Can You Eat Expired Popcorn?

There are some foods, which are dry and well-packaged, and rarely show signs of aging, and are expected to last quite a while, so it’s easy to believe that they could keep on lasting forever. However, most of them still have an expiration date, and it’s there for a reason.

Popcorn is one of these foods. Most commonly packaged in tightly sealed packaging, inside a box, they have an expiration date, usually of a good few months, but you can’t even imagine them going off and being bad. What would that even look like?

And that leads you to wonder…would it be okay to eat popcorn, even after it has expired? After all, there are many foods in which the expiry date is…more like a suggestion, rather than anything to be followed in a strict way. So what about popcorn? Can you eat it after it has supposedly expired?

Can You Eat Expired Popcorn?

We will cut to the chase and say that yes, as a general rule, it is usually okay to eat expired popcorn. That is, as long as it has only been a few months since that expiry date. You should probably avoid any popcorn that is past the expiry date by a few years, because it definitely will not be good, and is not worth you trying to make it work.

But popcorn expired by a few months? Sure, go ahead and eat it. It might be a little dry, so it might struggle a little more when cooking and might burn easier. But overall, it should be fine!

How Long Does it Take For the Popcorn to Expire?

So you can eat popcorn after it has expired, but the longer you wait to eat it, the worse the popcorn is going to taste, plus it might eventually not be good. But how long does it take, more or less, for the popcorn to actually expire?

As a general rule, popcorn will last around 6 to 12 months, which is why most microwave popcorn, and similar types of popcorn, will have an expiration date of around 8 months or so, from the date in which they are packaged. And as a general rule, it is safe to eat popcorn up to a few months after its expiration date.

But to give you more details: popcorn kernels essentially hold moisture inside of their shell. Over time, they slowly begin to lose this moisture and can become incredibly dry. And the drier they are, the worse they will taste, and the higher the chance of them simply burning when you try to make them.

But also, popcorn isn’t pre-heated or pre-prepared in any way, it is a live food, with moisture inside, and as such, it can also end up developing mold if it isn’t stored correctly. And of course, you would not want to eat moldy popcorn, that’s completely unsafe!

The good news is that mold on popcorn is quite rare, and it would usually have to be over a year and many many months past the expiration date. The biggest sign of popcorn being expired remains it becoming dry, and therefore not nice to consume.

What Happens if You Eat Expired Popcorn?

If the popcorn that you are consuming has only been expired for a month or two, there is very little chance of it causing you any problems, and it will likely be completely fine. If anything, it might be a bit dry, but no consequences to your health of any sort.

However, if you consume popcorn that has been expired for a longer period of time, it might start to become unsafe, and there might be some consequences. If the popcorn has mold, then you will get a stomach disease, with vomiting, diarrhea, and other common symptoms. It will not be fun.

But even if there isn’t mold on the popcorn, there are other things that can cause sickness. For example, microwave popcorn isn’t just the dry corn, but also additional cooking oil and seasoning. These can go rancid and become unsafe for human consumption, and therefore the popcorn would affect you negatively, causing you more vomiting and diarrhea, amongst other things.

How Can You Tell if Popcorn is Expired or Not?

When popcorn expires, the moisture that is usually trapped within the shell essentially disappears, and the corn becomes dry. It can be very hard to tell this, without trying to make the popcorn pop, but here are a few signs that the popcorn is expired, and that you should not eat it:

  • The popcorn might be slightly darker than usual
  • The kernels do not pop
  • The bag smells rancid, a sign of the cooking oil and seasoning having gone bad
  • There are traces of mold within the popcorn bag, or on the popcorn itself

If you’re unsure as to whether a bag of popcorn is safe to eat or not, don’t risk it. Stick to the expiry date, and just get a new bag of popcorn!

How to Correctly Store Popcorn

When foods have an expiry date, the best way to ensure they stay edible until then, or even edible a few months past that date, is to store them correctly, in the most optimal conditions. And the same goes for popcorn!

If you store popcorn correctly, you will be increasing its shelf-life, as you will be stopping it from going bad as quickly as it usually would otherwise.

So…what is the best way to store popcorn?

Well, in order to store popcorn correctly, you should aim to keep it in its original packaging, as this will be air-tight and sealed. You should then store it in a cool and dark place, such as the pantry, or a cupboard. Make sure to keep it away from any sources of heat, or any sources of cold, as well as any sources of moisture.

It might be tempting to stick the popcorn in the refrigerator so that it “lasts longer”, but the only thing that this will do is dry the popcorn dry out, making it last even less.

Final Thoughts

To sum this up, can you eat expired popcorn? The answer depends on the state in which the popcorn is, and how much time has gone past since it expired. Technically, popcorn should be fine to consume, even after it has expired, as long as it is only by a few months, and it has been stored correctly. If anything, the popcorn might be a little dry.

However, you have to be careful with popcorn that has added cooking oil and seasonings, as these will go bad and rancid. If unsure, it is best not to risk consuming expired popcorn.

Andy Waters
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