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

  1. Hello Liz,

    We have stored honey in 5 gallon plastic buckets for 40 years in a variety of temperature ranges in a garage.. We received it from someone else who had it for an undisclosed amount of time. I have checked it periodically. We decided to place it in new food grade plastic containers. It is dark and syrupy on the top and hard crystals below – some hard enough I used a clean chisel to break it up for transfer. It doesn’t smell like honey but don’t we detect a vinegar or alcohol order to it like you have mentioned in previous responses..What is your recommendation?

  2. My honey WALD HONIG is stored in a tin container for almost 2 yrs and now dark in colour. Is there any risk if honey is kept in a ‘tin’ container and still look good. The tin os not rusted
    Yoir kind advise most appreciated.
    Thank you.
    My email audreyngbee2@gmail.com

  3. Audrey, if the density of honey is within the safe range and likely your honey is, bacteria cannot grow in honey and thereby does not spoil. This basically gives it an indefinite shelf life. However, the fact that it is stored in tin may alter the flavor. Glass is the preferred storage container for honey.

  4. would like your comments, on my situation, 4-5 yrs ago started using raw unfiltered honey with green tea every morning, withing 20 minutes it jump started my day, gave me more positive attitude for day [for some others reading, it did not take away depression, just give more more positive thinking to deal with it] and jump start the day with energy that lasted all day long…..then honey brand was sold, and honey was no longer raw and unfiltered totally stopped working…..after a month I changed honey brands and was back in business again. for last six months, is still get positive attitude every day, but not energy boost I was use to getting, did my body change [get use to the energy boost, that I don’t feel it] or is it time to change honey brands again. My current source is from active bee keeper’s store, and I like to think it is still high quality honey. in your opinion what do you think may have changed to cause the difference of effects…………..

  5. Bruce, I don’t think that we are qualified to truly answer your question. There is some chance that your body is using the honey in a different way than previously. Fortunately you are still receiving the benefit of positivity. Honey doesn’t vary much in benefit from source to source beyond the local food sources for the bees (allergy benefits). Over all, honey contains 65 calories per tablespoon, 17 grams of carbohydrates and no significant amounts of fat or protein. Honey is made up of primarily simple sugars, fructose and glucose, and has low levels of water, disaccharides (maltose and sucrose), other carbohydrates, and various minerals, vitamins and enzymes. The benefits of honey are numerable. Besides having minerals, vitamins and important enzymes, honey is a natural, healthy energy booster. It is an immune system builder and has both antioxidant, anti-bacterial and anti-tumor properties. Honey has a healthy glycemic index; meaning its sugars can be absorbed into the bloodstream gradually resulting in better digestion. By using honey, you are receiving all of these benefits even though you are not feeling the charge.

  6. I have honey that I bought years ago stored in my basement shelves. Now the honey has darkened and the plastic container has sucked in some. The temp. Where it was stored was cool but not always dark. Is it still good?

  7. Donna, honey has an indefinite shelf life if it has an safe density and pH. However, since your honey is stored in plastic, it may have taken on a plastic taste or small over time. Honey should not be stored long-term in plastic; glass is a better option. The plastic container may have sucked in due to moisture loss.

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