Do Sprinkles Expire or Go Bad?

by Charlie

So you recently baked the perfect cake, and just as you are about to put the finishing touch on your creation you notice that your sprinkles are past their expiration date! What do you do? Leave the cake half-decorated? No way! Run to the grocery store last minute? What a drag that would be.  

We’ve all been there, don’t worry we’ve got you covered!

Do sprinkles expire or go bad? The good news is that as sprinkles are primarily made of sugar, they are unlikely to go bad. Sprinkles can safely be used for 3-5 years past their expiration date. 

Phew, saved you there! However, you probably still have some questions about your sprinkles and their freshness. Keep reading to learn more about what sprinkles are made of, how to tell if your sprinkles are safe to use, and how to store your sprinkles for optimal freshness!   

What are Sprinkles Made of? 

The main ingredients in sprinkles include: 

  • Sugar 
  • Corn syrup
  • Cornstarch 
  • Flavoring (for example cocoa or vanilla) 
  • Food coloring

Different types and brands of sprinkles may vary in their ingredients, however, these five ingredients are the most commonly found. As most of these ingredients have very long shelf lives and are not known to easily spoil or expire, in general, it is safe to assume your sprinkles will also not expire. Unopened, sprinkles can be stored indefinitely.

Note: Always check the ingredients of your sprinkles. Some sprinkles may also have oils in them, making them more susceptible to spoiling. Oil is known to go rancid after a while, so be extra careful when using sprinkles with oil in their ingredient list. 

Different Types of Sprinkles

Sprinkles are a very diverse confectionery item, allowing for the creation of colorful desserts filled with delicious, sugary flavors. They come in a wide variety of colors, shapes, and flavors. There are six main types of sprinkles, each with its own special use. 

  1. Jimmies are the classic, elongated rod-shaped sprinkles that are most often used for cupcakes and cakes.    
  2. Quins are shaped sprinkles, often shaped as little dots, stars, and hearts. 
  3. Nonpareil sprinkles are tiny balls made from sugar and starch. 
  4. Dragees are larger ball-shaped sprinkles, which are usually metallic in color, closely resembling pearls. 
  5. Sanding sugar sprinkles are sugar crystals that are larger in size than refined sugar. Their transparent color gives the appearance of glitter, and the larger crystal size gives a great crunch.  
  6. Coase sugar sprinkles are similar to sanding sugar, although they are even larger in size and with more crunch.    

Why Do Sprinkles Have Expiration Dates?   

Due to food safety laws and regulations, food producers are often required to label the production and expiration date of their products. Most of the time, expiration dates on many food items are simply guidelines, which guarantee the freshness of a product up until a certain date. An item that is past its expiration date does not mean that it has gone bad necessarily.

Sprinkles are one such food, where the expiration date is simply a guideline. Although most store-bought sprinkle jars have expiration dates, if stored in an air-tight container, sprinkles can be used for at least 3-5 years after their listed expiration date.  

Many casual bakers have used the same sprinkles for up to 10-15 years without any issues! 

How to Tell if You Should Throw Out Your Sprinkles  

There are several ways in which you can check whether your sprinkles are safe to use or not. 

  1. First, examine your sprinkles visually. Has the color faded? Are there any spots on them? Can you see visible mold growth? Are they clumped (an indication of moisture)? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it is likely an indication that they should be thrown out. 
  2. Next, smell the sprinkles. If they smell sour or rancid, it is best to dispose of them. 
  3. Lastly, have a small taste. If your sprinkles still have a nice, sugary flavor with no sour or bad taste, they are safe to use!

Can You Eat Expired Sprinkles?

So what happens if you eat expired sprinkles? Most likely nothing will happen, apart from the unpleasant taste. It is highly unlikely to get sick from “bad” sprinkles, especially when consuming the small amounts that are usually on baked goods. 

That said, if the sprinkles taste bad or their flavor is very different from expected, it is best to throw them out and buy a fresh pack. Luckily, sprinkles are relatively inexpensive, and buying a new pack will not break the bank!   

As with most food, never eat moldy sprinkles! 

How to Properly Store Sprinkles 

The main culprit when it comes to food going bad is bacteria. To ensure your sprinkles will be good for longer, keep them bacteria-free. 

The best way to store sprinkles is: 

  • In an air-tight plastic or glass container. The original container should be sufficient if it is not damaged; 
  • In a dark, dry pantry; 
  • At room temperature. 

Some bakers prefer to keep their sprinkles in the fridge, which can help ensure their freshness. If you are storing your sprinkles in the fridge, make sure to use an air-tight container. 

Issues can arise if your sprinkles are damp as they can grow mold, lose their texture and color, or lose their sweet taste. When using your sprinkles avoid dipping a dirty or wet spoon into the container, or contaminating them with any other substances. 

Conclusion 

Don’t fret! Your “expired” sprinkles are likely not expired at all and they most likely have not gone bad. If they passed the look, smell, and taste test, feel free to use them. Of course, if you are worried or have any indication that your sprinkles may be bad, go ahead and toss them out. 

Most importantly, use common sense and always check how all your ingredients (including your sprinkles!) look, smell and taste before adding them to your recipe. Using fresh ingredients is the best way to guarantee a delicious creation! Like expiration date labels, this article is only a guideline so always use your best judgment.

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