinitely. Sugar can harden over time, but it’s still safe to eat if you don’t mind the texture. If the lumps really bother you, try softening the sugar by putting it in a plastic bag along with a damp paper towel and microwaving it for 15 seconds.
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5. Maple Syrup
Like honey, pure maple syrup has low water content and can last for ages which, given how much it costs, is good news for everyone.
Distilled liquors like tequila, vodka, gin, whiskey, and rum last indefinitely, even after they’ve been opened. While it’s still technically drinkable, an open bottle of spirits does slowly lose its flavor over time, and may not have the appeal it did when it was “fresh.”
7. Vanilla Extract
Pure vanilla extract (not the imitation kind) is mostly alcohol, so a bottle of the stuff will stay fresh for years as long as it’s been properly sealed after use.
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8. White Vinegar
This high-acidity liquid is a preservative for a reason: Distilled white vinegar will last forever in a cool, dark place. Given that it can be used for cooking, cleaning, and even gardening, it’s worth stocking up on by the gallon!
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9. White Rice
Inside an airtight food storage container, all varieties of uncooked white rice will last forever—just keep it safe from pantry pests. Alas, brown rice is not on the list of foods that don’t expire—the oils in brown rice will cause it to go rancid in less than a year.
Another dried grain with a long shelf life, oats will last for years when stored in an airtight container (adding an oxygen absorber to the container will help keep the oats fresh even longer).
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10. Dried Pasta
Although pasta manufacturers stamp an expiration date on the package, the truth is, an unopened package of dried pasta can last for years beyond that date. To ensure lasting freshness, keep pasta in a cool, dark place, in an airtight container.
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11. Dried Beans
Though they may take longer to cook than usual, many varieties of dried beans remain edible basically forever. Given their longevity, there’s good reason to grow (and then dry) beans in your garden—in a three sisters garden, perhaps?
Cornstarch’s enemies are bugs and moisture. As long as you keep it dry and well sealed after you’ve opened it, this low-moisture thickener should last for years.
13. Powdered Milk
15. Corn Syrup
An unopened bottle of corn syrup can last basically forever. It may lose some sweetness over time (and light corn syrup may turn yellow), but it will still be safe to eat.
16. Instant Coffee
If kept in an airtight container in a cool, dry spot, instant coffee can last for 20 years—which is an excellent argument for keeping a jar on hand for your next coffee emergency.
Whether loose or in tea bags, tea never spoils. It does lose flavor over time and may become less enjoyable to drink, but when stored properly and kept dry, it will never be unsafe to drink. In general, loose tea retains its flavor longer than bagged tea, and darker teas stay fresh longer than lighter ones.
Looking for ways to make your pantry stash last longer? Consider investing in: