Popcorn is a popular snack food that comes in many variations, including dry kernels, popped, and microwave packs with different flavors.
If you enjoy them often, chances are you buy multiple packages at once. So, you might wonder does popcorn go bad and how long does popcorn last. The answers are right below.
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Does Popcorn Go Bad?
Popcorn pops due to the small amount of water that each kernel contains. In fact, 15% kernel is water, depending on the corn sort. Once you heat them, that moisture inside transforms into popcorn.
That means you can pop them as long the corn doesn’t dry out entirely. That process doesn’t always depend on time. Archaeologists found well-preserved, approximately 4,000 years old kernels in New Mexico. Believe it or not, those kernels popped and were edible.
As you can see, the popcorn won’t go bad over time. However, they will lose the expected quality and flavor if you don’t store them right. Plus, many kernels won’t pop if you keep them for too long.
On the other hand, popped popcorn has an expiration date, and it can spoil much quicker than dry kernels. The same goes for microwave popcorn packs.
How Long Does Popcorn Last?
The popcorn storage recommendations are pretty similar, no matter which package you decide to buy. It would help if you kept them in a dry, cold, and dark place to save their quality until consumption. Your pantry or kitchen cabinet can be ideal locations for that purpose.
Place popcorn next to containers with cornflakes, flour, and other dry foods. Keeping it in a refrigerator isn’t safe since they quickly lose their taste at low temperatures.
How Long Does Popcorn Last (Chart)
1 to 2 years
|2 to 3 months|
1 to 2 weeks
|1 to 2 months|
1 to 2 weeks
1 to 2 weeks
Dry kernels can last for years if you keep them away from moisture and in an airtight container. When you have the microwave packets and pre-popped popcorn, dates on a label are a pretty good guideline, although it is safe to use them for one to two weeks after that.
Once opening the pack, you should use popcorn in the next one to two weeks. The same is the case with homemade popcorn. Once you pop the kernels, you can store them for a maximum of two weeks before becoming stale.
5 Tips to Tell if Popcorn Have Gone Bad
Basically, the popcorn can’t go bad, but they can lose their characteristics to the point it is no longer edible. Unfortunately, there is no way to tell if the microwave or commercially popped popcorn has spoiled until opening the pack. Still, some signs may indicate it is time to discard them:
- Smell – Sniff popcorn or dry kernels to assess their condition. If you use the microwave pack, you need to prepare popcorn first. Anyway, discard them if you feel mold odor or the smell of rancid oil.
- Texture – Once you pop the popcorn, rub a few between your fingers. If they feel different, firmer, gristly, or the oils and spices from the packaging are unevenly distributed, you should throw them away. Those popcorns are probably safe to eat but entirely tasteless.
- Taste – Flavor is the surest way to determine if this food is gone bad. Once you prepare them, try one or two. They are edible if you feel the typical buttery flavor you enjoy. However, the change in saltiness and oiliness indicates you shouldn’t consume the rest of them.
- Bugs – Sometimes, the pantry bugs can be drawn from flour and other foods into a container with dry kernels if you don’t close it properly. Throw them away when noticing any signs of infestation, including any organic particles and bugs.
- Mold – If you see kernels infected with black or white mold, don’t pop them. Separating healthy ones is pointless because mold has developed in the whole container even if you can’t see it. Therefore, avoid risking your health and buy new popcorn.
How to Store Popcorn for Longer
As I have already mentioned, you need to keep popcorn at room temperature to ensure its best quality. Plus, keeping it away from moisture can extent its shelf-life. However, there are a few more tricks that can save popcorn longer.
- Use airtight containers
Picking the right vessel is crucial for kernel storage. Avoid keeping them in a plastic or paper bag.
Instead, use a plastic or a glass container that you need to seal tightly to prevent moisture loss. You can also use a vacuum sealing vessel or a Mason jar. That way, pantry bugs can’t infest your kernels.
If you keep dry kernels for over two years, they will dry out, and most won’t fully pop when heated. On the other hand, those that react to heat will turn out into smaller and harder popcorns. Surprisingly, you can solve this problem by adding water you usually keep the popcorn from.
Add one teaspoon of clean, cold water for each pound (454 g) of dry kernels in a container. Shake them several times a day to distribute moisture evenly, and pop a portion after a week. You will notice they are fresh as like you have just bought them.
You should dry the fresh popcorn if they have been exposed to excessive moisture or you have accidentally spilled water on the kernels. Instead of throwing them away, you can solve the problem by using a dehydrator.
Preheat kernels and evenly arrange them on the tray. Set the temperature to 130 F (54.5 C) and let the kernels sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Once they cool off, put them back in a dry, clean container and close it tight to avoid future accidents.
Some microwave flavored popcorn brands are an exception in the rule about storing popcorn exclusively in the pantry. That is particularly true of organic popcorns.
If the product label states the recommendation to store this product in the refrigerator, you should follow the advice. Place the popcorn in the original packaging at the shelf bottom, away from the door as much as possible.
However, remember to take the popcorn out of the fridge half an hour before preparation to let them adjust to room temperature. Otherwise, most kernels won’t pop.
As an alternative, you can purchase a hot air popper machine. That way, you will keep the popcorn flavor while having a healthy snack.
Commercially popped popcorn
You can keep commercially popped popcorn in an unopened original packaging even after the expiration date. However, the product will gradually lose quality once you open the package.
Store the leftovers the same way as you keep dry kernels in your pantry or a kitchen cabinet. Again, use airtight containers since otherwise, popcorn will become rubbery, firm, and stale.
The Risk of Consuming Expired Popcorn
In the worst-case scenario, expired dry kernels won’t pop as they should if you keep them too long, and popcorn flavor will get worse. However, they won’t make you sick after consumption.
Improper storage will affect popcorn quality and can result in mold or bug infestation, making them unsafe to consume. Such popcorn can lead to food poisoning, resulting in fever, vomiting, and abdominal pain.
On the other hand, microwave popcorn carries certain risks. Some additives in packaging can cause allergic reactions. For instance, diacetyl gives a buttery taste to popcorn, but it is also linked to cancer and disease well-known as popcorn lung.
Some manufacturers use PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) for coating microwave popcorns. Unfortunately, this compound belongs to the so-called forever chemicals, meaning your body can’t detox once you consume them.
Can You Freeze Popcorn?
Theoretically, you can freeze popcorn, and some people do it. However, you won’t benefit anything from it. Once the water in the kernels freezes, it will damage and dry them. The only you can get in the end is a bowl full of old maids and kernels that don’t pop.
It is equally unnecessary to freeze a commercially popped popcorn. The salt, oils, and other additives they contain are hard to freeze.
Since popcorn is a shelf-stable and cheap product, you can purchase them in any store whenever you want. That makes freezing this food unnecessarily. Plus, the kernels’ texture will change at low temperatures, and their taste won’t be the same when you thaw them.
Once you take the package out of the freezer, your popcorn will be safe to eat. Unfortunately, you won’t enjoy them as much as a freshly opened pack. Keep in mind that a microwave paper bag will be ruined after placing it in the freezer, and unsafe to put it in a microwave.
Popcorn are a popular snack that comes in a variety of shapes, flavors, and packaging. If you store them in a dark and dry place, it can last past the expiration date without going bad. However, they will lose their flavor over time. Freezing and refrigerating popcorn is not recommended since the kernels lose quality over time.