Cinnamon is a popular spice used in many dishes, baked goods and beverages. It has a distinct flavor and aroma that enhances both sweet and savory foods. Like all spices, cinnamon has a shelf life and will eventually lose potency. However, with proper storage, cinnamon can last for years past its printed expiration date.
Does cinnamon expire?
Yes, cinnamon does expire. All spices and seasonings lose potency and flavor over time. The antioxidants in cinnamon also degrade and become less effective. However, expiration dates printed on containers are simply guidelines and cinnamon may stay fresh for many months or even years if stored properly.
How can you tell if cinnamon has expired?
There are a few signs that indicate your cinnamon is past its prime:
- Loss of aroma – Cinnamon should have a strong, sweet woody scent when you open the bottle. If it hardly smells like anything, it’s probably old.
- Change in color – Fresh cinnamon is light reddish brown. Older cinnamon turns pale and dull.
- Bitter, musty flavor – Expired cinnamon will taste bitter, harsh or stale instead of sweet.
- Clumping – Old cinnamon often clumps together into hard balls or chunks.
If your cinnamon exhibits any of these qualities, it’s time to replace it.
How to store cinnamon properly
To get the longest shelf life out of cinnamon, store it in a cool, dark place in an airtight container. Keep it away from heat, light and moisture which cause it to deteriorate faster. Ground cinnamon powder typically lasts 1-2 years stored this way while cinnamon sticks may stay fresh for 2-3 years. You can also refrigerate or freeze cinnamon to extend its shelf life even longer.
Tips for proper cinnamon storage:
- Keep cinnamon in a tightly sealed glass, plastic or ceramic container.
- Store in a cool, dark cupboard away from heat sources like the oven or stove.
- Keep away from humidity and steam from the kitchen.
- Don’t store cinnamon near the stove where it gets hot.
- Buy small bottles and use within 1-2 years.
- Refrigerate for longer shelf life around 3-4 years.
- Freeze for up to 5 years – let come to room temperature before use.
- Store cinnamon sticks and powder separately.
How long does cinnamon last at room temperature?
Properly stored in an airtight container at room temperature, ground cinnamon will generally stay fresh for:
- Powder: 1-2 years past printed expiration date.
- Sticks: 2-3 years past printed expiration date.
The expiration date is usually 1-2 years from the packaging date for ground cinnamon. Whole cinnamon sticks last a bit longer. If you open and use your cinnamon frequently, it may only last about 6 months at room temperature before losing aroma and flavor.
Does cinnamon go bad?
Yes, cinnamon can go bad over time. It will not make you sick if you ingest it after the expiration date, but it will become less potent and not taste as robust. The antioxidants and volatile oils that give cinnamon its signature spicy-sweet flavor and aroma break down over time. It develops an off, bitter flavor compared to fresh cinnamon.
Signs your cinnamon has gone bad include:
- Faded color
- Lack of fragrance
- Dry, hard texture
- Bitter, unpleasant taste
- Clumping of powder
If your cinnamon has developed any of these qualities, it has gone bad and should be discarded.
How long does cinnamon last in the fridge?
Refrigerating your cinnamon extends its shelf life significantly. When stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, ground cinnamon will last:
- Powder: 3-4 years past printed expiration date.
- Sticks: 5-6 years past printed expiration date.
The cold temperature slows down the chemical reactions and moisture loss that causes cinnamon to degrade. Just make sure your container is tightly sealed to prevent absorbing fridge odors.
Can you freeze cinnamon?
Yes, you can freeze cinnamon to prolong its shelf life even longer than refrigerating. When frozen in an airtight container, ground cinnamon will keep for:
- Powder: 4-5 years past printed expiration date.
- Sticks: 5-6 years past printed expiration date
Freezing stops the aging process almost completely. For best quality, use frozen cinnamon within 5 years. Make sure to put it in an airtight container first so it doesn’t absorb freezer odors. Allow to come to room temperature before use.
How long does cinnamon last once opened?
Once opened, the shelf life of ground cinnamon is significantly reduced. An opened bottle stored in a cool, dark place will last:
- Ground: 6-12 months
- Sticks: 1-2 years
Exposure to air causes cinnamon to lose its volatile oils and antioxidants much faster. Transfer opened cinnamon to an airtight container if not already in one. Buy small bottles you can use up quicker after opening.
What’s the shelf life of cinnamon sticks?
Cinnamon sticks tend to last longer than ground cinnamon powder. When stored properly in a cool, dark place, cinnamon sticks can last:
- Room temperature: 2-3 years past printed expiration date
- Refrigerated: 5-6 years past printed expiration date
- Frozen: 5-6 years past printed expiration date
The whole stick form protects the inner cinnamon layers from air, light and moisture exposure. Just be sure to store them in an airtight container as well. Break sticks as needed instead of grinding a large batch that will quickly degrade.
How to tell if cinnamon sticks are bad?
Look for these signs that indicate your cinnamon sticks have gone bad:
- Faded, dull color
- Lack of aroma
- Soft, mushy texture
- Chalky, dry interior when broken
- Bitter, unpleasant flavor
Discard cinnamon sticks immediately if they exhibit any of these qualities and no longer smell sweet or taste robust.
Does ground cinnamon go bad faster?
Yes, ground cinnamon powder has a shorter shelf life than sticks. Ground cinnamon lasts:
- Room temperature: 1-2 years past printed expiration date
- Refrigerated: 3-4 years past printed expiration date
- Frozen: 4-5 years past printed expiration date
The grinding process exposes more surface area to air, light and humidity. Ground cinnamon also loses its oils faster. For maximum freshness and shelf life, buy whole cinnamon sticks and grind them as needed.
Can old cinnamon make you sick?
Consuming cinnamon past its prime won’t make you sick. However, old cinnamon that has degraded won’t provide the same robust flavor, aroma or health benefits. It loses potency and antioxidant capabilities over time.
Cinnamon may develop traces of a natural toxin called coumarin as it ages. Some people report mild stomach upset from coumarin sensitivity. Otherwise, you can safely ingest cinnamon that has expired, though it won’t taste very nice.
Cinnamon lasts 1-2 years beyond the printed expiration date if stored properly. Refrigerating or freezing can extend its shelf life up to 4-6 years. To maximize freshness, buy small containers and store cinnamon in a cool, dark place in an airtight container. Look for signs of fading, musty aroma, dull color and clumping to determine when your cinnamon has expired. Discard old cinnamon and replace it with fresh to take advantage of cinnamon’s delicious flavor and health benefits.