How to Tell if Flour is Bad

Flour is one of those ingredient staples in every kitchen. And while it may seem like they can last forever, flour does – in fact – have a shelf life and will go bad over time. 

The tell-tale signs your flour has gone bad are an unappealing odor, change in color, odd flavor, or the presence of clumpiness or bugs.

Hey, hey, hey! I’m Michelle, and I’ve been baking for the past ten years. That said, it’s no secret that I use flour a lot. I always have flour on hand. But I will admit that sometimes I buy too much, and it doesn’t get used. Knowing whether it’s good or not is imperative!

Today, we’re talking about how to tell if the flour is bad. I’ll also be sharing some other important information, such as how long different types of flour last and how they should be stored to enhance their longevity.

Let’s talk about flour!

How to Tell if Flour is Bad (4 Signs)

Nobody wants to bake with ingredients that have gone bad, including flour. Although rancid flour likely won’t make you sick, it’s still going to have an effect on the flavor and texture of your goodies. 

And the last thing you want is to sink your teeth into a treat that tastes stale, musty, and old. Yuck!

The good news is that there are many different ways to tell that your flour has gone bad. Let’s take a closer look.

1. Unappealing Odor

The most significant indicator of rancid flour is the smell. Flour has a neutral odor, regardless of which type you’re using. If your flour has taken on an odd scent, such as mustiness, sourness, or staleness, it should be tossed.

Some people describe the smell as Play-doh-like. So, if you get flashbacks of your kindergarten classroom upon smelling your flour, you will want to get rid of it right away.

2. Change in Color

Another significant indicator is a change in color. Think back to what the original color of your flour was. For example, all-purpose flour is fluffy and white, while whole wheat flour has a light brown, tan hue.

If you notice a change in the color of your flour, it has gone bad. This is especially true if you’re seeing green or yellow hues, as this can indicate the presence of mold growth.

3. Clumpiness

You don’t have to be a professional baker to know that flour should not be clumpy. So, if you’re noticing clumps in your flour, it means moisture got inside the packaging somehow. 

Not only is clumpy flour unappealing to look at and touch, but the presence of moisture can create a breeding ground for bacteria. It’s not safe or desirable to eat, so opt for a new batch of flour.

4. Bugs

Bugs of all shapes and sizes can find their way into your package of flour. 

That said, there can be a tiny variety known as weevils hiding inside. You might not be able to see them at first. So, if you’re concerned about your flour containing bugs, it’s best to mix it around a bit. 

A single scoop into the contaminated flour will reveal any bugs that have burrowed themselves inside. 

While this common flour-loving bug won’t cause illness if consumed, nobody wants to dive into a baked good created using bug-infested flour. Get rid of it ASAP.

Will Expired Flour Make You Sick?

So what happens if you use expired flour? Expired flour likely won’t make you sick, especially if it’s eaten in small quantities. However, it won’t make your baked goods taste very good, and you’re likely to toss them out anyway. It’s best to start with a fresh batch of safe and delicious flour instead.

Note: just because it’s likely you won’t become ill doesn’t mean there is no possibility. The flour will start to grow mycotoxins once expired, which can be harmful in large quantities. 

What is the Shelf Life of Flour?

Each type of flour has its own unique shelf life. There is no “one size fits all” regarding the time frame. It mostly comes down to how processed the flour is. 

For example, all-purpose flour is known for its long shelf life because it is highly refined and only contains the endosperm of the wheat grain rather than all three parts (germ, bran, and endosperm).

On the other hand, whole wheat flour has a shorter shelf life because it is less processed and contains all three parts of the wheat grain. 

Here is a closer look at some of the most popular flours and their respective shelf life:

Type of FlourPantryFridgeFreezer
All-Purpose8 months1 year2 years
Self-Rising4 months1 year2 years
Cake Flour6 months1 year2 years
Whole Wheat3 months6 months1 year
Almond Flour3 months6 months1 year
Gluten-Free Flour3 months6 months1 year
Coconut Flour3 months6 months1 year

How to Store Flour

It’s clear by the table listed above that you can get the lengthiest shelf life from your flour when stored in the freezer.

But, honestly, where the flour means nothing if it is not stored correctly.

Here is the best way to store flour.

How to Store Flour in the Pantry

The most common place to store flour is in the pantry, as it is readily available and ready to be used in baking recipes.

You have two options for storing flour in the pantry: keeping it in the original packaging or transferring it to an airtight container.

I recommend placing your flour in an airtight container. That way, you can be confident that no moisture, bugs, or other undesirables can find their way into your container. You will get the best shelf life with this storage option.

If you don’t have any on hand, don’t worry – you can leave them in the original packaging. However, wrap the package in a resealable plastic freezer bag. 

After all, let’s face it – trying to pry open a bag of flour is challenging and will leave you with rips and tears. Not only that but trying to keep the package completely closed is almost impossible. 

Surrounding it in a resealable plastic freezer bag will keep it safe from the elements.

Regardless of which option you choose, make sure the flour is stored in a cool, dry, and dark place, such as the back of the pantry. Keep it away from strong-smelling ingredients and liquids that could potentially harm the quality of your flour.

How to Store Flour in The Fridge/Freezer

The fridge or freezer is an excellent choice for long-term storage. It is much easier than storing in the pantry, too.

Again, you can leave it in the original packaging and wrap it with a resealable freezer bag. But I recommend using an airtight container instead (if you have the space for it). Consider storing flour in smaller quantities inside freezer bags to save on space.

When storing in the fridge or freezer, keep the flour away from strong-smelling ingredients and liquids. Make sure the containers are sealed shut to extend longevity. 


Now you know how to successfully spot spoiled flour! If you want to keep learning about this topic, check out these interesting, frequently asked questions.

Is it OK to use expired flour?

Flour typically comes with a “best by” date rather than an expiration date, and most of them will last a few months beyond the printed date. Double-check for any signs of spoilage: odd scent, color changes, clumping, or bugs before using.

Can you use flour 2 years out of date?

Depending on the type of flour and storage, it may still be good up to two years out of the printed date. For example, all-purpose flour stored in an airtight container in the freezer will likely still be good, but coconut flour may not be. Check for signs of spoilage before use.

What can I do with old flour?

Old flour doesn’t necessarily have to be tossed (unless moldy or clumpy). You can use it for other activities and purposes. For instance, you can use it as a dry shampoo for in-between shower days or create homemade glue for fun crafts and projects.

Final Words

Although many people think flour lasts forever, unfortunately, it goes bad. The most significant indicator of spoilage is a musty, sour, or Play-doh-like smell. Other signs include color changes, clumpiness, or the presence of bugs. 

Have you ever baked with rancid flour?

About Michelle
I have been a lover of sweets since day one. This led me on a self-taught baking journey starting at the age of 13. It's been over 10 years since the start of my baking adventures, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. Now, people rave about my delectable treats, whether it’s a chocolate cake or a strawberry crepe.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Barbara

    Oh, I just used some outdated flour. The date was in the curled part at top of bag. Whole wheat. I cut up five apples. Recipe said add flour. I’ve had it in cupboard. Cripes date was April 2019. Was making a crustless pie. Instead of sugar, I used honey. Added cinnamon. When I mixed it all together with melted butter, I saw these dark brown flecks. The flour had no bugs. So did the honey grab the cinnamon and butter to create these dark flecks or was the flour unusable.. I don’t bake often.. I can’t believe I wasted apples.

    • Michelle

      Without seeing it, it’s hard to know. It could’ve been from the melted butter and cinnamon. Hope this helps!

  • Shirley

    I just checked my flour, a small 2-cup bag with a best by date of April 2023. (Right now it’s July 2023.) The bag is unopened and I’ve kept it in a ZipLoc bag since I bought it. No weevils in it, but there are these super-tiny beige bugs in it, no bigger than the POINT of a pin. So, I chucked it. Next time it will go into a sealed plastic container, preferably with a rubber gasket on the lid.

    • Michelle

      Hi Shirley,
      Good job getting rid of the flour. Sounds like it was definitely bad. Nobody wants to use buggy flour! 🙂 Great ideas for next time!