Is the use-by date on your honey actually useful?

By Tamara Gane
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Advertisement

If you look at the back of a jar of honey, chances are you'll see an expiration date. You might be tempted to toss the jar in the garbage and buy yourself a replacement if the date came and went months ago...but not so fast. You can still enjoy the health benefits of honey long after the expiration date. If you've ever wondered if honey expires, here's what you need to know.

What do expiration dates actually mean?

According to the USDA, product dating is not required by the federal government except in the case of baby formula. However, manufacturers usually place expiration dates or best-used-by dates to assist stores with inventory and help customers enjoy consumables while they are at their optimum flavor and freshness. This means that many products like honey are still perfectly healthy to eat long after their expiration dates.

Does honey go bad?

Honey isn't a perishable product. As long as it's stored in an air-tight container and isn't exposed to excess moisture, it will be safe to consume for decades or more. This is because honey naturally resists absorbing water molecules, which makes it an unsuitable host for bacteria. This doesn't mean it will look and taste exactly the same, though. Over time, honey will turn darker, cloudier, and crystallize. If this happens, there's no cause for alarm. The honey is still perfectly safe to consume.

Can you return crystallized honey to its original state?

Fortunately, it's easy to convert crystallized honey back to its liquid state–all it takes is a little bit of heat. If your honey is in a glass jar, simply place it in a shallow pot of water and let it warm over low heat. If it's in a plastic jar, heat it in the microwave for 30 seconds, then stir. The crystals should dissolve, though it might be necessary to repeat this process again to return the entire jar back to liquid.

Honey dipper and honeycomb on table
Credit: Getty Images

What are some uses for honey?

You probably know that honey is delicious in tea or drizzled on top of buttermilk biscuits, but there are many more delicious recipes to put that honey in your cupboard to good use. Some beauty trends are even making the most of honey's benefits for your skin these days.

Some of our favorite recipes, like our Honey-Glazed Spiced Carrots, Honey BBQ Chicken Wings, One-Pan Hot Honey Chicken and Rice, or Bee's Knees Honey Cocktail, are fabulous recipes to get you started. We asked Jennifer Earnest and Jamey Evnoiuk, the husband and wife team behind Jen and Jamey's Virtual Cooking Classes out of Jacksonville, Florida, for a few more ideas on how to use honey. They'd had some great ideas for how to make the most of honey in condiments and cocktails. In fact, they told us they use Ziegler's Georgia Wildberry Honey all the time.

Jamey's Lemon-Thyme Vinaigrette

Jamey says he uses honey to create his easy, delicious, signature lemon-thyme vinaigrette. For a 5-cup batch, combine:

  • 2 cups orange juice concentrate
  • 1/6 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/6 cup honey
  • 1/6 cup dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon picked thyme
  • 2 Cups extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Jen's "Bless Your Heart" Cocktail

Not to be outdone, Jen shared her recipe for her "Bless your heart" cocktail.

  • 4 ounces blood orange juice
  • 2 ounces fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 2 ounces wildflower honey simple syrup (to make, just add warm water to the honey until you get the desired consistency, usually a 1:1 ratio)
  • 2 ounces of gin, vodka, or club soda