I've heard that "honey never spoils", but I'm incredulous. Is this true, and if so, how? Isn't there some indicator that I should throw the honey in my cupboard away?


3 Answers 3


Honey is very stable for a number of reasons. The main ones though are the low amount of water (most honey is under 18% water) and the high amount of sugar (which is a preservative). Both of these things keep things like mold and bacteria from being able to grow. Over a long period of time (and if left unsealed) the honey could absorb moisture and then ferment (the sugar would turn to alcohol) but if sealed then your honey should be fine for a long time. This PDF from the National Honey board http://www.honey.com/images/downloads/shelflife.pdf says that a shelf life of 2 years is often stated. On Chowhound I saw a discussion that said that in the UK the "best by" dates are usually 4 years out so I'm guessing that those dates have far more to do with decisions by the respective governments (i.e. laws that state a maximum best by date no matter what the food is) then the actual shelf life of honey. As the honey in your cupboard, if it's only a few months or a year old as long as it's been in a sealed container then it most likely should be fine.

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    If it is allowed to crystallize the honey can also separate enough that the liquid portion becomes dilute enough to spoil. Commented May 14, 2012 at 19:01
  • @Sobachatina, how would you tell that the honey is spoiled? I have had crystallized honey and microwaved it for a short time and it appeared, tasted and worked like it was good as new.
    – Cos Callis
    Commented May 14, 2012 at 19:49
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    @Cos, Crystallization doesn't imply that it is spoiled- it can just allow it to spoil. I've never had honey go bad either so I don't know if it molds or just starts to ferment. Commented May 14, 2012 at 20:01
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    Honey also "inherits" the properties of the flowers it was made of. Many honeys include at least some nectar from herbs with bactericidal qualitites, up to the point where a tablespoon of certain honeys can prevent your bread from raising because it will kill all the yeast. But the strength of their antimicrobial qualities depends a lot on the flower type used, and you can't normally know much about that.
    – rumtscho
    Commented May 14, 2012 at 20:55
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    @Sobachatina, I understand that crystallization does not mean spoiled, but your comment implies that this would be an indicator and I was wanting to know how (beyond just crystallization) one might tell.. appearance, smell, picket signs reading "occupy...." are typical signs of spoilage.
    – Cos Callis
    Commented May 15, 2012 at 4:12

In addition to the really high sugar-content, Honey has antibacterial properties; so far that some kinds of honey are used as an antibiotic on wounds.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100630111037.htm has an article on that aspect of honey. This adds to the "no spoiling" capabilities of honey, because it will prevent any bacteria-related spoiling.


Sealed honey is good forever.. thousands of years at least. we know this from jars of honey found around the world that were sealed by ancient civilizations. It is an amazing substance.

  • This does not answer the question.
    – Cindy
    Commented Nov 7, 2014 at 12:50

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