Cream Of Tartar Shelf Life: Can It Go Bad or Expire?

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Chances are, you don’t use your package of cream of tartar often, but it’s a staple in the pantry. Since this thickening agent isn’t an everyday need, you might be wondering, “does cream of tartar go bad?”

Because cream of tartar usually comes in powder form, one may presume it can last forever. That is true, and while the cream of tartar can last for years, there is a possibility of it losing its potency over time.

Does Cream of Tartar Go Bad? How Long Does Cream of Tartar Last?

Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about its shelf life, as it can last for years. Similar to other powdered products, cream of tartar will NOT go bad as long as it won’t come into contact with water.

That said, what about the best-by date on the package? Typically, producers place this best-by label for legal requirements and to increase customer trust, knowing about the shelf life.

Furthermore, the best-by date is useful so one can check the production date before using it. That said, how long does cream of tartar last for, exactly?

But regardless of whether there is a best-by date or not, cream of tartar in powdered form can stay potent and has a shelf life for 4 years from its production date and possibly longer.

That said, the shelf life of cream of tartar may change, depending on its storage conditions. Just make sure that the cream of tartar is stored in proper conditions and in a good container so it won’t go bad.

Cream of Tartar Potency

While the cream of tartar can last forever, its potency does not. Over time, it would stop performing as well as it used to, compared to newly bought cream of tartar.

As a result, you won’t get the thickening you were expecting, or it will have a weird consistency that ruins your dish.

To avoid that, you’ll need to test for the cream of tartar’s potency if you are unsure of how long it’s been in storage or if it’s gone past the best-by date.

How Can You Tell If a cream of tartar Is Still Okay To Use?

Follow this simple test, which is similar to testing baking soda or baking powder:

  • Add half teaspoon of cream of tartar to a half cup of warm water
  • Add just a pinch of baking soda.
  • If there is no foam after mixing, then the cream of tartar is losing its potency and has gone bad. For those who see the mixture generating foam, you can still use the cream of tartar.
  • If there are small clumps in the mixture that can be broken up, you can still use the cream of tartar. However, you need to be wary when seeing bigger clumps.

It’s always important to conduct this test when unsure if your cream of tartar is still working. That way, you can use cream of tartar appropriately and avoid wasting other ingredients, such as your sugar, whipped cream, or eggs, and the like.

How To Know If My Cream of Tartar Has Gone Bad?

Besides the test above, there are other ways to tell if a cream of tartar has gone bad. There is no need for half teaspoon baking soda or a half cup of warm water for this!

Watch out for these signs:

  • Too much moisture and big lumps in the jar, as cream of tartar, should take the form of loose, fine powder. This is because the powder has come across moisture, which means the chemicals stopped working. ***
  • Any changed color or dark spots on the white powder may be due to direct sunlight, heat, and moisture exposure.
  • Any form of mold in the cream of tartar jar or suspicious odor means it has gone completely bad.
  • When you are using the cream of tartar for egg whites, they still stay runny or won’t whip well. Using the cream of tartar on baked goods or food loses its potency if your baked goods aren’t rising as expected.

*** Take note that if the powdered form only has a few small clumps, it is still usable. Simply run the powder through a sieve and store cream of tartar properly afterward.

If your cream of tartar has gone bad, throw it away just yet! There is other uses cream of tartar offers even after it has gone bad or incurred mold.

For instance, you can use a cream of tartar as a cleaning product in your home, mixing it with vinegar. This mixture can be used to scrub toilets and sinks and polish any stainless steel and metal equipment.

How to Store Cream of Tartar

As mentioned, you need to store cream of tartar in proper conditions to last for at least four years. Here are storage tips to follow to help it stay potent as expected:

  • Keep the cream of tartar jar at the back of a cupboard and avoid keeping it in areas with direct light. Besides moisture, light and heat would break down the ingredient’s effectiveness!
  • Besides keeping it away from light, it should also be in a dry area without moisture, ideally in a pantry or dark area in your kitchen.
  • Make sure that the jar cover is tightened. You can also transfer the powder to an airtight container to protect it from moisture and kitchen pests.

Substitutes to Cream of Tartar

What happens if you expected your cream of tartar to last for a long time, only to end up showing signs of spoilage? What can you use as an alternative if you need it right away?

Here are some alternatives you can use:

Baking powder

Also used as a baking soda substitute, you should use double the recipe’s amount. Baking powder is made of tartaric acid, though it has half the strength. (*)

Lemon juice

Use fresh lemons and at the same amount a recipe requires.

How to Use Cream of Tartar

Cream of tartar (potassium bitartrate or tartaric acid) has a lot of uses, from preventing sugar crystallization down to slowing down deflation of egg whites.

It’s a byproduct of winemaking, collected from crystals in wine casks. It has a natural reddish-brown color that becomes white after refining, hence the name ‘cream.’

Cream of tartar is primarily used for baking as an anti-caking, stabilizer, thickening, and leavening agent. Unless you bake regularly, it can take months to years until you go through a small package of this ingredient!

Wrapping It Up

While the cream of tartar has a long shelf life, its potency can decrease over time and from other external factors. As long as it’s stored correctly and kept moisture-free, it can last for a long time and not go bad.

We hope you have found the complete answer to your questions, ‘does cream of tartar go bad?’ and ‘how long does cream of tartar last for?’ If you have a jar of cream of tartar that’s been in storage for a long period, check for its potency before using it on food next time.

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