If you ever made cornbread, corn porridge, or corn muffins, you probably have a bag or two somewhere in your storage. If so, it’s good to know how long you can keep it there for safety reasons.
Cornmeal is one of the most commonly found staple foods we keep in our kitchens. And, although it can be a good replacement for flour, it doesn’t have the same shelf life.
Take a minute to read the article below to learn if cornmeal goes bad, how to prolong its shelf life, and how to tell if it’s no longer eatable.
Table of Contents
Does Cornmeal Go Bad
Cornmeal is made from grind dried kernels of corn, and there are two types available – whole-grain and degerminated.
The whole-grain variety includes the germ that’s also ground with the rest of the corn. On the other hand, the degerminated cornmeal doesn’t contain the germ.
The two types have a different shelf life because the germ contains a higher percentage of the kernel’s fat. Therefore, if stored improperly, it can quickly go rancid.
So, yes – cornmeal can go bad. Although it has a relatively long shelf life you can prolong with proper storage, it can go bad if stored improperly.
How Long Does Cornmeal Last
Cornmeal comes in bags that usually have a best-by date. It means the product retains its freshness by that date, but only if you store it according to the instructions.
Degerminated cornmeal keeps well, and it can last for months past that date. It’s difficult to tell exactly how long, but you can always try it before including it in your recipe.
In some cases, it can even be three to five years pasts its date. And, if the taste is good and you’re happy with the quality – why not?
Whole-grain cornmeal is a different store. It doesn’t last as long as degerminated cornmeal because it includes the germ. The germ is where the good stuff is, but it can quickly go rancid if stored improperly.
It should keep fresh for at least a few months if you stored it in the fridge and at least up to six months when frozen.
As always, it’s unlikely it’ll go rancid right then and there, but the quality might not be what you expect.
|Degerminated||A year||/||Up to 5 years|
|Whole-grain (unopened)||3 months||/||/|
|Whole-grain (opened)||/||3-6 months||6-12 months|
The periods stated are an estimate, so it helps to always test it before including it in your recipe. Even if it looks good at first glance, you want to taste it if it’s past its best-by date.
Tips to Tell if Cornmeal Has Gone Bad
Cornmeal can go bad at different speed rates, and it’s pretty easy to tell once this happens. It gives out apparent signs that something isn’t right.
It’s for this reason that you should always check the product before adding it to your recipe. Sniffing the bag or doing a simple taste test is often enough to tell if cornmeal has gone bad.
Now, this can happen sooner than later if you didn’t care about storage too much. As we said, cornmeal can last months after its best-by date, but only if you kept it away from moisture, light, and air.
Here’s what you can do to ensure it’s still good to go:
Check for insects
Insects love homemade cornmeal, and you’ll probably find some in the bag you kept in the pantry for years. Even if you don’t usually have an insect problem, these annoying pests find their way to your cornmeal the way they attack flour as well.
Check the bag or container to see if it contains any live or dead insects. If not, but discard it nonetheless if you see black dots in the bag. That’s eggs, and you don’t want to eat it.
Sniff and taste
It’s everyone’s first instinct to sniff the food we’re unsure about. Cornmeal smells exactly like you’d expect – like corn. Do a simple sniff test before you use it, as it can help you determine if it’s still good to go.
If you notice the smell is rancid and weird, it’s probably time to get rid of it. You could still use it, but you’d get the same sour taste, so it’s better to get a fresh pack.
Check for mold
Mold is no joke, and eating it can be quite dangerous depending on how much you digest. It typically develops in cornmeal exposed to moisture and takes only a few days to show up.
So, if you’re positive about the dryness of your cornmeal, you probably have nothing to worry about. But, if the bag has been there for years, you’re better off checking than taking that risk.
Tips to Store Cornmeal
Cornmeal is easy to store away as it doesn’t require anything particularly special. You can keep it next to your flour and other powdered products in the pantry.
The most important is to store it in a dark and dry place. As we said, moisture exposure will cause it to mold and develop an odd smell.
To avoid this, place it in an airtight container or a jar after opening the original package. Resealing the bag that it came in is often not enough, even if you use clips.
Where exactly you’ll put the container depends on the kind of cornmeal you have. Both varieties are safe to store in the pantry if the package is unopened.
They do well at room temperature, so you can store them in your kitchen cabinet as well.
Once you open a bag of whole-grain cornmeal, you should refrigerate or freeze it. Again, you want to transfer it into an airtight container when storing it away.
Degerminated cornmeal can remain in the same place, but only for so long. Refrigerating it might be a good option if you’re not sure when you’ll use it again.
Keeping it stored properly makes a huge difference in its longevity and quality. Sometimes, cornmeal goes bad in only a few days after opening the package exposed to air, heat, or moisture.
In other times, it can last for years, still giving off the same quality and taste you’re used to. You should also check out the back of the bag to see any storage instructions and tips.
Some manufacturers state exactly how you should store the product for best results.
The Risk of Consuming Expired Cornmeal
Many things can go bad if you eat expired cornmeal, and that’s due to what usually appears in the package. For example, expired cornmeal often has insects, mold, or a rancid taste, all of which can make you sick.
You probably won’t have any issues if you eat a tiny bit of mold, but that’s only if you have a healthy immune system. Eating a whole meal containing moldy cornmeal is likely to result in nausea, headache, and vomiting.
Sometimes, these symptoms can occur due to the weird taste alone. When rancid, cornmeal has a heavy odor and a taste that will linger in your mouth for the rest of the day.
Rancid grain might give you some stomach pain and nausea, but you’ll be fine after a few hours or a day.
There’s also the risk of consuming bugs and insect eggs. But, again, if you have a healthy immune system, this is gross more so than dangerous. Still, eating a lot of it might make you sick, in which case it’s best to see a doctor.
Can you Freeze Cornmeal?
You can freeze cornmeal to prolong its shelf life by quite a lot. This is helpful when you know you won’t use the whole bag anytime soon.
All you have to do is transfer it into a sealed container or a ziplock if that’s easier for you. Try to squeeze out as much air as possible to avoid anything happening inside that bag/container.
Also, it would help if you labeled the bag with the date to know when you froze it. It’s best to divide it into small amounts you use per meal so that you can thaw only how much you need.
Leave it in the fridge overnight to thaw before using it the next day. Once you melt a batch of cornmeal, it’s best if you didn’t freeze it again due to temperature fluctuations.
As we said, it can last for many years when frozen, but try not to keep it for longer than five.
Cornmeal is always useful around the kitchen, but try to buy no more than what you need. It comes in small and big bags, so this shouldn’t be a problem.
If you have any leftovers, remember that proper storage can keep them good for a long time. Figure out if you want to keep it in the pantry or freezer, and transfer it into another bag or container.
This way, you’re preserving the good stuff, preventing it from going rancid or moldy.