Flour is one of the foundations of baking. And if you're like most of us, you never give a second thought to flour being 'spoiled'. But if you accidentally used an expired or rancid batch of flour, you and your taste testers will know immediately that something doesn't taste right.
Not only that, flour that is past it's shelf life, doesn't produce the best breads, muffins and cakes. In order to avoid this baking flop from happening to you - it's important to note your flour’s shelf-life, proper storage and signs of spoilage.
So, how long does flour last?
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How long does flour last?
The short answer is typically, flour can last from 3-8 months. Of course, this will vary depending on several factors, such as:
- Storage container
- Storage area’s temperature
- The type of flour
Storage and Storage Area’s Temperature
Usually, a cool and dry pantry works well in preserving your container of flour’s freshness. But from my experience - placing your flour supply inside the fridge or freezer is a good move if you have a lot of flour and are not planning on using it right away.
Here’s a general guideline of how long each type of flour usually lasts when you store them in the pantry, fridge, or freezer.
|Type of Flour||Shelf Life|
|Pantry (50 to 70°F)||Fridge (at or below 40°F)||Freezer (0°F)|
|Amaranth||Two months||2-3 months||Four months|
|Barley||Three months||2-3 months||Six months|
|Brown rice||Three months||4-5 months||Six months|
|Buckwheat||One month||One month||Two months|
|GF flour mixes||1-3 months||2-3 months||2-3 months|
|Millet||One month||1-2 months||Two months|
|Oats||Two months||2-3 months||Two months|
|Quinoa||Two months||2-3 months||Four months|
|Rye||Three months||4-5 months||Six months|
|Sorghum||Two months||3-4 months||Four months|
|Teff||Two months||3-4 months||Four months|
|Almond||Three months||Six months||Six months|
|Coconut||Three months||Six months||Six months|
|White rice||Three months||4-5 months||Six months|
|Starches||One year||One year||Two years|
Types of Flour
Flour is a product of milling grains, legumes, vegetables, nuts, or seeds, specifically rice, barley, maize, wheat, or rye. Whereas ground almond, coconut, tapioca, or potato makes gluten-free flours.
Wheat flour is the most popular type of flour. Included in this category are all-purpose flour, gluten flour, self-rising flour, among others.
Some of your gluten-free flour options include almond, coconut, rice, potato, tapioca flours, and gluten-free bread mixes. Gluten-free bread mixes are usually a combination of flours from different plant or grain sources.
In general, whole grain and nut flours turn rancid faster than other types of flour.
Because whole grain and nut flours contain higher amounts of natural fats or oils. And when exposed to moisture and air, your flour becomes rancid. However, no need to worry! In the next section, we’ll tackle a few tricks you can do to extend their shelf life.
How to properly store your flour?
If you found yourself with a flour supply that’s more than you can utilize for your baking day, you can put them in an airtight (and moisture-proof) container at room temperature.
Thankfully, placing them inside the fridge or freezer will extend your flour’s shelf life. Remember to bring the frozen flour’s temp to room temperature before using them.
But... you can also avoid this situation (especially if you have no room for storage) by taking note of this quick list:
- 1 pound (between 454 -520 g) flour = about 4 cups
- 5 pounds flour = about 20 cups
- 10 pounds flour = about 40 cups
Placing them in an airtight container will protect your supply from moisture and air. This will also prevent them from developing a rancid odor and keep bugs (weevils) and rodents away!
It’s also a good practice to put labels on them individually, indicating best by dates and the type of flour. Also, keep in mind that you shouldn’t mix old with new flour.
When you choose to store them in the pantry, you’ll want to store them away from products with a strong odor (e.g., soap, onion, etc.). Here’s a weird tip that actually works...Bay leaves keep the insects at bay, with bay leaves being a natural insect repellent.
Signs that your flour has gone bad…
The bottom line is... if you notice your flour has a rancid smell, change in color, mold growth, or small bugs, then, by all means, discard it!
Other Tips When Handling Flour
You probably knew this already, but it doesn’t hurt mentioning this...flours are raw. And they are from milled grains or nuts that are grown in soil. So, there’s a risk of exposure to harmful bacteria and pathogens such as Salmonella and Escherichia coli (E. coli).
Here are a couple of reminders when you’re handling flour:
- Follow package instructions, especially cooking time and temperature;
- Only refrigerate cookie and pastry dough according to the manufacturer’s directions (appropriate temperature etc.);
- Have separate storage for your raw and ready-to-eat food;
- Wash your hands with soap and water after handling flour or pastry dough;
- Wash utensils, baking pans, workspace, etc. with warm soapy water;
- Don’t use raw cookie dough in ice cream or milkshakes;
- Throw away recalled flour; and
- Don’t let your kids play with raw dough.
Don’t panic yet. Usually, nothing happens when you accidentally incorporated flour that has gone bad in your baked treats. However, if the flour contains mycotoxins, your treats can make you feel sick. Consult your doctor if this is the case.
No…it’s not okay to use expired flour. An expired flour has a musty, sour, or rancid odor due to its natural oils reacting with oxygen, discolored, sometimes has molds and bugs (weevils).
You can store flour in a ziplock bag or any airtight and moisture-proof container. Then, place them in a cool, dry pantry, fridge, or freezer, depending on how long you want them to last. Opt for the freezer for more extended storage.
Be creative. There are tons of things you can do with expired flour. To start, here are some things you can do with expired flour:
DIY glue and paste for handmade crafts such as collage and paper mache;
Cleaning agent for stainless steel appliances, copper, and a deck of cards;
DIY organic repellant for insects such as ants; and
DIY fabric starch.
Instead of the usual moisture, sweetness, and feel and taste of fresh bread or cookies, you’ll be greeted with a sour or musty taste. To avoid this, properly store your flour or smell it before starting your baking spree.
You can put expired flour in your compost bin for your gardening needs. Make sure, though, that it is not infested with weevils or bugs. If the flour has bugs, put the flour in the freezer for at least 24 hours before finally putting it on your compost bin.