As a reliable source of fiber, fat, proteins, and vitamins, oatmeal packs quite a punch. Whether you are looking to stockpile or you already have quite a bit of it, you might be wondering whether oatmeal goes bad. In this simple guide, we’ll answer all your questions related to shelf life and show a few tricks for storing your prized oats.
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Does Oatmeal Go Bad?
Being a dry food, oatmeal has a relatively long shelf life. But, it can go bad if handled or stored improperly.
Exposure to moisture, humidity, direct heat, and light can quickly spoil uncooked oats. Cooked oats that are not stored in the fridge will also go bad within a short time.
Commercially produced and packaged oatmeal comes with a use-by-date or expiry date. Just because your stash has gone past these dates does not mean the oats are bad.
As long as you have stored oatmeal correctly, it will stay fresh and safe for consumption well past its recommended sell-by date.
How Long Does Oatmeal Last?
Oatmeal can last as short as one day and as long as 30 years depending on several factors. The storage method, condition in which it is stored, and whether it is cooked or uncooked have a huge impact on how long oatmeal can stay fresh.
Let’s take a look at each of these factors.
Oatmeal Shelf Life
|Uncooked oatmeal||2-10 years||–||
Uncooked oatmeal can last as long as 10 years or more if properly stored. The best place to store dry oatmeal is in a clean, dry, and dark place. You should also choose the right storage vessel to store uncooked oatmeal for longer, for example, a Mylar bag for bulk storage or a #10 can for smaller batches.
If you prepare a pot of oatmeal and don’t finish it up, you will only be able to keep it for 3-5 days in the fridge before the quality of the cooked oat starts to deteriorate. Leaving cooked oatmeal out in the open will drastically reduce its freshness and it will likely not go more than a day.
Different manufacturers will have different best-by dates for their oatmeal. This date simply indicates how long the food can retain peak freshness. Oatmeal can still last up to a year past its best-by date. However, the longer it stays, the more it changes its color, flavor, and smell.
4 Tips To Tell If Oatmeal Has Gone Bad
Oatmeal has a pretty long shelf life and will not go bad easily, especially if it is uncooked and correctly stored.
That being said, when it stays too long or is exposed to elements such as air and moisture, the quality will decrease and the oatmeal can become stale.
There are a couple of signs to look out for to tell if your stash has gone bad. Here’s what to do:
1. Check for mold
Uncooked oatmeal that has been stored in a moist place is highly prone to mold. Cooked oatmeal that has stayed in the fridge for several days might also develop mold. If you notice any mold, it is time to throw out your oats.
2. Look out for color changes
Fresh oatmeal will have a nice pale yellow color and sometimes a tinge of very light gray. If your stash has stayed too long, is contaminated, or exposed to moisture, it might develop dark spots that are a sure sign of spoilage.
You can check the quality of your oats by touching or just observing the texture. Good, uncooked oatmeal will have sparse individual grains just like rice. If it goes bad, the grains will clump together. For cooked oats, a runny, watery texture is a good indication that the porridge has gone bad.
4. Smell and taste
Oatmeal that has gone bad will have an off smell that is easy to notice. A visual inspection is usually enough to tell you whether the oats are good. If you are unsure, you could try preparing a small portion and checking the consistency and taste. It is best to discard cooked oatmeal that lacks the usual taste or texture.
When it comes to checking whether oats have gone bad, a good rule of thumb is to toss out cooked oats that are 3 days old or haven’t been refrigerated for several hours. As for the uncooked type, if it has stayed more than 3 years, even if unopened, you should proceed with caution.
4 Tips To Store Oatmeal
Storing oatmeal doesn’t require any expensive tools or complicated procedures. Oats store quite well and can last you a long time if properly handled.
Here are a few things you need to keep in mind to keep oatmeal fresher for longer:
1. Use a #10 can for long term storage
If you would like to keep a large supply of oatmeal or already have a bulk supply, the #10 can is your best option. The large capacity, wide opening, and durability make this type of can an easy choice. Stored in these cans, oatmeal can last up to 30 years.
Keep your supply in peak condition by placing a couple of oxygen absorbers in the can and storing in a cool, dark, and dry location.
2. Store in optimal conditions
Whether you opt for #10 cans, mylar bags, or plastic or glass containers, it is important to choose the right location for storing your oatmeal. Ideally, uncooked oatmeal should be stored in the pantry or cupboard.
First, make sure that the chosen location is clean to keep off insects and rodents. These unwanted visitors will quickly contaminate and destroy your grains.
We also recommend that you keep oats in a cool and dark place. If possible, have your storage location temperature controlled. This will go a long way in retaining the nutrients in the oats.
Lastly, your storage location should be free of any moisture. Mold loves moisture and will quickly spread in your bag of oatmeal, leaving you with no option but to throw it away.
3. Use the right refrigeration method
A common question that comes up is whether you can store uncooked oatmeal in the fridge. You can indeed refrigerate your stash but this might not be the best use of fridge space. Also, moisture might seep into your dry oatmeal creating the perfect conditions for mold to grow.
It is better to refrigerate cooked oatmeal, which has a shorter shelf life and is prone to disease-causing bacteria. Store leftover oatmeal in an airtight container. Ideally, you should eat the remaining oats the next day and toss after 3-5 days if you still have some left.
Keep in mind that toppings such as fresh fruit and sauces can make oatmeal go bad faster. Plan to eat your bowl of oats in a day to enjoy peak freshness.
4. Make oatmeal muffins
A neat trick to save time in the mornings is to make your oatmeal ahead of time and freeze. One way to do this is to prepare no-bake oatmeal muffins.
To get started, prepare your oatmeal as usual. Then, grease your muffin tins. Allow the oatmeal to cool for 15 minutes before pouring into the muffin tin holes.
Next, pop the muffin tin in the freezer overnight. Take out the tin from the freezer and let it thaw for a few minutes.
Turn the muffin tin upside down on the countertop and tap slightly to pop out the oat muffins. Store in sealable freezer bags and place in the freezer.
When you are ready to use, thaw the muffins in the microwave for 3 minutes and enjoy your warm bowl of pre-made oatmeal.
The Risk Of Consuming Expired Oatmeal
Cooking and eating oatmeal that is slightly past its sell-by-date should be safe as long as the grains do not have any signs of spoilage.
That said, expired oatmeal may contain mold or other chemical substances produced when grains stay too long.
Mold is a breeding ground for dangerous bacteria that can cause food poisoning. Inhaling mold can also trigger a serious allergic reaction.
The chemicals found in expired oatmeal may be poisonous and put you at risk of contracting a serious food-borne illness.
A general rule of thumb is to avoid eating oatmeal that hasn’t been refrigerated, has stayed in the fridge too long, or is a long time past its sell-by-date.
People with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity might be prone to more side effects from consuming oatmeal.
Can You Freeze Oatmeal?
Freezing as a preservation method works better with cooked rather than uncooked oats.
To be sure, you can freeze dry oatmeal, especially if you have opened the packaging. However, this might not be the best use of freezer space.
If you do choose to freeze uncooked oats, place the grains in a plastic airtight container and store at the manufacturer-recommended temperature.
Be careful with using freezer bags to dry oats. Some bags are manufactured using porous materials and may let in moisture, which will drastically reduce the shelf life of your grains.
To freeze cooked oatmeal, simply spoon your desired portion in sealable freezer bags. Be sure to squeeze out any air bubbles to prevent the formation of mold and bacteria. An even better option is to freeze your prepped oats in a muffin tin and use on the go.
Although you can freeze oatmeal, its texture and flavor will change with each passing day. It is best to consume your frozen oats within a week of cooking them.
Oatmeal can stay fresh for quite a long time if uncooked but this really depends on the storage method. For best results, keep dry oatmeal in a clean, dark, dry, climate-controlled. Always refrigerate cooked oats and toss out any that has signs of spoilage.