Does Flour Go Bad? A Life Cycle

Does Flour Go Bad?

Flour is one of the most important of all our kitchen essentials. We often assume that flour is shelf-safe and tend to keep it in our pantries, completely unaware and uninformed. But do we know how long flour can be stored for? We usually end up thinking that because flour is shelf-safe, it can last for years and may not replace it, and inadvertently end up consuming spoiled or rancid flour, which can be very detrimental to our health. So, the question of the hour is, does flour go bad? And if so, how can we tell?

In this article, we will learn the regular shelf life of flour and the shelf lives of various types and variations of flour. We will also learn how to identify whether flour has gone bad and how to store it properly to prevent premature spoilage.

What is the Standard Shelf Life of Flour?

Shelf life refers to the amount of time a flour or any other product will remain fresh before spoilage. Usually, most flours last for at least 3-8 months, provided that they are stored at room temperature in a dry and dark environment. The shelf life of the flour you use also depends upon the ingredients that make up the flour, how refined it is, and where and how it is stored.

For example, depending on the levels of refining and processing, wheat flour can also have different shelf lives. All-purpose or refined flour is made from just the endosperm of wheat, while whole-wheat flour is made from the bran, germ, and endosperm. This makes whole-wheat flour richer in proteins and fats, which will make it more susceptible to spoilage and hence will have a shorter shelf life as compared to refined flour. Similarly, nut-based flours also function on a similar logic when it comes to their shelf lives.

Another example is how refined flour will last longer if it is refrigerated in an airtight container, as compared to when it is stored in a pantry at room temperature. The above-mentioned factors impact how long different types of flour stay fresh. Let us take a look at the next section to see how long is flour good for, depending on the type of ingredients and processing techniques.

Shelf Life of Different Types of Flour

Type of Flour Description and Ingredients Shelf Life
Self-rising Flour Made up of refined white flour along with leavening agents like baking powder. 4-6 months (due to the baking powder losing potency)
Refined White Flour Also known as all-purpose flour, made from a blend of wheat endosperms, and is highly processed and with low protein content. 9-12 months
Whole-wheat and Whole-grain flour Made of whole wheat grains or other whole grains like rye, oats, pumpernickel, etc. High in protein, fiber, and fat. 6-12 months (due to the higher fat and protein content, they are more prone to oxidization, reacting to light, or moisture)
Gluten-free Flour Made from gluten-free millets and may contain nut flours to add bulk and balance nutrient levels. 2-6 months (depending on brand, type of cereal, and storage conditions)
Nut-based Flour Made of any ground-up nut, and is always gluten-free with a high fat content. 3-6 months (as the natural oils of the nuts make the flour susceptible to spoilage due to moisture or oxidization)
Starch-based Flour Made from starch-based ingredients like potato, tapioca, rice, etc. They are very refined and processed flours. 12 months
Bread Flour Added protein content due to harder wheat used to make this flour. 4-6 months (higher protein content makes it more susceptible to becoming rancid and spoilt)
Cake Flour Made from soft wheat, and then further re-processed and refined with a low protein content. 6-12 months

How to tell whether the shelf life of flour has elapsed?

The appearance of your flour is more significant to gauging whether the flour is fresh or not rather than the ‘best by’ label on the packaging it came in. So, does flour go bad? Yes, it does, and there are several signs you can notice to judge whether your flour is still good or not. If your flour has changed color or become yellow-ish, is extra lumpy or coarse, or has started to smell sour or musty, then that means that your flour has since been spoiled due to environmental factors, and has either been infested with insects, oxidized, or developed mold or fungus due to exposure to moisture.

How to Maximize the Shelf Life of Flour?

According to USDA guidelines, flour is considered shelf-stable, which means that you can store it in your pantry with ease for long durations. But, the ideal way to extend and maximize the shelf life of your flour is proper storage. Storing the flour at room temperature, in a cool, dark, and dry environment, in an airtight container, is the best way to store flour to ensure longevity. An even more efficient way of storing flour is storing it in an airtight container and refrigerating it, which helps maintain freshness and prevent oxidation or infestation by mold or insects. If you wish to learn more about how to store flour properly, check out our blog.

Is Expired Flour Safe to Eat?

The expiration date on your flour is more of a guideline for you to dispose of your flour, rather than a set standard that you have to follow. There is always a little wriggle room with these dates, and if your flour does not look, smell, or feel spoiled, then you can safely use it even after the expiration date. It is not recommended to do so, as the flour would not be completely fresh and may give you compromising results after cooking, and it is not recommended to keep using expired flour. But, if you are in a fix and have a lot of flour at hand that has supposedly expired, but has shown no signs of deterioration, then it is safe to use.


1. Can I use flour 2-3 years out of date?

No, you should not use flour that is 2-3 years out of date as it has mostly likely oxidized or has been spoiled due to moisture. Even if the flour appears to be fine, if it has not been stored properly in a refrigerator, then you should just throw out your flour and get some more.

2. Is it safe to eat expired flour?

Yes, it is safe to eat expired flour if the flour shows no signs of deterioration, but your flour won't be as fresh and this may affect your end-products. Refer to the above article for more details about the same.

3. How long is it safe to keep flour?

It is safe to store flour for 3-8 months, as that is the standard shelf life of most flour. Depending on the ingredients of the flour, the storage conditions, and the amount of processing the flour has had, the shelf-life period may vary.

We hope by the end of this article, you understand how long can flour be stored, how you can store it, and what are the various shelf lives of different types of flour. Does flour go bad? The answer is yes, but now we are more educated on how to deal with the shelf life of the flours we use, and how to adhere to them.