We asked an expert for tips on storing this natural sweetener to keep it at its very best.
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Credit: Jonathan Lovekin

Whether you enjoy it stirred into tea, dissolved for a glaze, or simply spread on toast, honey is one of the most versatile pantry staples. The best part? It's also one of the most shelf-stable! But there are dos and don'ts to keep in mind when it comes to storing this sweet stuff and keeping it tasting its very best. Here, Dawn Combs, an ethnobotanist, beekeeper, and author of Sweet Remedies, offers her top tips.

How Long Does Honey Last?

Thanks to its high concentration of sugars, honey is one of the most stable natural foods. It can have an almost indefinite shelf life, decades or longer according to the National Honey Board, if it's stored properly. It may crystallize and the quality might not be as good as when you first purchased it, but the honey will still be safe to consume.

Honey does not have an expiration date but many honey producers put a "best by" date of about two years on the label of their honey to encourage consumers to use the honey while it is at its best. Similarly, the FDA recommends using honey within a year of buying it to assure quality.

Where to Store Honey

Always keep your honey in an airtight container; otherwise the hygroscopic (water-loving) sugars in the honey will absorb moisture from the air and lead to the growth of undesirable yeasts. That said, various types of honey will benefit from specific storage spots. "Raw honey is best stored somewhere relatively warm (65-75°F) and dark," says Combs. "I often recommend the cupboard near a stove or oven." If you're trying to avoid crystallization of raw honey, Combs recommends duplicating the hive environment—warm and dark—as much as possible. "Most recommend a cool storage environment because they fear that the honey will darken slightly otherwise. Cool storage is a fine choice, but be aware that crystallization will happen more rapidly in these situations," she adds.

If you have raw creamed honey, store it in the refrigerator to maintain a spreadable consistency. Whipped honey is best kept on the shelf in a cool, dark place, while processed (pasteurized) honey can be stored anywhere where it is not susceptible to crystallization.

Should You Ever Refrigerate Honey?

It all comes down to what consistency you enjoy, Combs says. "Some people enjoy the crystalized texture change that happens when honey is kept in the refrigerator. If that's the case for you, by all means, keep it cold." Otherwise, storing your honey in the cupboard, where it's dark and warm, will ensure it remains the liquid, pourable consistency that most people enjoy. If honey has crystalized, but you you need to measure it for a recipe or prefer it in its liquid form, Combs recommends warming it slowly in a pan of warm water (removed from the heat).

Store in Glass

While plastic bottles of honey are widely available and convenient to use, Combs recommends purchasing or at least storing honey in glass, if you can. "Plastic is known to be permeable to water vapor, gas, and odors. This means that when you store honey in plastic, it may lose moisture, or worse, gain it," she explains. "Glass that is properly sealed will keep honey at the right liquid to sugar ratio to remain shelf-stable instead of fermenting in your cupboard and keep it looking, smelling, and tasting good longer."

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