Does Honey Go Off or Expire?


5 minute read

Essential Takeaways

Honey doesn’t expire. If it’s stored correctly, it provides a terrible environment for bacteria to grow - so they don’t.

But if honey is exposed to the air, sunlight, or extreme temperatures, then it can crystallise or even ferment over time. While these exposed honeys are still safe to eat, they may not taste the same.

You can soften crystallised honey and get it back to normal. But you can’t reverse fermented honey. So the best way to avoid it is to use your honey in food, medicine, and skincare before it has a chance to change!

“Among the treasures discovered during the famous 1922 archaeological excavation of King Tutankhamun’s tomb was a jar of honey. Archaeologists tasted it (brave souls those archaeologists), and to their amazement, found it to be as sweet as, well, honey.”

Honey doesn’t go bad like other foods.

You can retain all the good stuff and beneficial qualities indefinitely if you store it correctly.

But if not, its composition can change over time. And up to a certain point, that’s fixable (if you don’t like crunchy honey).

So here’s why honey doesn’t go bad, how to store it correctly, and what to do if it’s gone a little hard.

Plus, we share our expert tips for making your manuka honey last longer.

In this guide to whether honey can expire:

  • Does honey expire?

  • How can honey go bad?

  • How to make your honey last longer

  • Shop premium manuka honey

Does Honey Expire? (Frequently Asked Questions)

No, honey doesn’t go off (technically speaking).

When bees make honey, they remove a lot of the water content so that it doesn’t go mouldy when stored in the hive.

Its low water content, high sugar levels, and low acidic pH make it a harsh environment for bacteria to flourish. For this reason, honey doesn’t go bad.

When it comes to manuka honey specifically, its uniquely high levels of methylglyoxal (MGO) make it even more antibacterial.

We’ll stick to manuka honey in this blog since that’s what we know best, but most pure, raw, and unprocessed honey should also stay edible indefinitely.

But there is one big caveat: the honey must be stored correctly.

If it isn’t, it can change and in a sense, “go bad”. It hasn’t expired, it has just changed taste and texture a bit. Fortunately, if you catch it in time, it’s reversible.

How can you tell if honey has gone bad?

If manuka honey is pure and unprocessed like ours, then storing it incorrectly can lead to fermentation. And this could be classed as honey “going off”.

Fermentation changes the flavour and texture of the honey and not for the better. You’ll be able to tell if your honey has fermented and unfortunately, you can’t unferment honey.

So the trick is to catch it before it happens.

A sign of genuine, pure, and undiluted honey is that it crystallises. Honey crystallisation happens when the water and sugar contents separate, forming sugar crystals.

It’s safe to eat, and some people like the crunch. But it is the first step towards fermentation. So make sure you soften your honey the right way if you want to avoid that irreversible next step.

How long is honey good for?

If manuka honey is stored correctly, it can last indefinitely.

We use 100% recyclable BPA free, rPET - PCR (Post Consumer Resin) jars which are much better for storing your honey and keeping it fresh.

Why does honey have an expiration date?

In many US states and countries around the world, food is required by law to have an expiration date¹.

This isn’t the case everywhere, but generally, it is used to help protect consumers. So you will often find a Best Before or Use By date on manuka honey, even though it’s arbitrary.


How Can Honey Go Bad?

If pure honey is left for long enough and poorly stored (like exposed to direct sunlight, for example), then it will probably ferment.

Honey doesn’t normally go bad thanks to its low water content and acidic pH. If it’s not stored properly, then it can absorb moisture from the air, raising its water content.

This can trigger fermentation: the process of carbohydrates becoming ethanol and carbon dioxide². And fermented honey tastes a bit funky - although you can buy fermented honey products for different kinds of health and enjoyment purposes.

The best way to avoid fermentation is to eat your manuka honey before it has time to change!

You can also use it in skincare, medicine, and so much more.

In fact, here are over 170 ways that you can use manuka honey.

3 Expert Tips to Make Your Manuka Honey Last Longer

Manuka honey is so versatile (and tasty) that it probably won’t sit on your shelf for too long.

But if you want to make sure you get the best out of your manuka honey for as long as possible, use our expert tips below.

  1. Buy premium UMF™ grade manuka honey

Manuka honey with a UMF™ grade has been tested for authenticity, purity, and freshness.

By opting for this strict standard, you can be sure that you’re getting the real deal.

  1. Keep it stored in the right airtight packaging

We supply our manuka honey in the ideal packaging for long-term storage, freshness, and for recycling too.

So keep your manuka honey in its jar and sealed tight.

  1. Keep it in your pantry away from extreme temperatures

Major changes in room temperature can affect the beneficial compounds in manuka honey.

So although it’s tempting to display our attractive jars on your counter, it’s generally best to keep them out of direct sunlight and in a cupboard or pantry with a more consistent air temperature.

Shop Your Premium and Long-Lasting Manuka Honey with New Zealand Honey Co.

Our UMF™ manuka honey is independently tested to the strictest standards and only ever produced and packaged in New Zealand.

Your honey will arrive in the perfect jar for storage, but we don’t think you’ll be able to resist leaving it for that long!

Shop the range.

Need some ideas and inspiration for getting the best out of your manuka honey?

Check out our mega list here.

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