Oatmeal is a great kitchen staple, whether you use it for a stick-to-your-ribs breakfast or add it to baking. If you have pulled an old packet out of the pantry that is past its best before date, you may be wondering, does oatmeal go bad and how long does it last?
As a general rule of thumb, standard, packaged oatmeal can last up to two years in the pantry when stored appropriately.
Oatmeal can go bad, but if stored correctly it has a decent shelf life and can be consumed far beyond the best before date. Although it’s not likely to turn rancid, if kept under the wrong conditions, oatmeal can develop mold or become infested with bugs.
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Oatmeal Shelf Life
Oatmeal is sold with a best before date that serves as a rough indicator but isn’t a concrete use by date.
Quaker Oats state that items beyond this date are safe to eat but may undergo flavor and color changes, along with losing some nutritional value.
- Instant Oatmeal/Steel Cut Oatmeal/Irish Oatmeal – Stored correctly, these varieties will last you one to two years in the pantry.
- Flavored/Cream Oatmeal – With the addition of more perishable items like fruit or berries, this type of oatmeal has a shorter shelf life of around six to nine months.
- One-minute Oatmeal/Five-minute Oatmeal – Can last anywhere from two to three years stored in the pantry.
- Cooked Oatmeal – If refrigerated, you have between five and seven days to consume cooked oatmeal before it turns bad. You can also opt to store cooked oatmeal portions in the freezer. Consume within three months for best quality.
How To Tell If Oatmeal Has Gone Bad
While oatmeal is unlikely to go rancid, it certainly can become moldy if not stored correctly.
Weevils are also something to watch out for; although they aren’t dangerous to eat, they are not something you necessarily want to consume with your breakfast bowl of porridge!
Here are some changes that may indicate your oatmeal has gone bad.
- Color or texture changes – if your oatmeal appears darker or lighter than it should be or seems powdery, it is not fit for consumption. The appearance of fuzz or mold is a pretty clear sign to get rid of the packet.
- Odd smell or taste – if you detect any sour or generally “off” odors, better to not take any chances – throw it out and invest in a new packet.
- Creepy crawlies – If you are not sure whether your oatmeal is infested with weevils, sprinkle a little into a bowl filled with water and see if any bugs float to the top.
What Happens If You Eat Expired Oatmeal?
If your oatmeal has been stored correctly and passes all the checks above, there is no danger in consuming it.
At worst, there may be some changes to the texture or flavor and you may be missing out on some of the nutritional value, but it’s perfectly safe to eat.
If, however, the oatmeal has in fact gone bad, there are the usual dangers involved with eating moldy or rancid food. You’ll know during the preparation process or after the first bite if your oatmeal is bad – consuming a small amount is not harmful.
How To Store Oatmeal
The two biggest threats to oatmeal long term are exposure to air – causing oxidization – and moisture.
Before opening a package of oatmeal, it’s fine to store as is, in a dark, cool area such as a pantry.
After opening, we recommend reducing exposure to air and moisture by transferring the oatmeal into a re-sealable plastic bag or airtight container. This will protect it from spoiling more quickly or being infested with bugs.
Steel cut oats are a whole-grain product which contain more oil than rolled oat varieties, therefore, they are prone to going rancid faster than other products.
We recommend storing steel cut oats in a tightly sealed container in the fridge or freezer to extend their shelf life.