Does Honey Go Bad or Expire?

Does Honey Go Bad or Expire?

Executive Summary

  • Some of the benefits of raw honey can become compromised due to high heat processing. Allowing the bees to naturally dehydrate the honey themselves ensures both shelf stability and the preservation of beneficial compounds. 
  • The best-by date on honey products does not necessarily mean it will spoil or expire on that date — it mostly refers to the quality of the honey being best before that date. Manuka honey has a shelf life of about five years, but can last even longer with proper storage.
  • If your honey has hardened or crystallized, that’s not a sign of expiration, but instead a natural process that raw honey can go through, especially in colder climates. You can easily soften honey with a warm water bath.


Knowing the optimal time to consume your honey can be tricky, considering it doesn’t quite “expire” like other foods do. While virtually all honey products will have a suggested use-by date, that generally speaks to quality, and most honey products are still safe to consume past that date. 

The simple truth behind honey products and their expiration date depends on whether or not they are raw or processed. While both are tasty, raw honey is typically home to richer, more complex flavors. You can expect raw honey’s beneficial compounds to maintain (or increase) during its shelf life. After the five years, the same levels cannot be guaranteed. 

In contrast, processed honey is usually pasteurized for the purposes of extending shelf life and making for a uniform, commercial product. 

So, is that plastic bottle of grocery store honey that’s been in the cupboard for years still good? And does raw honey last as long as processed honey? 


Does Honey Expire? 

As long as your honey is stored correctly, it shouldn’t spoil. 

Generally, most honey products you’ll buy will have a “best by” or “use by” date. In honey’s case, this date is really mostly a reflection of quality, and doesn’t reflect that honey will actually spoil, go bad, or be unsafe to consume when that date passes, so long as it was stored properly and hasn’t been contaminated. 

When it comes to our honey here at Manukora, there’s a little more to the best by date you’ll see on our jars. 

The key compounds will maintain (or even get higher) during the five year shelf life. While our honey won’t simply expire once the date passes, after the five years, we can not guarantee the potency. These compounds include MGO (Methylglyoxal), DHA, leptosperin, and other markers used by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to ensure authenticity. 

To reap the most benefit from your Manuka, we suggest eating it before the best-by date on the container. Our Manuka has a suggested shelf life of around five years — however, we feel that finishing our rich, decadent honey within that timeframe won’t be an issue. 


Why Is My Honey Hard?

A common misconception is that when honey hardens or crystallizes, it’s spoiled or has expired.

All raw honey is sensitive to temperature (and its environment). If your honey has taken the form of small, glistening crystals, it’s not bad, expired, or spoiled, it’s just doing what raw honey does — crystallizing. 

A quick change in location or shift in the thermostat should prevent this from happening again, and you can check out our guide here on how to soften that hardened honey


Raw Honey vs. Processed Honey

What’s really the difference between raw honey and processed (aka pasteurized) honey? A lot of it comes down to the production process, and whether it’s mostly natural (which is what tends to yield raw honey), or if it’s mostly commercialized or industrialized (where most processed honeys come from). 

One factor that makes honey such a desired delicacy is the presence of naturally beneficial compounds that can help support wellness. However, some of these beneficial compounds are very sensitive to heat, so when honey is put through the heating and cooling processes that are required for pasteurization, these compounds can be degraded. 

Because raw honey is not pasteurized, it retains a higher potency of these compounds compared to processed honey. 

Another difference comes from how much of the natural honey production process was allowed to take place. Before honey is honey, it has a decent amount of water in it, and if it is not dehydrated, it will spoil because of that high moisture content. The bees know this and will take the necessary time to dehydrate the honey themselves when allowed. 

When done by the bees, the dehydration process can be time-consuming, which is why most commercial honey companies choose to dehydrate the honey themselves with high heat so that they can harvest honey in shorter intervals. 

Manukora has a different approach, and despite the extra time it takes, we let our bees work at their own pace — as nature intended.

There was a time when all honey was dehydrated naturally. But as commercial honey companies became more eager to find a processing method that resulted in a quicker turnaround, heavy processing methods were widely adopted.

Pasteurization speeds up the process while providing the final honey product with a uniform color and texture, which is generally what’s desired and expected of products you buy at the grocery store. Processed honey generally won’t harden, soften, or change texture as it’s transported to the store, or as it’s sitting on the shelf waiting to be bought. 

Raw honey, on the other hand, tends to harden or soften depending on the temperature of your house (or pantry). While it may be unexpected, it’s completely natural for raw honey to crystallize if it gets too cold, and it’s also natural for it to soften again when warmed up. 


How Should I Store Raw Honey?

Like we mentioned earlier, your honey shouldn’t expire or spoil unless it’s not stored properly or contaminated. How long your honey lasts depends on where your honey jar resides. 

Raw honey should be kept at room temperature (around 68 degrees Fahrenheit) and away from direct sunlight. Raw Manuka honey is especially sensitive to heat and direct sunlight. If exposed for a prolonged period, it could compromise the natural beneficial compounds in your sweet superfood. 

Honey can also be sensitive to moisture, which could cause your honey to spoil if exposed. A surefire way to know if your honey has spoiled is if there is visible mold or if it smells fermented. 

To avoid this, store your sealed honey in a dry place, and always use a clean spoon when you scoop honey out of the jar (no double-dipping!).

Processed honey won’t crystallize and should generally follow the same storage guidelines, but it will become thicker if kept in the fridge or freezer. We also recommend keeping processed honey out of direct sunlight, even though it doesn’t have as many nutrients that can be compromised if exposed to sunlight. 


Why We Love Raw Manuka Honey

At Manukora, we take pride in our ethically-produced, all-natural, raw Manuka honey. Even if store-bought honey is your go-to, you may change your mind after your first taste of rich, creamy Manuka. 

Traditional raw honey is very different from processed honey, and raw Manuka honey is even more unique. 

Our Manuka honey derives from a remote part of New Zealand called “The Golden Triangle.” This small section of forest is home to the Manuka bush, or Leptospermum scoparium, the native New Zealand tea tree. These blossoms can only be grown in New Zealand, making Manuka honey a precious and rare gift from this specific region of the world. 

One of the distinguishing factors of Manuka honey is MGO (Methylglyoxal). Methylglyoxal possesses antibacterial properties that can provide numerous benefits beyond what other types of raw honey can provide.

All Manuka honey must have this compound (as well as the others we mentioned earlier) to be considered authentic, but the levels can vary — the higher the MGO levels, the more flavorful and potent the honey. 

Each Manukora honey product is sent to third-party testing sites to determine the strength of our honey. The MGO rating in Manuka honey can vary. The lowest you can get on our site is 200+ MGO Manuka, which we recommend for general wellness support and as a natural source of energy and antioxidants. The highest we have is our MGO 1123+ Manuka, which offers exceptionally high levels of unique bioactive compounds for a sensory experience and wellness potency like no other.

Our Manuka honey is packaged in its rawest form and ethically produced by our loving beekeepers. We give our bees the freedom to feast on the Manuka bushes as they please, dehydrate the honey at their own pace, and when we harvest their sweet nectar, we leave plenty in the frames for their winter needs. 


The Bottom Line 

You’ll have around five years to enjoy your Manukora honey with a guarantee of its key compounds; however, we’re sure the jar will be empty long before then. As long as you store your Manuka correctly (and really, any other honey), you generally won’t have to worry about it spoiling before you can enjoy it. 

If your honey does appear moldy or smells spoiled or fermented, chances are it was exposed to water, contaminants, or direct sunlight. Don’t consume any honey that doesn’t smell as deliciously sweet as when you first popped the lid. 

Looking for more? Check out our blog for more information about Manuka honey and the potential benefits of this healthy indulgence.



Health Benefits of Honey and How to Use It | Cleveland Clinic 

To what temperature does honey have to be heated to destroy the health benefits for humans? | Beehealthextension

Antibacterial activity of Manuka honey and its components: An overview | PMC

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