If my honey has darkened, is it still safe to eat?

HoneyI stopped by my parent’s assisted living apartment on the way to work today. They were enjoying breakfast when I arrived, so I sat at the table and visited with them while they ate. I noticed that the honey packets in the center of the table had darkened and I was thinking about honey on my drive in to work today.

We often get calls when people discover their honey has darkened or crystallized. Improper storage of honey can cause this problem. Honey should be stored in a cool, dry area inside a tightly covered container. Over time the honey will darken and flavor will change but it will be safe to eat indefinitely. As it darkens, it may lose some flavor or become cloudy. As the honey becomes cloudy, you may even notice crystals in it. This will not make the honey unsafe as long as it has been stored properly. Honey stored in the refrigerator will crystallize more quickly.

If your honey has crystallized, you can place the container in warm water and stir the honey until the crystals dissolve. Resist the urge to use boiling hot water to melt crystals as this can damage the color and flavor of the honey. If your honey foams or smells like alcohol, discard it as it has spoiled.

Those darkened packets of honey at assisted living will be safe to eat for some time to come, but the dining room staff may want to look into another way to store their honey supply. This reminds me to go home and check my own jar of honey.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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40 thoughts on “If my honey has darkened, is it still safe to eat?

  1. Thanks for your help. I started to get back on track &I the good honey I purchaded turned a warm brown. Feel much better & will use it.

  2. This for great info. Was getting ready to toss some great honey due to warm brown color. Relieved to know it’s still good..

  3. My honey turned a very dark brown with lots of crystalization. It has been stored in a closed container on the pantry shelf at here in Hawaii. So, the storage temperature could have been in the low 70’s. Is it still safe to eat?

  4. I bought those huge bear shaped bottles from Costco and did not use it before expiration date (2015)It has been stored in my cupboard and has turned a dark brown. It has never been opened (2 bottles). Is it safe to use?

  5. I bought an 80 oz Kirkland clover honey from Costco perhaps 2 years ago, used about a third, put it in a closed cupboard in the kitchen then forgot about it. Now it has formed 2 layers, but couldn’t see any crystals in it. The top layer is about half an inch tall, very very dark brown in color, and is movable (in liquid form). The layer below it is medium brown in color, doesn’t seem it is crystallized, but not sure if it is in liquid form because only the top layer moves. When I opened the bottle cap, it smelled honey and no other odors. Is it safe to use this honey? Thanks in advance for your reply.

  6. I have honey that is over 20 years old. It is almost black in color. I only have a little bit left. It has a rich smokey bitter flavor that is delicious and weird at the same time. I don’t want to use it all as I have become sentimentality attached to it. My opinion is that the older honey is, the better it is. Enjoy.

  7. I have a bottle of honey almost 15 years old. It has darkened.Right now I feel that I will eat the honey I am afraid that it might not br safe to rat it. It is in a sealed glass container. May I take it right now? Will it be safe to eat it?

  8. I have 3 giant 5 lbs tub of Really Raw Honey purchased in 2000. Just opened one tub and like some members here, it turned into a completely rich deep dark mahogany color. Planning to make Mead. Scooped a tablespoon and chew out the honeycombs but it still tasted good and sweet. Though I recalled when I sampled it in 2000 b4 buying, the taste and texture were more candy like syrupy smooth and its color was a nice matt yellow. Nevertheless, read a lot on aged honey and almost always available info suggests honey never spoils, just like salt. Taste is pretty smoky sweet. Can’t wait for the Mead to be ready in a few weeks. If honey discovered in thousands of years in ancient Egyptian and Mayan catacombs, guess the gods know what enduring luxuries they bury with for their journey to the other life.

  9. I have 3 giant 5 lbs tub of Really Raw Honey purchased in 2000. Just opened one tub and like some members here, it turned into a completely rich deep dark mahogany color. Planning to make Mead. Scooped a tablespoon and chew out the honeycombs but it still tasted good and sweet. Though I recalled when I sampled it in 2000 b4 buying, the taste and texture were more candy like syrupy smooth and its color was a nice matt yellow. Nevertheless, read a lot on aged honey and almost always available info suggests honey never spoils, just like salt. Taste is pretty smoky sweet. Can’t wait for the Mead to be ready in a few weeks. If honey discovered in thousands of years in ancient Egyptian and Mayan catacombs were still edible today, guess the gods know what enduring luxuries they bury with for their journey to the other life.

  10. THANK YOU, FOR I FOUND DARKENED HONEY PACKETS IN MY MOTHER’S HOME. JUST WANTED TO ENSURE THEY WERE SAFE. THIS WAS BOTH HELPFUL AND COMFORTING.

  11. Thank you for the heads up because I’ve been had some in my cabinet for about a year. This honey has turned dark in color and I was undecided on using it or tossing it in the trash. Honey is very expensive these days and you save the day.

  12. I preserved honey from last 7 years now it becomes dark in colour and cristlise it’s good for health or I throw it please tell me.

  13. When I pressure canned my honey it was light when I put it in the canner and darkened when it came out why did it do this.

  14. Hi, there is no need and there are no tested recipes for times and techniques for canning honey. If you store the honey in a jar and preferably in a cool dark place, the honey will remain safe indefinitely. The honey likely turned brown due to the caramelization of sugars in the honey.

  15. I have a tin can with Tasmanian Leatherwood honey. When I opened it, the tin had very dark spots. I cleaned them, but notice many colors in the honey. Some almost clear, others dark and others very yellow. Is it safe to eat? The honey was bought about 3 years ago.

  16. Hi, it is hard to be sure if the honey is safe. We wonder if the spots are due to some reaction with the tin the honey is in? If it was just age, we think the honey would be a uniform darker color. The spots make us think the honey may not be safe. I would err on the side of caution and not eat the honey.

  17. I have a sore throat and chest and was advised to make up a hot drink of lemon and honey.
    When I got the honey out from the back of the cupboard I discovered there’s only half an inch at the bottom of the glass jar and it had split, with golden honey at the bottom and dark brown thick liquid above. The use by date is by the end of January 2011, so it’s over by 7 years.
    Reading your other answers, I just smelt it and it smells vinegary. So I guess That’s my answer?!

  18. the honey that i bought 3 mons ago got runny and smells like vinegar,just wondering if it”s really honey or fake

  19. the honey that i bought 5 mons. ago got runny and smells like vinegar,just wondering if it”s really honey or fake?

  20. I used to keep bees and collect honey and wax. That was 35 to 40 years ago. I found 3 quart jars of dark honey in my cellar. I opened one and tasted it. It smelled and tasted like honey. There were clumps of large clear yellow crystals suspended in it. These tasted like candy not so much like honey. From what I have read here I am guessing this almost black honey is safe to eat.

  21. We have stored a big tub of honey in a sealed plastic container, for 30 years, and have just openend it , and it is black in colour, and runny with hard lumps in it , so what do we do with it to mix the honey together and put it in glass jars when we have done what we need to do?

  22. Hi, We think your best option may be to discard the honey. I am not sure that there is anything you can do to the honey at this point to repair the texture and possibly the flavor of the honey. You may enjoy this information from the Smithsonian: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-science-behind-honeys-eternal-shelf-life-1218690/
    I wonder if you had some contamination in the honey or a lid on the tub that allowed some moisture into the honey? Please don’t hesitate to contact us with further questions. free to call us at 1-800-262-3804 in Iowa, 1-800-854-1678 in Minnesota, 1-888-393-6336 in South Dakota or 515-296-5883 from anywhere else. We would be happy to help answer any further questions.

  23. I have some honey I bought last year and it is solid on the bottom and liquid on the top. It is in a plastic tub and has been stored in an RV at different temperatures in a cupboard.
    Is it safe to eat?
    What should I be looking for to see if it has gone bad?

  24. It should be safe to eat but might be difficult to get the solid dissolved and of course the dark color is not terribly appetizing. You may want to discard this and start with some fresh honey.

  25. So which is a better way to dispose of a large jar of questionably stored honey: down the drain or into the garbage? Seems like the first but want to be sure. Thanks.

  26. Hi, while you could do either, I would think that there is less chance of plugging your drain if you simply dispose of the honey in the garbage.

  27. Compost it by all means!! Sweeten some soil, feed it to chickens or pigs, anything but into the landfill!!

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