Does popcorn expire? (+3 Ways to tell)

In this article, we will answer the question “Does popcorn expire?”, and how to store popcorn?

Does popcorn expire?

Popcorn does not expire. It comes with a best-by or best-before date instead. But It stays fresh and safe way past its Best-by If It is handled and stored correctly. Popcorn does not go bad as in developing mold unless It has been exposed to moisture. Instead It loses Its flavor and the ability to pop over time. 

Old popcorns will neither taste the same nor pop the same easy as the fresh popcorns. To enjoy popcrons in its prime quality, popcrons should be consumed within a safe time period after the best-by date.

How to store popcorn?

  • Whether It is popped popcorn, a microwave packet, or a package of dry kernels, the rule of thumb is to store popcorn in a dry and cool place away from the heat sources like sunlight and stovetop. The pantry or a kitchen cabinet works fine.
  • To store dry kernels or commercially popped popcorns, you need to make sure the seal is tight after opening the package. If the original package is not resealable, transfer the contents to an air-tight container or a freezer bag. Least you can do is fold the end of the package and use paper clips to seal it.
  • The proper sealing is important to keep the popcorns from losing moisture and becoming dry and stale as a result. It also protects the popcrons from picking up moisture and becoming soggy.

The shelf-life of popcorn 

The following table shows an estimated shelf-life of different types of popcorn in the pantry.

In the pantry 
Commercially popped popcorn(unopened)2-4 weeks past the Best-by date 
Commercially popped popcorn(opened)1-2 weeks 
Dry kernels 1-2 years or 6-12 months past the Best-by date  
Microwavable packets 3 months past the Best-by date 

Shelf-life of popped popcorn

The commercially popped popcorn come with a Best-by date. While It is still safe to eat the popcorn safer the printed date but they won’t be the same. The flavor and the freshness will not be the same anymore.

However, the shelf-life of this type of popcorn largely depends upon the quality of the popcorn used. A good quality popcorn will last at least 2 months past its Best-by date as long as the package is unopened. Once the package is opened, the quality deteriorates quicker.

Shelf-life of dry kernels 

Dry kernels will last indefinitely If stored correctly. Though the shelf-life is years, the taste and flavor of a decade old dry kernels won;t be the same as the fresh ones. Old kernels won’t pop  consistently. For peak quality, It is recommended to consume dry kernels within 2 years of the production date or 6-12 months after the Best-by date.

Shelf-life of microwavable packets 

Microwavable packets of popcorn do not last long due to the added butter and oils which make it susceptible to spoilage due to rancidity. For peak quality, It is recommended to consume microwavable packets of popcorn past 3 months of the printed date.

How to tell If popcorn is bad?

  1. Commercially popped popcorn lasts quite long. However If you notice any signs of mold growth, discard the package. In case the popcorn goes stale or smells off, get rid of it for quality reasons.
  2. Dry kernels which have been stored for too long lose their moisture and do not pop well. Strat with testing the kernels for freshness by popping a small amount of kernels. If they fail to pop, they can be discarded.
  3. The microwavable packets of popcorn can only be judged after popping them. Therefore If you notice any off-odor or off-taste, get rid of the popcorns. Similarly, If anything is present in the packet that shouldn’t be there, get rid of the popcorns.

What is the science behind corn popping?

There are three things to know that are responsible for the popping action

  1. Popcorn has an impermeable outer hull
  2. Popcorn has a hard starchy endosperm
  3. Corn kernel has oil in its germ part

When popcorn is exposed to heat, the temperature of oil and water inside it rise resulting in the formation of steam inside the kernel. In the presence of steam, the starch takes a soft and pliant form due to its gelatinization

The steam continues to develop inside until a pressure of 135psi and a temperature of 180°C is achieved. At this point, the hull breaks open, resulting in a sudden pressure and temperature drop and releasing the endosperm into a foamy mass. The foamy mass cools down and the starch and protein set and become crispy.


In this article, we answered the question “Does popcorn expire?”, and how to store popcorn?


Hello, I'm Sana Ameer. I'm a student of Food Science and Technology at UVAS. I like to bake and I aspire to become a Food blogger.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *