How Long Does Popcorn Stay Fresh? Good Freshness Tips

How Long Does Popcorn Stay Fresh?

how long does popcorn stay fresh

However, there’s a difference between uncooked popcorn — or dry kernels — and cooked popcorn. But how long does popcorn stay fresh?

Freshly popped kernels

Freshly popped popcorn only stays fresh for a few days once you’ve made it. However, once the popcorn is stale, you can use it for other purposes, such as making cornmeal or as ingredients in other foods.

As a rule of thumb, it’s best to use popcorn kernels within one year of purchasing them. With regards to freshly made popcorn, the longer you wait to eat it the worse it will be.

In my personal experience freshly made popped kernels begin to start to become stale the next day and I don’t like the taste or texture. However, just like with unpopped kernels, storing popped kernels in a well-sealed container can help prolong their freshness.

Unopened Popcorn Tins

If you have an unopened tin of popcorn the kernels can stay fresh for up to two years although I think 1 year is a more realistic expectation. The metal tin protects the popcorn from moisture and light.

For store bought ready-made popcorn tins, don’t be surprised if additives are included in the seasoning ingredients for this reason.

Opened Tins and Bags of Popped Kernels

Opened tins and bags of popped kernels have a shorter shelf life. Once opened, the kernels should be used within three months after eating and re-sealing the container.

Glass jars with a nice snug top and rubber seal are excellent for this. Alternatively, plastic cereal storage containers are another great option and should have plenty of space inside.

Microwave Popcorn

Unopened bagged popcorn holds moisture for about 6 to 12 months, which means you can keep most store popcorn on the shelf for approximately eight months.

Expired microwave popcorn is technically still edible but honestly, expired stale popcorn typically doesn’t taste as good and feels dry. Once you pop microwave popcorn, it will only last about 3 to 5 days at the most.

One thing I’ve noticed is that microwave popcorn with added butter oils etc. can soak through the paper bag over time, leaving it less tasty once popped. My advice is to not wait several months before using it as you may be disappointed.

Unpopped Popcorn Kernels

There are different types of popcorn kernels, but generally, unpopped popcorn kernels last for about a year. The shelf life of popcorn kernels depends on how they’re stored.

They’ll last up to about a year if you store them in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. If you keep the kernels in an airtight container in the fridge (NOT your freezer) they will last up to two years.

How Do You Keep Popcorn From Going Stale?

how do you keep popcorn from going stale

As I mentioned earlier, you can keep unpopped popcorn from expiring too soon – but what about popped popcorn or pre-popped popcorn?

Keeping popped popcorn fresh is a more challenging task than keeping unpopped kernels fresh. Once the popcorn is popped it will start going stale within a few days.

  • The best way to keep popcorn fresh is to store it in an airtight container. You can use a plastic container or a glass jar with a lid. Airtight containers will keep the popcorn from going bad for up to a week or perhaps a little bit more f you’re lucky.
  • If you want your popcorn to stay extra fresh you can store it in the fridge. This helps to keep the kernels dry and prevent them from going bad.

Is It Okay To Eat Day-Old Popcorn?

Yes — it’s usually okay to eat day-old popcorn with no consequences. It’ll likely be ok, although may have started showing signs of staleness if it wasn’t stored well (such as less taste and worse consistency when chewing it).

You can often eat stored popcorn for up to a week after it’s been prepared. Either way it’s more realistic to not expect it to taste like it was just made – that’s not really possible.

How Can You Tell If Popcorn Is Bad?

how can you tell if popcorn is bad

Here are three ways to tell if popped popcorn has gone bad:

  1. The first way is to smell it. Expired popped popcorn will have an unpleasant, sour smell.
  2. The second way is to look at it. Popcorn that has gone bad will be discolored and dry.
  3. The third way is to taste it. Popcorn that has gone bad will likely have a sour, unpleasant taste.

A few signs that unpopped popcorn kernels have gone bad include:

  • The corn kernels appear darker
  • The bag smells off
  • The kernels aren’t popping as easily

Regardless of whether you have popped or unpopped popcorn, if you see any mold on the popcorn, it’s best to throw it away. Mold can cause serious health problems if consumed.

How Do You Freshen Popcorn?

how do you freshen popcorn

The best way to freshen popcorn after a day or two is to put it in the oven. Reheating popcorn in the oven will help to bring back the freshness and make it taste almost like new.

To reheat popcorn in the oven, preheat your oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit and place the popcorn on a baking sheet. Next, allow the popcorn to reheat for about five minutes.

Always be sure to check it carefully and don’t forget about it to be sure it isn’t overheated or burned.

Can You Warm Up Popcorn in an Air Fryer?

Yes, you can warm up popcorn in an air fryer! An air fryer is a great and convenient way to freshen up popcorn that has gone a little stale.

To reheat popcorn in an air fryer:

  • Set your air fryer to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and place the popcorn in the basket.
  • Next, allow the popcorn to reheat for about three minutes.

You can also add some oil to the popcorn before reheating it in the air fryer to make the popcorn taste fresher. Just be sure to add just a little – enough and it will soak into the kernels and “melt” them.

Alternatively, you can use light popcorn seasoning or even genuine movie theater Flavacol to get that real theater taste!

Modified 11/24/2023: Change author title line from to type based on Pagespeed Insights accessability note regarding h5 out of sequence.

About the author

Daniel loves to eat snacks - and finds unique kinds of candy, treats, and food in general a fun topic to share. When not writing or volunteering, you can usually find him in the kitchen cooking up some delicious treats. He's fascinated with classic treats because of how each one has a different story behind it which makes them unique. Read more »