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 would 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. Popped popcorn can go stale and, if they aren’t stored properly, popcorn kernels 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 will share exactly how 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 a long-lasting snack to keep in your cupboards, popcorn is a good place to start. Popcorn is 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 when grocery shopping or you 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.

A good rule of thumb is that 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. Our top tip is to make popcorn in small batches to minimize waste and maintain freshness. 

Unpopped popcorn kernels can last anywhere from six months to a year, as long as they are kept 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 consumed after its best-by date.

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 popped or unpopped popcorn in an airtight food storage container. This will help preserve the taste and quality of this beloved snack.

The best storage conditions 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 are 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?

Depending on when the popcorn expired, it could make you sick. Unpopped corn kernels that take on excess moisture create the perfect environment for mold to grow. If you happen to eat moldy, expired popcorn, you run the risk of being unwell.

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.

To enjoy the best quality snack, make sure you eat your popcorn while it’s fresh and within its best-by date.

Food Safety FAQs About Popcorn

How do I know if my popcorn has gone bad?

When asking “When does popcorn expire?”, the next question in line is often “How do I know if my popcorn has gone bad?”.

The first sign that popcorn has gone bad is the texture. Stale popcorn will be chewy rather than fluffy and crunchy. Other ways to tell if popcorn has gone bad is by the smell or taste. If there is 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. So, make sure you understand when popcorn has passed its expiry date.

Stale popcorn is often a sign that the snack has gone bad, especially if it tastes stale as soon as it’s popped. 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 airtight, dark and cool 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 seasonings change the shelf life of popcorn?

Popcorn tastes best when it is seasoned. However, those seasonings can shorten the shelf life of popcorn. 

Seasonings typically require butter or oil to help them stick to the popcorn. Because of this, the butter or oil adds extra moisture to the popcorn — and, as we know, moisture will reduce the lifespan of your popcorn resulting in a chewy or soggy texture. 

If you have made a large batch of popcorn, we recommend only seasoning the amount of popcorn you plan to eat. Store the rest in an airtight container and season it when you are ready to eat.

Get More Popcorn Tips & Tricks on the Popsmith Blog

Popcorn is a great tasting snack that will keep on your shelf for a long time, especially if you store it properly. To really extend the shelf life of popcorn, choose unpopped kernels and keep them in a dark, cool, and dry place.

Store popcorn correctly and you will be able to enjoy this delicious snack whenever the cravings strike — without having to worry about the quality of popped or unpopped popcorn. 

Fresh popcorn will always be best so be sure to do everything you can to keep your popcorn fresher for longer.

If you’re looking for more popcorn-making tips or recipes, check out the Popsmith blog. We have everything you could ever need on the topic of popcorn. So, stock up on your favorite popcorn seasonings, get popping some popcorn, and head to the Popsmith blog for more snacking inspiration.