Does Popcorn Expire? The Shelf Life Of Everyone’s Favorite Snack


Does Popcorn Expire

Even if you’re not hungry, the smell of freshly popped popcorn doesn’t leave anyone indifferent. You can easily eat a ton of this delicious but simple snack and still can’t get enough. Eating popcorn is like yawning because once you see someone eating popcorn, just admit it, you immediately want to eat it too! 

There was undoubtedly a time when you were sitting in your living room, sipping wine and nibbling fresh buttered popcorn. At some point, you couldn’t help but wonder  – can popcorn go bad?

Or perhaps you’re the type of person who likes to buy popcorn in bulk and store it for later usage. Now, after a few months, popcorn packages are still sitting in storage, and you are looking at them, wondering if it’s still safe to eat them or toss them in the bin. 

So, what is the actual lifespan of popcorn, and does popcorn expire? The answer is quite simple but yet compound  – it can last indefinitely, and yes, it can expire. But how could that be? We carefully examined this topic to give you all the things you need to know about popcorn, so let’s get started!

See Also: Does Butter Go Bad?


Does Popcorn Expire?

The answer to our question is that popcorn can go bad, but only if it’s not stored properly. It doesn’t mean it will be bad for your health, it simply means it will not pop, and it will lose its flavors and nutritional values. 

On the other hand, if you store it properly it can last for years. In fact, the oldest well-preserved kernels that can still pop are found in Peru and are over 5,600 years old! It really depends on which type of popcorn we are talking about and your storage conditions.

So, before we get into the heart of the matter, let’s talk about what makes kernels pop and which type is which.

About Popcorn

  • Popcorn is 100% whole grain, which expands from its corn kernel and puffs. That happens because the hull ruptures under the pressure of heat. The steam from the water inside the kernel pressures the hull, causing the kernel to explode. Pressurized steam expands, causing the gelatinized starch to puff
  • Improper heating, low moisture, and faulty hull can prevent kernels from popping. That’s why you always have a few kernels in your batch of popcorn that didn’t pop, or they just cracked open without popping.  
  • Popcorn’s kernel is actually 15% made of water. It is high-fiber and low-calorie food. Popcorn is full of B-complex vitamins, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, zinc, potassium, and copper. Vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants make this popular snack very healthy. 
  • Popcorn is a versatile snack, easily prepared, and has a long shelf life if stored properly. You can eat it as a salty snack or turn it into a dessert. Furthermore, there are different ways in which popcorn can be prepared. You can make it in the air fryer, on the stove or in the microwave – it depends on the type.

Types Of Popcorn

1. Dry Kernels

  • These are the ones that you pop before the serving. These are often prepared on the stove in the frying pan with sunflower, olive, or coconut oil. Read our article to find out does coconut oil go bad.

2. Microwave Popcorn

  • In case you never opened the bag before microwaving them, these are basically fat covered dry kernels. Therefore, everything you need in one package, you just need to warm it up in the microwave!

3. Ready-to-eat Popcorn

  • There are many options out there, from sweet to salty; from cheese and bacon to coffee, caramel, and chocolate ones! Tons of flavors to choose from, and you only have to open the package and enjoy it!

How Long Can Popcorn Last?

As we already mentioned above, popcorn can expire. But the lifespan of popcorn is different for every type.

Dry Kernels

  • When it comes to dry kernels, they can last indefinitely, but they will dry out and lose its flavor after a while. They’ll probably still be useful for popping even after the best before date.
  • Therefore, if you find some unopened package of dry kernels, give it a try. If they seem to be dried out, you can try to re-hydrate them. Simply put kernels in the jar filled with 1 tbsp of water and keep them like that for three days, occasionally shaking the jar. After that, put them in the bag and into the microwave. The results will surprise you!

Microwave Popcorn

  • Microwave popcorn can last up to 3-5 months. It’s because the fat in the package can’t retain it’s quality forever. However, this popcorn can still be used even months after its best before date.

Ready-to-eat Popcorn

  • An unopened package of popped popcorn can last up to 2-3 months. It should be suitable for eating even after the best-before-date, but it will probably be dull. On the other hand, if you open the package or make popcorn yourself, try eating it within one week. But who are we kidding? The bowl of popcorn usually goes in the blink of an eye!

How To Store Popcorn?

Regardless of the type, the storage rules are quite the same. 

Whether it is a microwave package, a package of dry kernels, or popped popcorn, room temperature is perfect. You should never store your corn kernels in the refrigerator or freezer because they can dry out and won’t pop up. All of the types mentioned above should be kept away from direct sunlight, heat, moisture and air access. 

The best way is to keep your popcorn in an airtight container or sealed bag in the kitchen cupboards or pantry, as these are the perfect places to store it.


Signs Of Spoiled Popcorn

There are a few sure signs by which you will know that your popcorn is not suitable for eating anymore.

If your kernels are not stored properly, they will be dry, and they won’t pop up at all because they will lose moisture. Even if they do, the color would be slightly darker than usual, and the taste will be dull. If that’s the case, it’s best to toss it away.

Popped popcorn have a shorter lifetime. Once spoiled, it will be tasteless and stale. Although, it won’t grow mold unless it’s exposed to moisture.

As for microwave popcorn, if it smells off or tastes odd, it is because oils in the bag have gone bad. Also, this is more unlikely, but if you notice mold or something that isn’t supposed to be in the package, throw it away.


Air-popped Popcorn Vs. Microwave Popcorn

The healthiest form of popcorn is air-popped popcorn. It has only 30 calories per cup and 1 gram of fat. But when you start adding oil, butter, and salt, you will lower its quality. 

Microwave popcorn, on the other hand, is full of chemicals and hydrogenated oils. These oils contain trans fats, and this could be bad for your health because it can improve the risk of developing heart disease or type 2 diabetes. Moreover, microwave popcorn is higher in calories and lower in fiber than the air-popped variety.

The good news is, you can make microwave popcorn in a more healthy way. The only thing you need is a lunch-sized paper bag and ¼ cup of kernels. Place the kernels in the bag, seal it, and microwave it for 2 minutes. A little bit of olive oil, sea salt, and whichever spices you like, and you’re good to go!


Does Popcorn Expire – Final Thoughts

In most cases, popcorn won’t go rancid or spoil, but it won’t stay at peak quality forever. Corn kernels dry out over an extended period, popped ones go stale, and the fat in the microwave popcorn goes bad. 

As for ready-to-eat popcorn, an unopened bag can last up to 4 months. But after you open it, the clock is ticking, and you only have one week or so before the popcorn completely dries out.

You should always store your popcorn at room temperature, and never in the refrigerator or freezer. To extend the lifespan of an opened bag of popcorn, keep it in an airtight container or sealed bag away from moisture and heat.

After all, spoiled popcorn won’t harm your health, but either way, it is best just to toss it because it won’t taste as good.

There are many popcorn flavors, and it can be prepared in so many different ways. Plus, it is rich with vitamins, full of fibers, and low on calories, making it the best healthy snack. Have that in mind the next time you start nibbling on your batch of popcorn!

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