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Does Cornmeal Go Bad?

Cornmeal is one of those pantry staples that many of us will use for all sorts of foods that we like to create. It is used as the main ingredient for things such as bread, pizzas, bagels, and all sorts of other delicious foods we love to make as a family. Despite cornmeal having many different uses, it is often the case that we are left with a single packet of cornmeal that we store for weeks or even months until we need it again. So when it comes to using it, you may find that the cornmeal has passed its expiration date, which leads to the question, does cornmeal go bad

This is a very valid question that many of you will have had over the years, so we wanted to address this in this article and look at whether cornmeal goes bad, and how you can store it correctly to ensure that when you need it, you will have cornmeal ready to use.

Also, we look at exploring cornmeal in more detail, whether there are cornmeal bugs, and what to expect if the cornmeal has gone past its expiration date. So if you want to find out if cornmeal goes bad and how to store cornmeal long term then read on to find out the answers. 

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Jars of cornmeal on wood planks.

What is cornmeal?

Cornmeal is corn or maize that has been ground to a fine texture and is used for a variety of recipes. It is very popular in Latin American cooking.

It is quite a versatile ingredient and is a gluten-free option when baking. Many people use cornmeal when cooking and baking and it has become a staple in a pantry or cupboard. 

How should I store cornmeal so it doesn’t go bad?

Storing cornmeal is very similar to how you would store other ground ingredients like coconut flour or dry ingredients.

Similar conditions will help to keep the cornmeal ready to use. If you have an unopened package of cornmeal, and unused then you should store it in a cool dry place and keep it at room temperature. It also needs to be away from any source of heat.

This is why a kitchen cabinet, cupboard, or pantry is usually the best option to consider when it comes to storing cornmeal. 

If you open the packet and use some cornmeal then you will need to ensure that the packet is sealed properly to ensure that it doesn’t spoil with bugs or water accessing it. It is often the best-case scenario to transfer any unused cornmeal from its original packaging into an airtight container, or a sealable glass jar like a mason jar.

This way it will be safe from contamination from insects or moisture. Another suggestion is to place the container or storage option out of direct sunlight.

How can you tell if cornmeal is bad?

You will find that Cornmeal is very similar to other ground ingredients that you may have in your pantry and while they don’t go rancid you should expect that the flavor and quality disintegrate as time goes on.

As long as no bugs or water has managed to get into your packet of cornmeal then it is just a case of loss of quality and checking if it is still in good condition. If water or bugs have accessed your packet of cornmeal then you must discard it straight away as it will have been contaminated. 

This is why you need proper storage and to avoid damp conditions where you store your fresh cornmeal or cornmeal products.

Many people use the sniff test as a way to decide whether something has gone bad or not. This is usually a good indication as to whether something has gone bad. If you notice mold or a foul smell then you need to make the decision that cornmeal is bad and to throw it out and not use it. Ultimately you will notice bad flavor and a change in appearance.

Wooden bowl of cornmeal sitting in front of corn on the cob.

Is it okay to eat expired cornmeal?

Yes, you can eat expired cornmeal. There are a couple of things to consider though before you do. 

  • How long past its expiration date has it been? 

You need to look at the date of expiration and the date on which you intend to use it and decide whether that is okay. Cornmeal will last around a year after the expiration date. 

  • Does it look okay? 

When looking at the cornmeal you will need to decide whether it looks okay to use. It needs to be free from mold and not have any dead or alive bugs within it. If you notice these things you should discard the cornmeal and not use it. 

  • Does it smell?

It is also important to check the smell of the cornmeal. It shouldn’t have any specific odor, so if you notice a funny smell or something smells rancid then it is a sign that the cornmeal has gone bad and you shouldn’t use it. 

How long can you use cornmeal after the expiration date?

You can use cornmeal beyond its expiration date. It is important that you check the cornmeal before using it. Cornmeal can be used up to a year past its best as long as it has been stored correctly. You will want to look out for some of the signs raised earlier which will indicate whether the cornmeal has gone bad.

You can also freeze cornmeal which prolongs its life even further. The rule to live by is that as long as it looks and appears good, and you have stored it correctly, then there shouldn’t be a problem to use corn meal after its expiration date. 

Does cornmeal have little black specks in it?

Sometimes you might notice things in your cornmeal and be unsure as to what they are. Some batches of cornmeal might have little black dark specks in them. If you notice these then don’t be alarmed, it isn’t always the case that it is a sign that the cornmeal is bad.

The black specks are simply naturally dark pieces of the skin that you will find on the corn. This is usually the part when the kernel attaches to the cob.

The color of the specks will vary in darkness and this is all down to the time of year and crop that was used. It is also worth mentioning that you see those black pecks in other foods you might eat more of like hard taco shells, or tortilla chips. Usually, you will find them in natural whole corn products. 

What can you do with old cornmeal?

One of the best ways to use old cornmeal or corn flour, aside from deciding whether you can use it in baking or cooking, is to use it in the garden. Surprisingly, cornmeal makes a great fertilizer and will help your garden to thrive. Here are some of the ways you can use old cornmeal in the garden:

  • Stimulate composting - If you have a compost patch in the garden you can use old cornmeal to help accelerate the decomposition ready for the compost to be used in the garden. 
  • Bed preparation - It is great to mix with soil before you plant flowers or other plants. 
  • Weed preventer - it works as a great deterrent for weeds in your flower beds and vegetable patches. 
  • Gets rid of pests - It is a great preventative aid for things like ants. 
Cob of corn and wooden spoon with cornmeal.

What do cornmeal bugs look like?

You may be surprised to find out that cornmeal, like other ground ingredients, attracts bugs and insects and even if the cornmeal has been stored in an airtight container, you may open it up one day and notice things moving amongst it. They are harmless.

They have a clear body and they are extremely small, they are similar to the size of the grain within the cornmeal. You will like to notice them more because of the movement. You might also find dead insects in your bag of cornmeal.

How do you store cornmeal long term? 

If you want to ensure that you can store cornmeal correctly then you need to think about firstly where you will store it. Storing the cornmeal in a dry and cool place away from heat sources is essential. You need to also ensure that if the packet is opened, you transfer it to an air-tight container, plastic bag that is sealed, or mason jar to ensure that it stays fresh.

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You can use cornmeal beyond its expiration date, you can do so up to a year beyond the date as long as it looks and smells ok. Another great option is to freeze cornmeal. This will extensively increase the shelf life of cornmeal for up to three years beyond the expiration date and store it for a long time. 

How to freeze cornmeal?

You need to transfer the cornmeal to a moisture-free container and store it in the freezer. Doing this will help to prolong the life of your cornmeal. Just defrost it for a few hours before using it. Making sure you store it in the right covered airtight container like mylar bags or heavy-duty freezer bags will avoid freezer burn.

So to conclude, cornmeal does go bad eventually. You can use the cornmeal beyond its expiration date as long as it has been stored correctly. Keeping cornmeal in an airtight container and in a pantry or cupboard which will be a dark place is the best course of action. You should also look out for signs that the cornmeal has gone bad. If there is any doubt in terms of how it looks or smells it is best to discard it. I hope this has answered the does cornmeal go bad question.

Need more kitchen hacks? Learn everything you need to know about properly storing salt here.

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