Does Cornmeal Go Bad? How Long Does It Last?

logo by Editorial Staff | Updated on August 3rd, 2022

Cornmeal is a popular gluten-free substitute that is also a versatile culinary ingredient. It’s what you’ll need to create tortillas, polenta, arepas, cornbread, and a variety of other dishes.

Cornmeal is a common ingredient in many kitchens. It may be used to make pizzas, bread, bagels, and other delectable dishes.

Portion of Cornmeal (on rustic background) as detailed close-up shot

Despite its several uses, we frequently wind up keeping a single packet of cornmeal for months or even years at a time.

That raises the question of whether cornmeal spoils.

What Exactly Is Cornmeal?

Cornmeal is made by grinding dried corn (or maize) to varying degrees of coarseness, mediums, and fineness.

Cornmeal is a staple food in many nations, including Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia. It may be used to prepare a wide range of foods. It can be used as a major component, a gluten-free substitute, or an additive.

Tortillas, arepas, tamales, cornbread, and polenta are popular foods produced using cornmeal.

Cornmeal is also commonly used in baking, breading, and coating fried meals.

Cornmeal is classified into two types: normal and whole-grain cornmeal. Regular cornmeal (or degerminated cornmeal) is made by eliminating the germ and bran from cornmeal to make it more shelf-stable. It has a lower nutritional value and is typically fortified with iron and vitamin B. (thiamine, niacin, riboflavin).

The germ, bran, and endosperm are not removed for making whole-grain cornmeal. It is thought to be more nutrient-dense than the ordinary type.

Furthermore, blue cornmeal is a kind of cornmeal derived from local blue maize. Blue cornmeal has a grey appearance, unlike white or yellow cornmeal.

What is the distinction between whole-grain cornmeal and degerminated cornmeal?

Cornmeal is a coarse flour made from crushed dry corn. It comes in yellow, white, and even blue varieties.

Corn kernels are made up of three parts: the germ, the hull, and the endosperm. Because the germ is high in oils, it is prone to rancidity.

The presence of germ distinguishes the two forms of cornmeal: degerminated cornmeal has the germ removed. Because removed germ indicates decreased nutritional value, most cornmeal is fortified. It also implies that the flavor isn’t particularly rich.

But, most importantly for the food business, the lack of the germ extends the shelf life of cornmeal. That is also why the majority of cornmeal on the market is degerminated.

How Long Will Cornmeal last?

In general, each bag of cornmeal has a best-by date. That date tells us how long the goods should keep their freshness.

Because degerminated cornmeal keeps so well, you may readily trust that it will be safe to use for months beyond that date. How far past the expiration date on the label, exactly?

Regrettably, it is hard to say.

A preferable approach would be to inspect the product, even if it is three years over its best-by date, and determine whether to utilize it based on its quality.

When it comes to whole-grain cornmeal, it doesn’t survive nearly as long as its degerminated equivalent in good condition.

In general, it should stay in the fridge for a few months and at least a half year in the freezer. Of course, it will not get rancid immediately after that period, but its quality may not be as good as it once was.

Degerminated cornmealBest by + 1 year Best by + 5 years
Whole-grain cornmeal (unopened)Best by + 3 months  
Whole-grain cornmeal (opened) 3 – 6 months6 – 12 months

How Long Will Cornmeal last Outside?

A bag of germinated cornmeal can be stored in a pantry for up to a year if the bag is well shut, and any extra air is allowed to escape between uses; otherwise, the cornmeal may get contaminated.

However, ungerminated cornmeal will only survive three months after opening since the oils in the corn can develop rancid over time and damage the entire bag, especially if the bag is left open or full of air for extended periods.

Cornmeal should be stored in a cold, dark, and dry location to avoid bacteria, mold, and other organisms from developing on the cornmeal and spoiling the bag.

How Long Will Cornmeal last in the Fridge?

As in the pantry, the length of time cornmeal lasts in the fridge is determined by whether or not the cornmeal has germinated, so check your bag before refrigerating.

Germinated cornmeal, for example, may be stored in a refrigerator for up to two years, doubling the shelf life of the bag as long as the bag’s interior is kept dry and properly covered since any moisture in the bag would damage the cornmeal.

Ungerminated cornmeal works similarly in that it may be stored in the refrigerator for up to six months after opening the bag, which is double the length of time cornmeal can be stored in the pantry.

How Long Will Cornmeal last in the Freezer?

As cornmeal is in a dry, freezer-safe bag and there is no air left in the bag when you try to freeze it, the freezer is undoubtedly the best location to store it long-term.

Germinated cornmeal may be stored in the freezer for up to five years, as the low temperature inhibits new growths and eliminates any bacteria or other pollutants that may have been on the cornmeal.

Even ungerminated cornmeal may be stored in the freezer for up to a year, which is amazing given that this sort of cornmeal only lasts a few months in the cupboard.

Which type of cornmeal has the longest shelf life?

Cornmeal is just dried maize kernels that have been ground up. Cornmeal is then classified according to its fineness and whether or not it has been bolted. Bolted cornflour, in general, will last the longest.

Cornmeal, Bolted vs. Unbolted

Bolted cornmeal (also known as degerminated cornmeal) is made by passing ground maize kernels through a sieve. The sieve eliminates hull and germ fragments, both of which contain oils.

Unbolted cornmeal (water-ground, stone-ground, or old-fashioned cornmeal) will still have hull and germ.

Today, almost all commercially available maize flour is bolted.

When it comes to nutrients, unbolted cornmeal is preferable. However, the oils in unbolted cornmeal grow rancid quite rapidly.

Going rancid takes time: the cornmeal will gradually taste unpleasant and stale.

It may still be safe to eat after 6 months, but it will be unpleasant.

Grind Finesse

When a grain is finely ground, more of its surface area is exposed to oxygen, causing it to spoil faster. As a result, entire corn kernels are expected to survive the longest, followed by grits, polenta, and cornflour.

This isn’t always the case with cornmeal. This is because coarsely milled cornmeal often retains oil-rich germ and hull fragments. Despite having a smaller surface area, grits will go bad sooner than corn flour due to the additional oils.

How Can You Tell If Your Cornmeal Is Bad?

Cornmeal, like practically all food items, spoils. Cornmeal is finished and should be discarded when:

  • The package contains several insects. This includes insects that are dead, living, or eggs.
  • Mold or large damp clumps can be seen. Mold will grow in a few days if moisture has made its way into the cornmeal.
  • A rotten or bitter odor or flavor. This one mostly pertains to whole-grain cornmeal because it contains far more oil than degerminated cornmeal.
  • Odd/funny odor. Make sure it passes the nose test, just like any other meal.

Please remember that occasional grey or black specks are normal in whole-grain cornmeal and are not a symptom of deterioration.

Last but not least, the quality of cornmeal deteriorates over time. That means it loses part of its maize taste with time, and a product that is a couple of years old will not be as nice as a new one. Once again, the whole grain type degrades more quickly.

How to store Cornmeal

Cornmeal, like other flours, is a shelf-stable substance. As long as the packaging is unopened, the best location to store it is in a dry, cold, dark place away from heat and sunshine. Your pantry or kitchen cabinet will suffice.

Heat and moisture, which damage cornmeal and allow molds to develop, should be avoided.

You may also store it in a large sealed container with other dry foods for protection. If you’re using cornmeal as a gluten-free substitute, keep it away from gluten-containing components like wheat flour, oats, etc.

The storage guidelines for ordinary and whole-grain cornmeal vary somewhat after opening.

Because the germ has been eliminated, regular or degerminated cornmeal is more stable. It can be stored at room temperature in the same settings as an unopened box.

Whole-grain cornmeal is less stable due to the high oil content of the germ and bran. As a result, it is prone to rancidity and should be refrigerated after opening.

In any case, keep the container well sealed. If the package cannot be resealed, place the product in an airtight container or jar. Allow no moisture or pests to penetrate the container and contaminate your supplies.

Is Cornmeal Freezable?

Yes, freezing cornmeal may greatly increase its shelf life. Fill a ziplock bag or container halfway with cornmeal. Squeeze the air as hard as you can. Remember to label it. Freeze it until you’re ready to use it.

Divide the cornmeal into an average quantity needed per recipe or dish. This will help you relax while thawing. Thaw it in the refrigerator before using.


  • Cornmeal is available in two types: whole grain and degerminated. The latter preserves quality for a longer period.
  • If the package contains insects (dead or alive), mold, or if the cornmeal smells strange, rotten, or bitter, reject it.
  • Degerminated cornmeal can be kept at room temperature for up to a year after its expiration date and frozen for many years. Whole grain varieties are only good for a few months before expiration.
  • Degerminated cornmeal may always be kept in a kitchen or pantry cupboard. For the best results, the whole grain type should be refrigerated or frozen after opening the container.


Editorial Staff

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