gluten free flours expire
Oksana Charla

My gluten-free refrigerator nightmare.

OK, so I admit it. Things have gotten out of hand…gluten-free things…specifically, gluten-free flour. My downstairs refrigerator (yes we have two, for the one in my kitchen is counter depth and holds next to nothing!) is filled with bags and boxes of gf flours. Over 30 varieties, and some bags/boxes are almost untouched.

gluten free flour best-by dates
Oksana Charla

Why so many, one might ask? Well, it’s for you. In order to accurately portray the food in the magazine, I often cook, bake and photograph various recipes for each issue—and I follow the ingredient list and instructions of each recipe exactly.  The result is a refrigerator jam packed with every kind of gluten-free flour imaginable.

The upside of this is that my must-find this or that new flour trips to the store and my panicked online flour purchases have become less frequent. The downside is that I cringe every time I have to go downstairs to sort through what I have, to find the flour(s) I need for a particular recipe. The way-downside is that each bag of flour has a shelf life, a “best by”, or “use by” date. …AND, since gluten–free products are not cheap I try not to look at those dates too frequently.

That’s a problem.

gluten free flour best-by dates
Oksana Charla

When I do look, sometimes I find that just a few tablespoons have been used and the flour is already passed its “best by” date. Do I throw it out? Is it really bad? How can I tell? I absolutely hate to waste food.

The other week things came to a head. Working in a hurry, I inadvertently used a rancid flour and had to toss out dozens of cookies that I desperately needed for an event later that day—I was angry at myself, but grateful that I had eaten one in advance and realized I had a problem before I carted the cookies off to be shared with others.

It was time. I couldn’t have this happen to me again.

I pulled out every bag, box and container of flour I had in my refrigerator and checked the stamped on date.  This is what I found:

I had over 30 gluten-free flours. Seven were well passed expiration or “best by date”; Seven were passed the “best by” date but not by much, …perhaps still usable? —and four contained no visible expiration or “best by” date.

gluten free flour best-by dates
Oksana Charla

That made 18 flours that potentially needed to be thrown out. I had kept them all in sealed plastic bags in the refrigerator (to prolong shelf life) and therefore hoped that some were still salvageable. But how would I know which ones were still good to use?  I set out to the internet in search of an answer.

Most sites agreed that, if stored properly, flours of all types were safe to use past their expiration, “best by” or “use by” date. The difference in opinion was on how long after these dates one could still use the flour.  While there is no one correct answer it seems that if the flour looks fine (no discoloration), smells fine, tastes fine, and has no weevils (teeny tiny bugs), then it should be fine to be used in baked goods. That being said, the best solution of course is to never get to that point. YOU CAN EASILY USE UP YOUR GF FLOURS before expiration if you only keep a handful of flours on hand. Do this by using up your bags of lesser-used flour more quickly by substituting them into your frequently made recipes—not just when baking but also when making soups, gravies or dredging meat.  See Gluten Free & More’s Flour Substitution Chart to find out what flours can be successfully swapped out with others.