Does Oatmeal Go Bad? How Long Does It Last?

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

Oatmeal is a great breakfast choice for people looking to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It’s packed with fiber and protein, which help you feel full and energetic.

The oats also contain vitamins and minerals, which can boost your immune system and contribute to better heart health. So long as you store it properly, oatmeal will last for years. Here are some tips on how to keep your oatmeal fresh for longer!

nuts and bowl of cereals

The Health Advantages of Eating Oats

We’ve all heard that oats are highly beneficial and nutritious. Some may recall eating a bowl of morning porridge before heading to school.

How many individuals despised the oatmeal and sought to avoid it at all costs? However, eating oatmeal daily is beneficial to our health.

To begin with, oats are gluten-free and high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Oats have a well-balanced nutritional profile, with a high fiber, carbohydrate, and protein content.

Iron, zinc, copper, vitamins B1 and B5, phosphorus, and magnesium – and that’s not even a comprehensive list of the nutrients included in a standard serving of oats.

Oats improve blood flow and dilate blood vessels, lowering cholesterol levels and maintaining them within normal ranges.

Furthermore, oats aid in maintaining blood sugar levels and, you’ll be astonished, they’re wonderful for keeping our weight in check!

These grains even improve our skin!

Does Oatmeal Go Bad?

Oatmeal has a reasonably extended shelf life since it is dry food. However, if handled or kept incorrectly, it might become worse.

Uncooked oats can degrade fast if exposed to moisture, humidity, direct heat, or light. Cooked oats that are not refrigerated will likewise go rancid in a short period.

Oatmeal that is commercially made and packaged has a use-by or expiration date. Just because your oats have passed certain dates doesn’t imply they’re bad.

If you store oatmeal properly, it will remain fresh and safe to eat much past its official sell-by date.

How Long Will Oatmeal last?

Depending on numerous conditions, oatmeal can endure as little as one day or as long as 30 years. The storage technique, storage environment, and whether the oatmeal is cooked or uncooked all significantly influence how long it may keep fresh.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these elements.

Shelf Life of Oatmeal chart

Type of oatsLasts for
instant oatmeal1–2 years
flavored oatmeal6–9 months
steel cut oats2 years
rolled oats1–2 years
prepared oatmeal3–5 days

How long will uncooked oatmeal last?

Uncooked oats can endure up to ten years or longer if properly kept. Dry oatmeal should be stored in a clean, dry, and dark area. To keep uncooked oats fresher for longer, use the appropriate storage container, such as a Mylar bag for bulk storage, or a #10 can pay for smaller amounts.

How long will cooked oatmeal last?

If you start a pot of oats but don’t finish it, you can only store it in the fridge for 3-5 days before the quality of the cooked oat begins to deteriorate. Leaving cooked oats out in the open will significantly degrade their freshness and likely only last a day.

Oatmeal labels: Best by, sell by, use by dates

Best by, sell by, use by, and best before are all examples of expiration date labels that continue to perplex consumers. So, how can you tell whether the date on your oatmeal is correct?

Most date labels are not scientifically accurate.

In truth, producers give date labeling to assist customers and merchants in determining when food is at its peak quality; nevertheless, label dating has no bearing on food safety.

How to Tell If Your Oatmeal Is Bad

Oatmeal has a rather long shelf life and will not spoil quickly, especially if stored properly and uncooked.

However, if it sits for too long or is exposed to factors such as air and moisture, the quality will deteriorate, and the oatmeal will turn stale.

There are a few telltale symptoms that your stash has gone bad. Here’s what you should do:

Examine for Mold

Mold grows rapidly in uncooked oatmeal that has been kept in a damp environment. Cooked oatmeal that has been refrigerated for several days may also grow mold. If you see mold, it’s time to toss your oats.

Keep an eye out for color shifts.

Fresh oatmeal is a beautiful pale golden hue with a hint of light gray. If your cache has been sitting for too long, is polluted, or has been exposed to dampness, it may acquire black patches, which are a clear indicator of deterioration.


Touching or simply studying the texture of your oats might help you determine their quality. Like rice, good uncooked oatmeal will have short individual grains. The grains will cluster together if it becomes bad. A runny, watery texture in cooked oats indicates that the porridge has gone bad.

Sense of Smell and Taste

Oatmeal that has gone bad will have an unpleasant odor. A visual check is typically sufficient to determine whether the oats are excellent. If unsure, prepare a tiny piece and test the consistency and flavor. Cooked oatmeal that lacks the traditional flavor or texture should be discarded.

When determining if oats have gone bad, a reasonable rule is to discard cooked oats that are more than three days old or have not been refrigerated for several hours. If the uncooked type has been sitting for over three years, even if unopened, you should continue with caution.

Can eating contaminated oats get you sick?

Unlike dairy or meat, dry goods are unlikely to make you sick if consumed beyond their expiration date. This is due to the low presence of water and moisture in dried foods, which prevents food poisoning germs and deterioration.

However, this does not mean eating oatmeal with mold traces will not make you sick. Mold development can be caused by improper storage or exposing your oats to excessive dampness.

Even while eating outdated oats that appear to be acceptable will not necessarily hurt you, the quality and flavor of oats deteriorate over time. It’s generally best to part ways if they taste unusual, smell strange, or appear clumpy.

The Dangers of Eating Old Oatmeal

Cooking and consuming oatmeal that is slightly over its sell-by date should be OK as long as there are no symptoms of rotting on the grains.

However, outdated oats may include mold or other chemical compounds created when grains are stored for an extended period.

Mold is a haven for hazardous germs that can lead to food poisoning. Mold inhalation can potentially cause severe allergic reactions.

The compounds present in outdated oats are potentially deadly, putting you at risk of acquiring a serious food-borne illness.

As a general guideline, avoid eating oatmeal that hasn’t been refrigerated, has been in the fridge for too long, or has passed its sell-by date.

Oatmeal may cause additional negative effects in people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.

how to store oatmeal

Oatmeal storage does not necessitate using expensive equipment or sophisticated techniques. Oats keep well and can endure for a long time if stored correctly.

Here are a few things to remember to keep oatmeal fresher for longer:

  1. For long-term storage, use a #10 can.

The #10 can is ideal if you want to have a large number of oats on hand or if you already have a bulk supply. This can style popular because of its huge capacity, broad opening, and durability. Oatmeal may be stored in these cans for up to 30 years.

Maintain the quality of your supply by adding a couple of oxygen absorbers in the can and keeping it in a cold, dark, and dry spot.

  1. Maintain Optimal Storage Conditions

It is critical to pick the proper storage place for your oats, using #10 cans, mylar bags, or plastic or glass containers. Uncooked oats should ideally be kept in the pantry or cabinet.

To begin, ensure that the chosen place is clean to keep insects and rodents at bay. These uninvited guests will taint and ruin your grains in no time.

We also recommend storing oats in a cold, dark area. If at all feasible, have the temperature of your storage place regulated. This will help to retain the nutrients in the oats.

Finally, your storage area should be free of dampness. Mold thrives in wet environments and will soon spread in your bag of oats, leaving you with no choice but to discard it.

  1. Use the Appropriate Refrigeration Method

One often asked topic is whether uncooked oats may be stored in the refrigerator. You can chill your cache, but this may not be the most efficient use of fridge space. Furthermore, moisture may leak into the dry oats, producing ideal circumstances for the mold to thrive.

Cooked oatmeal, which has a lower shelf life and is susceptible to disease-causing microorganisms, should be refrigerated. Oatmeal leftovers should be stored in an airtight container. If you have any leftover oats, consume them the next day and throw them after 3-5 days if you still have some.

Remember that toppings like fresh fruit and sauces might cause oatmeal to spoil faster. To achieve the best freshness, consume your bowl of oats within a day.

  1. Prepare the Oatmeal Muffins

To save time in the mornings, cook your oatmeal ahead of time and freeze it. Making no-bake oatmeal muffins is one method to do this.

To begin, make your oatmeal as usual. After that, oil your muffin pans. Allow the oats to cool for 15 minutes before spooning them into the muffin tins.

After that, place the muffin tray in the freezer overnight. Remove the tin from the freezer and let it aside for a few minutes to defrost.

Turn the muffin tray upside down on the counter and gently tap to release the oat muffins. Place in the freezer in sealable freezer bags.

When ready to use, defrost the muffins in the microwave for 3 minutes and serve with a warm bowl of pre-made oatmeal.

Can you freeze oatmeal?

When it comes to preserving oats, freezing works better with cooked oats than uncooked oats.

To be sure, you can freeze-dried oatmeal, especially if the box has been opened. This, however, may not be the best use of freezer space.

If you do decide to freeze uncooked oats, put them in an airtight plastic container at the manufacturer’s suggested temperature.

When drying oats, use caution when using freezer bags. Some bags are made of porous materials that may allow moisture to enter, reducing the shelf life of your grains significantly.

Spoon your preferred quantity of cooked oats into sealable freezer bags to freeze. Squeeze out any air bubbles to avoid the growth of mold and germs. Fix your prepared oats in a muffin pan and utilize them on the move.

Although you may freeze oatmeal, the texture and flavor will change over time. It is recommended to eat frozen oats within a week of heating them.

How to Make Use of Leftover Oats

Don’t toss out your oats if they’ve passed their best before date and you’re not sure if you want to consume them on their own.

You could easily bake them if you still want to savor their nutty flavor. Cookies, pancakes, muffins, flapjacks, the list goes on and on!

If baking isn’t your thing, perhaps nondairy milk will suffice. You might try making your oat milk. Combine your oats with some water and honey, and you’ve got some easy homemade oat milk!


Oatmeal is a breakfast staple for many people. It’s filling and offers a variety of health benefits.

Commercially processed oats can be stored dry for up to 12 months. However, the actual shelf life would vary based on how it was processed, how it was stored, if it was cooked, and whether it contained any perishable components.

If you discover mold or changes in the color or smell of the oats, it’s best to discard them.

By avoiding excessive moisture and oxygen exposure, you can extend the shelf life of any variety of oatmeal. Oatmeal that has been previously cooked should always be kept in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to consume.


Editorial Staff

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