Popcorn is a much-loved snack throughout the United States. This inexpensive and tasty treat has a long shelf life making it a great kitchen cupboard staple. With the irresistible aroma of freshly popped popcorn, we’d be surprised if anyone keeps popcorn kernels long enough for them to expire.
The question still remains, though – does popcorn go bad?
The short answer is yes. Popped popcorn can go stale, while kernels that aren’t stored properly can develop mold. But there are ways to extend the lifespan of your popcorn and keep those kernels fresher for longer.
In this article, we’ll share exactly how long popcorn lasts, the best storage conditions, and other frequently asked questions on the topic of keeping popcorn fresh and safe to eat.
How Long Does Popcorn Last?
If you’re looking for the perfect snack to keep in your cupboard, popcorn is a good place to start. It’s one of the most shelf-stable snacks out there, especially if you opt for loose kernels or microwavable packets.
However, both popped popcorn and unpopped kernels still have a best-before date. To enjoy your popcorn while it’s fresh, make sure you check the expiration dates and storage instructions.
Average Shelf Life for Popped Popcorn
Whether you bought a sealed bag of popcorn the last time you went grocery shopping or made too much popcorn for movie night, popped popcorn won’t last as long as unpopped kernels. The sad truth is that popped popcorn has a much shorter shelf life.
Popped popcorn should last between two to four weeks. Be careful, though — once you open the bag of popcorn, the shelf life will drastically shrink. Open or unsealed bags of popcorn will only last one to two weeks.
The easiest way to tell if popcorn is going bad is staleness. If your popcorn has lost its crunch, that’s a sure sign it’s going stale and it might be time to pop a fresh batch instead.
Average Shelf Life for Unpopped Popcorn Kernels
Keep popcorn fresher for longer by opting for unpopped popcorn kernels which have a much longer shelf life. They can last anywhere from six months to a year, as long as you keep them in an airtight container to protect them from excess moisture and spoilage.
Microwave popcorn also has a fairly long shelf life, lasting for about 8 months. Due to the flavorings and other additives, expired microwave popcorn could develop a rancid taste if you consume it after its best-by date.
We suggest making popcorn in small batches and portions to minimize waste and maintain freshness.
How to Safely Store Popcorn Kernels & Popped Popcorn
The secret to keeping your popcorn fresher is choosing the best storage method. If your popcorn is stored correctly, it will have a much longer lifespan.
There are a few things you can do to reduce the presence of excess moisture and extend the shelf life of both popcorn kernels and popped popcorn.
Avoid excess moisture spoiling your popcorn by storing it in an airtight food storage container. This will help preserve the taste and quality of this beloved snack.
The best storage condition for popcorn kernels and popped popcorn is to keep it in a dry place at room temperature. We recommend storing dry kernels in a cupboard so they’re away from direct sunlight, too.
A cool, dark place will provide the longest shelf life for unpopped and popped popcorn kernels. Swap glass jars for metal tins to make sure your popcorn has the perfect balance of light and temperature control.
Will Expired Popcorn Make You Sick?
It can, depending on when it expired. Unpopped corn kernels that take on excess moisture create the perfect environment for mold to grow. So if you happen to eat moldy, expired popcorn, you risk getting sick.
It’s best to be cautious. Even if the popcorn hasn’t gone moldy, expired popcorn can still taste stale or rancid. Err on the side of caution and dispose of any expired popcorn. Stick to eating your popcorn while it’s fresh and within its best-by date.
Enjoy Your Popcorn for Longer
Popcorn is a great-tasting snack that will keep on your shelf for a long time if you store it properly. To really extend its shelf life, choose unpopped kernels and stash them in a dark, cool, and dry place.
This way, you’ll enjoy this delicious snack whenever the cravings strike — without worrying about the quality of popped or unpopped popcorn.
If you want to avoid making too much popcorn, our popcorn kits are here to the rescue. They come pre-measured with kernels, coconut oil, and seasoning to make 4 servings of yummy popcorn. Choose between Oh Sooo Buttery, Classic Kettle Popcorn, or both now!
Food Safety FAQs About Popcorn
How do I know if my popcorn has gone bad?
When asking “When does popcorn expire?”, the next question is often “How do I know if my popcorn has gone bad?”.
The first sign that popcorn has gone bad is if it’s chewy instead of fluffy and crunchy. Stale popcorn is often a sign that the snack has gone bad, especially if it tastes that way as soon as it’s popped.
Another way to tell if popcorn isn’t safe to eat is by the smell. If there’s a moldy or rancid smell coming from either popped or unpopped popcorn, steer clear. Some of the risks of eating moldy popcorn include respiratory problems, allergies, and digestive issues. Make sure you double-check if the popcorn has passed its expiry date.
We recommend making small batches of popcorn so you can extend the shelf life and enjoy each batch while it's fresh.
Do bags of popcorn and microwave popcorn have different expiration dates?
They sure do! Bags of popcorn usually last between 1-2 weeks once opened and 2-4 weeks if unopened. Opening the bag dramatically reduces the shelf life by allowing oxygen and moisture to get into the popcorn.
Microwave popcorn, however, can last up to 8 months unpopped thanks to the kernels being in dark, airtight packaging. But the second you pop microwave popcorn, its expiration date will drop to 1-2 weeks, just like an opened bag of popcorn.
Can seasoning change the shelf life of popcorn?
Popcorn tastes best when it’s seasoned. However, seasoning can shorten its shelf life.
Typically, seasoning needs butter or oil to stick to popcorn. These add extra moisture to the popcorn. And, as you know, this moisture will reduce the lifespan of your popcorn — leaving it with a chewy or soggy texture.
If you made a large batch of popcorn, we recommend only seasoning the amount you plan to eat. Store the rest in an airtight container and season it when you’re ready.