Oatmeal is one of the most versatile ingredients that should be in every cook’s pantry. It makes a perfect breakfast, lunch, or snack. Additionally, you can make it both sweet and savory.
But how long does oatmeal last? Uncooked oatmeal that has been stored in a dry, cool, and dark place, has a shelf life of around a year past its ‘Best by’ date. As for cooked oatmeal, it all depends where you store it. If stored in the freezer, cooked oatmeal will keep well for up to 6 days. The freezer, however, will extend its shelf life to 6 months.
In this article, you will learn all about the shelf life and storage conditions of cooked and uncooked oatmeal. Not only that. You will also get to learn how to practice food safety and easily detect bad oatmeal.
Does Oatmeal Go Bad?
Oatmeal does go bad, whether it is cooked or raw. In both cases, you need to follow a few simple storage rules. In the case of raw oatmeal, the goal is to extend its shelf life for as long as possible. But when it comes to cooked oatmeal, how the oatmeal tastes is of primary importance.
Uncooked oatmeal requires the same storage conditions as such dry products as grains and different types of flour.
How to Store Oatmeal?
As you would expect, the storage conditions of cooked and uncooked oatmeal are very different.
Storing Uncooked Oatmeal
Storing raw oatmeal doesn’t require any efforts. All you need to do is to put it somewhere dry and cool and away from pests. This can be a pantry or a kitchen cabinet. So long as all requirements are met, your oatmeal will stay good for a long time, even past its expiration date.
Unopened oats can be stored in the pantry in their original packaging. Once opened, we recommend transferring the oatmeal into an airtight container with a tightly sealing lid.
Closing the lid of your oatmeal container is key as it will protect your product from everything that could make it go bad – bugs, moisture, and odors that it could absorb.
As convenient as it is to keep the oatmeal in a kitchen cabinet near the oven, don’t do it. The steam from constant cooking will affect the oatmeal.
Storing Cooked Oatmeal
Storing cooked oatmeal requires a little bit more attention. As cooked oatmeal is more perishable compared to uncooked oatmeal, you need to store it properly to avoid untimely spoilage or contamination.
In the Fridge
Store cooked oatmeal in an airtight container with a tightly-sealed lid. Mason jars will also work well for storing oatmeal. It is important to keep the oatmeal container tightly sealed to prevent it from absorbing odors or darkening as a result of contact with air.
Don’t put oatmeal in the fridge if it is still hot. Wait for it to completely cool off and only then refrigerate it. If you need the oatmeal to cool down quickly, pour it into a large plate and spread it out. This way the oatmeal will cool off within minutes.
If you want your oatmeal to stay as fresh as possible, we recommend storing cooked oatmeal in the fridge without any fruit, syrup, or nut toppings.
If you reheat your oatmeal using the microwave, we recommend storing it in a microwave-safe container to not spend time on transferring it into another bowl in the morning.
In the Freezer
If you have prepared so much oatmeal that you won’t be able to finish it even within a week, your best option is to freeze it.
Freeze oatmeal in portions to facilitate the thawing process. You can freeze oatmeal in airtight containers or bags.
It is recommended to freeze oatmeal without any toppings.
How Long Does Oatmeal Last?
Uncooked oatmeal has a quite long shelf life. Even if you use it once a week, you will most likely use up the entire package of oatmeal before it goes bad.
As for cooked oatmeal, it is way more long-lasting than many other dishes. This makes it a perfect option for make-ahead meals.
The Shelf Life of Uncooked oatmeal
Uncooked oatmeal has a long shelf life. So long as you keep it in a well-sealed container in a dry and cool place, it will keep well for a few years.
You can always find a ‘Best by’ date on the oatmeal package. However, this is the manufacturer’s estimation of how long the product retains its best quality. Properly stored oatmeal will keep at least a year after the date indicated on the packaging.
It should be noted, however, that as with any product, the quality of oats deteriorates with time. It can be completely safe for consumption but the color and flavor might be changed. Consider that the nutritional value of oatmeal may also decrease with time.
Thus, we recommend not sleeping on those healthy and filling breakfasts and finishing your package of oatmeal as soon as possible.
The Shelf Life of Cooked Oatmeal
You can leave oatmeal out only when it has just been cooked and needs to cool down. Otherwise, don’t leave cooked oatmeal at room temperature longer than 2 hours.
The risk of bacterial growth in oatmeal sitting at room temperature is very high.
Oatmeal can last up to 6 days in the fridge. No wonder it is one of the most common make-ahead meals.
Cooked oatmeal will keep up to 6 months in the freezer. We recommend eating it as soon as possible for the best taste and texture.
The shelf life of cooked oatmeal can be affected by the different ingredients you add to it. These include fruits, yogurt, milk, etc.
Signs that Oatmeal Has Gone Bad
Detecting bad oatmeal is easy whether it is raw or cooked.
For uncooked oatmeal, look for the following signs.
- Clumpiness. If you see that the oatmeal has clumped up together, it means it has been exposed to moisture or humidity. If this is the case, discard the oatmeal.
- Color changes. It is natural for oatmeal to change its color if it has been sitting over a year in your pantry or kitchen cabinet. But if these changes are drastic, it is best to get rid of the package of oatmeal and buy a new one.
- Mold. If the oatmeal is moldy, it surely has to leave your kitchen.
- Off-putting smell. Oats don’t have a specific smell. They smell like oats. But if your oatmeal smells like something and you don’t like it, you won’t like it cooked either.
As for cooked oatmeal, you have to look for the usual signs of spoilage. If your oatmeal has gotten moldy, don’t hesitate to discard it. You may also notice some dark spots on bad oatmeal.
Smell the oatmeal to see if it is still good. If it smells off, don’t eat it. It is especially easy to detect bad oatmeal if it has been made with milk as when milk goes bad it smells sour.
The shelf life of oatmeal is up to 6 days in the fridge. If you have had your oatmeal in the fridge longer than that, don’t eat it even if it seems to be good.
How Long Do Oatmeal Cookies Last?
If you feel like your oatmeal has been sitting in the pantry for too long, the best way to use it up is to bake some oatmeal cookies. (Check our recipe for Walnut & Raisin Oatmeal Cookies).
Oatmeal cookies have a shelf life of around 14 days. Store them in an airtight container to keep them fresh and prevent them from drying out.
While these cookies are best when they are fresh, you can also freeze them to extend their shelf life. Frozen oatmeal cookies will keep well for up to 2 months.