Does Popcorn Expire? Facts About Popcorn Shelf Life

Does Popcorn Expire if Unopened?

The answer (or answers) to this question depends on whether the popcorn is popped or not.

  • An unopened can or bag of popped popcorn can stay good for anywhere from two to four weeks.
  • Storebought snack popcorn often has preservatives that allow it to last for many months at the expense of tasting less fresh than freshly-popped kernels.
  • Gourmet popcorn that has toppings and seasonings will have a different expiration date. The expiration date of gourmet popcorn largely depends on the type of toppings and how long they stay good.
  • If the popcorn is unpopped, it will stay good for 3-4 years as long as it’s in a good sealed container. However, if the container breaks or the unpopped kernels are exposed to air, they can go bad.
  • It’s best to use popcorn kernels within one year of purchasing them.

As a general rule, the longer you wait to use your popcorn, the worse it will be. It may begin to lose some of its flavors or not pop due to lack of moisture.

Popped corn in a non-sealed bag tends to begin to taste stale after some hours and by the next day often isn’t nearly as good in my experience.

Can Old Popcorn Make You Sick?

Eating old popcorn can make you sick, although it depends. You can get sick because old popcorn may have mold or fungus growing on it.

  • Additionally, eating old popcorn can also give you food poisoning. The bacteria that cause food poisoning thrive in warm, moist environments.
  • Old popcorn may also contain harmful toxins that can make you sick. These toxins are produced by mold and fungus as they grow on popcorn.
  • Finally, old popcorn may contain pesticides that can harm your health. So, if you’re thinking about eating old popcorn, it’s best to throw it out.

Generally speaking however if the popcorn isn’t very old (say a few days or less), it’s fine to eat – just that it’s often not very good or crunchy anymore if it wasn’t in a nicely sealed container.

How Do You Know if Popcorn Has Gone Bad?

There are several key ways to tell if your popcorn has gone bad:

  • First, check the expiration date on the package, as many supply a recommend “best by” date.
  • If the package doesn’t have an expiration date, inspect the popcorn for any signs of mold or fungus. If you see any mold or fungus, throw the entire package or jar of popcorn out.
  • Next, smell the popcorn. Popcorn that has gone bad will often have a sour or musty smell. If the popcorn smells terrible, don’t eat it.

Finally, look for any signs of pests. If you see bugs or other pests in the popcorn, throw it out. Boll weevils, for example, are tiny pests of the beetle variety that are attracted to field corn, deer corn feed, and other kernels left lying around.

How Do You Store Popcorn Long Term?

Correctly storing your popcorn is one of the best ways to extend its shelf life.

  • Keeping your popcorn in a cool, dry place as that is the ideal condition for it.
  • To help keep it from drying out and to help retain its texture when popping, store popcorn is in an airtight container. An airtight container will keep the popcorn fresh as well as free from pests.

How Long Does Vacuum Sealed Popcorn Last?

Vacuum-sealed popcorn can last up to two years because vacuum sealing removes all the air from the container.

Without air, mold and fungus can’t grow. Vacuum sealed foods also avoid the effects of air which allow them to go stale over time, greatly reducing the odds of that happening (at least for a much longer period of time, anyhow).

Can You Freeze Popcorn?

If you plan on storing your popcorn for more than a few weeks, it’s best to keep it in the freezer. Freezing popcorn will keep it fresh for up to six months.

To freeze popcorn, place it in an airtight container (plastic or other non-glass material) and store it in the freezer. When you’re ready to eat it, thaw the popcorn in the refrigerator, giving it time rather than eating it right away.

You can, however, warm popcorn at a low temperature in an oven if you like then enjoy.

You can also freeze popcorn kernels. To do this, place the kernels in an airtight container and store them in the freezer. When you’re ready to cook the kernels, take them out of the freezer and cook them as you usually would.

How Long Does Popcorn Last in a Tin?

Popcorn stored in a tin can last up to six months because tins are airtight and protect the popcorn from mold and pests.

To extend the shelf life of your popcorn, store the tin in a cool, dry place.

How Long Can You Store Microwave Popcorn?

Unfortunately, microwave popcorn does not keep as well as other types of popcorn. Most microwave popcorn has oil and butter in the bag. The oil and butter will go bad before the kernels will.

Even if the kernels are okay, the rancid oil can make you sick.

Always check the expiration date on microwave popcorn before using it. Most expiration dates are six months to one year after purchase.

Once you have popped microwave popcorn, you can store it for up to two weeks in an airtight container. After that it will start to go stale.

Note: In my experience, unfortunately even if microwave bag popcorn packs aren’t yet expired the included butter oil may soak through the paper material. When this happens the resulting popped kernels will have less flavoring on it than you’d expect.

Personally, I recommend not waiting too long before popping and eating it.

What Does Stale Popcorn Taste Like?

You’ll know right away if your popcorn is stale or not – that’s for sure. Stale popcorn often has a sour or musty taste, poor texture, and lacks flavor.

The kernels may also be hard to chew and lack the crunchiness you’re used to. Instead of feeling light and fluffy as you chew it, stale popcorn is tough.

If your popcorn is stale, it’s best to throw it out. You can eat stale popcorn safely if it doesn’t have mold or fungus. You can also use an oven or compact air fryer on a warming temperature for a few minutes to try and crisp it a bit before eating.