Cornmeal is a texturized baking ingredient, made from ground maize. At its more coarse consistencies, it can be eaten as a hot cereal. More finely ground, it is used as a type of flour. In between, it has a wide variety of uses.
Cornmeal is a good staple in pantries, as it is versatile and has a variety of health benefits that may be lacking in comparable wheat flours. Along with other health benefits, cornmeal provides iron, fiber, and can be a healthier alternative to bleached wheat flours.
Not everyone uses cornmeal frequently, however. Perhaps you have a bag of cornmeal at the back of your pantry, forgotten from a time you made tortillas many months, or even years before. Now, you might find yourself wondering, is this cornmeal still okay to use?
Bottom Line: Cornmeal will start to lose flavor and quality and can go bad. Properly stored, cornmeal can remain good for a few years at best.
Shelf Life Of Cornmeal
Most packaging for cornmeal will include a “best by” date on its packaging. As with most of these dates, this is more a recommendation than a definitive expiration. Past this date, the cornmeal may begin to lose quality or flavor but is likely still perfectly safe to consume.
Stored in ideal conditions, most cornmeal will be good for at least a year or 2 at room temperature. Its shelf life can be extended by freezing. Once frozen, cornmeal will last for several years, even up to 5.
Once prepared, depending on the type of meal or food, a cornmeal dish such as cornbread or hot cereal will only be good for a few days.
As with all foods, you will want to ensure the cornmeal seems normal before using.
Proper Storage Of Cornmeal
Storing cornmeal is very similar to storing flour or other dried baking ingredients. Cornmeal should be stored at room temperature, in a cool, dry, and dark place. A pantry is ideal, as it will meet all of these conditions.
Cornmeal should be kept away from any sources of moisture or heat, as this will develop condensation and cause the cornmeal to go bad sooner.
Keep in mind, the cabinets next to and above stoves and ovens will get warm and can develop condensation. Cornmeal should not be kept in these locations, as exposure to moisture will cause it to rapidly spoil.
Once the cornmeal has been opened, it should be tightly sealed after each use. If its original packaging is not re-sealable, you may want to transfer it to a sealable plastic bag or an airtight container. This will protect it from sources of moisture or pests. If storing in a plastic bag, any excess air should be squeezed out before sealing.
To prolong the life of your cornmeal, it can be frozen. Before doing so, ensure it is in an airtight container or bag to prevent freezer burn.
Has This Cornmeal Gone Bad?
Stored properly, cornmeal does have a long shelf life, but it will degrade in quality over time and can go bad.
If exposed to moisture, cornmeal can change in consistency and even develop mold. In this case, it should absolutely be thrown out.
In most cases, if cornmeal has been stored properly, it likely will not have many visible signs of spoilage. Often, it will just begin to go stale or lose its flavor. In these circumstances, it may become more difficult to bake with and may not be as palatable to eat.
Cornmeal often does have traces of oil, so it can go rancid. You should check to see if there are any changes in scent or flavor before using it. If it smells or tastes sour, it should be discarded.
Keep In Mind: Because of the germ in corn, cornmeal naturally has a variety of colorful grains, ranging from white to yellow to even grey or black specks. Even if you see some variety of colors in the grains, this does not necessarily mean the cornmeal has gone bad.
Uses For Cornmeal
If you find you have a container of cornmeal approaching its expiration date but are uncertain how to use it up, there are a number of ways to use cornmeal.
Some of the most popular uses include:
- Hot cereal
- Cornmeal pancakes
- Cornmeal fritters
Keep in mind, if you have cornmeal about to pass its “best by” date, you can also prolong its shelf life by freezing it.
- Cornmeal has a relatively long shelf life and is similar to other dry baking ingredients.
- Cornmeal can last for up to 2 years at room temperature. When frozen, cornmeal can last for up to 5 years.
- Cornmeal should be stored in a cool, dark location, away from sources of heat or moisture.
- Cornmeal will degrade in quality and can also go rancid. You should check for any signs of spoilage before use.
Cornmeal is a good variant from standard flours and baking ingredients and has a variety of uses. Ensuring proper storage, you will ensure you can use your cornmeal for many years.