How Long Does All-Purpose Flour Last?

Get the scoop (pun intended) on this pantry staple.

Do you remember when you bought that bag of all-purpose flour in your kitchen cupboard? Probably not. Unlike other pantry staples such as spices and oil, maybe you've never even considered that all-purpose flour can expire. Surprise, it can! But don't worry, you're probably using it up well before you should. Whether you're an avid baker, or you only reach for flour once or twice a year, it's a good idea to check its freshness, and know the tell-tale signs that your flour has gone bad.

How Long Does All-Purpose Flour Last?

According to the USDA, unopened all-purpose flour (both regular, enriched, bleached, and non-bleached) is best used within a year of the purchase date. Once open, it's best to use all-purpose flour up within six to eight months, if stored in the pantry. If refrigerated after opening, you can extend that window up to a year.

What's the Difference Between All-Purpose Flour and Cake Flour?
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Other white flours, like cake flour, are also similarly good for a year. One exception is self-rising flour, which contains baking powder. The flour won't necessarily be rancid in a year, but the leavener will have likely lost its potency, and so the flour won't work the way it's supposed to anymore. Whole grain flours, which include the wheat germ, have a much shorter shelf life. Use them within a few months of purchase, or store in the freezer to extend their life even longer.

How To Tell If All-Purpose Flour Has Gone Bad

Whether you're a seasoned biscuit-maker or pancakes are a Saturday morning special at your house, chances are, you bake and cook with all-purpose flour often enough that you will not end up with expired flour. But if you happen to find a bag in the back of your pantry that you forgot all about, give it a sniff to check for any musty or stale odors, which is a sure sign that you should toss it out. Visual cues that the flour is no longer good are clumping or yellowing, two signs that moisture has gotten to it.

If all-purpose flour isn't one of your go-to ingredients, buy the smallest bag possible to prevent it from expiring and taking up precious storage space. Or buy flour from a bulk bin so you can measure out exactly as much as you need. (This also is a smart way to buy whole grain flours or other dry ingredients you might not use as often.)

Can You Use Expired All-Purpose Flour?

In short, yes. (As long as there are no signs of spoilage.) An expiration date isn't considered an indicator of whether the flour is safe to use by the USDA. Fresh flour will always produce tastier results, but as long as the all-purpose flour was stored properly and doesn't have any signs of deterioration (or pests), you can use it.

How To Store All-Purpose Flour

Store all-purpose flour in an airtight plastic canister or glass jar, which will help it stay fresh and keep pests away. Including a best-by date on the container is a good practice to get in the habit of, especially if you don't use your flour often. Also, be sure to use up the entire canister of flour before you pour in a new bag. That way, layers of "old" flour won't get mixed up with fresh flour over time. You should always store all-purpose flour in a cool, dry, and dark place or in the refrigerator for extended shelf-life.

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