This is not about Twinkies. Their preservative-packed lifespan is the stuff of legend, but they don’t make the cut.
It’s not about the fruitcake from last Christmas, or leftovers that wear out their welcome long before the mold grows.
This is a list of foods that never go bad.
These are the foods that that have been unearthed, still edible, from the dusty depths of King Tut’s tomb, a fallen Viking’s knapsack, and an Oklahoma supermarket nobody has shopped at since the 1950’s.
Forget what you think you know about spoilage, shelf-life, and expiration dates.
There are some foods that you never need to toss out, even when you clean out the pantry, remodel your kitchen, or move to another city.
Someday you’ll be long gone, but rest assured, that box of brown sugar from last November will live on.
White, brown, or powdered, sugar never goes bad.
Bacteria can’t feed on sugar, so it will never spoil. Corn syrup is also a keeper, but we’re not fans of the stuff. Honey, with its own antibacterial properties, has been famous for its longevity ever since centuries-old pots of perfectly edible honey were found in ancient Egyptian tombs. Maple syrup has a surprisingly limited shelf life of just a year or so, but who knew you could successfully freeze maple syrup and keep it indefinitely?!
Unless you’re wild about gravy, that tin of cornstarch could be the last one you’ll ever buy, since it never goes bad. All of the white rice varieties, like jasmine, arborio, and basmati, will keep forever; the higher oil content of brown rice makes those varieties prone to spoilage. Wild rice is another food that will outlast you, even though it’s not a rice at all, but is an edible grass.
Salt—kosher, iodized, from the sea, or chiseled from mines—it never goes bad. Its resistance to bacterial growth makes it handy as a preservative for other foods. The salted black beans that flavor Chinese stir-fry dishes or the capers in the puttanesca sauce on your spaghetti could have been put on the pantry shelf by the cook’s great-great-great-grandmother.
Like salt, vinegar is also used to extend the shelf life of other foods, and is, in a pure state without added flavorings, eternally self-preserving.
How about 100 year-old butter? You know how perishable dairy products can be, but ghee, a type of clarified butter used mostly in South Asian cooking, can outlive us all. The water is separated out and the milk solids are removed leaving a pristinely pure butterfat that doesn’t even need to be refrigerated.
Vanilla (the extract, not the beans) doesn’t just last forever; it actually improves with age. The cheaper, artificial extract is no bargain when you consider the cost to replace it every few years when its flavor fades. Spring for the good stuff and your grandchildren will still be baking with it.
Heat, light, moisture, air, and pests; these are the enemies. Keep them away from your pantry, and you can keep these foods forever.
When in doubt, check with the keep it or toss it query bar at Still Tasty, the ultimate food storage guide.