Can you use expired ground cinnamon?

Cinnamon is a popular spice used in many dishes, baked goods, and beverages. It has a warm, sweet flavor that enhances both savory and sweet foods. Ground cinnamon is convenient to have in your pantry since it’s ready to use in recipes without having to grind cinnamon sticks. But like other spices and seasonings, ground cinnamon does expire eventually. So can you still use cinnamon after the expiration date has passed?

What happens when ground cinnamon expires?

Ground cinnamon typically has an expiration date about 1-2 years from the packaging date. This is just a general guideline though – cinnamon can last a bit longer if stored properly in a cool, dark place in an airtight container. After the expiration date has passed, ground cinnamon does not necessarily spoil or go rancid immediately. But its flavor and aroma will slowly start to fade over time. The volatile oils that give cinnamon its robust flavor start to dissipate as the spice ages. Expired cinnamon may smell and taste weaker. It likely won’t make you sick, but old cinnamon simply won’t have the same punch of flavor as fresher spice.

How to tell if ground cinnamon has expired

Here are some signs that ground cinnamon has expired and may not be as flavorful anymore:

  • Faded color – Fresh cinnamon is a warm red-brown color. Expired cinnamon often looks paler and faded.
  • Dull, weak aroma – Cinnamon should have a strong, spicy-sweet smell when you open the container. If the smell seems musty or very mild, the cinnamon is past its prime.
  • Loss of flavor – This is the most telling sign. If your cinnamon doesn’t taste as robust, it’s expired. Baked goods may lack that classic cinnamon flavor.
  • Dry, hard texture – Fresh cinnamon is soft and powdery. Old cinnamon feels dry and compacted.

How to store ground cinnamon properly

To help ground cinnamon last as long as possible, store it:

  • In a cool, dark cupboard away from heat sources like the oven or stove
  • In an airtight container or jar to keep out moisture and air
  • Away from direct sunlight, which can cause fading
  • Away from other spices with strong scents that could absorb into the cinnamon

Under ideal storage conditions, ground cinnamon will stay fresh for about 1-2 years past the date you purchased it.

Can you use expired cinnamon?

While not ideal, you can use ground cinnamon that has passed its expiration date, especially if it has been properly stored. It just may not have the robust flavor and aroma of fresher cinnamon. So be prepared to use a little more of it when cooking and baking to compensate for the loss of potency.

There are a few ways you can salvage expired cinnamon:

  • Use more than the recipe calls for to boost the cinnamon flavor.
  • Combine it with other warm spices like ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice.
  • Stick to dishes that use a lot of cinnamon like oatmeal, coffee cakes, churros, etc.
  • Add a pinch to rich desserts like cakes and cookies that can benefit from extra flavoring.

If your cinnamon smells rancid, tastes bitter, or looks moldy, it’s best to throw it out and start fresh. But cinnamon that is reasonably dry and simply less aromatic could still be used up.

Can you substitute ground cinnamon after expiration?

If you don’t want to use expired cinnamon, there are a few suitable substitutions:

  • Cinnamon sticks – Use fresh sticks to grind a smaller amount of cinnamon as needed.
  • Allspice – Not exactly the same flavor, but has a similar warmth.
  • Nutmeg – Again, not a perfect sub, but will provide spice and sweetness.
  • Pumpkin pie spice – Contains cinnamon and complementary spices.
  • Ginger – Adds a similar heat and sweetness.

Mixing a small amount of the expired cinnamon with one of these alternatives can help stretch it a bit further too.

Bottom line

Expired ground cinnamon that’s not too old can still be used to add flavor to foods and drinks. While it won’t taste as robust, you can compensate by using more of it or pairing it with other spices. Proper storage helps cinnamon stay fresh longer. But even if it’s past its prime, cinnamon won’t make you sick. Be sure to do a smell and taste test before using very old cinnamon. And feel free to sub fresh spices like ginger or allspice if the cinnamon seems too far gone.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does ground cinnamon go bad?

Yes, ground cinnamon does eventually go bad, usually around 1-2 years after the packaging date. It slowly loses potency and flavor as the oils dissipate over time. Old cinnamon will smell and taste weaker than fresh.

What’s the shelf life of ground cinnamon?

The shelf life of ground cinnamon is around 1-2 years when stored properly in a cool, dark place in an airtight container. After that it will start losing aroma and flavor but may still be okay for another year or so before turning noticeably bad.

Can expired cinnamon make you sick?

Consuming expired cinnamon is very unlikely to make you sick. Cinnamon is shelf-stable and has antimicrobial properties. Unless cinnamon smells rancid or shows signs of mold, old cinnamon that has simply lost some flavor is still safe to eat after the expiration date.

How can you revive stale cinnamon?

To help revive stale, expired cinnamon, you can try microwaving the spice for 10-20 seconds to warm it up and stimulate the oils. Just don’t overheat it. Another option is to sprinkle some sugar on the cinnamon and grind it for a minute with a mortar and pestle – the friction helps release the essential oils.

Can old cinnamon hurt your stomach?

For most people, consuming expired cinnamon will not upset your stomach or cause digestive issues. Very moldy or rancid cinnamon could potentially cause some stomach discomfort. But cinnamon that’s simply old and less flavorful is still okay for your stomach when consumed in normal food amounts.

Using Expired Ground Cinnamon In Recipes

Here are some tips for using up the rest of your expired ground cinnamon in various dishes:

Baked Goods

Boost the cinnamon flavor in recipes like cakes, muffins, breads, pancakes, waffles, coffee cakes, rolls, etc. Add an extra teaspoon or more into the batter or dough. Cinnamon gets evenly distributed throughout baked goods.

Breakfast Foods

Wake up bland oatmeal, cereal, yogurt or overnight oats with extra dashes of cinnamon. Fold it into French toast batter. Sprinkle it liberally on sweet or savory breakfast casseroles.


Counteract mild cinnamon by using it on strong-flavored fruits like apples, pears, peaches, oranges and berries. It’s great in fruit salads, compotes, crisps and pies.

Sweet Potatoes

Add cinnamon to mashed, baked or fried sweet potatoes. It’s a perfect flavor match that will mask weaker cinnamon.

Coffee Drinks

Offset flat cinnamon taste in coffee, lattes, cappuccinos, hot chocolate and chai tea. Use 1-2 teaspoons per drink and stir vigorously to distribute.


Pump up the cinnamon flavor in desserts like custards, puddings, macarons, churros and ice cream. Sprinkle extra on top of whipped cream too.

Savory Dishes

Accent chili, curry powder blends, taco meat, barbecue sauce and mole sauce with lots of cinnamon. It works well in heartier dishes.

Spice Blends

Make your own pumpkin pie spice, Arabic spice blends or garam masala with the old cinnamon. Combine it with ginger, allspice, nutmeg and cloves.

How Long Does Ground Cinnamon Last?

Here is a table summarizing how long ground cinnamon lasts opened vs. unopened, with optimal storage conditions:

Ground Cinnamon Pantry/Cupboard (Unopened) Pantry/Cupboard (Opened)
Powder 2-3 years 6-12 months
Saigon/Vietnamese 1-2 years 6 months
Ceylon 2-3 years 1 year

As you can see, opened ground cinnamon has a significantly shorter shelf life – only lasting about 6 months to 1 year. So try to buy cinnamon in smaller quantities if you don’t use it that frequently. And transfer any extra to an airtight container to help it stay fresh as long as possible.

Does Cinnamon Go Bad?

Yes, cinnamon does eventually go bad. Ground cinnamon powder typically lasts 1-2 years past its expiration date before losing flavor and aroma. Whole cinnamon sticks can last 1-2 years longer than ground. Signs of cinnamon going bad are:

  • Faded, dull color
  • Musty, weak smell
  • Loss of spicy-sweet flavor
  • Dry, hard texture
  • Powder clumping together

Discard cinnamon that smells off or looks moldy. But cinnamon that’s simply stale can still be used up by adding more to recipes or combining with other spices.

How to Store Cinnamon Properly

Storing ground cinnamon correctly helps extend its shelf life. Keep cinnamon:

  • In a cool, dark spot in your pantry or cupboard away from heat
  • In an airtight container or jar
  • Away from light, moisture and humidity
  • Away from pungent spices like pepper that could absorb the flavor

With ideal storage conditions, ground cinnamon can retain optimal flavor and aroma for about 1-2 years past the printed expiration date.


While ground cinnamon does lose potency and flavor after its expiration date, it can still be used in cooking and baking with some adjustments. Expired cinnamon may need to be used more liberally in recipes to compensate for faded aroma and taste. Combining old cinnamon with other spices can help mask its staleness as well. Proper storage like keeping it in an airtight container in a cool, dark place helps maximize cinnamon’s shelf life. But even if it’s a little past its prime, cinnamon typically does not go rancid or pose any health hazards. Check it for mold and off smells or tastes. But otherwise, you can keep incorporating that aging cinnamon into your favorite recipes to use it up.

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