How long does honey last?

A piece of honeycomb with a low sunset in the background shining through the golden wax.

The short answer: Forever.

Better answer: Honey is known as the only food that never spoils. As of this writing the oldest known sample of honey dates back approximately 3000 years to the Egyptian tombs and were found to be completely edible.

Honey will eventually crystalize but is still perfectly enjoyable. Some form large almost crunchy crystals, others form very fine crystals similar to creamed honey. Crystallization can actually be an indication of higher quality honey, as honey that never crystalizes is generally either highly processed thus no longer contains the health benefits of honey or has been adulterated with something like corn syrup (or both). Honey’s that crystalize slowly have a higher fructose level such as Tupelo honey and sage honey. Higher glucose levels such as alfalfa, dandelion & cotton crystalize more quickly. Honey that crystalizes quickly will have smaller crystals.

So, what makes honey crystalize?

It’s a combination of factors. The major 3 factors:

  • Ratio of fructose to glucose; the major types of sugar found in honey. Higher glucose levels will create a more rapid crystallization.
  • How or whether then honey is processed. Highly processed honey may never crystalize as the enzymes, pollen, propolis and bits of wax that serve as the nuclei for crystallization have been removed.
  • Temperature. To slow crystallization store at room temperature. To speed it up crystallization honey can be refrigerated. Honey will slowly burn if stored someplace that’s perpetually warm such as on top of an espresso machine or the back of a range.

Ideal storage temperature to discourage crystallization: 70-80° F, to encourage crystallization: 50-59° F

How to get rid of crystals

To maintain the healthful qualities of honey:

  • Fill a pot of water deep enough to submerge your honey jar halfway. Use a glass jar not plastic container, lid removed.
  • Heat water and honey jar but do not bring to a boil.
  • Stir frequently to help break up the crystals.
  • Remove from heat to a protected surface and cool once honey has returned to its smooth delicious state.

Note: Honey can be microwaved 30 seconds at a time, stirred and microwaved again until smooth but I don’t recommend this method as it might eliminate many of the nutritional benefits of honey.

Photo by Kai Hawes