Hand grabs popcorn from a tray

Does Popcorn Expire: Food Safety Tips for Unpopped Kernels vs. Popped Popcorn

See how long popcorn lasts, the best storage conditions, and more in this comprehensive guide. Learn how to extend the lifespan of your popcorn, keep those kernels fresher for longer, and enjoy the perfect batch of popcorn whenever you crave it.

Popcorn is a staple in millions of American households. It tastes great, has an irresistible aroma, and keeps well — so we'd be surprised if anyone keeps popcorn kernels long enough for them to expire. 

But the question still remains: does popcorn go bad?

The short answer is yes. Kernels that aren’t stored properly can develop mold while popped popcorn can turn stale. Luckily, there are ways to extend the lifespan of your popcorn and keep kernels fresher for longer.

In this blog post, 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?

Popcorn is a good option if you're looking for a snack to stash in your cupboard. It's one of the most shelf-stable snacks around, especially if you go for loose kernels.

But keep in mind that it still has a best-before date. Don't forget to check the expiration dates and storage instructions for fresh popcorn!

Average Shelf Life for Popped Popcorn

Person opens lid of mint Popsmith Popper to reveal freshly made popcorn

The next time you make too much p

opcorn for movie night or can't eat a whole bag of the popcorn you love from the grocery store, remember that popped popcorn has a much shorter lifespan than unpopped kernels. It can last between two to four weeks.

But once you open a bag of popcorn, be careful — its shelf life will drastically shrink. Open or unsealed bags of popcorn will only last one to two weeks.

So how can you tell if popcorn is going bad? The simplest way is to check for staleness. If your popcorn has lost its crunch, that's a telltale sign it's going stale. You'll be better off popping a fresh batch entirely.

Average Shelf Life for Unpopped Popcorn Kernels

Yellow Popsmith Popper sitting on a countertop with the Oh Sooo Buttery and Classic Kettle Popcorn kits displayed to the left

If you want to keep popcorn fresher for longer, consider stocking up on unpopped popcorn kernels instead. These have a much longer shelf life and can last anywhere from six months to a year. Of course, that's if 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. If you consume it after its best-by date, it could develop a rancid taste from the flavorings and other additives.

PRO TIP: Make popcorn in small batches and portions to minimize waste and maintain freshness.

How to Safely Store Popcorn Kernels & Popped Popcorn

The key to keeping your popcorn fresher lies in your storage method. If stored correctly, it will have a much longer shelf life.

Here's what you can do to lower the presence of excess moisture and extend the lifespan of both popcorn kernels and popped corn:

  • Store popcorn in an airtight food storage container. This helps preserve the taste and quality of this classic snack. 
  • Keep it in a dry place at room temperature, away from direct sunlight. Your cupboard makes a good spot.

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 turned moldy, expired popcorn can still taste stale or rancid. Err on the side of caution and throw out 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 as long as you store it properly. To help 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, Popsmith's 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 whether 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 flavored. But the downside is that 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.

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