Cinnamon is a popular spice used in baking, cooking, and beverages. It has a warm, sweet flavor that enhances both sweet and savory foods. Many people have cinnamon in their pantries and use it frequently when preparing meals. But what if you discover cinnamon that is past its expiration date – is it still safe to use?
Generally, expired cinnamon is safe to eat. Ground cinnamon lasts 1-2 years past its printed expiration date. Cinnamon sticks can last 1-2 years past their expiration date as well. As long as expired cinnamon smells and tastes normal, it should be fine to use in recipes.
Does Cinnamon Go Bad?
Yes, cinnamon does eventually go bad, but it takes a very long time. Properly stored, ground cinnamon typically lasts about 1-2 years past its printed expiration date before it starts to lose flavor and aroma. Cinnamon sticks or quills can last 1-2 years past their expiration date as well.
This is because cinnamon contains antioxidants and essential oils that prevent spoilage. The compounds in cinnamon have antimicrobial properties that act as natural preservatives. As long as the cinnamon is kept in an airtight container in a cool, dark place, it will maintain its freshness and shelf life past the printed date.
How to Tell if Cinnamon is Bad
There are a few signs that indicate it’s time to discard your old cinnamon:
- Change in color – Fresh cinnamon is light reddish-brown in color. As it gets old, it fades to a pale brown or tan color.
- Weak aroma – When you open a container of cinnamon, you should immediately smell its sweet, spicy, distinctive aroma. Old cinnamon will not smell as strong.
- Bland, musty, or bitter taste – You should taste a bit of fresh cinnamon. It should have a sweet yet spicy flavor. Old cinnamon may taste stale, musty, or bitter.
- Presence of mold – Mold spores won’t grow in fresh, dry cinnamon. But if your cinnamon container has moisture in it, you may notice mold growth.
Is it Safe to Eat Expired Cinnamon?
Eating cinnamon a few months or even 1-2 years past its printed expiration date is generally safe. As a dried spice, cinnamon has an extremely long shelf life. The antioxidants and oils in cinnamon prevent most bacterial growth and spoilage.
However, there are a couple risks you should keep in mind with expired cinnamon:
- Botulism – The risk is very low, but in rare cases, the Clostridium botulinum bacterium can grow in expired spices stored in the presence of moisture. This bacteria produces the neurotoxin that causes botulism. Always inspect cinnamon for any signs of moisture or mold growth.
- Diminished flavor and quality – Extremely old cinnamon, around 2 years past its expiration date, will lose its aroma and flavor. So the cinnamon may not ruin the dish, but it won’t provide much flavor either.
As long as the expired cinnamon smells and tastes normal, using it should not make you sick. However, you likely will need to use more of it to achieve the desired flavor due to some fading over time. Any odd colors, smells, textures, or appearance should be viewed as a sign to toss the cinnamon.
Does Expired Cinnamon Lose Its Health Benefits?
Cinnamon contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that are believed to provide health benefits. However, these beneficial compounds will slowly degrade over time after expiration.
Some compounds found in cinnamon that can help reduce blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglycerides may start to break down and become less effective. However, using expired cinnamon won’t make it unhealthy or dangerous.
The takeaway is that extremely old cinnamon won’t provide quite as much nutritional value, but it’s still safe to eat.
How to Extend Cinnamon’s Shelf Life
To get the longest lasting cinnamon, store it properly in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. Keep it away from heat, light, and moisture. Here are a few tips:
- Buy smaller containers – Once exposed to air, cinnamon will start to decline. Smaller containers protect it.
- Keep it cool – Store cinnamon in a pantry, cabinet, or drawer away from hot spots like near the oven.
- Use airtight containers – Make sure your cinnamon container has a tight seal to lock out excess air.
- Watch humidity – Absorbing moisture will cause cinnamon to cake and lose flavor faster.
With proper storage, ground cinnamon can last about 3 years before going bad. Cinnamon sticks can last about 4 years. Just be sure to occasionally inspect and sniff your cinnamon supply.
How to Tell When Cinnamon Has Truly Gone Bad
It can be tricky to tell if cinnamon is still good or if it’s finally gone bad. Here are a few ways you can tell if your cinnamon is too old to use:
- There is visible mold growth throughout the container.
- It smells musty, rotten, or unpleasant instead of sweet and spicy.
- The color has faded to an extremely pale brown or grayish tan.
- It tastes very bitter, harsh, and unpleasant.
- It makes you cough or causes an allergic reaction when inhaling it.
If your cinnamon shows any of these signs, it should be discarded. At that point, the compounds have broken down too far to provide flavor or preserve foods.
What Happens If You Eat Bad Cinnamon?
Eating rancid, moldy cinnamon that is way past its prime can cause negative health effects. Here are some possibilities:
- Food poisoning – Spoiled cinnamon can potentially harbor bacteria like salmonella, E. coli, and Staphylococcus aureus, which can all cause food poisoning symptoms if ingested.
- Allergic reactions – Moldy and spoiled cinnamon may trigger asthma attacks or anaphylaxis in those allergic.
- Toxicity – Some molds produce mycotoxins that can cause illness if consumed. Long term exposure may affect liver, kidneys, and central nervous system.
Always remember – when in doubt, throw it out! Using very old cinnamon with an off odor, appearance, or taste is not worth the risk.
Can You Bake With Expired Cinnamon?
Baking with cinnamon that is past its freshness date by several months but not excessively old will generally be fine. However, you may need to use more cinnamon than the recipe calls for to achieve the intended flavor.
Cinnamon’s aroma compounds fade over time, so the flavor won’t be as intense. Try adding an extra teaspoon or two of expired cinnamon to baked goods recipes to make up for its loss of strength.
Just avoid using cinnamon that smells or looks spoiled in baked goods. Also, inspect baked products containing expired cinnamon closely before consuming in case any mold developed during the baking process.
Substituting Expired Cinnamon in Recipes
You can substitute expired cinnamon in recipes as long as it smells and tastes normal. To account for old cinnamon having weaker aroma and flavor, use the substitution ratios below:
|Recipe Calls For||Substitute With|
|1 teaspoon cinnamon||1 1/2 teaspoons expired cinnamon|
|1 tablespoon cinnamon||1 1/2 tablespoons expired cinnamon|
|1/4 cup cinnamon||6 tablespoons expired cinnamon|
Keep in mind that doubling recipes that call for a lot of cinnamon, like snickerdoodles, could make the cinnamon flavor overpowering. You may need to gradually increase the amount and adjust to taste.
Other Flavorful Spice Substitutions Include:
Start with about half the amount of these spices as you would cinnamon. Their flavors can be quite strong, so add a little at a time until you achieve a pleasing flavor.
Cooking and Baking With Expired Cinnamon
To ensure your recipes turn out great using expired cinnamon, follow these tips:
- Give the cinnamon a sniff test – Make sure it still smells sweet and spicy.
- Add it gradually – Start with half the cinnamon first, then adjust to taste.
- Use a larger amount – Plan to use 1.5 to 2 times the stated amount to boost flavor.
- Combine spices – Mix in other aromatics like allspice, nutmeg, and ginger.
- Check for doneness – Baked goods may take a few extra minutes to account for weaker cinnamon flavor.
- Sample the results – Taste test recipes and add more cinnamon as needed.
With this approach, you can definitely put that expired cinnamon to work creating delicious meals and treats.
Common Questions About Expired Cinnamon
Can cinnamon go bad?
Yes, cinnamon can go bad over time. Ground cinnamon tends to last 1-2 years past the printed expiration date. Cinnamon sticks last around 2-3 years past their expiration date before losing potency.
How long does cinnamon last after opening?
An opened container of ground cinnamon will typically last about 2-3 years. To maximize freshness, store it in an airtight container in a cool, dry place away from light and heat.
What happens if you eat expired cinnamon?
Eating cinnamon a few months to a year or two past its expiration date is generally safe if it still smells and tastes normal. Consuming very old and potentially moldy cinnamon could result in foodborne illness.
Can you get sick from using old cinnamon?
As long as the cinnamon does not contain mold growth, you are unlikely to get sick from using cinnamon past its expiration date. However, cinnamon stored improperly for a very long time could potentially harbor bacteria that may cause illness.
Does cinnamon need to be refrigerated?
No, cinnamon does not need to be refrigerated. It should be stored in a cool, dry location in an airtight container away from light and heat. Refrigeration is not necessary and could cause moisture buildup.
Do spices really expire?
Yes, spices do expire and lose their potency over time. Different spices last for different time periods. On average, ground spices are at peak quality for around 3 years. Whole dried spices like cinnamon sticks can last about 4 years.
The Bottom Line
Checking your spice rack and discovering an old bottle of cinnamon doesn’t mean you have to throw it out. Thanks to its natural antioxidants and oils, cinnamon has a very long shelf life.
As long as your expired cinnamon still looks and smells normal, it should be perfectly safe to use in recipes. Be sure to use the cinnamon within a year or two past its printed date for best flavor and freshness.
With proper storage methods, keeping your cinnamon supply fresh for longer is simple. But with time, you will need to replace cinnamon to benefit from its aroma and taste. Always remember to do a quick safety evaluation before consuming cinnamon past its prime.