Does Popcorn Go Bad Eventually?

Yes, it does. Popcorn will go bad after one point of its shelf life. The light snack is a go-to at the movies, for game night, a simple house party, or when you’re working late.

You will find this treat – raw or popped – in most homes because it is easy to make and fills your snacktime needs. But can you count on the old kernels sitting in your pantry?

For those who have had popcorn packets or corn kernels stored somewhere and wondering how long they have until it goes bad, this article is for you.

What is popcorn?

Popcorn or popped corn is made from corn kernels. It is a sweet snack with a popping mouthfeel. The corn kernel pops and increases in size when exposed to heat from a popping mechanism (popcorn machine or lidded pot/pan).

The snack is a common choice in movie theatres, carnivals, events, and other fun-like occasions. The corn kernel variety differs, and so does the pop color and size. With a variety of kernels, you get different tastes depending on the fillers.

However, you need a form of oil or butter to get the corn to heat and pop (gelatinize and soften). You can also add caramels, sugar, or flavor and colorings to get a different taste and color.

Does popcorn go bad?

Yes, it does. Popcorn can go bad after being exposed to air for a long period. It goes off if the popcorn is not stored properly.

Do corn kernels go bad?

Yes, it can. Corn kernel, when stored properly, can last for a very long time (more than the usual food); however, the taste can go off.

A corn kernel is a grain that can sit in perfectly good condition without molding or moistening for over a year. As long as it is sealed, the popcorn does not go stale.

Does popped popcorn go bad?

Yes, it can. Freshly popped corn can last for days to a week. If it is sealed tightly, and away from air and moisture, it doesn’t go stale.

Packaged popcorn can last several months due to preservatives in them, but you should not eat it after the expiry date.

Meanwhile, microwaved popcorn can go bad due to the oils and additives in the package. The best way to keep popcorn is to keep it in a dry airtight place.

Can frozen popcorn go bad?

Yes, frozen popcorn can go bad. When you leave frozen popcorn out for too long, it will turn soft and moist and eventually go bad.

Moisture is a bane to both popped and unpopped corn kernels. Therefore, avoid keeping your popcorn frozen by sealing it properly. Furthermore, reheat your frozen popped corn immediately after uncovering it.

Does caramel popcorn go bad?

Yes, it does. Carmel popped corn can also go bad if not preserved or stored properly. Furthermore, they go bad faster than ordinary popcorn due to the sweet flavor coated on them.

What is the shelf life of popcorn?

Popped corn can last up to 12 months depending on the packaging. However, popped corn has a shelf life of 6-8 months. It will retain its moisture without going stale as long as it’s kept in an airtight container.

You can keep fresh popcorn fresh and tasty for a few hours if you cover it with aluminum foil.

On the other hand, corn kernel lasts over a year, even two or three. As long as it’s properly sealed, without mold, or moisture, it maintains its integrity.

Corn kernels can sit on your pantry’s shelf for years without going bad. Although, the fresher the popcorn, the better the taste and outcome.

Can you eat expired popcorn?

Yes, you can eat expired popcorn. However, avoid eating popcorn over a month after expiration. A bad popcorn tastes leathering and stale, which could cause indigestion, but it’s not life-threatening.

Furthermore, you should avoid eating exposed popped corn. It also tastes stale. But, you can eat microwaved popped corn, as long as the kernels are not stale or dry without moisture. However, do not eat them once they feel dry and chewy.

How to tell popcorn is bad

For popcorn kernels, it becomes moldy grey when it’s bad. When you find single kernels or lumps in this color, discard the pack. For popped popcorn kernels, the fluffy taste stale and feels leathery to the touch.

For microwaved popped corn, the package keeps it safe if airtight. However, it’s best to check the expiry date before popping.

Nonetheless, microwavable popped corn can be eaten a day or weeks after expiration without any harm or side effects.

How to preserve popped corn

An unpopped corn kernel is best kept in a cool dry place. A pantry, cupboard, or shelf in your kitchen will do.  

Keep leftover popped corn in a bag and an airtight container. A Ziploc, a bowl with cover or aluminum foil cover, or mason jars are good places to store your popcorn. They will preserve their taste and improve their shelf life.

For packaged and microwavable popcorns, keeping the packs safe and away from sharp objects that could puncture holes would prevent air from slipping. The pantry or kitchen cupboard is the best to keep these.

Popped corn can be preserved by keeping it away from the air. If you want to avoid getting soggy or dried-up popped corn, protect them by storing them safely.


Can you freeze popcorn kernels?

No, you can’t. Kernels are raw corn that can go bad if exposed to moisture. Even the low temperature of a freezer will affect the kernels. Corn kernels should be kept in a cool, dry place all the time.

Can you microwave popped popcorn?

Yes, you can. You can reheat popped corn in a microwave to keep them hot and tasty.

To reheat your corn treat, pre-heat your microwave to 250F. Then, place your popped corn in a bowl and leave for 3-5 minutes. Reheated popped corn might not taste very nice. Consequently, you can add extra sugar for taste.

Can you eat raw corn kernels?

No, you can’t. Raw kernels are not edible food. They need to be air-popped, cooked, or roasted to become edible.

Does bad popped corn smell?

Yes, it does. Popcorns also smell when they have gone off. It can have a stale off-putting smell or taste bland if it hasn’t gone bad for long.

Similarly, bad corn kernels have a range of smells varying from dusty to sour. It depends on how off it has become.


Yes, popped corn can go bad. Freshly made popcorn left in the open can go bad within hours; it starts with a spongy taste.

Packaged popped corn will go bad eventually; however, that takes a very long time. And raw corn kernels can last for years in a pantry.

Dried corn has a very long shelf life, so do not worry if you’ve had them for a year. However, for packaged popped corn, be sure to check the expiration date. And if you just bought your pack, then relax, you still have a long way to go.

Thanks for reading.

Read more articles on food spoilage and preservation on Millenora.