That instant coffee is safe.
Bread and eggs may come and go, but some kitchen staples are here to stay. It can be hard to know if the stuff you’ve had in your pantry forever is still usable. That’s why we rounded up nine foods that can last pretty much forever.
That plastic bear-shaped bottle may tell you your honey expires in about two years, but that’s actually just a “best by” date. Honey that’s sealed and stored at room temperature can literally last for centuries That’s because it’s a sugar and contains no water; without moisture, bacteria has nowhere to breed (the same applies to maple syrup). Notice your honey is crystallized and discolored? Nope, it still hasn’t gone bad; it’s just a chemical reaction. Remove the lid and heat the opened jar in a pot of hot water — it’ll melt right back to its natural state.
It turns out that bottle of fancy Himalayan sea salt you bought in 2010 and barely use wasn’t a waste of money after all. That’s because salt has no expiration date.
But it’s not just any salt. Only natural salt — the coarse variety collected from trace minerals left behind by lake and ocean evaporation — lasts forever. Table salt, on the other hand, does expire in about five years because it’s supplemented with chemicals like iodine, which keep your thyroid in check.
Rice hoarders, rejoice. Uncooked white, wild, and basmati rice that’s stored in oxygen-free containers (read: sealed bags and canisters, not boxes) can last a whopping 30 years — not forever, but close enough.
The caveat? Rice should be stored at a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below, and most pantries are warmer than that. So the next time Costco has an amazing deal on, by all means, stock up. Just make some room in the fridge if you don’t plan on cooking it for a decade or three.
The great bean debate is not a cut-and-dried one — but it does pertain to dried beans only. Uncooked beans in their natural state technically never expire. More specifically, they never lose their nutritional value and won’t become toxic. After a couple of years, though, dried beans (and other legumes) will lose moisture. In that case, you’ll have to soak them longer before cooking.
Canned beans are already cooked, so these rules don’t apply — they’re subject to the expiration dates on the can.
There’s a reason vodka can be stored in the freezer without freezing: pure alcohol contains no water. That lack of water is the same reason alcohol never goes bad — bacteria have nowhere to grow. So flavored extracts, like vanilla, almond, and peppermint, which have a pure alcohol base, will never expire. That said, alcohol can evaporate, leaving the flavored extract even more intense than it already is. Bakers beware: when in doubt, you might want to spring for a new bottle.
All those little packets you’ve accumulated from years and years of takeout — are they actually any good? The answer is, yes and no. Soy sauce technically never expires, but its “best by” date does carry some weight. If it’s more than three years old, it’s still perfectly safe in a pinch. It won’t make you sick, but it might lose its potency over time.
Vinegar is a key ingredient for preserving food, so it makes sense that vinegar itself lasts indefinitely. White distilled vinegar, specifically, never changes, according to the Vinegar Institute. Other spoonfuls of vinegar, like red wine and balsamic, may discolor or develop sediment — this might make your salad taste a little off, but it’s still perfectly safe for consumption. Check the “best by” date if you’re wary.
Milk alternatives are all the rage, so how about stocking up on an old-fashioned staple: powdered milk? Yes, it’s still dairy, but in the absence of water and oxygen, powdered milk will last a long time — just not forever.
The USDA claims powdered milk can be stored indefinitely, but by most accounts, 10 years is a more realistic deadline. It won’t become dangerous after that time; it’ll just lose its flavor and nutritional benefits. In short, if it’s clumpy, ditch it.