Many people start their day with a bowl of delicious oatmeal. For those people, the question of how long does oatmeal last isn’t important because they never have to worry if it’s still safe to eat. But if you’re not one of those people, or have found an odd package of oatmeal in the cupboard, shelf life and spoilage of oatmeal are of interest. In this article, we’ll go through storage, shelf life and possible signs of spoilage of oatmeal.
How to store oatmeal?
Most sources suggest storing oatmeal in a cool place like the pantry, but it’s just fine to store it in room temperature in the kitchen too. Just make sure the package is in a dry place away from any sources of water (including steam). Once the package is opened and you don’t plan on using it within a few weeks, consider transferring the oatmeal to an airtight container or placing the package in a resealable freezer bag. Both options are to make sure moisture doesn’t get to the oats.
When it comes to cooked oatmeal, store it in the fridge if you don’t plan to eat it the same day it was cooked.
How long does oatmeal last?
That’s a question that’s quite difficult to answer. Each package of oatmeal should have a “best by” or “sell by” date that’s at least a year from when you’ve bought it. Does oatmeal go bad after that date? Of course not. The mentioned dates are just guidelines on how long the oats will be of the best quality. They can easily sit in the cupboard for another year or two and they will still be safe to eat (and quite tasty too!).
Please remember that oatmeal very slowly loses its quality over time. If it’s the flavored kind of oatmeal, the quality loss is slightly faster and it’s suggested to eat it within a year after the “best by” date. Because of the quality loss, a bowl of oatmeal that sat in the cupboard for 5 years won’t be as good as one prepared with oatmeal that you’ve just bought.
When it comes to the shelf life of uncooked oatmeal, you’re more likely to discard it because bugs or water got into the package than because its quality is so bad.
Cooked oatmeal lasts about 4 to 7 days in the fridge. That means you can easily prepare a few portions ahead of time and just quickly reheat it when needed.
Can you freeze oatmeal?
Freezing doesn’t make much sense for uncooked oatmeal because of its long shelf life. When it comes to cooked oatmeal, if you really want to cook a big batch and freeze some of it, that’s an option.
To freeze cooked oatmeal, divide it into meal-size portions and transfer into airtight containers or freezer bags and put into the freezer. Thaw it overnight in the fridge or in the microwave. Make sure you eat the oatmeal the same day you thaw it (hence freezing in meal-size portions). Please note that the texture of oatmeal will change slightly after thawing and there will be some water separation. Just give it a good stir when reheating.
It’s worth mentioning that you might not be satisfied with the quality of frozen and thawed oatmeal, so if you’re freezing for the first time, freeze just a small amount to test how you like it after thawing.
How to tell if oatmeal is bad?
If insects got into the package, discard it. If water got into the package or container, there will be mold, which is an obvious reason to throw the package away. If there are any other odd changes in appearance or odor, throw it out as well. If it looks and smells fine, it’s most likely perfectly safe to eat. If you’re still unsure, cook some of it and give it a taste. If it tastes the way it should, enjoy it.
Is oatmeal safe to use after “expiration” date?
The date on the oatmeal’s package is usually a “best by” date that’s a guideline on how long the quality of oats will remain the best. It’s perfectly safe to eat oatmeal months or even years after that date provided the package is intact and neither water nor bugs got into it.