30+ Pantry Essentials With a Long Shelf Life

Long shelf life foods are pantry staples. Keep these on hand for years (or even decades!).

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CHART OF PANTRY FOOD SHELF LIVESSydney Watson/Taste of Home

Long shelf life staples

Don't you just hate reaching into the cupboard and realizing that box of cake mix has expired or your favourite snack is past its prime? Certain pantry items just don't seem to last as long as we like. However, there are plenty of long shelf life foods perfect for filling your cupboards. Foods like these are great to have on hand for everyday cooking, of course, but also times when you just can't get out of the house.

Many foods with long shelf lives are the basics—think rice, grains and salt—but others can last for a long time because they're dried or canned. These techniques can extend the usefulness of all kinds of foods.

We'll show you pantry must-haves that can last you ages—if stored properly. Our Test Kitchen recommends storing as much as you can in airtight containers.

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Bouillon cubesmagnez2/Getty Images

Bouillon

How long it lasts: Two years
How to store bouillon cubes: Keep them in a dark pantry.

If you don't have room to store containers upon containers of broth, grab a container of bouillon. This broth starter can be dissolved in water to start your favourite soup or added to sauces to add flavour.

See why over one million people love this chicken soup recipe!

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Canned vegetablesSarapulSar38/Getty Images

Canned fruits, vegetables and beans

How long they last: Up to six years
How to store canned goods: Keep canned goods in your cupboard.

Canned goods can last for some time after their best-by dates, however, they will taste best during before them. If you find a can of fruit in the back of the cupboard that's six months past its supposed prime, it's still safe to eat.

If a can is dented or bulging, don't eat what's inside. Cans that aren't in great shape can indicate that what's inside isn't preserved properly, so for your safety, it's best to avoid them.

Here are more pantry essentials you should never be without.

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Corn starch spilling from a measuring spoon; Shutterstock ID 547908454; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): Taste of HomeMichelle Lee Photography/Shutterstock

Cornstarch

How long it lasts: Forever
How to store corn starch: Keep in its original container, stored in a cool, dark place away from moisture. Cornstarch will begin dissolving as soon as it comes in contact with water. But as long as it’s kept dry, cornstarch can last indefinitely, so stock up on this natural thickening agent.

Check out these brilliant uses for cornstarch around the home.

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Dark chocolate jirkaejc/Getty Images

Dark chocolate

How long it lasts: Two years
How to store dark chocolate: Keep dark chocolate at room temperature and stored in its original packaging or wrapped tightly once opened.

Of all the varieties of chocolate, dark chocolate keeps the longest. If you're a fan of milk or white chocolate, eat those within a year.

Looking to satisfy a chocolate craving? Check out these decadent chocolate recipes.

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Dried beans and lentilsAamulya/Getty Images

Dried beans, lentils and legumes

How long they last: Forever
How to store dried beans: Keep dried beans and lentils in sealed containers in your pantry.

As time goes on, dried legumes can become even drier, so if you're cooking them up after their initial best-by date, they might take a little longer.

Remember to never put these 13 foods in your slow cooker.

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Dried cranberriesjirkaejc/Getty Images

Dried fruits (raisins, dried cranberries and more)

How long they last: A year or more
How to store dried fruits: Keep them in their sealed packages or transfer to tightly sealed containers. You can extend their shelf life by six months popping them in the freezer

Dried fruits are always good to keep on hand for snacking and baking.

Read on for expert-approved cake baking tips!

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Dried pastaTatiana Atamaniuk/Getty Images

Dried pasta

How long it lasts: Up to three years
How to store dried pasta: Keep dried pasta in an airtight container

If you buy pasta in a sealed, plastic bag, you can store it as-is in the pantry. Pasta that comes in a cardboard box or pasta that you've opened should be transferred to a sealed container so it lasts as long as possible.

Avoid making these pasta cooking mistakes.

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Plate with mixed quinoa seeds on dark backgroundNEW AFRICA/Shutterstock

Grains

How long they last: Up to eight years
How to store grains: Keep them in a sealed container in the pantry

When it comes to grains like quinoa, barley, rye, flax, millet and grits, buying in bulk is a worthwhile investment. You can keep all of these grains stored in airtight containers for best results.

Get the recipe for quinoa cranberry salad!

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Instant coffee drinksTaste of Home

Instant coffee

How long it lasts: Up to 25 years in the pantry, longer in the freezer
How to store instant coffee: Keep instant coffee dry. Store it in its original container or transfer into an airtight container.

While many of us may be devotees to our favourite coffee shops, instant coffee is always good to have on hand for an emergency caffeine fix. And with a long shelf life, you can stock up and have them to enjoy for ages to come.

Don't miss our guide to different types of coffee!

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Jams and jelliesTaste of Home

Jams and jellies

How long they last: Two years if unopened; once opened, six months
How to store jam and jelly: Store unopened jams and jellies in the pantry. Once you've popped a jar open, keep it in the fridge.

Jams and jellies are perfect for getting great fruit flavours, even during the offseason.

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Teriyaki beef jerkyTaste of Home

Jerky

How long it lasts: Up to two years
How to store jerky: Keep it sealed in a dark pantry.

Unopened, store-bought beef jerky lasts a long time, so feel free to buy a bit extra of this protein-packed snack.

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LiquorInstants/Getty Images

Liquor

How long it lasts: Forever
How to store hard liquor: Store hard liquors at room temperature. Few liquors, like vermouth and Irish cream, should be stored in the fridge after opening.

The high alcohol content of hard liquors helps ward off bacterial growth. That’s why they can last a lifetime or more. It’s not necessary to keep them in the freezer to extend their shelf life.

Stock your home bar with rum, whiskey, tequila, vodka, gin and other similar liquors, and you’ll always be prepared for an impromptu get-together.

Try your hand at making these movie-inspired cocktails!

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bottles of maple syrup in leaf-shaped bottlesCindy Creighton/Shutterstock

Maple syrup

How long it lasts: Forever if unopened; up to a year once you open the bottle
How to store maple syrup: Store unopened bottles of syrup in the cupboard. Opened bottles should be kept in the fridge.

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Dripping black treacle or molasses from beaker. Molasses is the final product from the sugarcane extraction process of sugar factory industrial. Background with copy and text space. - Selective focus.; Shutterstock ID 1005612643; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOHiPreechaya Studio/Shutterstock

Molasses

How long it lasts: Up to 10 years if unopened, up to five once opened
How to store molasses: You can keep your molasses in the pantry with the rest of your baking supplies. Make sure the cap is on tight.

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Oats in a glass jarEli Wilson/Getty Images

Oats

How long they last: Up to two years
How to store oats: If you plan on keeping your oats long-term (for more than a year), you'll want to transfer them out of their cardboard container and into an airtight container.

Find out why oatmeal should be your favourite superfood.

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Shopping for cooking oilJuanmonino/Getty Images

Oils

How long do they last: Up to two years
How to store cooking oils: Keep them in the pantry and out of direct sunlight and heat.

Left unopened, many cooking oils can keep in the pantry for a few years. Canola oil, olive oil, peanut oil and vegetable oil all will keep well when stored in a dark place. Once you open these oils, be sure to use them within a few months.

If you prefer cooking oil in spray form, you've got two years to use it.

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Canned tunabelchonock/Getty Images

Packaged tuna

How long it lasts: Up to five years
How to store canned tuna: Keep it in the pantry or cupboard.

Tuna is a love-it or leave-it sort of food, but tuna fans can take solace that they can store tuna in the cupboard for up to five years. The sealed packets of tuna can last for three.

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Jarred sweet picklesTaste of Home

Pickles and pickled vegetables

How long they last: Four years if unopened, one year opened and refrigerated
How to store pickles: Unopened jars of pickles and other pickled vegetables can stay in your pantry. Once you've popped open a jar, keep it in the fridge.

Pickles that have been canned can last a long time (up to two years past their best by date). Quick pickles and refrigerator pickles, though, are best eaten right away. Just double-check what you've got on hand before enjoying.

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Popcorn kernelsINNA GRITSINOVA/Shutterstock

Popcorn

How long does it last: Forever
How to store popcorn kernels: Keep them in a sealed container in the cupboard

You can safely buy popcorn in bulk without ever fearing an expiration date.

Learn why using your microwave's popcorn button is a bad idea.

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Orange Jell-OTaste of Home

Powdered Jell-O

How long it lasts: Forever
How to store powdered Jell-O: Keep boxes of gelatin in the pantry or cupboard.

That's right—Jell-O packets last a long time!

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Powdered milkvikif/Getty Images

Powdered milk

How long it lasts: Up to 20 years
How to store powdered milk: Store powdered milk in an airtight container with a moisture-absorbing packet in a cool, dark place.

Powdered milk might not be the first thing on your grocery list, but it can be a useful thing to keep on hand for baking. Powdered milk adds richness to breads, cookies and other baked goods. If you're an avid baker, snag a package.

Find out how to freeze milk.

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Ramen noodlesTaste of Home

Ramen noodles

How long they last: Two years
How to store ramen noodles: Keep them in the package at room temperature.

Having a few packages of ramen on hand is always a good idea. You can make them as the package instructs or stir them into soup.

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HoneyTaste of Home

Raw honey

How long it lasts: Forever
How to store honey: Keep tightly sealed in a jar to keep out humidity.

To be clear, only the real deal will keep indefinitely. Be wary of fake honey and be sure to grab the good stuff.

These are the foods you're spoiling by putting in the refrigerator.

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Rice in a mason jar Valeriy_G/Getty Images

Rice

How long it lasts: 30 years
How to store rice: Store rice an airtight container in a cool, dry place. White, jasmine, wild, basmati and Arborio rice have low oil content and therefore have an indefinite shelf life. Brown rice, however, is higher in oil, so it spoils much faster than its white counterparts.

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Salttaa22/Shutterstock

Salt

How long it lasts: Forever
How to store salt: Keep salt a cool, dark, dry place, where temperatures remain constant.

Avoid these cooking mistakes that can ruin your food.

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Soy sauce is poured into a spoon over the saucepanKarpenkov Denis/Shutterstock

Soy sauce

How long it lasts: Forever (if unopened)
How to store soy sauce: Because of its high concentration of salt, soy sauce will last forever as long as it stays sealed. Once opened, soy sauce is safe to eat for two to three years when kept in the refrigerator—still a long time!

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Cardamom, star anise, cinnamon, clove, coriander seed spices and dried bay leaves, parsley, thyme, rosemary herbs in mason jars over white background; Shutterstock ID 293429393; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): Taste of HomeMAHATHIR MOHD YASIN/Shutterstock

Whole spices and herbs

How long they last: Up to four years
How to store spices: Store spices in airtight jars in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

New to spices? Try adding these amazing Indian spices to your dishes.

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SugarJosue Ricardo Florido/Getty Images

Sugar

How long it lasts: Forever
How to store sugar: Keep white sugar in a dark, dry place. An airtight container is best.

Brown sugar also keeps for a long time since both sugar and molasses have long shelf lives. However, brown sugar is apt to turn hard after a while. To soften brown sugar, you can use a slice of bread or a marshmallow slipped into the container overnight.

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Steeped teaTaste of Home

Tea

How long it lasts: Up to two years
How to store tea: In an airtight container

Looseleaf tea and tea bags can both handle a long stay in the pantry. Keep them in a sealed container for the best results.

Here are a handful of microwave tricks that will change the way you cook.

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Jarred tomato sauceTaste of Home

Tomato sauce (canned or jarred)

How long it lasts: Up to two years if unopened
How to store tomato sauce: Keep unopened jars and cans of tomato sauce in the cupboard.

It's safe to stock up on your favourite brand of pasta sauce since it can last on the shelf for a good while. And who wouldn't want a quick spaghetti dinner always at the ready?

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vanilla extractTaste of Home

Vanilla extract

How long it lasts: Forever
How to store vanilla extract: Keep pure vanilla extract in a dark container, away from sunlight, heat sources and moisture.

Pure vanilla extract is made from dried, cured vanilla beans soaked in alcohol, and that alcohol acts as a preserver for the beans, ensuring it will stay fresh and flavourful forever. But imitation vanilla will expire after just two to four years. So if you don’t want to toss out that bottle, spring for the higher-quality pure vanilla extract.

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Heinz vinegarTaste of Home

Vinegar

How long it lasts: Forever
How to store vinegar: Keep in its original airtight container in a cool, dry place, away from heat sources.

You'll wish you knew these kitchen hacks sooner!

Originally Published on Taste of Home