How Long Does Unpopped Popcorn Last?

The Kernel
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If you’re looking for a tasty snack, popcorn is probably the first thing that comes to mind, right? Absolutely nothing compares to the heavenly taste of freshly popped popcorn, and that means you probably know how to make it at home.

You’re probably accustomed to preparing popcorn in your microwave or on the stove (the air fryer works great, too!), but there are quite a few sources where you might get your kernels. 

Whether they’re packed in a bag, ready to microwave, or golden brown, stored in a jar, fresh from the fields, the question always arises; how long will unpopped popcorn last?

The answer is that it depends on how the popcorn is stored and whether it has been popped previously or not (which reminds me – I need to go pile up my unpopped kernels from my popcorn binge-eating!). 

That’s why, when it comes to storing unpopped popcorn (and knowing how longit lasts), everyone should take a few key considerations into account.

Shelf Life of Regular Popcorn

Regular unpopped popcorn, the kind you pop in a microwave, is a tough grain that doesn’t need much attention. There’s not much possibility of spoiling unless you buy it in large amounts. 

If a factory-sealed bag or jar of kernels isn’t opened or punctured, it can keep in a kitchen cabinet for quite a few years. You might notice a few extra unpopped kernels in the bottom of your pot as it becomes older, but the remainder will be fine to eat, and probably just as delicious.

In most temperatures, you’ll have several years to use the popcorn after it’s been opened. On the other hand, if you reside in a place that has a particularly hot and humid climate, the kernels need to be stored in a container or jar that is airtight It’s also possible to vacuum seal the kernels in a bag or sealed jar.

If you live in a harsh climate, freezing popcorn kernels is also an option, but you’ll need to seal them extremely well. Otherwise, the kernels will dry in the freezer and will not pop.

Shelf Life of Microwaveable Packets

The microwaveable packages won’t last as long as fresh, dry kernels because they already contain everything needed to pop the popcorn. The quality of the oil, butter, or any other fat added will not last indefinitely. Even if most kernels from an old packet pop, the flavor is unlikely to satisfy.

When it comes to expiration, microwaveable popcorn should be used within three months of the date on the label. (Though it’s doubtful a packet of popcorn will stick around that long!)

Does Unpopped Popcorn Go Bad?

Unpopped kernels will expire faster if they are exposed to moisture. If the kernels become damp, they will lose their capacity to expand entirely. Consequently, these kernels will not pop when heated, regardless of the method. 

If you have unpopped kernels that you want to preserve fresh, store them in a dry spot where they won’t be exposed to moisture.Storing kernels in an airtight container also helps keep them from becoming stale.

If you’re storing unpopped kernels in a bag, make sure to squeeze the bag as tightly as possible to remove all of the air from the package. This will keep the kernels from going bad.

How To Tell If Popcorn Is Bad

It should be pretty easy to tell if popcorn kernels have gone bad… Do they look gross?  Are they moldy? If so, probably best to pitch them in the trash and hustle to the store for some new kernels. Microwave popcorn on the other hand, is a bit trickier, and it is best to go by the expiration date on the package. 

Eating Expired Popcorn

It’s crucial to note that the date on unpopped popcorn  (not microwave popcorn!)refers to the quality of the product rather than the safety of the food. It doesn’t go bad; it just doesn’t taste as great as it used to, but that’s kind of the whole point. Who really wants to eat bad-tasting popcorn?

In any case, when it comes to regular popcorn, using it after the “best before” date usually means you’ll end up with more unpopped kernels than usual. So if you notice mold or other indicators of contamination, you should just toss it out.

Microwave popcorn that has passed its ‘best before’ date may develop “off” flavors, especially if the package’s oils and flavorings have gone bad If you start popping it and it smells bad, throw it away along with any other packages from that batch. 

How to Store Unpopped Popcorn Properly 

The most critical aspect of popcorn storage is to keep it dry and free of moisture. Keep the package securely in a cool, dry location away from heat and sunshine as long as it remains unopened. It’s best to have a pantry, but a kitchen cabinet or cupboard can suffice.

If the leftovers are resealable, you can store them in their original package after being opened. If the packing on dry popcorn kernels isn’t resealable, transfer the grains to a jar or a sealed container. Make sure it’s labeled and airtight, because you’ll want to keep the kernels fresh for as long as possible.

Alternatively, you can secure it with a rubber band or a clip and put it in a large container with other dried foods. Just bear in mind that you should finish the previous pack before opening the new one. We know you’re probably already aware of this rotating system, but a little reminder never hurts!

Really Long-Term Storage

Popcorn is the snack food for you if you have the option to buy a large quantity of popcorn for a low price or if you want to keep a few years’ worth of food stowed away in your basement for special situations. Mylar bags, which are harder than conventional vacuum bags and protect against light, are the best way to store unpopped popcorn for a long time.

Fill individual Mylar bags with your kernels, then add an oxygen-absorption pack to each one. Squeeze, so the air gets out of the bag, seal it, and put the bags into food-grade plastic buckets with tight-fitting lids for further protection from rodents and other risks. 

Your unpopped popcorn will stay fresh and usable for years if you store it this way. Popcorn forever!


When it comes to preserving popcorn, the most important thing to remember is to keep it dry and away from moisture. 

Dry kernels stay the longest, although they lose their capacity to pop with time. The typical shelf life is between 1 to 2 years, or a few months after the best before date has passed.

Microwave popcorn and ready-to-eat popcorn have a shorter shelf life. Follow the best-by date and consume them while they’re still fresh before they go sour or stale. Nothing beats fresh, warm popcorn straight from the pot, after all – Yum!

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