Baking powder is a staple ingredient in many baked goods recipes. It helps give lift and lightness to cakes, muffins, biscuits and more by producing carbon dioxide bubbles that make batters and doughs rise. But because baking powder contains chemical leaveners, many wonder if it has an expiration date and can go bad.
The short answer is yes, baking powder can lose its effectiveness and go bad over time. But don't worry - there are still ways you can test old baking powder to see if it's still usable. And if it's not, we have tips on proper storage to help your next can last longer.
How Long Does Baking Powder Last?
- Unopened: Up to 18 months from the manufacture date. Check your can for a "best by" date.
- After Opening: Around 6 months once exposed to air. Write the date opened on your baking powder can.
So if you open a new container of baking powder today, you can expect it to be good for about 6 months if stored properly.
The reason baking powder expires is that the chemical leaveners that make baked goods rise lose their potency over time, especially when exposed to moisture and humidity. Old baking powder simply won't produce enough bubbles for recipes to rise properly.
How to Tell If Baking Powder Is Still Good
Since baking powder won't grow mold or smell bad as it expires, you need to test it. Here is a simple way using just hot water:
- Add 1/2 teaspoon baking powder to 1/4 cup hot water in a small bowl.
- Look for an immediate bubbling or fizzing reaction. If it bubbles a lot, the baking powder is still good!
- If it barely bubbles or there's no reaction, it means your baking powder is no longer active. Toss it and buy a fresh container.
This test checks the chemical leaveners in baking powder by seeing if they still react to liquid and heat. An old or compromised baking powder won't react or bubble much.
How to Store Baking Powder Properly
To help your baking powder stay fresh and active as long as possible:
- Keep Cool & Dry: Store in a pantry or cabinet away from heat, light and moisture.
- Use an Airtight Container: A tight lid keeps out humidity that shortens shelf life. Or transfer to a sealed plastic bag or container.
- Write Open Date: Note when you opened on the packaging with a marker so you know when to test it.
With proper storage, your baking powder could even last a bit past its 6 month open shelf life. But be sure to do the hot water test if you're unsure!
What to Do With Old Baking Powder
If your baking powder has failed the test, don't just toss the can! Here are some great uses for that last bit before it heads to the trash:
- Use in place of baking soda for cleaning. It won't be as strong, but can help scrub sinks or bathtubs.
- Sprinkle on slippery outdoor steps or walkways for traction.
- Mix with dish soap and use to scrub vegetables to help remove dirt and residues.
So put that old baking powder to use before getting a fresh container for your next baking project!
Key Takeaway: Test old baking powder with 1/2 tsp powder + 1/4 cup hot water. Look for bubbles and fizzing - if minimal reaction, the baking powder has gone bad.
Does baking powder really go bad?
Yes, baking powder does expire and go bad once its chemical leaveners lose potency. This happens faster once exposed to air, but can happen in 18 months even if stored properly unopened.
Can old baking powder make you sick?
No, you cannot get sick from ingesting old or expired baking powder. It may just not cause the desired rise and lightness in baked goods.
How can I make my baking powder last longer?
Store baking powder in an airtight container in a cool, dry place to get the most life out of it. Write the date you opened it and use within 6 months.
What happens if you use expired baking powder?
Recipes made with dead baking powder simply won't rise as much and baked goods can end up dense and flat. The chemical reaction that produces bubbles will not happen properly.
Can you use baking soda instead of expired baking powder?
No, baking soda and baking powder are not interchangeable. Baking powder already contains baking soda plus acid like cream of tartar. Substituting one for the other will throw off recipe chemistry.
While baking powder lasts longer than milk or eggs, its chemical leaveners do lose potency so it can expire. Always check old baking powder with a simple hot water test to see if it's still active for baking. And be sure to store it properly to maximize its 6-month opened shelf life.
Knowing exactly when to toss old baking powder means one less thing to worry about on baking day! Now you can test it instead of crossing your fingers those muffins will rise.