Chocolate is one of the food ingredient that is fairly safe to eat even after it’s sell-by date and doesn’t go off that easily.
This of course depends on a lot of things, like how you store your chocolate, what type of chocolate it is and what other ingredients are incorporated into the chocolate (like for example nuts, cream ganache filling or other more perishable types of ingredients).
Before we get into the details about whether it’s safe to eat expired chocolate, let me just re-assure you, that you would know if your chocolate was off by tasting it and that you can’t be really hurt by eating expired chocolate, even if it’s off.
What to do with expired chocolate (that’s still O.K to eat)
If you have just a small amount, the easiest thing to do is to just eat the chocolate.
But if you have more and the chocolate is a bit dry or feel a bit gritty, it might not be the most pleasant experience to eat it as it is.
Cakes & Bakes
How to tell if your chocolate is off
The only way to tell if your chocolate is off, is to taste a little bit. If it taste kind of waxy and slightly rancid (not as much as nuts, but similar), then the milk powders and cocoa butter has gone off. The texture also changes and the chocolate might taste dryer and grittier.
The grittiness could also be party because of sugar bloom, which causes the sugar crystals to become more prominent (which is what feels like a ‘gritty’ chocolate. You won’t get a food poisoing eating this kind of chocolate, but it won’t be very pleasant.
Check the packaging and visually check that the chocolate doesn’t have any mould on. Even if your chocolate wasn’t open, it can still have a bloom. This looks like a white streaks or dots over the chocolate. This is not a mould, but just a separation of the cocoa butter and the cocoa mass, usually caused by incorrect storage.
For example if you have your chocolate bar in a kitchen cupboard that gets hot and cold all the time. The bloom can happen even if your chocolate bar is still in the date.
How long does chocolate last
Did you know that recently the historians found 100 years old chocolate bar, which was nearly intact in it’s packaging and apparently could be eaten. It wasn’t, as it was a historic find, but theoretically the chocolate bar was edible.
I’m definitely not advocating eating years old chocolate, but how old is old?
Chocolate shelf life by different types of chocolates
Lasts the longest, due to to a high cocoa solids content , cocoa butter and no milk powders. 1-2 years after it’s sell by date won’t be a problem.
I’ve even had students telling me that they ate dark chocolate bars that were 5-6 years old and they still tasted fine.
Shorter shelf life is mainly because of the milk powder and lower cocoa solids. Milk chocolate can last for anything up to 2 years after it’s expired date.
Even shorter shelf life due to high milk powders content that eventually go sour and stale. You can tell that white chocolate is a bit off after about 6 months after it’s sell by date, but at this stage it can be still eaten.
If the chocolate bar is beyond 1 years pass it’s sell by date, then it’s probably not worth to eat it.
Filled chocolates (pralines, truffles, alcohol filled chocolates)
Personally, I’m quite happy to eat chocolate bars with an expired sell by date, but I draw the line at filled chocolates. If they are expired, cut them up first with a knife and check for any mould (green or white).
If there is any, it’s very likely to be between the filling and the chocolate truffle shell. Such chocolate truffles are really not safe to eat and they are best thrown away.
If the chocolate filling and the outer shell looks fine, try to smell and taste a little bit. If it taste fine, then you are probably O.K to eat the rest. Saying that, just because the chocolates are in the same box, it doesn’t mean that they were made at the same time. One truffle could be O.K, but the next one might be off, so test them individually, especially if they all have a different filling.
Chocolate bars with nuts
The nuts have a shorter shelf life than a chocolate and will go off much sooner than the chocolate bar. If they are off, they will taste very rancid. If they are on top of the chocolate bar you can always pick them off.
You can also melt the chocolate bar gently in a microwave or in bain marie and put the chocolate through a sieve.
Throw away the nuts and providing that you’ve tasted the chocolate and the chocolate doesn’t taste any different to you than normally, use it for baking, making a chocolate mouse, or just drizzle it on a pancakes.
Chocolate snack bars (like Kitkat, Twix etc.)
Commercialy produced chocolate snack bars with fillings are more likely to go off because of the other ingredients, not the chocolate. The fillings, biscuit base or nuts have much shorter shell life than pure chocolate.
Manufactures also don’t use a good quality chocolate to make these bars and replace the cocoa butter with various oils, which tend to go off a lot quicker than a cocoa butter.
If you happen to have a chocolate snack bar, check first the sell by date and then have a small bite. If it taste O.K than it will be probably fine, but anything with 1 or more from it’s expiry date is likely not to taste very pleasant.
Questions & Answers
Go through the checks in my blog post first, but if the chocolate was stored well, you might be O.K to eat chocolate that’s 1-6 years pass it’s sell by date.
This very unlikely, I’ve (by mistake) eaten some very badly affected chocolate and I was never taken ill.
You will know if the chocolate is not good after the first bite and I’m sure you won’t carry on eating that chocolate for it to have any effected.
If you have a bag of chocolate buttons and you store them well in an ambient temperature (18-20 C max) than the whiteness on the outside of the chocolate buttons is very likely to be just scratches.
As chocolate buttons move around, they scoff and make the chocolate visibly white. I’d suggest to taste them and then decide if they are still edible. If the chocolate buttons were stored incorrectly, they might have dried out, so it’s better to use them for baking or making chocolate ganache.
No. Expired chocolate might not taste the best, but it’s not poisonous. Try a small piece of your expired chocolate and if the chocolate taste very off, simply don’t eat the rest.
At worse, you might end up with an upset stomach, but that would be probably from the other ingredients, not from the chocolate itself.