Here's How Long Sprinkles Are Actually Good For

Unless you absolutely adore baking and are whipping up artfully-decorated cakes and cupcakes every weekend, there's a good chance that the baking supplies section of your pantry includes a few things you haven't reached for in months — like that container of sprinkles you bought for a festive occasion and haven't opened since.

Given that they're essentially pure sugar, you might assume that sprinkles are good forever. However, that's not the case — as cookbook author Libbie Summers told Southern Living, the sugar itself may not spoil, "but sprinkles have other colorants and additives that can cause spoilage."

Don't worry, though! You're not on a tight timeline to use up those sprinkles as you are with many other pantry items. Summers explains that an opened jar can last up to three years, with The Whole Portion claiming you may be able to stretch that to up to five years. You should note, though, that these numbers are for unopened containers of sprinkles. Summers suggests an open container of sprinkles should be used within a year.

You should also take a quick peek at the ingredients list, as Prepared Cooks recommends. While most sprinkles contain just sugar and coloring or flavoring additives that are not too likely to expire quickly, there are some types of sprinkles that feature oil as one of their ingredients. Since oil goes rancid far more quickly than sugar ever could, you'll want to keep a closer eye on those types of sprinkles.

How to tell if it's time to toss those sprinkles

One of the best tips to keep your sprinkles fresh and ready to use for as long as possible is to be careful with how you store them. You'll want to keep the sprinkles in an airtight container, ideally in a dry, cool place, as both humidity and high temperatures can impact your sprinkles, as Shop Sweets and Treats explains.

If you're uncertain about exactly how long that container of colorful sprinkles has been in your pantry and whether they're still good, there are a few quick steps you can run through to make your decision on whether to use them or toss them, according to Prepared Cooks. First, take a quick look at their appearance — any mold is a clear sign to throw out the crunchy decorations, but on a more subtle level, any fading or overall changes in the color could indicate they're not ideal to use.

Second, take a quick whiff — as any baker knows, sprinkles tend to have a relatively neutral scent when they're fresh. If they smell rancid, it could be a sign that the sprinkles have gone bad.

The final step, if you're not quite brave enough to taste the questionable sprinkles, is to examine the texture, per The Whole Portion. Either end of the spectrum — dried out or a little too soft — can be a sign they're no longer fresh.