How Long Does Popped Popcorn Last?

There’s no better movie-watching snack than a tub, bucket, or basin of popcorn. However, there might be times when your popped popcorn remains untouched, especially if you’ve fallen asleep while trying to pick which Netflix show to watch. So, is it safe to eat popped popcorn after you’ve woken up?

Popped popcorn remains edible for up to 4 weeks with the bag still intact. If you’ve already opened the bag, it will stay edible for only about 2 weeks. However, the lifespan of popped popcorn will depend on what other ingredients were used to make the popcorn.

In the following sections, I will go into greater detail about how long popped popcorn can last, as well as discuss how to tell when popcorn has gone south and what you can do to keep popped popcorn fresher for longer.

How Long Does Popped Popcorn Last?

How Long Does Popped Popcorn Last?

It blows my mind how many people manage to forget to eat their bags of freshly popped popcorn from the microwave. However, if you are one such person—perhaps you didn’t hear your microwave’s dinging noise—then I have some good news and better news for you.

The good news is that popped popcorn can remain good for 2 weeks after you’ve ripped open the bag and dumped the popcorn into a serving bowl. If the bag is still intact, your popped popcorn will remain edible for up to 4 weeks. That means you have a 14- to 30-day window to dine on the popular movie snack!

It’s time for the better news. If you purchased your popcorn at the grocery store, then the popcorn kernels were likely coated in popcorn butter, seasoning, and preservatives. As such, the chemical ingredients will not accelerate the popcorn’s expiration date, so you can dine on the movie theater-esque popcorn for up to a month after popping it!

Why Does Popcorn Get Soggy?

Why Does Popcorn Get Soggy?

It’s true that popcorn loses its satisfying crunch after 1 or 2 days or even sooner than that! However, if you aren’t afraid of the slight squeaking noise softened popcorn makes when bitten, then by all means, feel free to eat your day-old pre-popped popcorn!

But why does this happen? Why does popcorn become soggy over time?

The answer to this question is simple: popped popcorn absorbs air.

According to the USDA, as popcorn kernels heat up, the moisture inside the kernel becomes steam, which creates pressure against the hard kernel’s exterior. When too much pressure builds up, the outer layer cracks, revealing the delicious softness and exposing it to the surrounding flavorings. The soft inside of the kernel is naturally porous, so over time, it will absorb air, which leads to an unappetizing squishy texture.

Popcorn Shelf Life by Type

The shelf life of your popcorn will vary depending on what variety it is. For instance, unseasoned popcorn can last much longer than pre-seasoned popcorn without preservatives. And when you introduce caramel or another sweetening agent to the mix, its shelf life decreases at an alarming rate.

Below, I’ll describe the most popular types of store-bought popcorn and how long they can last.

Popped Popcorn—We already went through this in the previous section. To sum up, it has a shelf life of between 2 and 4 weeks, depending on whether or not the bag is unopened.

Unpopped Popcorn—This is technically not popcorn since the corn kernels haven’t gone through the steaming-and-exploding process described earlier. As hard kernels, unpopped popcorn has a maximum shelf life of 12 months after the written expiration date.

However, if the kernels were pre-seasoned, then you should use them before their expiration date since the chemicals may have spoiled. You should also note that the longer you let unpopped popcorn sit, the more cracks will develop in the hardened outer layer. This will lead to minimal popping if any.

Caramel Popcorn—This variety of popcorn is popcorn that has been mixed with liquid caramel. Makers will usually place popcorn in a container before adding caramel and mixing it up to evenly coat every individual popcorn. If stored properly, caramel popcorn can last for 5 days.

Microwave Popcorn—This is the stuff that you can buy at grocery stores. Most of the time, they come pre-seasoned, so you should pay attention to the expiration date before trying to pop them in the microwave. On average, they have a maximum shelf life of 12 months.

How Can I Store Popped Popcorn?

If, for whatever reason, you have leftover popcorn after watching your favorite movie, don’t be tempted to toss it out just yet. If stored properly, the popcorn will retain its irresistible crunch for days or even weeks after it’s been popped.

These steps will teach you how you can reliably store popped popcorn to maximize its shelf life.

Step 1: Allow the popcorn to come down to room temperature. If you popped too much popcorn and want to save some for later, make sure they aren’t piping hot. Leave them at room temperature for an hour or until the popcorn doesn’t feel warm to the touch.

Step 2: Place the popcorn in an airtight container. The less air inside the container, the longer your popcorn will remain edible.

However, you should not use a vacuum-seal bag since the machine will force the air out of the popcorn kernels, which are impossible to reinflate.

Step 3: Cover the container with aluminum foil or saran wrap before closing the lid. That way, you reduce the risk of air seeping into the kernels, which can lead to slightly soggy popcorn kernels in the future.

Step 4: Place the airtight container in the fridge. Alternatively, you can stick the container inside your freezer. Make sure the container is as far away from the door as possible so as to limit its exposure to sunlight.

Whenever you’re ready to snack on the popcorn, take it out of the fridge or freezer, allow it to come up to room temperature, and dig in! You can also stick it in the microwave for 60 seconds or until it’s adequately warm.

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