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Does Food Coloring Expire? (The Ultimate Guide)

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When you go to the grocery store, you usually check the “expiry date” on food.

The expiry date label shows the food is high-quality standard before the mentioned expiry date. It is printed by manufacturers for the safety of a buyer.

But does food coloring expire?

Then my answer is – “No, food coloring does not expire. It is safe to consume even after the expiry date.”

Here I will tell you, some essential thoughts about food coloring and its expiration. Let’s have a look.

So here we go!

What Is A Food Coloring Made Of? Is It Safe to Eat?

Food coloring enhances the appearance of fresh and processed foods.

But did you know what is food coloring really made of?

Food manufacturers apply a thousand different ways to color the foods to make them more appealing.

The ingredients of food coloring will change a bit. It depends upon the type of food coloring.

However, all food colorings come from two wide sources.

Natural coloring is usually made from plants, animals, and other organic materials.

Artificial colors or synthetic food coloring are made from petroleum-based and tend to be mixed in a lab.

You need more natural food coloring to produce equal results compared to the artificial one.

Natural food coloring is safe to consume.

It can be used over artificial food coloring as it can avoid eating too much processed food.

However, many artificial food coloring are undergone various testing and are FDA-approved. It means they are completely safe to eat.

But some people are allergic to food coloring even it is natural or artificial for any reason.

So, for them, it is better not to consume.

Food Coloring Needs and Benefits

We can not imagine any food without color!

Nowadays, food colors are available in many forms like liquid, powder, gel, paste, etc.

You might be using food colors to make your dish more appealing, attractive and appetizing.

It also used in many commercial food products.

Food colors help to make food more attractive and informative.

It balances the color loss due to extreme temperature, light, air, moisture, etc.

The artificial colors are useful to enhance the natural color of food.

The colors helps the consumer to recognize the product. Like whether it is candy or medicine tablets.

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Types of Food Coloring

Before get to know about the food color expiration, you need to know the different types of food color and how it is made. So that it will be easy for you to get to know about its expiration process.

There is an awesome time on holidays when you make candies, icing, sweets for your kids.

Without food colors, it won’t look attractive or appealing. But do you know, there is not just liquid food colors but also different types of food colors available.

You can use these food colors according to your recipe calls for.

The following are the different types of food colors you can use for your favorite dishes.

1. Traditional Liquid food color

Liquid food colors are synthetic coloring with the base of water.

They are easily available in any grocery store. It is usually inexpensive and packed in plastic bottles.

If you want lighter tint for your dish, it is useful.

You just need to add some drops of traditional liquid food color in food to make it colorful.

2. Liquid Gel dye

Liquid gel dye is alike to traditional liquid food color, but it consists of base of water, glycerine or corn syrup.

But the difference between traditional and liquid gel is that thick consistency. Liquid gel dye is much thicker than traditional liquid food color.

Its availability is also lesser than the traditional one. This color is mostly used for creating vivid colors.

3. Gel paste dye.

Gel paste dye is made up of synthetic coloring having water, glycerine, and corn syrup base like liquid gel dye. It is available only in specialty store in small jar or pots.

The gel paste dye is a more concentrated form of coloring than liquid gel dye. As they are very thick in consistency, it is good to dip a toothpick in the gel paste and take a very small amount of color to use.

As it is a very effective color, it is used to give a bold look to a large batch of food.

4. Powdered dye

Powdered coloring is synthetic coloring without water, glycerine and corn syrup. It won’t get dry like other liquid food colors.

A powdered dye is sold in a grocery stores in jars. They are useful when a recipe is liquid sensitive like meringues, chocolate.

If you want the dark color to your recipe, then it is useful for coloring food. It has a longer shelf life than another food coloring.

5. Natural food coloring

Natural food coloring made up of natural or plant sources. It is available in small dropper bottles.

If you have an allergy of synthetic coloring, natural coloring is the best option for you.

It is not easily available in the grocery store. You can find only it online (You can find here the best natural food colors on Amazon) or specialty store. They are somewhat expensive than other types of food colors.

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Gel Food Color Vs Liquid Food Color

Gel food color is made from synthetic coloring having water, glycerine, corn syrup base. It is more concentrated than liquid food color. So it has less liquidy consistency than liquid food color.

You can use gel food color when you want a vibrant color to your dish. It is great to use when you don’t want to add liquid in your food which you are dying. It is commonly used for making candy, icing with bright colors, cupcakes, etc.

Whereas liquid food color is a synthetic color with just a water base. As it has primarily water base, it is more liquidy than gel food color. It is low in concentration than gel food colors.

Liquid food color is used for the thick dough, icing, Easter egg dyes recipes. But you need to balance the amount of liquid when using it for any recipe due to its more liquidy form.

It is inexpensive and easily available in any grocery store.

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Does Food Color Affect The Taste of Food?

Food color can’t affect the taste of your yummy food!

As I mentioned above, there are different types of food colors available.

Natural food colors like turmeric or mint syrup or powder may affect the taste of food.

Synthetic food coloring also has a little bitter taste.

But it doesn’t affect the taste as it is normally concentrated.

You need to use it in very little quantity. So, you cannot recognize the existence by taste.

The only exception is of red synthetic coloring. Red food color may affect the taste only if uses in large quantities.

Many other studies show that in different age groups people, there is a multi sensory perception of flavor related to food due to its food color.

The perception may be good or bad as per the colorant quantity used.

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How To Store Your Food Coloring?

Any type of food coloring whether it is liquid or powdered lasts longer only if it is stored properly.

Store your food coloring in a dry and cool place and it should be away from direct sunlight.

Don’t store bottle near your oven / stovetop as the heat from that appliance could dry the food coloring quickly.

It helps to stay the colors bright for longer. This also reduces temperature changes that could affect the coloring.

Once you have done using a coloring, wipe off the bottle lid and the rim of the bottle with a clean cloth to eliminate any residue. Then seal the bottle tightly.

This will prevent harden the leftover color lid and bottle, which helps stop it from sealing the bottle properly.

If a bottle is not sealed properly, it may result in contaminants getting into your food coloring.

It leads to a breeding ground for mold. If you have liquid, gel, and paste coloring, air may dry out quickly.

When you want to use food coloring, take it with a clean teaspoon.

Always make sure you are using clean utensils for dipping. Don’t touch the mouth of the bottle to your food while using it.

It will prevent the cross-contamination of coloring and keep the bottle clean.

Most food coloring comes in its own bottle that is designed itself to keep it fresh for a long time.

If the food coloring bottle breaks, move coloring to another airtight container.

Does Food Coloring Expire?

If you are using food color to make your food attractive, then you might have a question in mind that, do they expire?

I say, no, food color will not expire. You can use it even after the expiration date passes.

Because food color doesn’t have raw ingredients that will expire.

There is no point in throwing out food color which passes its expiration date.

If your food color, changes its color it is the sign that you should throw it out.

Even if you notice a change in consistency, don’t use it anymore.

But you should make sure, it is packed well-sealed so that it won’t contaminate from dust.

The shelf life or expiration of food coloring also rely on the type of food coloring.

Let’s get into it in detail.

Does Liquid Food Coloring Expire?

Manufacturers should mention the expiration date on the products.

Even though the product is safe after the use-by date for consumption, it is required by the law.
While talking about foods, these dates are much needed as it may lead to health issues if consumed after the expiration date.

Liquid food coloring doesn’t include ingredients that can be spoiled. So, it can last indefinitely and doesn’t go bad.

Sometimes it may get thick and hard if not sealed precisely.

In this case, you can add few drops of hot water and give it a shake and it is again ready to use.

So, while storing it, make sure you screw the caps on tightly after use.

Does Gel Food Coloring Expire?

Gel food coloring doesn’t contain any ingredients that can go bad. So, they don’t have any expiration date.

If gel food color is not stored properly, it can harden or dry out.

So, you can add some drops of hot water and get them back as original.

But commonly it is said that you should not use gel color if it is dried out or alter its color.

If there is any visible mold growing due to any contamination it is better to discard it.

If gel food color has not dried or harden, mold growth, it is safe to use.

Does Powdered Food Coloring Expire?

If you want to store your food coloring for a longer period of time, then powdered food color is the best option.

Powdered food coloring doesn’t have any liquid to dry out, it can stay good indefinitely.

But make sure it is stored precisely without any contamination with other food products.

If it gets contaminated, it may cause mold growth.

Does Paste-Based Food Coloring Expire?

Paste based food coloring doesn’t have any expiration date.

But you should store it properly.

As it contains liquid, there is a possibility of drying out and get harden, or changes the color.

You can add a little hot water to restore it. If you store it properly it will last for longer.

Does Homemade Food Coloring Expire?

It is not always necessary that you should run to the grocery store to buy food coloring.

But instead, you can make your own food colorings from natural ingredients such as turmeric, beets, blueberries, and spinach.

But they don’t last as long as the store-bought ones.

If you are to make your own food coloring at home, then we suggest make it in small batches.

Homemade food coloring lasts about 2 weeks in the fridge as they are made from foods that can spoil.

Make sure they are properly sealed while stored in the fridge.

Why There Is Expiry Date On Food Coloring If It Doesn’t Really Expire?

Now the question may pop up in your mind that, why there is an expiry date on food coloring if it doesn’t really expire?

But let me tell you, it is legally essential for food manufacturers to print expiry dates on products that are proposed for consumption.

Expiration dates are there to help with inventory control, so a seller will sell the older stock before the newest.

It is just for consumer safety.

There are some food items like sugar, salt, and food that coloring don’t expire.

The date printed on the bottle is almost meaningless, it is just there to fulfill a law.

Definitely, your food coloring may not stay as it is forever.

After the expiry date, you may see its color is not as strong as the original, or that it’s starting to change its texture, but still, it is safe to use.

As it is a food product, you always check if there is any mold or unpleasant smell before using it. If it is rancid, spoiled, moldy, or rotten, discard it immediately.

How to Tell If Food Coloring is Gone Bad?

If you don’t store food coloring bottle properly, it will go bad in a shorter time.

If you notice any changes in the color and the consistency of food coloring, then it is better not to use further and discard it.

For example, if the gel in gel food coloring starts drying up and get harder, it means this is the sign of it is going bad.

In the case of liquid food coloring, the consistency of the liquid gets thicker or gets drying up.

But you can easily give it life to liquid food coloring by adding a few drops of hot water and shaking the bottle.

If you see that there is any visible mold growing due to any contamination it is better to discard the food coloring irrespective of type.

Related Questions

What’s the best food coloring for chocolate?

The simple liquid chocolate food color is known as oil-based food dyes.

You Just need to add few drops of food coloring directly to the melted chocolate until you get the desired shade.

Don’t use water-based food dyes as they will add stickiness to the chocolate.

You can use this Nomeca Oil Based Food Coloring which is Specially designed to use with high-fat contents.

These food colors can be soluble well with butter, fat, and oil substances.

If you are looking for food coloring for making chocolates and candy melts, this is the best bet.

Where to buy food coloring and find it in the grocery store?

You can find food coloring at your nearest grocery store. It is mostly found in the baking aisle of the grocery store.

You can check by the sprinkles and cake decorating materials.

Another great place to find food coloring easily is online. You can also get it easily online stores like

You can buy it online at your comfort with a lot of options to buy.

Which natural ingredients can you use in place of food coloring?

If you prefer natural ingredients for food coloring, you can make natural food coloring from ingredients in your kitchen.

  • Pink: strawberries, raspberries
  • Red: beet juice, tomato, pomegranate juice, and raspberry
  • Orange: carrots, paprika, sweet potato
  • Yellow: saffron, turmeric
  • Green: matcha, spinach, avocadoes, wheatgrass juice,
  • Blue: red cabbage + baking soda
  • Purple: blueberry juice, purple sweet potato, purple grape juice
  • Brown: coffee, tea, cocoa
  • Black: activated charcoal, squid Ink

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So, now you know that food coloring doesn’t expire.

Artificial food color lasts doesn’t expire or lasts longer than homemade food colors.

You can use artificial food coloring past the expiration date. Always make sure it is stored properly after each use.

Homemade food colors last for 2 weeks in the fridge.

Whatever food coloring it is artificial or homemade, always make sure it is stored precisely for longer shelf life.