Clif Bars: When they go bad and how to store them for max shelf life

Clif Bars are a great grab and go food that supply much-needed energy for outdoor activities like hiking and biking and also make a great food source for emergency kits. The big problem with them is that they don’t have an expiration date that you can easily find.

Clif Bars have a ‘best by” date on the outer package to show when they will taste the best. The actual expiration date is much longer than that. A good rule of thumb is to consider Clif Bars to be expired 2 years after their “best by” date when you store them in a cool, dark place.

Let’s look at how to figure out if a Clif Bar is good or not.

When Do Clif Bars Expire?

Clif Bars are made from organic rolled oats and other ingredients. The organic rolled oats make up a majority of the bar with most of the other ingredients being dried fruit, nuts and seeds. All of these have a shelf life that is much longer than the “best by” date on the package.

It’s the other ingredients that are added into the Clif Bar which start to lower its shelf life. When oils, syrups, chocolate, and other things get added to foods they run the risk of going rancid. The good thing is that when they go rancid you’re normally going to be able to smell it and will almost definitely be able to taste it.

I’ve found that Clif Bars are normally good for 2 years after their “best by” date as long as I store them in a cool dark place that isn’t going to get a lot of sunlight or have massive temperature swings. You could probably get away with eating them when they’re older than that, but I just get rid of them at that point.

The Clif Bar “Best By” Date

I hear and see questions like “Are expired Clif Bars bad?” and “Is it OK to eat expired Clif Bars?” all the time. What most people don’t stop to realize is that they’re talking about a “best by” date set by the manufacturer and not the expiration date.

“Best by” dates are set by the company for a number of reasons, the most important being that if you eat their product before that date, it will have the texture, taste and smell that they want you to experience when you eat their product. They don’t want you eating a 2-year-old Clif Bar that you found in your car and think that all Clif Bars taste that way. It’s really a marketing thing, not an expiration date.

It’s absolutely safe to eat a Clif Bar after the date on the package has passed. You just need to take a few seconds to look it over before you eat it.

Follow these steps when trying to determine if your Clif Bar is still good to eat:

  • Look over the package. If there are stains, tears, holes or any other kinds of damage, you should throw it away. A damaged package will allow air and bugs inside that will spoil the Clif Bar.
  • Smell the Clif Bar. Smelling the Clif Bar will give you a good idea of whether or not any of the oils or additives have spoiled. If you smell an off-putting odor or anything else that seems off to you, throw the bar away.
  • Taste a small piece. Tasting a little bit of the bar should tell you if any of the ingredients have gone rancid. If you taste anything bad (now or when you’re eating the Clif Bar) throw it away.

Proper Storage to Get the Best Shelf Life for Your Clif Bars

The best way to extend the shelf life of your Clif Bars is to store them in a cool, dry place that doesn’t get a lot of sunlight. Heat, sunlight, and air all combine to reduce shelf life as well as the flavor and texture of foods.

Keeping your Clif Bars in the kitchen pantry is usually good enough. If you’re buying a lot of them and don’t plan to eat them very fast or want to use them to supplement your food storage then you should plan accordingly.

Putting them in Tupperware containers or a plastic tote will help keep any rodents and insects away. It’s also a good idea to store them in an area of your house that will stay cool no matter how warm it is outside.

Storing Cliff Bars in a place like your car or boat isn’t really ideal. These places tend to go through all kinds of extreme temperatures, from hot to cold, which is hard on the shelf life of any food product. If you have them there for an emergency then I would probably replace them about once a year to make sure they’re still good if you need them.

I like to keep emergency food close by my first aid kits in my vehicles. It helps me to remember to swap out the food when I inspect my first aid kits every year.

When Should You Throw Away Your Clif Bars?

We spent a lot of time looking at how to extend the shelf life of Clif Bars and store them so they don’t go bad as fast, but there’s definitely a time to get rid of them.

Throw away Clif Bars whenever any of these things happen:

  • The outer packaging is damaged.
  • They smell “off” or have a strange odor.
  • They taste “off” or have a strange flavor.
  • It is longer than 2 years after the marked “best by” date.
  • Any time you suspect they may not be good, regardless of how old they are.


Do Clif Bars go bad? Yes, they can go bad after a while but they’re definitely good for longer than the date that you’ll find on the package. I always try to eat them before the best by date since they definitely taste better then, but you’re perfectly safe eating them quite a long time after that as long as they don’t look, smell or taste weird.