If you’re a fan of comfort food classics like cornbread, corn muffins, hush puppies, and johnny cakes, using cornmeal is going to be part of your recipe. But does Cornmeal Go Bad? What is the shelf life of cornmeal and do those pantry staples go bad after the “best by date” printed on the package?
Today we will shatre how long your cornmeal will last, the signs that your cornmeal has gone off, and whether freezing cornmeal can extend its life.
So, if you want to discover what happens when your trusty box of cornmeal starts gathering dust in the cupboard – read on!
What Is Cornmeal?
Cornmeal is a coarse flour produced from dried corn kernels. Creating a desired texture involves grinding dried corn to a fine or medium consistency.
Cornmeal is primarily yellow, but it can also come in white or blue variants, depending on the type of corn utilized.
It’s a versatile ingredient used in various dishes across various cuisines.
As a staple food in many cultures, cornmeal is used in everything from bread and muffins to grits and polenta. Its unique flavor and texture make it an integral part of many traditional recipes.
Is Corn Flour And Cornmeal The Same?
Although both are made from corn, corn flour, and corn meal differ in texture and the part of the corn used to make them.
Cornmeal is made by grinding whole corn kernels into a coarse or medium texture. It’s akin to finely ground cornmeal but still retains a certain grittiness.
On the other hand, corn flour is milled to a very fine consistency, almost powder-like, offering a smoother texture when used in cooking or baking.
What Are Different Types Of Cornmeal?
Whole Grain Cornmeal
This cornmeal is made by grinding the entire corn kernel, including the germ and bran. As a result, it has a rich, nutty flavor and retains all the nutritional value of the whole grain. It’s also coarser than other types of cornmeal.
Unlike whole grain cornmeal, degerminated cornmeal has removed the germ and bran during processing. This gives it a finer texture and longer shelf life but removes some nutritional value.
This cornmeal is made from blue corn and has a sweet, intense flavor. It gets its name from the distinct blue color of the corn, which also gives the cornmeal a unique appearance. Blue cornmeal is often used in traditional Native American cooking and baking.
This variety of cornmeal is widely available at stores, making it the most commonly found type. It’s usually made from yellow or white corn and comes in fine, medium, and coarse grinds. Regular cornmeal is versatile and can be used in various recipes, from cornbread to polenta.
Native Blue Corn
This particular cultivar of blue corn is indigenous to the Southwestern region of the United States. Cornmeal made from native blue corn tends to have a more robust flavor and darker color than regular blue cornmeal.
How Can You Tell If Cornmeal Has Gone Bad?
Cornmeal, like other food items, can only go good if stored properly. Here are some signs you should look for to determine if your cornmeal has gone bad:
- Mold: If you see white, red, green, or blue mold growing on or around the cornmeal, it’s a clear sign that the cornmeal has spoiled and needs to be discarded.
- Bad Odor: When you open your container of cornmeal, take a moment to smell it. A rancid smell or bad odor strongly indicates that your cornmeal has gone bad.
- Change in Color: Color changes could also indicate spoilage. If your cornmeal appears discolored or looks different than when you purchased it, discard it.
- Bugs or Insect Infestation: If you notice dead insects within the cornmeal, it’s a sure sign that it is no longer good for consumption.
- Loss of Freshness: Degerminated cornmeal doesn’t usually go rancid but loses its flavor and freshness over time. If your cornmeal tastes stale or lacks its usual flavor, it might be time to buy new cornmeal.
Are Black Specks In Cornmeal Normal?
The black specks in your cornmeal are likely to be bits of the pericarp, the skin around the corn kernel, or remnants of the hilar or hull, which are natural parts of the grain.
These dark specks might also be particles of germs left during the grinding process. All these elements are normal and not harmful.
However, if you notice the specks moving, it could indicate the presence of weevils, in which case discarding the cornmeal is recommended.
How Long Does Cornmeal Last Once Opened?
Cornmeal shelf life can vary greatly depending on the type and how it’s stored.
For example, the whole grain type has a shorter lifespan because of its increased oil content, which can become rancid faster.
Typically, if stored correctly in a cool, dry place, whole-grain cornmeal has a shelf life of up to one year.
On the other hand, degerminated cornmeal, which has the germ and bran removed, can last longer, often up to two years.
Once opened, the shelf life may decrease, so it’s best to use it as soon as possible for optimal freshness.
Does Unopened Cornmeal Go Bad?
Unopened cornmeal, when properly stored, can stay perfectly fine for an extended period. Whether it’s degerminated or whole-grain, the bag of cornmeal has a decent shelf life.
Degerminated cornmeal retains its quality for up to a year past its date if kept at room temperature, while whole-grain cornmeal lasts well until its Best By date plus an additional three months when unopened.
The key to preserving cornmeal is proper storage. They can remain good for a month at room temperature, even after opening.
Can You Eat Cornmeal After Expiration Date?
Consuming expired cornmeal is not advisable as it can pose certain health risks. Over time, cornmeal, especially if improperly stored, is prone to being infested by insects and developing mold.
This is particularly true for whole grain cornmeal, which has a shorter shelf life than degerminated varieties.
While cornmeal may start to lose its quality and flavor after its expiration, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s unfit for consumption.
However, if there are signs of spoilage, such as insects, mold, or an off smell, it’s best not to eat expired cornmeal.
How Do You Store Cornmeal Long Term?
With these steps, you can ensure the long-term storage of cornmeal successfully.
- Start with fresh cornmeal: Ensure your cornmeal is fresh before you begin the storing process.
- Use Baking Soda: Add a bit of baking soda to the cornmeal. This acts as a preservative and helps keep insects away.
- Choose the right storage container: The container should be airtight to remove as much air as possible. Oxygen can degrade the cornmeal over time.
- Find a dark and dry place: Store the cornmeal in a pantry or a cabinet that doesn’t receive direct sunlight or heat. Moisture and light speed up the spoilage process.
- Regularly check: Periodically check your cornmeal to ensure it remains fresh and free from any signs of spoilage.
How Long Will Cornmeal Last In The Freezer?
Freezing cornmeal can extend its shelf life significantly. When stored properly in the freezer, fresh cornmeal can maintain its best quality for six months to a year.
Freezing is especially beneficial for whole-grain cornmeal, which has a shorter shelf life due to its higher oil content.
To freeze cornmeal, place it in an airtight container or heavy-duty freezer bag. However, it’s important to note that cornmeal should only be frozen once, as its moisture pockets can cause damage when thawed and refrozen.
After freezing, the frozen cornmeal retains its quality indefinitely but is best used within a year for optimal flavor.
How Long Will Cornmeal Last In An Airtight Container?
Cornmeal stored in an airtight container at room temperature lasts 6 to 12 months. I like to use OXO good grip containers for storing my flour and cornmeal.
If transferred to a covered airtight container or a mason jar and placed in a fridge, the shelf life extends to 18 to 24 months.
For even longer storage, cornmeal can be placed in moisture-proof containers and kept in a freezer at zero degrees F to prevent freezer burn, prolonging its usability for up to a few years.
What Can Cornmeal Be Used For?
Cornmeal, a versatile pantry item, has many uses that can be incorporated into various delicious foods. Here are some ways you can use cornmeal:
- Baking: Cornmeal can be used in a variety of baked goods. It imparts a distinctive texture and taste to muffins, scones, biscuits, and cookies. It’s also a key ingredient in thyme-cornmeal pound cake and ginger-fig tart with a cornmeal crust.
- Hot Cereal: Cornmeal can be cooked into a hot cereal, similar to oatmeal. This is a traditional breakfast in many cultures.
- Corn Grits: Also known as polenta in Italian cuisine, corn grits are another popular dish made from cornmeal. They can be served as a side dish or main course.
- Corn Porridge: This is another comforting dish made from cornmeal. It’s often sweetened and served as a dessert or breakfast.
- Fried Foods: Cornmeal forms a delicious, crispy crust on fried foods. It’s commonly used for coating fish, chicken, mozzarella sticks, and vegetables like green tomatoes.
- Pancakes and Crepes: Cornmeal can be used to make pancakes and crepes. For instance, cornmeal-masa pancakes and cornmeal crêpes with blackberries and buttermilk cream are two food products you can try.
- Cornbread: This is perhaps the most common use of cornmeal. From classic cornbread to citrus cornmeal cake, endless variations exist.
- Pizza Crust: Cornmeal is often used to prevent pizza dough from sticking and to give the crust an extra crunch.
- Homemade Deodorant and Exfoliating Mask: Aside from its culinary uses, cornmeal can also be used to make homemade deodorant and exfoliating masks, thanks to its natural abrasive properties.
Is Cornmeal Good Or Bad For You?
Cornmeal, a rich fiber source, and other essential nutrients, offers numerous health benefits. It assists in eliminating toxins from the body, promoting overall health.
However, cornmeal has a relatively high glycemic index score, which could raise blood sugar levels if consumed excessively.
Wholemeal Cornmeal Vs Refined Cornmeal
While whole-grain cornmeal is beneficial, refined versions may contain less nutritional value. Therefore, opting for whole grain varieties for optimal health benefits is important.
So, Does Cornmeal Go Bad?
Cornmeal is a versatile pantry staple used in many applications, from baking to making hot cereals and fried foods.
It’s also rich in nutrients and offers numerous health benefits when consumed in moderation.
However, given its shorter shelf life, it’s important to properly store cornmeal for the long term and consume it before its expiration date.