Does Cream of Tartar Go Bad?

Remember that thing sitting at the back of your spice cupboard? Chances are you seldom use it except during the holidays when everyone becomes a dessert-making extraordinaire. Cream of tartar is an acidic powder that is used to create a tangy flavor and can help to make a cake or cookies even fluffier.

Not only can it be used for baking, but if you’re in a pinch it can also be used to remove tough grease spots from your cookware

Since it is used so rarely, a lot of people end up using the same container of cream of tartar for years and years. So, that suggests the next question, does cream of tartar go bad?

If kept away from moisture cream of tartar will never go bad in the sense that it becomes dangerous. However, it will lose its potency over time. This means that you’ll have to use more and more of it in your recipe to achieve the same effects.

Technically, cream of tartar does not go bad as long as it is stored properly. However, this doesn’t mean that you should go around using the 20-year-old cream of tartar that you found at the back of grandma’s pantry. 

Over time, even if it is stored properly in an area where no moisture is present, the cream of tartar will become less potent. You want to experience the same results when it’s added to a recipe and may need to add twice as much to achieve a similar texture or flavor.

How Long Does Cream of Tartar Last?

Generally speaking, the easiest way to tell if your cream of tartar is still good is by checking the use-by date. This date is added to the container to let you know how long the product is still guaranteed to be effective.

If the product has gone past the due date, it won’t be dangerous but it will have lost a lot of its effectiveness. This can make it difficult to know if the cream of tartar will actually work in your recipe or if you’ll need to go purchase a new container. Fortunately, there is an easy way to test the effectiveness of your cream of tartar before using it.

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After the Expiration Date

The general recommendation is that your cream of tartar is probably still effective for about three months after its expiration date. After this point, the effectiveness of the product will significantly decrease and you should purchase a new container before baking with it.

How to Tell If Cream of Tartar is Still Good?

If your cream of tartar is past its expiration date or you simply aren’t sure how old it is, you’ll want to test it to make sure it’s still good. This will give you an idea of if the cream of tartar is safe to use and if it will still be effective in your recipe. 

Smell It

When you smell your cream of tartar, it should have a distinct acidic smell. It should also smell pretty fresh and should not have any mustiness to it. If the smell has changed, that’s a sign that moisture has made its way into the product and ruined it. 

Check the Texture

After it has passed the smell test, you’ll want to check the texture of the cream of tartar. Ideally, your cream of tartar should have a very fine powdery texture without any clumps. Over time small, soft clumps may occur and this is fine as long as they break apart easily. You may notice that a similar thing happens with products like baking soda and baking powder.

If the lumps are large and difficult to break apart, this is a sign that moisture has made its way into the product. This could also cause mold to grow which is dangerous if consumed. If you notice large lumps that don’t break apart easily, you’ll want to go and purchase a new container of cream of tartar.

The Fizz Test

If your cream of tartar has passed the previous tests, there is one more thing that you should check before using it. To do the fizz test you’ll want to take some lukewarm water, baking soda, and cream of tartar.

Once you add them, you should see that the cream of tartar has a fizzing reaction with the water. This means that the acid in the cream of tartar is still active which is what you need for baking and other recipes.

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If you add the cream of tartar and it does not fizz, this is a sign that the product is no longer effective. 

Is It Okay to Use Expired Cream of Tartar?

So after you’ve read through all of this, you may still be wondering if it’s okay to use expired cream of tartar. After all, last minute baking recipes rarely have time for a run to the grocery store before starting.

Using expired cream of tartar is in no way harmful and will not make you sick. However, you may not get the flavor or texture that you’re looking for in the recipe. For this reason, you may want to increase the amount of cream of tartar that you add since the overall acidic level of the product is weaker.

If you choose to do this make sure to use caution and only add a small amount at a time. It is easier to add more cream of tartar than it is to remove it and you don’t want your cookies to have such a sour flavor that they are difficult to eat.

Final Thoughts

As long as you store cream of tartar correctly, in a cool, dry place without any moisture sources nearby, it does not go bad. However, that does not mean that it will be effective after many years of sitting in the pantry.

Over time, the acidic properties of the cream of tartar will weaken. This means that you’ll need to use much more cream of tartar to get the same flavor and texture results in the recipe.

To check if your cream of tartar is still good for use, there are a couple of tests you can do. You can do the smell test, check the texture of the powder, and finally do the fizz test to check how strong the acid is.