Chocolate is one of the food ingredients 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).
I’ve been running my chocolate making business for the last 13 years and in that time had my fair share of chocolate that unfortunately expired, so I had the opportunity to test on many occasions whether it’s safe to eat expired chocolate or not.
As part of my artisan chocolate making production I also had to test my recipes and chocolates to find out the ideal use by date for my artisan chocolates.
Can you eat expired chocolate? The quick answer
You can eat out of date chocolate, providing that the chocolate doesn’t display any signs of being spoiled (e.g. it smells, taste and looks fine like a regular chocolate).
Before we get into the details about whether it’s safe to eat expired chocolate, let me just reassure 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.
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.
What does expired chocolate look like?
You can see from the pictures in this blog post that expired chocolate looks very different to freshly made chocolate. Expired chocolate usually has white powdery mould like look, which often is not mould, but sugar or cocoa butter bloom.
The expired chocolate can also have actual mould grown on, especially if the chocolate packaging was open and stored in a damp environment.
The look of the chocolate should be the first sign to tell you if the chocolate is expired or not. Saying that, sugar or cocoa bloom on it’s own doesn’t mean that the chocolate is off. It’s just a separation of the chocolate ingredients inside (usually due to a storage), but if the chocolate smells and taste fine, bloom is not a reason to throw your expired chocolate to the bin.
What are the dangers of eating expired chocolate?
Eating expired chocolate is generally safe as long as it has been stored properly and does not exhibit signs of spoilage such as mould or an off odour or texture.
My chocolate courses students are often curious about what happens if you eat expired chocolate and I always tell them that it depends on whether the chocolate has gone bad as well as being expired (because you can have chocolate perfectly within it’s shelf-life date and it might be still off).
If the chocolate has gone bad, it may cause temporary light stomach issues such as nausea and vomiting. However, unless the chocolate has other signs of spoilage, nothing serious is likely to happen if you eat expired chocolate.
If you have a weaker digestive system, it’s probably best to avoid eating expired chocolate that has gone off to avoid any potential health risks.
What happens if you eat expired chocolate
If you have just eaten expired chocolate and are experiencing symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, or stomach cramps, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. You may have food poisoning, and a healthcare professional can advise you on the best course of treatment.
If you have eaten expired chocolate but are not experiencing any symptoms, you should still monitor your health and watch for any signs of illness. It is also important to stay hydrated and to avoid consuming any more expired chocolate and keep your diet fairly plain over the course of next 12-24 hrs.
Expired chocolate side effects
If the expired chocolate has gone bad or is spoiled it can cause some unpleasant side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach cramps. This is because expired chocolate, that has gone off may contain harmful bacteria that can cause upset stomach and in worse case food poisoning.
It is important to note that the severity of the side effects may vary depending on the extent of the chocolate spoilage and the individual’s sensitivity to food that’s off or spoiled. This is because everyone reacts differently and some people might have a stronger digestive system than others.
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?
How long can you eat chocolate after the expiration date
How long you can eat chocolate after the expiration date depends on how you store your chocolate, whether it’s been opened or not and whether there are any signs of chocolate going off – smell, mould, sugar or cocoa bloom or anything else that doesn’t look right.
If your chocolate shows any of these signs, then it doesn’t matter how far beyond the sell by date the chocolate is (or if it’s still within a use by date), you shouldn’t eat it.
I’ll go in to more details about each type of chocolate, but here is the quick overview of how long should chocolate last beyond it’s expiration date (sell by or use by date).
Dark Chocolate – 2-3 years on average (5-6 years maximum for 90-100 % cocoa solids dark chocolate)
Milk Chocolate – 3-5 months on average for low cocoa solids milk chocolate and 6-9 months for artisan milk chocolate or milk chocolate with higher cocoa solids content (40% cocoa solids)
White Chocolate – 2-3 months for supermarket white chocolate, 4-6 for artisan white chocolate
Chocolate with nuts – macademia or walnuts chocolate 2-4 months, other nuts 5-9 months (the nuts will go off before the chocolate, see my notes bellow)
Chocolate with dried fruit – white chocolate with dried nuts 2-4 months, milk chocolate with nuts 3-5 months and dark chocolate with nuts 6-9 months (but the fruit might dry out or go soggy or the sugar in fruit might crystalise)
Chocolates with ganache filling -1-2 months
Chocolates with caramel filling – 3-6 months
Chocolate snack bars – 3-6 months
Chocolate bars with biscuits or wafer based chocolates – 3-4 months for milk or white chocolates with biscuits or wafers and up to 6-9 months for dark chocolates with biscuits or wafers
Hot chocolate powder (with dry milk) – 6-12 months without any problems and up to 2 years maximum if stored in dry, cold place in the original packaging or airtight container
Cocoa Powder – 3-5 years
White chocolate coverture (use it for your own consumption only) – 6 months or possibly slightly longer
Milk chocolate coverture (use it for your own consumption only) – up to 1-2 years
Dark chocolate coverture (use it for your own consumption only) – up to 2-3 years
Chocolate Melts – 2-3 months as a minimum and up to 6 months (or slightly longer) if correctly stored and not opened
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 goes 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, Toblerone, Mars bar, Snickers, etc.)
Commercially produced chocolate snack bars with fillings are more likely to go off because of the other ingredients, not because of the chocolate. The fillings, biscuit base or nuts have much shorter shelf life than pure chocolate. Peanuts are also very popular in American candy bars, which do have a good shelf life, but the peanuts might go off quicker than the rest of the chocolate bar.
Manufacturers also don’t use 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 one year or more from its expiry date is likely not to taste very pleasant.
MORE QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
What’s is the longest time after sell by date (expiry date) I can safely eat chocolate?
Go through the chocolate quality/spoilage checks in my blog post first (see above ‘How to tell if your chocolate is off’), 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 without any problem.
The issue is not about chocolate expiring, it’s about chocolate getting spoiled and going off, which can happen any time (even within the chocolate sell by date).
Can you eat chocolate 2 years out of date
The safety of eating chocolate that is 2 years past its expiration date depends on various factors such as the type of chocolate, how it was stored, whether it’s been opened or not and whether it shows any signs of spoilage.
In general, dark chocolate has a longer shelf life than milk or white chocolate because it contains less milk solids which can cause the chocolate to go off sooner. If the chocolate has been stored properly in a cool, dry place away from sunlight and moisture, it may still be safe to eat even if it is 2 years past its expiration date.
However, if the chocolate has a rancid smell, a discoloured appearance, or a strange texture, it is likely spoiled and should not be consumed. If you are not sure, you can eat a tiny bit (let the chocolate to dissolve on your tongue and breathe in at the same time) and if the taste and smell is off, then the chocolate is very likely off completely. It is always better to be safe than sorry and discard any expired chocolate that shows signs of spoilage to avoid potential health risks.
Can you get food poisoning from eating expired chocolate?
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 effect.
What happens if you eat out of date chocolate, is that you may, possibly feel ill, but only if you eat a large quantity of expired chocolate that’s gone off. In that case it’s always best to seek medical advice from your pharmacist or doctor.
If the chocolate is out of date, but not off or spoiled and smells and taste normal, then the chocolate should be safe to eat.
I have some chocolate buttons (coverture) which looks white on the outside and it’s close to it’s sell by date. Is it still safe to use?
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.
Can expired chocolate kill you?
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.
What to do with expired chocolate (that’s still O.K to eat)
If you have just a small amount expired chocolate that you have tested and you know it’s safe, 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.
Does chocolate go out of date if unopened
Chocolate usually has a “best before” date rather than an expiration date, which means that it does not necessarily go bad after that date. I always make sure that I store my chocolates in their original packaging and don’t open them until I actually need them.
If unopened and stored properly, dark chocolate can last up to 2 years from the date of manufacture, while milk and white chocolate have a shorter shelf life of up to 6 months – 1 year from the date of manufacture. However, the shelf life of chocolate can be shorter if it is not stored properly or exposed to heat, light, or moisture.
If chocolate is unopened and stored properly in a cool, dry place away from sunlight and moisture, it is less likely to go bad before the “best before” date. However, it is still important to check for any signs of spoilage such as a rancid smell, a discoloured appearance, or a strange texture before consuming it. If the chocolate has gone bad, it should not be consumed.
This blog post was originally written on 16 April 2021 and last checked and updated on 10 April 2023