Popcorn is one of those classic snacks, especially when sitting down for movie night. There are a variety of types of popcorn, from air-popped and microwave bags to gourmet flavors. Instead of ready-to-eat popcorn, many of us reach for unpopped kernels or easy microwave popcorn. However, sometimes they get pushed to the back of the pantry, and you find them months (or years) later. In this case, you’ll likely find yourself wondering- does popcorn go bad? Let’s break it down.
Unpopped Popcorn Kernels Shelf Life
There are different shelf lives for different types of popcorn. If you go with unpopped kernels to make yourself instead of the pre-made or microwave varieties, it can have an almost indefinite shelf-life. There are a few caveats to that, though.
For one, it must be stored in an airtight container in a dry place to protect popcorn quality and prevent moisture and, therefore, mold. If it hasn’t been properly stored, check for visible signs of mold growth. If you don’t see any, then it’s perfectly fine, even if it’s months past the best by date.
Additionally, the older they are, the more kernels you’ll have that won’t pop. This is because it’s the moisture inside the kernel that makes it pop as it’s released by heat. As popcorn sits on the shelf, it dries out and loses moisture, therefore, making less pop up when you make it.
Also, because they have less moisture, as they age, the ones that do pop up won’t be as fluffy.
There’s no hard and fast rule on the shelf life of popcorn kernels, but it’s generally recommended to use them within the first six to twelve months after purchase.
Expired Microwave Popcorn
Microwave popcorn is a convenience compared to kernels in bulk. You’ll notice that the package usually says “best before” instead of an actual expiration date, and that is because, like with dry kernels, microwave popcorn can lose moisture and not get as fluffy and tasty.
With that being said, it is perfectly safe to eat after the date printed on the package. You can eat expired microwave popcorn without losing much quality within 6-8 months after the “best by” date.
Popped Popcorn Shelf Life
Popped popcorn can be divided into two categories- commercially popped and home-popped. Commercially popped popcorn is what you get when you buy the big bags of popcorn at the store, sometimes with different flavors like cheddar or sweet & salty. Home-popped popcorn lives up to its name and is any popcorn that you pop at home. Each of them has different rules for shelf life and best quality.
Commercially Popped Popcorn
Commercially popped popcorn should be in a sealed bag and is typically good for two to four weeks. After that, it doesn’t necessarily go bad, but it may be stale. Once you open the sealed bag, the shelf life reduces dramatically. This is because excess moisture gets into the bag and makes the popcorn stale.
Once the bag is opened, you can expect the popped popcorn to last about one to two weeks if you seal it back up or use a chip clip in between uses. However, if you live somewhere with high humidity, you’ll want to be extra diligent about closing the bag back up because the moisture in the air will make the popcorn go stale faster.
Sometimes you may have made too much popcorn at home or want to pop it in bigger batches for later. Home-popped popcorn will stay for about 1-2 weeks if stored in an airtight container. So if you have some extra, just store it properly to enjoy it again!
Microwave packets are really designed to be eaten in a single serving. If you don’t finish it, you can close it up in its original packaging, but you’ll better preserve the fresh popcorn flavor and quality if leftovers are stored properly in an airtight container.
How to Store Popcorn
We have talked a lot about airtight containers, and that is because whether you have unpopped kernels or popped corn, the best way to store it for maximum shelf life is in an airtight container. Airtight containers are any container that seals, such as a bag, jar, or food storage containers. Below we have listed some of our favorites!
Best Airtight Containers for Popcorn
Do unpopped popcorn kernels expire?
Unpopped popcorn kernels do not expire, but after 6-12 months, they will lose fluffiness, and more kernels will be unpopped due to moisture loss.
Can you eat expired popcorn kernels?
You can eat expired popcorn kernels. It is safe; however, it might not taste as good as fresher popcorn would.
How do you know if popcorn kernels are bad?
If the kernels do not pop or there is any visible mold, then the popcorn kernels have gone bad.
Can old popcorn make you sick?
Old popcorn is unlikely to make you sick unless there is visible mold.
Popcorn Kernels Don’t Go Bad
All in all, no matter the variety of popcorn that you choose, you can still enjoy this healthy snack past the date on the package. It is still safe to eat. Just keep in mind that the best popcorn taste will come from fresh kernels. Happy snacking!