- Honey has a longer shelf life due to its high water content, acidity, and glucose oxidase.
- Honey can be frozen to retain its beneficial properties and prevent crystallization.
- Honey is best frozen in reusable jars and storage bags, and can be thawed using a warm water bath.
Raw honey is often called liquid gold because of its delicious taste and notable health benefits. Protecting and properly storing your honey ensures you can enjoy its benefits for longer.
Honey can be stored for potentially thousands of years while maintaining its edibility. But can it be frozen, and does freezing honey harm or support its health benefits?
Let’s talk about honey and your freezer.
What Is the Shelf Life of Honey?
Raw honey has an incredibly long shelf life and can last for many years, so long as it’s stored properly and isn’t contaminated by moisture. In 2015, archeologists discovered 3,000-year-old honey pots in Egyptian tombs that remained entirely edible.
So why does honey have such a long shelf life?
Low water content: Honey is mostly sugar and has a very low moisture content of less than 20 percent, making it difficult for bacteria or other microorganisms to survive. That low water content is thanks to the hard work of the honeybees: They flap their wings to create a warm breeze, drying out and curing the honey.
High acidity: It might seem counterintuitive since it’s so sweet, but honey has a relatively low pH, between 3 and 4.5, which means high acidity. That acidity makes for a far from ideal environment for bacteria and other contaminants.
- A special bee enzyme: Bees have an enzyme in their stomachs called glucose oxidase that breaks nectar down into gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide. Both of these byproducts are found in honey, and hydrogen peroxide helps fight contaminants.
Today, many commercial honey makers harvest honey before the bees can properly dry it. When this happens, the honey must be dehydrated with high heat to reduce its moisture content, degrading some of the honey’s natural beneficial properties.
At Manukora, we believe in letting the bees finish their process as nature intended. This may take a bit longer, but it results in a rich, dark Manuka honey that retains those beneficial compounds in full.
These include compounds like leptosperin and Methylglyoxal (MGO), a compound with antibacterial properties that comes directly from the nectar of the Manuka tea tree.
Can You Freeze Honey?
Yes, you can store honey in the freezer. But raw honey doesn’t quite “freeze” like water because of its low water content. As honey gets colder, it gets thicker and more viscous, meaning it flows less easily.
If you put it in your freezer, it will solidify and keep — but it won’t become rock-solid like an ice cube. It will technically still be able to flow, just very slowly.
Does Freezing Affect Honey’s Quality?
The good news is, putting raw honey in the freezer doesn’t affect its quality. The nutrition and beneficial compounds will be preserved, as well as the color and texture of the honey. Freezing can even help preserve the honey’s quality, especially if the alternative is a storage area with significant temperature swings.
Does Honey Storage Cause Crystallization?
Storage temperature swings can change honey's taste, color, and texture. When honey gets cold — think fridge temperatures — it can crystallize. Crystallization is a process where sugars in the honey separate from the water and form crystals.
It’s natural and doesn’t mean the honey has gone bad. However, if you’re trying to avoid crystallization or changes in the color and taste of your honey, freezing is one way to do it. The freezer keeps the honey too cold for crystallization and preserves its original taste, color, and texture.
What Are the Benefits of Freezing Honey?
Keeping honey in the freezer is not typically necessary due to its long shelf life. You’re probably good to keep honey in the pantry almost indefinitely, so long as you have the right storage conditions.
Not only can the color, texture, and taste be affected, but honey can also lose beneficial properties depending on the storage conditions. If you can store honey at a steady room temperature of 64° to 75° Fahrenheit throughout the year, you can probably skip the freezer.
How To Freeze Honey in Three Simple Steps
To freeze honey, you only need a few items that you already likely have in your home.
- A jar with a secure lid
- A plastic freezer storage bag that will fit around the honey jar
To freeze your honey, follow these steps:
Properly Seal the Honey
Make sure to use a jar that seals properly when freezing honey. Use a secure lid that properly seals the jar so no extra moisture can get in.
You should also leave a small amount of space at the top of the jar in case the honey expands a bit as it hardens in the freezer. It shouldn’t expand too much since its water content is so low, but it’s always a good idea to leave a little extra space just in case.
Clean and Dry the Jar
Use a damp cloth to wipe down any excess honey from the sides of the jar and the lid. Then dry the jar completely using a soft towel. Allowing it to air dry for about half an hour can help ensure that even the most microscopic water droplets have evaporated.
Bag and Freeze
Place the honey jar in a freezer-safe storage bag and seal that up, removing as much air as possible. This is another fail-safe to prevent a giant mess if the jar somehow opens in the freezer.
Finally, put your jar in the freezer. Your honey is safe until you’re ready to use it in the future.
Alternate Method: Ice Cube Trays
Another method of freezing honey is using ice cube trays. Simply grab an ice tray, preferably one that’s flexible or made of silicone, and fill each cube with honey.
Freeze the tray until the honey becomes hard. Remove the honey cubes and seal them in a freezer bag. Take one out anytime you need a serving of honey, whether for baking or sweetening tea.
It’s helpful to keep the ice cube tray in a sealed bag if you can make it fit — similar to earlier, this keeps out moisture and unwanted aromas.
What About Defrosting?
Defrosting honey is simple. Keep in mind not to heat it too quickly or let it get too hot, which can destroy some of its beneficial properties.
One easy and safe defrosting method is to remove the honey from the freezer and let it slowly come to room temperature. This removes any risk of overheating it, but it can take a day or two for the honey to defrost fully.
If you’re in a hurry, you can defrost the honey using a pot of warm water. Remember, you don’t want to use boiling water, which can overheat the honey. Stick with warm water and heat the honey gradually.
Although most stovetops can be kept at a fairly low temperature, the safest way to heat honey is with warm water from the tap. You can fill a pot or a bowl with warm water and place the honey jar in to defrost. Another option is to run the jar under warm water in your sink.
Some recommend defrosting raw honey in the microwave, but this method might be risky since microwaves don’t always heat evenly, which could lead to overheating that potentially degrades the honey.
Top Storage Tips To Prolong Honey’s Shelf Life
Skip the fridge: Storing honey in the fridge can speed up the crystallization process. While crystallization is not a health concern, it can make scooping it out challenging.
Maintain steady storage temperatures: The best way to store honey is at room temperature, from 64° to 75° Fahrenheit. Maintaining this steady temperature will keep your honey preserved and delicious for a long time.
Use a jar with a secure lid: Keeping honey in a jar with a tightly sealed lid will protect it from excess moisture and contaminants, allowing it to be kept for longer.
Keep it clean: Always use a clean, dry spoon in your honey jar.
Never leave honey open: Never leave your honey open, as this could allow moisture and contaminants into the jar.
Give it the top shelf treatment: Heat rises, so consider putting honey on the top shelf of your pantry to keep it warm.
Honey can be stored in the freezer to preserve its color, texture, and taste, but freezing honey is often unnecessary since it can be kept shelf stable for many, many years.
That said, if you can’t store honey at a stable room temperature, keeping it in the freezer may be the perfect way to preserve it for the long term.
Looking for more helpful honey tips like this? Explore the Manukora blog here.
The Science Behind Honey’s Eternal Shelf Life | Smithsonian
Helping Agriculture's Helpful Honey Bees | FDA