We all have that hot coffee-and-breakfast morning routine, before everything else. Breakfast is something that needs to be nutritious but also satiating, so it can keep you full until lunch.
A great way to kick-start your morning is, without a doubt, a bowl of oatmeal! It is super easy to make and an incredibly versatile food product.
But, if you don’t use oatmeal on a regular basis, you may find yourself with a package of oatmeal that’s sitting in the pantry for months. It has a best-before-date, but you’re still not sure if you can use it, or should you just toss it to be on the safe side.
So, how long does oatmeal last, you may ask?
To answer all of these and other similar questions you might have, we thoroughly examined this topic to give you the best possible answers. If you’re interested in learning about oatmeal’s shelf life, storing, and signs of spoilage, read our article to find out!
How Long Does Oatmeal Last?
There is a best-before-date on the oatmeal package, which is an estimate, as these grains can be safe for consumption even past that date.
Of course, your oatmeal lifespan will depend on how you store it, temperature conditions, and the type of oats. As long as it doesn’t get in touch with moisture, it should be fine for months, or even years.
Over time, even if the oatmeal is stored correctly, it can change its color, nutritional value, and flavor. But it doesn’t necessarily mean it is not safe for consumption.
Different types of oatmeals have a different shelf life:
- Instant Oatmeal/Steel Cut Oatmeal: These types of oatmeals can last from 1-2 years in the pantry.
- 1-minute or 5-minute Oatmeal: These oatmeals can last from 2-3 years if stored correctly.
- Cream Oatmeal/Flavored Oatmeal: These contain more perishable ingredients in the mixture such as various fruits or similar, and because of that, can last from 6 to 9 months, give or take.
- Cooked Oatmeal: If stored properly in the refrigerator, it can last from 3-7 days before it turns rancid. But, if you would like to prolong its shelf life, you can transfer it to the freezer, and that way, it can last from 3-6 months (best consumption).
Oats are whole-grain food and are commonly eaten in the form of rolled oats or oatmeal. Over the past few years, they have become popular ‘health food’, and so we have porridge, cereals, and baked goods such as cakes and cookies made from oats.
Oatmeal is commonly called porridge, and it is often cooked in boiling water or milk until the texture becomes mushy.
Oats have many health benefits; they can lower cholesterol, improve digestion, lower high blood pressure, and are full of antioxidants.
Moreover, oats are high in fibers and are a good source of carbs and protein. They are rich in minerals and vitamins such as manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, calcium, zinc, iron, folate, and vitamins B1, B3, B5, B6.
Oatmeal Storage Tips
As we already said above, dry oatmeal can go a long way if it is stored properly. Even the cooked oatmeal can last for a full week in the refrigerator.
Here, we are talking about some essential storage factors you should consider to keep your oatmeal fresh for an extended period:
Conditions And Temperature
You should store your raw oatmeal in a cool and dry place. Also, avoid humid or hot areas, as excess moisture can indulge spoilage, pest intrusion, and bacteria growth.
Furthermore, exposure to air can cause an oxidation process to occur faster, so always keep your oatmeal sealed tightly.
On the other hand, cooked oatmeal needs to be kept in a cool, clean, and dry place. Don’t keep your oatmeal at room temperature for more than 40 minutes.
You should store your oatmeal in a dark place, away from direct sunlight. The pantry and a kitchen cupboard are the perfect places to store your dry oatmeal.
It is best to transfer your oatmeal in a resealable plastic bag, air-tight container, or glass jar. Keep the lid sealed tightly to reduce exposure to air and moisture as much as possible. That can prevent your oatmeal from spoiling quickly, or being infested with bugs.
Moreover, freezer bags and plastic containers may retain bad odors, so we recommend storing your oatmeal in an air-tight glass jar or a glass container.
As for cooked oatmeal, you should always store it in the refrigerator or a freezer. Just make sure the oatmeal has cooled down before you store it (20-40 minutes). You can separate the cooked oatmeal into meal-size portions and put it in plastic, air-tight containers.
Tip: Steel-cut oats are prone to going rancid faster as they are whole-grain, which means they contain more oil than rolled oat varieties. To prolong their shelf life, you should store them in tightly sealed containers in the refrigerator or a freezer.
How To Tell If Oatmeal Is Spoiled?
While this is not likely to happen for a very long time (if stored properly), there’s still a slight chance your oatmeal can go rancid. You should be able to spot the spoilage easily, and here are some sure signs:
Firstly, sift through your oatmeal, as the visual changes will be the first sign of rancid oatmeal.
If there are any discolorations, it means your oatmeal has started to rot slowly. Also, if your oatmeal appears lighter or darker, then it means it is not fit for consumption.
The appearance of mold or fuzz without a doubt indicates your oatmeal has gone bad, and you should get rid of the packet right away, as these oats are not safe to eat anymore.
Your oatmeal may also be infested with weevils, and even though these bugs are not dangerous to eat, you surely don’t want them in your breakfast bowl!
As for cooked oatmeal, you will notice some liquid separated from other ingredients in the mixture. Prepared oatmeal can’t sit for a long time because of the moisture. Moreover, the sure signs will be the mold spots and at this point, they’re unsafe to consume.
Tip: If you’re unsure whether your oatmeal is infested with these bugs, you can sprinkle a little oatmeal into a bowl filled with water and see if any bugs float to the top.
The texture of your oatmeal could be a significant indicator of spoilage.
Rub your oats between your fingers, and if they have developed a soft texture, it means they have started to rot.
Moreover, if the oatmeal seems powdery, or if you notice some oats that are clumped together, it means that moisture got into the package.
You will easily detect rotten oatmeal by its smell.
If you detect sour or off-odors, it is better to discard them for safety reasons.
Oatmeal can easily pick up smells from other foods, but you should toss it for quality reasons.
If the oatmeal tastes different than usual or has a moldy taste, you should toss it.
What Happens If You Eat Expired Oatmeal?
You’ll know if your oatmeal has gone bad, during the preparation or after the first bite of your oatmeal. However, consuming a small amount of moldy food won’t harm you.
If the oatmeal is sitting in your pantry for a very long time but tastes just fine, it is probably still pretty safe to use it. At worst, your oatmeal has lost some of its nutritional value, but it is perfectly safe to eat.
However, if you notice any signs of spoilage that we have mentioned above, it is best to discard them and buy a new package.
How Long Does Oatmeal Last – Final Word
Overall, fresh oatmeal has a very long shelf life. If you store it properly, it may still be good for much longer past its best-by-date. Remember to always keep your oatmeal in a cool, dry, and dark place such as a cupboard or pantry. Keep it away from moisture as this can contribute to bacteria growth. The ideal storage is a plastic container or a glass jar that is sealed tightly.
Cooked oatmeal can’t sit at room temperature, and you will need to refrigerate it. Furthermore, if you want to prolong its shelf life, you can freeze it, and it can go a long way.
Lastly, oatmeal can be made in so many different ways and is incredibly nutritious. Moreover, you should consider including it in your diet as oats are rich in protein, fiber, and many minerals and vitamins!