Can You Eat Expired Microwave Popcorn?

The Kernel
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We know that foodborne illnesses are never fun, especially if you get sick from eating a bowl of expired popcorn on what was supposed to be a fun movie night with your friends. But your movie night or house party might not necessarily end that way. If you’re careful enough about how you store your microwave popcorn bags and know how to test if they’ve gone bad or not, you should be just fine. We can guarantee that you’ll be the go-to party snack person in your friend circle after you learn about these safety measures.

So, tag along with us to learn about the do’s and don’ts of microwave popcorn, how to store it in the right way, and whether you can eat expired microwave popcorn or not.

Can Expired Microwave Popcorn Make You Sick?

Potentially, yes, but probably no. We know, it’s confusing but bear with us; all foods can at some point go bad and make you sick if you’re not careful enough about how you store them, and this applies to microwave popcorn as well. Corn kernels contain a good amount of moisture inside of them, which makes them pop in the first place, and moisture is like a feast to some fungus such as mold. On top of that, microwave popcorn bags contain salt, a bunch of seasonings, and oil or butter, which only increases the risk of spoilage. But don’t worry, take a look at our recommendations, and you’ll be just fine.

Best-by Date vs. Expiry Date

Before we continue, we should settle one thing. Most people don’t know the difference between the best-by and expiry dates, and just assume they’re the same thing. But that can’t be further from the truth, and not knowing what they mean and the difference between them can have very unpleasant effects on your health. So, it’s best to first learn the difference between best-by date and expiry date to understand them better.

Expiry date refers to the date after which the food product will go bad. Best-by date, on the other hand, means that the food product will be at its peak quality and best form until that date, but it won’t necessarily go bad after that. It’ll just likely to be stale and less enjoyable.

In our case, microwave popcorn usually has a best-by date, not an expiry date. So, don’t throw away your microwave popcorn just because it has passed that date. When it comes to microwave popcorn, a good rule of thumb is that most microwave popcorn should be good until a month or two past their best-by date, and even though they’ll still be edible after that, they’ve most likely gone stale and potentially bad because of the oils or fats they contain. So, it’s better not to risk it.

How to Know if Microwave Popcorn Has Gone Bad?

But let’s say you’ve decided to give it a try, there are some tell-tale signs that you should be looking out for. These signs can most often than not be noticed intuitively and by using your senses.


The best and safest method of testing whether your microwave popcorn has gone bad or not is to give it a sniff. If it has gone bad, it’ll give off a rotten egg-like, foul smell. The source of this rancid smell is a chemical called ethylene, which is mostly harmless but it can still irritate your eyes or nose. So, if you notice some off smell from your microwave popcorn, it’s best to toss it out.


For some, one of the most enjoyable parts of popcorn is its crunch and toothesomeness. If your microwave popcorn smells okay but its texture is soggy or moist, you should definitely throw it away. Unfortunately, it’s no good anymore.


Naturally, if your microwave popcorn doesn’t taste like it’s supposed to, you should discard it just in case. You might think it’s fine, it’s just a little stale or off, but it’s not worth risking it. It’s best to just toss it out and get a new bag of microwave popcorn.

Best Way to Store Microwave Popcorn

We all munch on a nice bag of microwave popcorn once in a while to jazz up our movie nights, but the way you store the bag is very important, and it can make or break your next movie night popcorn. Since corn kernels contain high amounts of moisture, they’re prone to mold growth and can easily go bad or stale if not stored properly. Lucky for you, we’ve written down some tips as to how you should store your microwave popcorn to prevent a popcorn disaster on your next movie night. So, keep reading to learn about the best methods of storing microwave popcorn.

  • It’s best to store microwave popcorn in its original, sealed bag. Sometimes it’s suggested that you should keep the corn kernels in an air-tight jar or container, which is true for a bag of corn kernels, but you shouldn’t open a pack of microwave popcorn just to transfer the kernels to a jar.

  • If your microwave popcorn bag tore or you just didn’t pop all of it, it’s best to tightly wrap it in plastic wrap, especially if you live in an environment with high humidity. Because humidity is the nemesis of unpopped corn kernels, and if they’re exposed to it, they won’t pop as good in the microwave.

  • Another enemy to look out for is any kind of heat source, including the biggest one of all, the sun. You should always store your microwave popcorn in a dark and dry place, away from direct sunlight or any other heat sources. Otherwise, the heat will gradually dry out the moisture in the kernels and make them go stale quicker.

  • By the way, did you know that you can freeze microwave popcorn bags? Yes, we’re serious! Freezing your bag of microwave popcorn will not only make it keep way longer, but also it will stay fresh as a daisy! Only caveat of this method is that you must use a sealed bag.

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