Cornmeal’s Shelf Life: Can It Go Bad or Expire? How To Tell

Time to get that bread – Rather, BAKE that bread! If you’re craving some cornbread in your next barbecue, did you know you can bake it yourself and wow visitors? One of the major ingredients to prepare is cornmeal, which you can also use for pizza crusts, tortillas, grits, and more good food!

If you’ve already got cornmeal at home, you’re probably wondering, ‘does cornmeal go bad, and can I still use the one I already have?’

We’ve got the answers you need. Read on!

Does Cornmeal Go Bad?

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Cornmeal is a common kitchen item produced by grinding and milling dried corn kernels. You can find many different types of cornmeal, such as yellow, white, and blue varieties, along with coarse and finely ground cornmeal. Here are the common types to choose from:

  • Regular cornmeal, known as degerminated cornmeal, removes bran and germ, making cornmeal more shelf-stable. It will have less nutritional value, so it’s enhanced with vitamin Bs and iron. (*).
  • Whole-grain cornmeal is produced without removing the bran, endosperm, and germ. It’s more nutritious compared to regular cornmeal. (*).
  • Blue cornmeal is a special kind of cornmeal made of native blue corn. It has a bit of a grayish appearance compared to the white or yellow cornmeal.

We can make cornmeal into polenta, tortillas, corn muffins, and let’s not forget the cornbread! There are a lot of foods to make with cornmeal, usually through baking.

While you can do many things with cornmeal, you most likely don’t use it every day. In fact, your box of cornmeal can end up in the pantry for a few months or years until it’s time to use it again.

Cornmeal does go bad, but not as fast as we’d expect.

Like other food products, cornmeal goes bad, and its quality lowers over time, especially if you don’t store it properly.

How Long Does Cornmeal Last? Cornmeal Shelf Life

Cornmeal does go bad, but how long can it last?

The shelf life of cornmeal all depends on its type, quality, and storage conditions.

To be more exact:

  • Unopened degerminated cornmeal can last for about a year or so when stored in the pantry. If frozen, it can last for up to 5 years after its best by date.
  • Unopened whole-grain cornmeal lasts for over 3 months past its best by date in the pantry.
  • Opened whole-grain cornmeal lasts for 3-6 months past its best by date when stored in the fridge. Those stored in the freezer can last for 6-12 months past their best by date.

As you can see, whole-grain cornmeal doesn’t last as long as the degerminated variety, as there is no bran and germ in the latter. But don’t worry, there are ways to keep your cornmeal in good quality for use even past its best by date.

How to Tell if Cornmeal is Bad

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Cornmeal does go bad. It’s inevitable. That’s why if your cornmeal has gone past its best by date, it’s best to conduct a quality check before using it.

Here are the signs to watch out for to tell if cornmeal is bad:

1. Smell

This is an obvious sign. When you open your cornmeal container, take a whiff. If it has a rancid smell or bad odor, throw it away immediately. Cornmeal has little to no odor, smelling slightly nutty and sweet but not overly strong.

2. Insects

Obviously, signs of insects in any food will mean it needs to be thrown away. May it be dead or alive, big or small, this means that your cornmeal is contaminated.

That said, if you find black or gray specks in whole-grain cornmeal, that is totally normal and may come from the germ content.

3. Mold or Clumping

When you see signs of mold or wet, heavy clumps, it’s a sign that water has gotten into your cornmeal. The cornmeal is not useable and should be disposed of.

4. The Color

Cornmeal is either white, yellow, or bluish-gray. If you see green or brown parts, it means it’s contaminated with mold, moisture, or suffered from freezer burn. Also, feel the cornmeal with your fingertips. It shouldn’t be sticky but a dry, powdery texture.

5. Off Taste

If it passed the tests above, don’t dump cornmeal in your recipe just yet. It should also pass the taste test, so have a small amount.

Cornmeal should taste clean and slightly sweet. If it tastes suspicious or sour, then your cornmeal has spoiled and must be thrown away.

How to Store Cornmeal

Keeping cornmeal properly stored will ensure that it can stay fresh and last a bit longer than its expiration date. Here are helpful storage tips to follow:

1. In the Pantry

It would be best if you stored cornmeal in a cool, dark, and dry area. It would be best if you prioritized keeping it in a dry place to avoid cornmeal picking up on moisture, which spoils it quickly. Never keep it near any source of heat.

If you are dealing with an unopened cornmeal package, you can leave it in the pantry or kitchen cabinet at room temperature.

2. In the Fridge

After opening your bag of cornmeal, degerminated cornmeal can stay outside in the kitchen, though whole-grain cornmeal will need refrigeration or freezing to stay fresh.

When storing cornmeal in your fridge, you should keep it sealed properly. It would help if you considered transferring your cornmeal in an airtight bag or container, keeping it tightly sealed after every use. That way, no moisture won’t enter the cornmeal.

3. Freezing Degerminated and Whole-Grain Cornmeal

If you plan on keeping cornmeal fresh for at least 2-5 years, then freezing it is the best way to go. Just like placing it in the refrigerator, keep your cornmeal in an airtight container and avoid frequently taking it in and out of the fridge. This invites moisture, and the cornmeal won’t like the abrupt temperature changes.

Frequently Asked Questions

We share even more things to learn about cornmeal, based on frequently asked questions from people all over the internet!

1. Does cornmeal go rancid in the freezer?

Yes, cornmeal can go bad from the freezer after leaving it for at least 5 years! Its quality will degrade over time, and it’s best to chuck it out if it’s been in the freezer over the recommended period of time. Furthermore, cornmeal may be susceptible to freezer burns, so check it now and then to keep it from spoiling.

2. Does unopened cornmeal go bad?

No, Unopened cornmeal won’t go bad, but it will lose its taste and quality over time, negatively affecting your dishes. That’s why you need to store it properly in your kitchen cabinet or pantry at room temperature and to use it within a year past its best by date.

3. What can I use instead of cornmeal?

Some of the best cornmeal alternatives include corn grits, ground oats, breadcrumbs, or semolina. If you don’t have these, you can also use rice flour, tapioca starch, or wheat flour of equal amounts. However, expect a slight change in texture and flavor in your final product.

Wrapping It Up

We hope you found great insight over this article and that we answered your question, ‘how long does cornmeal last?’ Whether you have whole-grain or degerminated cornmeal around, check if it has gone bad before baking any foods now.

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