Skip to Content

Does Cornmeal Go Bad? BEST FAQ + Surprising Storage Tips!

It’s always baking season around here, and we found a container of cornmeal sitting in the back of the pantry. You too? So let’s talk about if cornmeal goes bad.

You know, the stuff you get when making polenta or grits?

The one that looks like yellowish-white powder?

Yes, that one!

Cornmeal is coarse flour made from dried corn.

And it is a staple in most kitchens because it has a lot of uses. 

You can cook and serve it as a hot cereal, use it to coat fried foods, make meat last longer, or use it as the main ingredient in cornbread and spoonbread.

Plus, you can use it to make pancakes, muffins, cookies, and desserts, too!

You might even have some in your pantry right now.

But does cornmeal go bad?

Table Of Contents

Does cornmeal expire?

And if it does, how would you know?

Should you toss it out? 

Or can you still use it? 

I have the answers to all of your questions and more right here in this comprehensive FAQ guide; plus, I compiled a few recipes you can make out of cornmeal.

Does cornmeal go bad?

You’ve been there before: You tried a recipe that called for cornmeal, and it turned out alright.

Maybe that was cornbread, corn pudding, corn muffins, or even corn porridge.

It turned out great, and you enjoyed it.

But it’s not something you would eat daily.

A few months later, you find that bag of cornmeal deep in storage.

And now, you’re unsure if it’s still good. 

Then you say to yourself, “does cornmeal go bad?”

Since most use cornmeal in place of flour, you might also think it stores like flour, but that’s not entirely true.

To be exact, it depends on what kind of cornmeal we’re talking about.

That’s because there are two kinds of cornmeal: whole-grain cornmeal and degerminated cornmeal.

Again, cornmeal is made by grinding up dried kernels of corn.

And in the type with the whole grain, everything is ground, even the germ. 

On the other hand, the germ is taken out of degerminated cornmeal before it is ground.

The difference is important because most of the fat in the kernel is in the germ. 

You probably already know that fat can go bad if stored incorrectly or for too long. 

So, to answer your question, yes, cornmeal can spoil, just like almost every other food.

Even so, if you store cornmeal correctly, it can stay good for a few years

But it can lose its quality and rot over time.

Now that you know this, let’s talk about how long cornmeal lasts, when it goes bad, how to store it, and so on.

How to tell if cornmeal has gone bad

Here are some signs to tell if your cornmeal has gone bad:

Insects

Cornmeal can draw attention from hungry mealworms, moths, weevils, sugar ants, and even mice.

It’ll also be hard for you to detect these insects since they’re tiny and move pretty fast.

So, if you open the bag of cornmeal and see anything moving, you should throw it away.

Yet, cleaning your shelves often with white vinegar and essential oils is an excellent idea to keep such pests from getting into your cornmeal and other foods.

You can also sprinkle food grade diatomaceous earth (safe to be around gardens and foodstuffs) around your cabinet.

Odor

If you want to smell your cornmeal, you must put your nose close to the box or bag.

It should have a scent similar to fresh corn, lightly nutty and lightly sugary. but not too strongly.

Cornmeal and cornbread mixes that have been in the pantry a long time and seem to look okay but aren’t very fresh or good to eat anymore may smell a bit like old paint, smell sour or smell strong without smelling “good.”  The oil or fats in these mixes has gone or is going rancid.

So, if it smells a little musty, like turpentine, or nothing like food, it’s best to throw it away rather than risk ruining your recipes or making people feel ill.

If you keep your cornmeal in the refrigerator, if not kept tightly sealed, it will eventually absorb the smells from your fridge much like baking soda would do.

This may affect the flavor of your recipe and I recommend that you start with fresh cornmeal.

Color

Cornmeal is normally yellow, blue, or white in color.

If it becomes green, brown, or gray, then it’s probably moldy or has freezer burn.

Taste

Another great way to check if your cornmeal hasn’t gone off the rails is to taste just a tiny bit of it dry.

If the flavor is overpowering and unappetizing, it is quite likely that has lost its flavor, has gone rancid, or is generally just unpleasant to use.

Texture

Cornmeal that’s in good condition is usually dry and does not stick together.

And if you pick it up with your hands, it will easily run through your fingers.

If it shows something different, you should toss it away.

Knowing how to tell if cornmeal has gone bad can be difficult, especially when it comes to the packaging.

And if you think your cornmeal may have expired or spoiled, we hope those signs help you keep a look out.

Is it ok to eat expired cornmeal?

Cornbread, just like most dry mixes, has a “best-before-date” label rather than an expiration date.

But the question is: Is it okay to eat expired cornmeal?

The answer is maybe. Use our checklist above to look for visual changes, odor, and texture before you use your cornmeal. 

Understand too that even unspoiled cornmeal has probably lost a bit of its flavor and freshness after many months in your cupboard.

It’s always a good idea to check to make sure your cornmeal is still good even if it hasn’t expired yet.

Even before the best-by date, check to make sure it hasn’t spoiled by using the steps above under “How to tell if cornmeal has gone bad.”

Even though cornmeal might start to lose its freshness or flavor after its “best before” date, it may be fine to eat and cook with.

How to store cornmeal

Like other flours, you can store cornmeal for a long time.

And as long as the package has not been opened, the best place to keep it is somewhere like your pantry or kitchen cabinet.

But you also need to know how to store cornmeal so that it stays at its best over time.

Here’s how to correctly store your cornmeal: 

Tools needed:

  • Fresh cornmeal
  • Air-tight container, such as a mason jar or any plasticware with a tight-fitting lid
  • Desiccant packet and oxygen absorber packet

Instructions for storing cornmeal:

  1. Put the cornmeal in a high-quality zipper baggie. 
  2. Preferably, add the whole sealed baggie of cornmeal to an airtight container.
  3. Add the oxygen absorber and desiccant packet into the outer container or directly into the cornmeal before sealing the outer container.
  4. If you don’t have the oxygen absorber or desiccant packets, skip step #3.
  5. Store in a place where it’s cool, dry, and dark.
  6. Don’t eat the packets and make sure they don’t go into your recipes.

Most oxygen absorbers and desiccants are helpful for keeping out a percentage of oxygen and moisture from pantry and other household goods.

Without oxygen, things like microbial contamination, bacteria, and pests are less likely to be problematic for your cornmeal. 

So, by putting an oxygen absorber in an airtight container, you can keep cornmeal fresh for years.

Should I keep cornmeal in the fridge?

Yes and no. 

If your pantry or where you keep your foodstuffs is humid or above 80F year round, or if you’ve found there’s an issue with bugs (like meal moths, grain beetles, weevils, or sugar ants) it’s best to transfer cornmeal from the bag to an airtight container and kept in the refrigerator. 

Remove only what you plan to use and put the rest back in the fridge immediately.

However, there are certain parameters you should meet.

You can store cornmeal in the refrigerator if you keep the temperature at 32 to 43°F. 

You will also need to store it in an air-sealed and moisture-free container.

Although, you must refrain from using a see-through container.

That’s because you’ll expose your cornmeal to light when you open the fridge.

And doing so will shorten its shelf life.

Can you freeze cornmeal?

Should you store cornmeal in the freezer? 

Yes, you should. Bob’s Red Mill recommends it, in fact, for their meals and flours. 

But CAN you freeze cornmeal? Again, yes, you totally can!

Freezing cornmeal is a great way to help the oils in the cornmeal from going rancid.

It also means that when you want to make something like cornbread or polenta, it will be ready for you when you need it.

We have some tips on the best way to freeze cornmeal. 

How to freeze cornmeal

Step 1: Transfer your fresh cornmeal out of the paper bag or cardboard container it came in to a freezer bag. Squeeze as much air out as you can. (An unopened, fully sealed store-bought zipper bag of cornmeal can go straight to the freezer as is.)

Step 2: Label the baggie (or the new store-bought package) with the date it’s going into the freezer.

Step 3: After labeling and removing as much air out of the freezer bag as possible, transfer the bag to a lidded airtight container. Cover and seal tightly.

Step 3: Move to the freezer immediately, where it will stay fresh indefinitely. 

Step 4: When removing to use, measure out just the cornmeal you will need. Set aside so it comes to room temperature.

Step 5: Replace the original frozen packaging immediately to the freezer; don’t leave out the bulk of the cornmeal on the counter.

Step 6: Remember the clock starts on waning food freshness as soon as it thaws from a frozen state.

How long does cornmeal last?

According to the brand Martha White, famous maker of several cornmeal products, cornmeal is best used within 8 months, but “there are no safety concerns regarding using products beyond the recommended shelf life.” 

A best-before date is printed on the label of most grocery stores and packaged cornmeal.

This date is not, however, the cornmeal’s expiry but rather an estimate of how long it will stay good.

And while cornmeal can be kept well past its expiration date, the longer it sits around on the shelf, opened or not, the less fresh-tasting it will be in your recipes.

The enemy of freshness is air, moisture, heat, and bugs, so keep these away, and your pantry items will stay fresher longer.

So, you might also ask, “how long does degerminated cornmeal last?”

It’s hard to say, but here is some information that I hope will help:

Degerminated cornmeal should be kept just fine for several months, up to a year, or even longer at room temperature.

But if you want to keep it for longer use, you can put it in the fridge for 3 years or in the freezer for 5 years.

On the other hand, whole-grain cornmeal doesn’t keep its freshness as long as its degermed counterpart.

Once opened, they should remain good for a month at room temperature, 3 to 6 months in the fridge, and a year in the freezer.

But if it hasn’t been opened, it should be good for up to 3 months in the pantry, up to one year in the fridge, and a maximum of three years in the freezer.

From the Congaree Milling Company: The second enemy of freshness is time. Who knows how long your average bag of cornmeal has been sitting on the grocery store shelf, regardless of how it was milled?

What should cornmeal look like?

Fresh cornmeal might be very yellow, but if it’s ground white corn, it will be close to pure white, very light yellow or off-white in color. 

It could be coarse in texture like salt or fine in texture like powder. 

If you see bugs or bug parts in the cornmeal, discard all of it. 

If you see white, red, green, or blue around or on the corn meal, it has mold and you should discard all of it without using it.

Here are more thoughts on what “good” cornmeal should look like.

Texture:

As a starter, cornmeal is ground into different textures, so they all appear slightly different.

You can buy whole-grain cornmeal, which has just the kernels of the corn; coarse-ground cornmeal, which is made from coarsely ground kernels; or fine-ground cornmeal, which is made from finely ground kernels.

Color:

You might also find that there are different colors of cornmeal available: yellow and white, and sometimes blue cornmeal, made from blue corn.

For those who don’t know what it is, blue cornmeal is made by grinding kernels of whole blue corn, which is commonly grown in the southwestern part of the United States and is gray when it is raw.

Also, blue cornmeal tastes sweet and nutty and has a fine, sturdy texture.

And it can be used to make tortillas, chips, and mush, just like yellow and white cornmeal.

How to use cornmeal in cooking

Cornmeal is a great flavor enhancer, helps keep dough from sticking to baking pans (like homemade English Muffins), makes a great johnnycake, transforms pan-fried catfish, and can be added to morning hot cereals, among other dishes.

From polenta to Jiffy Corn Casserole, you can use it in a variety of dishes to add some depth of nutty taste and crunchy texture.

And it’s very easy to work with!

You can use it in place of flour or breadcrumbs in baking recipes or as a coating for fried foods.

You can even add it to your meatballs or meatloaf when you’re making them!

Plus, there are so many ways to use cornmeal! Here are just a few:

Jalapeño Cheddar Cornbread is a great way to get your family and friends in the mood for a cozy night in.

Besides, it’s a fantastic side dish that pairs well with chili, soup, or stew.

So, if you’re looking for something savory and sweet to balance out your meal, this jalapeño cheddar cornbread is sure to do the trick!

Jalapeño Cheddar Cornbread is a great way to get your family and friends in the mood for a cozy night in.

Besides, it’s a fantastic side dish that pairs well with chili, soup, or stew.

So, if you’re looking for something savory and sweet to balance out your meal, this jalapeño cheddar cornbread is sure to do the trick!

The name says it all, right?

It’s a hot dog (which is already delicious) dipped in corn meal and deep-fried.

What could be better than that?

Cornmeal Popovers are like a cross between a pancake and a corn muffin.

They’re light and airy and delicious, and they’re super easy to make!

You can enjoy them with herb honey butter, but you can also top them with fruit. Feel free to get creative!

Salmon Croquettes are like a party for your taste buds.

They’re crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside, and they come in a variety of flavors.

Plus, they’re simple to make, so you’ll never have an excuse not to make them again.

This dish is delicious, crispy, and comes with a side of nostalgia. 

On top of that, you can get all the great flavors of fried chicken without any messiness or fuss.

You know what the secret is, don’t you? 

Yes! 

It’s the cornmeal!

Keep the corn goodness coming and check out our list of Corn Flour Recipes too!

The bottom line

It turns out that cornmeal takes rather a long time to go bad as long as it’s stored away from heat, light, and moisture.

But if you can store this tasty, filling ingredient anywhere in a dark area at room temperature, then it will be perfectly fine for several months.

Even if you use a lot of this in a short amount of time, you can always freeze or chill any extra, just as long as you know how to keep cornmeal from going bad in the freezer or fridge. 

Running out of cornmeal? Replace the ingredient with these reliable substitutes!

How To Store Cornmeal

How To Store Cornmeal

Here are the best steps for storing cornmeal to keep its freshness long lasting!

Ingredients

  • Fresh cornmeal
  • Air-tight container, such as a mason jar or any plasticware with a tight-fitting lid
  • Desiccant packet and oxygen absorber packet

Instructions

  1. Put the cornmeal in a high-quality zipper baggie. 
  2. Preferably, add the whole sealed baggie of cornmeal to an airtight container.
  3. Add the oxygen absorber and desiccant packet into the outer container or directly into the cornmeal before sealing the outer container.
  4. If you don’t have the oxygen absorber or desiccant packets, skip step #3.
  5. Store in a place where it's cool, dry, and dark.
  6. Don’t eat the packets and make sure they don’t go into your recipes.

Notes

Non-edible oxygen absorber and desiccant packets help keep oxygen out and humidity away from your cornmeal and lots of other pantry goods. You may have seen these in dog treats, medicines, beef jerky, and other kinds of pantry staples.

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

Skip to Recipe