Cornmeal Shelf Life: Can It Go Bad?

Cornmeal is a popular gluten-free alternative as well as a versatile cooking ingredient. It’s what you need to make tortillas, polenta, arepas, cornbread, and many more.

Similar to most households, cornmeal might just be one of many dried goods in your kitchen. It’s easy to stash it somewhere in the pantry and eventually forget it. Until the day you need to use it, it has passed the date on the package.

At this point, you’re asking yourself if the leftover cornmeal is still good to use? Does cornmeal go bad?

Sounds familiar? This is a very common situation faced by many people. But, don’t fret. You’re about to find out the most important information about cornmeal’s shelf life, storage methods, and signs of it going bad. If this is something you need to know, read on!

What Is Cornmeal?

Cornmeal is prepared by grinding dried corn (or maize) to a different consistency from a coarse, medium, to a fine texture.

Cornmeal is a staple food in many countries, from Latin America, Sub Saharan Africa to Asian countries. It is quite versatile to make a diverse variety of dishes. It is used either as a main ingredient, gluten-free substitution or as an additional element.

Popular dishes made from cornmeal include tortillas, arepas, tamales, cornbread, and polenta. Next to that, cornmeal is frequently used for baking, breading, and coating fried foods.

In general, there are two types of cornmeal; regular and whole-grain cornmeal. Regular cornmeal (or degerminated cornmeal) is prepared after removing the germ and bran to make cornmeal more shelf-stable. It is less in nutritional value and is usually enriched with iron and vitamin B (thiamine, niacin, riboflavin).

Whole-grain cornmeal is prepared without removing the germ, bran, and endosperm. It is considered more nutritious than the regular variety.

Additionally, blue cornmeal is a special cornmeal made from native blue corn. Unlike typical cornmeal with white or yellow color, blue cornmeal has a grayish look.

How To Store Cornmeal

Similar to other flours, cornmeal is a shelf-stable product. As long as the package is unopened, the ideal storage is in a dry, cool, dark place, away from sources of heat and sunlight. Your pantry or kitchen cabinet will do the job.

Avoid exposure to heat and moisture as these two will degrade cornmeal and give molds a chance to grow.

For extra protection, you can also store it with other dry goods in one big sealed container. If you’re using cornmeal as a gluten-free alternative, keep it separate from any gluten-containing ingredients such as wheat flour, oat, etc.

After opening, the storage guideline is slightly different for regular and whole-grain cornmeal.

Regular or degerminated cornmeal is more stable since the germ is removed. It can be kept at room temperature, with similar conditions to an unopened package.

Whole-grain cornmeal is less stable since the germ and bran are rich in oil content. Hence, it is prone to going rancid and should be kept refrigerated after opening.

Either way, always keep the container tightly sealed. If the packaging is not resealable, transfer the product to an airtight container or a jar. Give no chance for moisture to enter the container and for bugs to contaminate your supply.

Can You Freeze Cornmeal?

Yes, freezing cornmeal can significantly extend the shelf life. Transfer cornmeal into a sealed ziplock bag or container. Squeeze the air as much as possible. Don’t forget to label it. Freeze it until you need it for later.

Try to divide cornmeal into an average amount that you need per recipe or serving. This will ease you during thawing. Before use, thaw it in the fridge.

How Long Does Cornmeal Last?

Each package of cornmeal comes with a “best before” or “best by” date. Always observe this date for your purchase and consumption.

This date marking indicates that the cornmeal will maintain its prime quality. The usual advice is to use cornmeal before this date. However, similar to most packaged foods, the actual shelf life can be longer than the date stamped on the label.

With good storage conditions, an unopened pack of regular cornmeal can stay for the next few months up to a year in the pantry. Frozen cornmeal maintains the desired quality for several more years. Whole-grain cornmeal may have a shorter shelf life.

After opening, try to finish regular cornmeal within 9 to 12 months when it’s stored in the pantry. Whole-grain variety maintains its best flavor and freshness for about 3 months in the fridge.

How To Tell If Cornmeal Is Bad

If you’re among many other people who think that cornmeal doesn’t go bad. Don’t skip this section.

Similar to other flour and grains, cornmeal is a stable product. But, it slowly loses quality and will eventually go bad, especially with poor storage.

First thing first, don’t buy cornmeal if the package is damaged. Even a tiny little hole can be an entry point for bugs.

If cornmeal develops a bad odor or rancid smell, it’s better to let it go than ruin your dishes. Whole grain variety tends to go rancid faster than the regular one.

The growth of molds is the next thing to observe. Next to that, if you see bugs or insects, it’s also time to discard the remaining product. If the package is damaged, or when in doubt, it is better to toss it for safety reasons.


Can you use expired/old cornmeal?

Yes, provided that cornmeal is stored under good conditions and no spoilage signs are found. Bear in mind that the flavor and freshness may not be the best anymore.

Is cornmeal similar to corn flour?

Both cornmeal and cornflour are made from dried corn. The only difference is the consistency. Cornmeal is typically ground to coarse and medium texture. Meanwhile, corn flour has a smooth, flour-like texture. In short, finely ground cornmeal is generally known as cornflour.

Is cornmeal safe for people with celiac?

Naturally, corn and cornmeal are gluten-free. However, cross-contamination may occur when cornmeal is produced in a production facility that processes other products containing gluten.

To be on the safe side, always check allergen information on the packaging or buy products with a gluten-free label. In case of doubt, try to contact the manufacturer.

Final Thoughts

Cornmeal is a staple ingredient in many households. Many people think it won’t go bad, but it actually does.

Store unopened packs at a cool, dry, dark area, and avoid moisture. After opening, store it properly depending on the variety: regular (degerminated) or whole grain. To prolong the shelf life, consider freezing it.

General signs of spoilage are bad odor, rancid smell, bugs infestation, and growth of molds. If any of this is apparent, there’s no better option than to discard it.

Up next: Does cornstarch expire?

cornmeal shelf life

*Photo by OlesyaKuzina/depositphotos

About The Author

Scroll to Top