Unless you regularly take inventory of your pantry, it isn’t unusual to find a box of dry pasta that has been pushed to the back and forgotten for an unknown amount of time.
Does dry pasta go bad? Dry pasta isn’t likely to grow mold or become unsafe to eat unless it has been stored in humid conditions. It may get stale, however, and there are small bugs that may be able to get into the packaging.
In this article, we’ll talk about how long you can expect dry pasta to last, how to decide if your dry pasta is still good to eat, and how to store your pasta to give it the longest shelf life possible.
Does Dry Pasta Go Bad?
When you think of food that has gone bad, the most common worry is mold and bacterial growth.
Moldy or contaminated food not only tastes awful but can make you very sick, depending on the type of bacterial contamination growing on it.
Almost all food-borne bacteria requires moisture to thrive. Dry pasta is, of course, dry. Because of this, even if your bag or box of pasta has been opened, it’s not likely to develop mold or become dangerous to eat.
However, if your dry pasta has been exposed to moisture, either because of a water leak or extremely high and consistent humidity, it is possible for the packaging to become damp enough to allow for bacterial growth.
Dry pasta will dry out again quickly, so even in this case, it’s unlikely. However, mold and bacteria are not the only ways food can become inedible or, at least, unappetizing.
With dry pasta, you may find that, after time, it goes stale and loses its flavor or develops an off-putting, dull, or musty flavor.
If your pasta simply becomes less flavorful, you may be able to get away with serving it with a rich sauce. If it gets an old cupboard taste to it, a sauce may not be enough to hide the staleness.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to diagnose stale pasta until it’s cooked. If you know your pasta is very old, cook it plain and try it before adding any sauce or extra ingredients.
This way, if you don’t like the taste, you can toss the pasta without ruining an entire meal.
The other potential reason you’d want to toss your old dry pasta is if it has welcomed in a family of pantry bugs looking to make a forgotten package their home.
Pantry pests may find their way in, even if your pantry or cupboards are spotless, so they’re not a sign of uncleanliness. They’re also not dangerous or destructive in any way; they’re just looking for a good meal.
Regardless, no one wants bugs in their food unless that’s the point.
Any dried food that has been opened is an appetizing meal for certain tiny beetles, weevils, and even moths.
If your dry pasta has been opened for a while, take a look through the noodles before cooking and adjust your meal plan as necessary.
How Can You Tell If Dry Pasta Is Bad?
If your dry pasta has bugs, you should notice them quite easily. If your pasta has gone stale, it may be harder to tell until you taste it.
Try smelling your pasta. A musty odor is a bad sign.
Beyond this, you will have to cook your pasta to test it out. Stale pasta is safe to eat, but it can spoil a meal so try a few noodles before serving if you’re concerned about how old it is.
White spots are more commonly found on fresh or cooked pasta, and they could be signs of mold. Pasta that is been kept dry will not mold, so if there are white spots, it may be caused by being physically damaged.
If long noodles are bent, but not to the point of breaking, they may show signs of wear and tear if they were moved too much, though it would be very difficult to notice.
White spots on dry pasta are more likely to be simply color loss. If the pasta was exposed to irregular light or if it is going stale, it may start to lose its color. This won’t make it unsafe to eat.
If there are black spots in your dry pasta, there is a good chance they were there when you first purchased the pasta and they’re not a sign that the noodles are too old, but it can be a sign you don’t want to eat them.
Black spots are usually a result of poorly dried pasta or even possible bugs that infiltrated the pasta during the drying process. Either way, you will want to discard any dry pasta with black spots, unless it’s spiced pasta.
Shelf Life of Pasta
Dry boxed pasta will typically have a shelf life of 1–2 years, marked on the packaging, and can be safely eaten for a few years even beyond that date.
Pasta may take a lot of work to make, but its very simple in terms of ingredients. Most pasta varieties are simply flour and water.
The magic of pasta is usually in the preparation of the sauce and other added ingredients, but the noodles themselves aren’t bursting with a world of flavor.
This is a blessing, rather than a drawback, especially in terms of shelf life.
If your dry pasta is inhospitable to mold and bacteria and the only thing you need to worry about is staleness, being very mild in flavor will make any loss of flavor over time almost undetectable.
How Long Can You Keep Dry Pasta?
All storebought dry pasta bags or boxes will have a best-by date stamped on them. This is not an expiration date, in the sense that the pasta will be unsafe to eat beyond this time, but rather a guide for quality.
The best-by date signifies how long the manufacturer believes their pasta will maintain its best flavor, texture, and color. With that in mind, you can keep dry pasta indefinitely.
Can You Eat Expired Dry Pasta?
Beyond this best-by date, you can often keep dry pasta for 1–2 years, if it is stored properly.
As long as you don’t see any bugs inside or smell any stale odors, your pasta should be safe to cook and eat as normal. It may be less enjoyable, but it will be edible.
How Do You Store Dry Pasta?
The best way to store dry pasta long term is in an airtight container, preferably glass, in a cool, dry, and dark location. Most people will use their pantry or cupboards.
Glass containers help to protect the flavor of your dried goods better than plastic will.
If you know it will take you a long time to make it through the bulk supply of spaghetti or macaroni you bought, use glass and make sure it has a tight seal.
You also want to be sure your pasta is kept in a location that is relatively temperature controlled.
Constant temperature fluctuations can cause condensation. Moisture of any kind should be avoided like the plague around any dried food you may have, including your dry pasta.
Finally, keeping your dry pasta out of direct sunlight will help protect the color and texture of your pasta longer.
Sun exposure can cause fading in color and can make your pasta more brittle so that even when it’s reconstituted in the cooking water, it breaks more easily and feels more gritty.
Can You Store Dry Pasta In The Refrigerator?
Storing your dry pasta in the refrigerator is not ideal.
Aside from taking up cold space that could probably be put to better use, the air in your fridge will compromise the quality of your dry pasta more quickly than the air in your pantry.
There are also a lot more airborne flavors and odors in your fridge that can taint your pasta in an unappetizing way. Most items in your pantry or cupboard are also dry goods, so they won’t share their flavor or odors with each other.
Pasta Expiration Dates:
|Dry Pasta||1–2 years||Not necessary||Not necessary|
|Fresh Pasta||Unsafe||4–5 days||6 months|
|Cooked Pasta||Unsafe||Up to 1 week||6 months|
Now that we’ve answered your questions about dry pasta going bad and how to store it correctly, we have gathered a few extra questions below.
What Is Dry Pasta?
Dry pasta is usually made from a paste of very finely ground flour and water. The paste is pushed through different molds and cut at specific lengths to create a wide variety of pasta types you can find at your grocery store.
Even though the ingredients used for spaghetti, macaroni, and cannelloni noodles are the same, the way the different types of pasta dishes are prepared creates a unique taste and texture experience in different recipes.
Thicker cut noodles, for example, will have a different texture and consistency than thinner noodles. Small noodles will cook more quickly than large noodles.
The very simple ingredients list makes it easy to dehydrate and help it remain stable and hearty for long-term storage.
Dry pasta is mass-produced, making it very inexpensive, especially in comparison to fresh, commercially produced pasta.
What Is the Serving Size of Dry Pasta?
Every package of dry pasta will include its own serving size in the nutritional data information section. If you’re counting calories or micronutrients, this is the best way to accurately measure your pasta.
The USDA suggests that a serving of any grain product is 1 ounce. For most types of dry pasta, this works out to about ½ cup of cooked pasta.
This isn’t a lot of pasta, especially by standard American servings, so most packages will use 2 ounces as a serving.
It’s always important to remember that this is for the pasta alone. Any sauces or added ingredients are extra, in terms of calories, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and other nutritional components.
Is It Safe to Eat Raw Dry Pasta?
Eating raw dry pasta isn’t going to make you immediately sick, but it is more difficult to digest than cooked pasta. If you were to eat a lot of raw pasta, consistently, you’d likely end up with digestive issues over time.
Also, your body won’t be able to absorb the nutrients in raw pasta as well as it can from cooked pasta, so you’re not doing yourself any favors.
If you’re on a raw food diet, instead of trying to eat raw pasta, you may find pasta alternatives like vegetable “noodles” more enjoyable and certainly healthier.
However, you can eat raw dry ramen noodles and we have an article for those who are curious about the best way to do it and why it is safe.
Can You Freeze-Dry Pasta?
You can freeze dry pasta, but it’s completely unnecessary and may actually compromise the quality of your pasta more quickly than storing it in a cupboard or pantry. If your freezer is the only space you have for storage, it is an option.
If you’re going to store dry pasta in your freezer, you’ll want to protect your dry pasta from exposure to moisture, freezer burn, or from soaking up the flavors and odors of your other frozen foods.
First, place your pasta in a freezer-safe airtight bag and remove as much air as possible. Store that bag in a freezer-safe container.
The double protection will best protect the flavor and texture of your dry pasta, and it will also help protect the physical well-being of your pasta.
It would be a shame to have all your spaghetti crushed into shards because something heavy was placed on an unprotected bag.
Dry Pasta Vs Fresh Pasta?
Dry pasta is incredibly convenient, easy, and inexpensive. It stores easily, lasts a long time without any fuss and can be cooked on demand within 10 minutes, in most cases.
Fresh pasta, on the other hand, is somewhat laborious to make or much more expensive to buy than dry pasta. It can only be stored for about 1 week, though it cooks just as quickly and is equally versatile.
Fresh pasta has a much richer flavor than dry pasta and is usually locally made with fresh ingredients. It does often contain eggs, where dry pasta is usually just flour and water.
Fresh pasta can also often be found stuffed. This can make fresh pasta less accessible to people with dietary restrictions but can also make it a more enticing pasta to cook for those without.
Can Egg Noodles Go Bad?
Even though egg noodles have egg in them, as long as they’re kept dry, they’re unlikely to grow mold or bacteria. If they’ve been exposed to any moisture, they may spoil slightly quicker than basic flour pasta.
It’s always a good idea to make sure your egg noodles, and all other dry pasta, are stored in an airtight container to prevent exposure to moisture, and also to protect the noodles from bugs and keep the flavor as long as possible.
What you may notice with egg noodles is a difference in color over time. Egg noodles often have a lovely yellow color from the yolk in the egg. Over time, this color will fade to a light beige or washed-out yellow.
This shouldn’t affect the flavor, but as with all pasta, egg noodles will also get stale eventually.
Since they naturally have more flavor than basic flour pasta, old egg noodles may have more noticeable flavor changes over time, especially if you’re used to fresh egg noodles.
However, you can also freeze egg noodles to extend their shelf life.
Can Ramen Noodles Go Bad?
Ramen noodles are most common in North American households in the form of instant noodles packages. These come individually packaged in airtight, sealed plastic bags, and they also often have preservatives.
As long as the package isn’t opened, your ramen noodles aren’t going to go bad. They will get stale eventually, though.
You can also find ramen noodles packaged like standard dry pasta noodles. In this case, they’re unlikely to have preservatives and they will follow the same standards as other dry pasta.
They’re dry, so they won’t get moldy, but they will eventually lose their flavor and become less appetizing.