Popcorn is light, fluffy, and a great snack, but it is disappointing when it turns out inedible. Popcorn is a staple in our house and we do not like to waste it because we forgot to eat it before it expired.
Popped popcorn has the quickest expiration date of 1-2 weeks. Microwave popcorn has its expiration date marked on the bag and can usually be extended a few months. Popcorn kernels are best if used within a year of purchase.
If you are unsure whether you should eat or use the popcorn in your cupboard that is past the expiration date, then continue reading.
When Does Popped Popcorn Expire?
Let us start with the popcorn that has the shortest shelf life and that is popped popcorn. Bags that you buy at the store should be marked with an expiration date.
Normally, you can still use popcorn for a month or so after the expiration date if the bag is unopened. I find that packaged popcorn that is heavily coated with candied goodies loses its taste and texture faster than regular packaged caramelized popcorn.
Once you open a sealed bag, you have 1-2 weeks before the texture and taste are impacted. I have found that I am able to get my unsealed bag of popcorn to last a little longer when I use my handheld bag sealer.
I press as much of the air out as possible and heat seal across the top of the bag.
When Does Microwave Popcorn Expire?
Microwave popcorn bags last longer than bagged popcorn but not as long as stored kernels. You need to remember that the oil, butter, and spices are all pre-mixed and do not retain their quality indefinitely.
It is wise to pop the popcorn by the expiration date, but you can stretch that by a few months if needed. I am all about the texture and I find that microwave popcorn loses its texture if popped more than a few months after the expiration date.
When Do Popcorn Kernels Expire?
All the master gardeners tell us that popcorn kernels, when stored appropriately, can last forever. There is an impact to the popcorn kernels as they age meaning the older kernels may not pop as large as younger ones and you may have more “Old Maids” (kernels that do not pop).
Just because they can be stored indefinitely, does not necessarily mean you will enjoy them when they are popped. The recommendation is that airtight stored kernels should be used within a year of the purchase date.
You want to keep them away from moisture or heat and prevent them from getting damaged as it will have an impact on the popping experience.
Popcorn Expiration Date Table:
|State of the Popcorn||Expiration Date for Best Taste and Texture|
|Kernels – airtight storage container||1 year after purchase|
|Microwave Bagged Popcorn – unopened||Expiration Date plus few months|
|Popped Popcorn – Commercially Bagged – not opened||Expiration Date plus a month|
|Popped Popcorn – Commercially Bagged – opened||1-2 weeks|
How Should You Store Your Popcorn Kernels?
The best way to store your popcorn kernels is to put them in an airtight container to maintain the proper moisture content. Mason jars or glass jars with snap lids are ideal for the storage of popcorn.
You will need to ensure the jars are clean and dry. Make sure the lid is sealed tightly.
Plastic containers that have airtight lids will also work for storage. Ensure there are no cracks in the container to keep the moisture out. Make sure the lid is tightly sealed.
Another way to store popcorn is to use a vacuum seal. Measure out a ½ cup serving of kernels, place them in the bag, and seal them.
You can pull out a bag every time you want to pop some popcorn and it is already pre-measured. These bags should not be used in the microwave.
Create a label and place it on the container with the date the kernels were stored. For vacuum-sealed bags, you can write the stored date directly on them.
Glass jars, plastic containers, and vacuum-sealed bags all need to be stored in a cool dry place, such as a cupboard or pantry. Do not place your popcorn in a cupboard above the stove. If the location is too warm, the moisture will leave the kernels and they will not pop.
You will then have to soak the kernels with water in an airtight jar for a couple of days to try to get moisture back into the kernels. Add 1 teaspoon of water for every 1 cup of popcorn in a jar and close.
Shake the jar every 5 minutes until the kernels absorb the water. Leave the jar for 1-3 days. After 1-3 days, try popping a few kernels to see if they pop. If not, repeat the process. If they pop, then you are ready to pop the rest.
How Can You Tell if Popcorn is Bad?
A lot of times you cannot tell that popcorn has gone bad until you taste it. If it tastes bad or smells different, then I would not tempt fate and would recommend tossing the popcorn. If you see any mold, then it needs to be put in the garbage immediately.
When popcorn has that stale taste, there is no way to rejuvenate your popcorn and you will need to dispose of it. While I do not like to waste food, I also do not like stale popcorn.
I have not had popcorn mold on me, but I have had more than my fair share of stale popcorn through the years.
The trick I have found is to rotate the popcorn by date. We keep the oldest jars in the front so whenever that jar/container is grabbed, it is always the oldest kernels. This makes it easy for anyone to grab the jar I want to be used first and avoids stale popcorn or wasted kernels.
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