Does Popcorn Go Bad? How Long Does It Last?

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

Popcorn is a popular snack meal that comes in a variety of forms, including dried kernels, popped kernels, and microwave packets in a variety of flavors.

If you like them, you probably buy many packets at once. So, you may wonder if popcorn goes bad and how long popcorn lasts. The solutions are provided directly below.

popcorns on clear glass bowl

What Happens If Popcorn Goes Bad?

Popcorn pops because each kernel includes a small quantity of water. Depending on the corn variety, 15 percent of the kernel contains water. When they are heated, the liquid within changes into popcorn.

That is, you may pop them as long as the corn does not completely dry up. That procedure is not necessarily time-dependent. Archaeologists discovered well-preserved 4,000-year-old kernels in New Mexico. Those kernels, believe it or not, popped and were appetizing.

As you can see, the popcorn will not spoil over time. However, they will lose the anticipated quality and flavor if they are not stored properly. Furthermore, many kernels will not pop if stored for an extended period.

Popped popcorn, on the other hand, has an expiration date and spoils considerably faster than dried kernels. The same is true with microwave popcorn bags.

What Is the Shelf Life of Popcorn?

No matter which box you choose, the popcorn storage requirements are rather consistent. Keep them in a dry, cool, and dark area to preserve their quality until eating. Your pantry or kitchen cabinet may be good locations for this.

Store popcorn near containers containing cornflakes, flour, and other dry foods. It is not safe to keep it in the refrigerator since it quickly loses its flavor at low temperatures.

How long do Dry kernels last?

When kept properly, dry kernels have an unlimited shelf life. They are safe to use for years, but you won’t get the same results with 10-year-old kernels as you would with fresh ones.

To summarize, fresh kernels produce superior outcomes, which means they pop larger and more regularly than older ones.

As a result, they should be used within two years after the manufacture date or 6 to 12 months after the date on the label.

How Long Can Unpopped Kernels Be Stored?

If you’re wondering how long unpopped kernels will survive, pay attention to the expiration date on the package. When you buy a box of microwavable, the package generally has an expiration date on it. Take a look at the date and use it to help you decide whether your unpopped kernels are okay to consume.

If you have loose unpopped kernels, the good news is that they will keep for a long time. Unpopped kernels can survive for more than a year in extreme cases. On the other hand, you must also make certain that they are properly stored.

The total longevity of your unpopped kernels will be strongly influenced by how you keep them; when it comes to unpopped kernels, attempt to keep them in a place where they won’t be exposed to moisture or air. They will endure as long as possible this way.

Do unpopped kernels spoil?

Unpopped kernels have the potential to spoil. Even though loose kernels may be preserved properly for years, most individuals do not. As a result, unpopped kernels may perish at a significantly quicker rate.

Unpopped kernels will often perish faster if they are exposed to dampness. If the kernels become wet, they will lose their capacity to grow entirely. As a result, regardless of the method utilized, these kernels will not pop when cooked. As a result, if you have unpopped kernels that you want to preserve fresh, it is critical to keep them in a dry spot where they will not be exposed to moisture.

It is also possible for these kernels to go stale. This is another reason kernels should be stored in an airtight container or jar. If you’re storing unpopped kernels in a bag, make sure to tighten the bag as tightly as possible to eliminate all of the air from the back. This will keep the kernels from becoming bad.

How long do Microwaveable packets Last?

The microwaveable packages are last but not least. They won’t last as long as dry kernels since they contain everything needed to pop the popcorn.

The additional oil, butter, or other fat does not keep its quality indefinitely. So, while most kernels from an old packet will burst, the flavor will most likely disappoint.

Regarding storage duration, the microwaveable containers should be used within 3 months of the date on the label.

How Long Does It Last Once Popped?

Understanding how long it will persist once you have popped it is critical. If you buy pre-popped popcorn at the store, check the expiration date on the package. Popcorn generally has an expiration date by which it should be consumed. Even while the popcorn is okay to consume after the expiration date on the package, it will not taste as wonderful. It will dry out and progressively lose its flavor over time. As a result, everyone should pay attention to the date on the packaging and attempt to finish the popcorn before the date arrives.

If you popped it yourself, the expiration date would be somewhat different. The popcorn will most likely last for a week or two after it has been cooked. After then, the quality will rapidly deteriorate. As a result, if you have just popped the popcorn, it is critical to consume it as soon as possible.

What Is the Shelf Life of Popcorn? (Chart)

Popcorn typePantry
Dry kernels1 to 2 years
Microwave unopened2 to 3 months
Microwave popped1 to 2 weeks
Unopened popped1 to 2 months
Opened popped1 to 2 weeks
Commercially popped popcorn (unopened)Best-by + 2 – 4 weeks
Commercially popped popcorn (opened)1 – 2 weeks
Homemade1 to 2 weeks

Dry kernels may be stored in an airtight container free from moisture for years. Regarding microwave packets and pre-popped popcorn, the labels’ dates are a decent indication. However, they can be used for another one to two weeks.

You should utilize the popcorn within one to two weeks of opening the package. The same is true with handmade popcorn. Once the kernels have been popped, they can be stored for up to two weeks before turning stale.

How to Tell If Your Popcorn Has Gone Bad

The popcorn cannot spoil, but it might lose its properties to the point that it is no longer edible. Unfortunately, until the pack is opened, there is no way to know if the microwave or professionally popped popcorn has deteriorated. However, several symptoms may signal that it is time to get rid of them:


Smell popcorn or dry kernels to determine their condition. If you use the microwave pack, you must first prepare the popcorn. In any case, throw them away if you detect mold odors or the stench of rancid oil.


After you’ve popped the popcorn, rub it between your fingers. You should discard them if they feel different, harder, or gristly, or if the oils and spices from the container are unevenly distributed. Those popcorns are certainly safe to consume, but they have no flavor.


The flavor is the most reliable indicator of whether or not this meal has gone rotten. Try one or two once you’ve prepared them. They’re edible if you like the normal buttery flavor. On the other hand, the shift in saltiness and oiliness signals that you shouldn’t eat the remainder of them.


If you don’t shut the container properly, pantry bugs can be pulled from flour and other goods into a container with dry kernels. When you see any evidence of an infestation, including organic particles and bugs, throw them away.


Don’t pop kernels that have black or white mold on them. Separating the healthy ones is worthless since the mold has grown throughout the container, even though you can’t see it. As a result, instead of putting your health in danger, go out and get some fresh popcorn.

How to Keep Popcorn Fresher for Longer

As previously stated, keeping popcorn at room temperature ensures the highest quality. Furthermore, keeping it away from moisture might help it last longer. However, a few additional ways might help you keep popcorn for a longer period.

Make use of airtight containers.

The selection of the appropriate vessel is critical for kernel storage. Keep them out of plastic or paper bags.

Instead, use a plastic or glass container that must be well sealed to avoid moisture loss. You may also use a Mason jar or a vacuum sealing vessel. This prevents pantry bugs from infesting your kernels.

Store away from direct sunlight.

Keep your gourmet popcorn away from direct sunlight. Because popcorn is made from maize, it naturally responds to environmental factors such as sun exposure and humidity. Even sealed containers might become too warm inside if left out in the sun, and this heat may interfere with your popcorn storage.

Furthermore, many gourmet toppings, such as chocolate and caramel drizzles, can melt fast in the sun, causing your popcorn to cling together within the container.

Allow the Popcorn to Come to Room Temperature

The optimal moisture level for a piece of popcorn is around 14%, the quantity required for a kernel to pop correctly. Allowing a fresh can of heated kettle corn to come to room temperature before putting it in a container is always a good idea. Otherwise, the container’s own steam would trap the heated popcorn, and the additional moisture will cause it to lose freshness and turn stale faster.

If you want your fresh gourmet popcorn to cool faster before storing it, put it on a baking sheet in an even layer and keep it in a cold, dark location until it’s ready. Just make sure to stay away from the refrigerator.


Dry kernels will dry out if stored for more than two years, and most will not fully pop when heated. On the other hand, those that react to heat will produce smaller and tougher popcorn. Surprisingly, you may remedy this problem by adding water from which the popcorn is generally kept.

Add one teaspoon of clean, cold water for each pound (454 g) of dry kernels in a jar. Shake them up several times a day to evenly spread the moisture, then pop a chunk after a week. You’ll notice they’re new as if you just got them.


If the new popcorn has been exposed to excessive moisture or you have accidentally spilled water on the kernels, you should dry it. Instead of tossing them away, use a dehydrator to remedy the problem.

Preheat the kernels and distribute them equally on the tray. Set the temperature to 130 degrees Fahrenheit (54.5 degrees Celsius) and leave the kernels to settle for 10 to 15 minutes. Once they have cooled, place them in a dry, clean container and tightly shut it to avoid repeat incidents.

microwave packets

Some microwave-flavored popcorn brands are an exception to the rule that popcorn should only be stored in the pantry. This is especially true with organic popcorn.

You should heed the advice if the product label specifies that it should be stored in the refrigerator. Place the popcorn in its original packaging at the bottom of the shelf, as far away from the entrance as possible.

However, remember to remove the popcorn from the fridge half an hour before cooking to allow it to get to room temperature. Most kernels will not pop if this is not done.

You may also buy a hot air popper machine as an option. This way, you can enjoy the popcorn flavor while still eating a nutritious snack.

Commercial popped Popcorn

You can store professionally popped popcorn in its original, unopened package after the expiration date. However, the product’s quality will rapidly deteriorate after you open the packaging.

Keep the leftovers in the same manner; you would dry kernels in a pantry or kitchen cabinet. Again, use airtight containers since popcorn will turn rubbery, hard, and stale if not.

Is it safe to eat microwave popcorn that has gone bad?

You can probably consume it because this is a best-by date rather than an expiration date. Remember that you should calculate 6-8 months ahead of time and not go over that period for quality.

It is safe to consume, but several symptoms suggest it is best to throw out microwave popcorn.

You may detect an unusual odor when you remove your microwave popcorn from the plastic wrap. This indicates that the oils and butter have begun to get rancid. You can pop it and sample it if the fragrance is mild.

If you taste the popcorn and anything doesn’t seem right, we urge you to toss it out immediately. You should probably discard any other bags from the same dated packaging.

You are unlikely to become ill by eating this popcorn, although it may not settle well, and there are always dangers associated with consuming rotten goods.

The Dangers of Consuming Old Popcorn

In the worst-case situation, if you store expired dry kernels for too long, they won’t pop as well as they should, and the flavor of the popcorn will deteriorate. They will not, however, make you sick after intake.

Improper storage degrades popcorn quality and can lead to mold or bug infestation, rendering it dangerous to ingest. Food poisoning from such popcorn might result in fever, vomiting, and stomach discomfort.

Microwave popcorn, on the other hand, has certain dangers. Some packaging additives might induce allergic responses. For example, diacetyl imparts a buttery flavor to popcorn, but it has also been linked to cancer and the illness known as popcorn lung.

Some manufacturers spray microwave popcorn with PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid). Unfortunately, this substance is one of the so-called everlasting compounds, which means your body cannot cleanse after consuming them.

Is It Possible to Freeze Popcorn?

In theory, you can freeze popcorn, and some people do. However, you will get nothing from it. When the water in the kernels freezes, it damages and dries them out. In the end, all you get is a bowl full of old maids and kernels that don’t pop.

Freezing professionally popped popcorn is also unnecessary. They are difficult to freeze due to their salt, oils, and other ingredients.

Because popcorn is a shelf-stable and inexpensive commodity, you may get it anytime you want. As a result, freezing this meal is unnecessary. Furthermore, the texture of the kernels will alter at low temperatures, and their flavor will not be the same when thawed.

Your popcorn will be safe to consume once you remove it from the freezer. Unfortunately, they will not satisfy you as much as a newly opened pack. Keep in mind that putting a microwave paper bag in the freezer can damage it and make it dangerous to use in a microwave.

What If It’s Already Too Late?

Is it possible for the popcorn to get stale even when stored in an airtight container? Yes, eventually. Even if properly stored, gourmet popped popcorn will lose its freshness after a time — so don’t panic! If you waited a little too long to consume your popcorn or failed to preserve it in an airtight container, you may still utilize it in a variety of ways:

  • You can resurrect some stale popcorn in the oven. Spread a uniform layer of popcorn on a baking sheet and bake for five minutes at 250 degrees. Remember that this process may not be appropriate for all varieties of gourmet popcorn, particularly those topped with quickly meltable components such as chocolate.
  • Combine it with another ingredient: If your gourmet popcorn has gone stale, you may mask some flavor by combining it with other, more recent components. You could, for example, add it into a batch of homemade trail mix or make bite-size popcorn balls.
  • Use it as a garnish: Gourmet popcorn can only be improved by combining it with ice cream! If you’re stuck on what to do with your leftover food, top it up with a dish of your favorite ice cream for a truly decadent experience.


Popcorn is a popular food that is available in a range of forms, tastes, and packaging. They may be stored in a dark, dry area over their expiration date without going bad if kept in the dark, dry place. They will, however, lose their taste with time. Freezing or refrigerating popcorn is not suggested since the kernels lose quality over time.


Editorial Staff

Our writers, editors, content managers, and SEO specialist. We all take part in crafting amazing articles. We spend hours ensuring that each article is based on facts, researched, and thorough. You'll never want to click the back button to look for more answers other than here!