Nobody likes stale candy. Find out just how long you can keep your candy score around before it goes bad. -GM
There are several factors that can instigate candy spoilage, including moisture, light, heat, and a candy’s fat content, according to food scientists from Kansas State University. Overall, general recommendations suggest the pantry is the best place to store sweets, away from light and moisture. Certain candies (like chocolate) may be okay in the fridge or freezer, but any that contain fruit or nuts should not be frozen.
Chocolate: The shelf life of chocolate varies based on type. Dark chocolate will last one to two years in foil if kept in cool, dark, and dry places, while milk and white chocolate will last up to 10 months. The higher milk fat content in white and milk chocolates shorten its shelf life when compared with dark chocolate.
Alexandra Whisnant, a Ladurée and Chez Panisse alum who runs a small-batch chocolate business in Boston, recommends storing chocolate in places away from sunlight and humidity; “just below room temperature is best,” she says. But avoid putting it in the fridge, which Whisnant says “will lead to condensation on the surface of the chocolate.”
But, Whisnant says, it’s probably best to just eat artisanal, small-batch chocolate — which usually contains no preservatives except for the sugar that’s in it — as soon as possible. “My chocolates are best eaten within 7 days after they are made. This allows for the brightest flavor and most luscious texture.”
Beyond specialty filled and flavored chocolates, Whisnant signs onto the two-year time frame for dark chocolate bars and approximately a year for white chocolate. “Of course, with actual Halloween candy, the thing to do is put it all in the freezer,” she says.
Hard candy: Hard candies essentially have an indefinite shelf life, provided they are stored properly. Items like lollipops, Jolly Ranchers, and other individually wrapped candies do best without exposure to moisture. If such candies do spoil, they’ll appear sticky or grainy as a result of temperature changes or sugar crystallization, and may experience changes in flavor.
Marshmallows: Marshmallows are a sugar-based confection with a shelf life of roughly six to eight months. By nature, they contain more moisture than many other candies, so depending on how they’re stored, they’ll either lose moisture or become more sticky. They are best stored in dry, cool places or at room temperature.
Caramel, nougat, and candy corn: Caramel and nougats last six months to a year at room temperature and away from heat and light, while candy corn can make it as far as nine months if kept sealed. (So that open bag you used to top your Halloween cupcakes should probably get tossed around January.)
Jelly candy: Soft jelly candies can last up to a year unopened. Once opened, they can be kept in a covered candy dish for six to nine months, according to the National Confectioners Association.