How Long Does Popcorn Last? (Can It Go Bad?)

By Autumn Ellenson

Popcorn is one of America’s favorite treats! It sure is ours here at Not only is it a popular snack to eat regularly, but it is also most people’s favorite snack for movie night.

How long popcorn lasts depends on the type of popcorn you have and whether it’s popped or unpopped.

The following outlines how long your popped and unpopped popcorn will last, how to tell if it has gone bad, and the best way to store it to ensure its freshness.

Does Popcorn to Go Bad?

popcorn going into trash can

Yes, it is possible for popcorn to go bad. However, if stored properly, popcorn can last for a year or even indefinitely. Popcorn’s shelf life depends on if it’s popped or unpopped and how it’s stored, which I break down for you below.

When looking at a jar of popcorn kernels or microwavable popcorn bags, the best way to know if they are still good is to look at the package’s expiration date.

Unpopped loose kernels have a shelf life of more than a year. But if they have not been stored correctly, they can expire much more quickly than that.

In addition to expiring, popcorn kernels have the potential to go stale. When food items go stale, it is usually because they are exposed to air. That is another reason you want your popcorn store it correctly…

Where Is the Best Place to Store Popcorn?

airtight containers and ziploc bag in pantry

If you want to maintain freshness in your unpopped kernels, place them in an airtight container and a dry place. Popcorn kernels tend to go bad faster when exposed to moisture. When kernels get moist, they are unable to expand. That means when they get heated up, they won’t pop, no matter what heating method.

You also want to ensure that you keep your popcorn in a kitchen cabinet, pantry, or another cool place that does not receive direct sunlight. That way, moisture cannot build up in the container, rendering your popcorn unpoppable.

If you keep your kernels in a zip lock bag, squeeze out as much air as possible before sealing the bag.

How to Know if Popcorn is Bad

popcorn next to thumbs up and thumbs down

Are you asking yourself, “Did my popcorn go bad?” There are two different ways to check for signs of spoilage: taste and texture. You can also use the visual and smell test when looking at questionable popcorn.

If popcorn is not stored correctly in an airtight container, it will go stale. The texture will wilt and no longer be fluffy. When you bite it, your teeth will sink into a soft chew instead of a crunch.

While you can usually eat stale popcorn safely, you probably don’t want to. It won’t have a pleasant texture for you to enjoy.

Another way to know if your popcorn is no longer fresh is to assess its taste. If your popcorn does not taste fresh or has lost a lot of flavors and does not taste like anything, it is probably past its prime. Again, eating at this point is still likely safe, but why would you want to?

Sometimes, you can tell immediately that your popcorn has gone bad. That is because you will see signs of mold, or it simply does not look right. If moisture somehow creeps into the popcorn container, mold can grow.

Another thing you might do is give the popcorn a sniff when you open the package. If it does not smell “off” and looks okay, you are probably safe eating it. Trust your nose in this case.

Lastly, if your popcorn does not pop correctly, it may indicate that it is old. While it will be safe for consumption, it will likely taste stale.

(By the way, you might wish to read How to Get Burnt Popcorn Smell Out of House.)

How Long Does Popcorn Last Unpopped?

kernels and microwavable popcorn

Unpopped popcorn kernels last for a long time. Most fresh kernels will last for more than 1 year if they are stored in the proper conditions. It’s best to keep them dry at room temperature and free from too much air exposure.

Your popcorn’s shelf life will depend on the type of popcorn you have. Unpopped kernels will have a longer shelf life than gourmet popcorn tins.

The good news is that I have adequately broken down the shelf life of different types of popcorn and ways to store your kernels in the following sections.

Unpopped Popcorn Kernels

Dried kernels have an indefinite shelf life if stored properly. However, they’re best within the first 6 months to 1 year of purchase. They will have the best texture, taste, and quality during that time.

Be sure to keep unpopped kernels in airtight plastic or glass containers in a cool, dry place.

Microwaveable Popcorn

Microwaveable packets of popcorn generally have an expiration date of about 8 months. They last longer than popped or gourmet types but not as long as regular fresh kernels. Even though the kernels are unpopped in the bag, they are packaged with other ingredients, such as oil. That’s why microwavable popcorn doesn’t last as long as unpopped kernels.

How Long Will Popped Popcorn Last?

store-bought and popped at home popcorn

If you do not open the bag or container of popped popcorn, it will last approximately 2 to 4 weeks after purchase. The shelf life drops to 1 to 2 weeks once opened, depending on how well it is stored in your cabinet. Of course, you can also check the expiration date on the popcorn bag to be sure.

The shelf life of popped popcorn depends heavily on the popcorn flavors or spices used in the recipe.

When purchasing already popped popcorn from a store, it’s best to refer to the expiration or “best by” date stamped on the packages. Most popcorn will still be safe to eat even after that date. However, the popcorn quality declines rapidly after the expiration date and may not be that tasty.

Gourmet Popcorn

Gourmet popcorn often comes in popcorn tins with yummy toppings or added flavor, like cheddar popcorn or white chocolate raspberry popcorn. The shelf life of gourmet popcorn depends significantly on the toppings included in the package. So, you must refer to the packaging’s recommended “best by” date.

You will extend its shelf life more by storing it the same way you do other popcorn. That is to say in an airtight container kept in a cool, dry place.

A tin of popcorn makes a great container at first. However, once you eat it down a ways, you might want to move it to another airtight container with less air space.

Popcorn That You Popped

When popping the kernels yourself, the expiration date will be slightly different. Cooked popcorn usually lasts about a week or two after it is popped. Storing it in a sealed, airtight container in a cool, dry place will help extend the life of popcorn.

Keep in mind that if you add melted butter, oil, or other toppings, its shelf life depends on those toppings.

Another factor that affects the shelf-life of popcorn is the quality of popcorn you have. High-quality popcorn will last longer than a lower-quality brand.

How Do You Keep Popped Popcorn Fresh?

To keep popped popcorn fresh, you need to store it much like you do unpopped popcorn. That means keeping it in an airtight container or ziplock bag in a cool, dry place. Try to squeeze out as much air as possible or use a tightly fitting container.

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