Are you unsure what to do with old popcorn kernels but don’t want to throw them away?
There are various ways to use them wisely, so you should save them (provided they haven’t gone rancid). There are some common ways to go about it, and there are some surprises as well.
Old popcorn kernels are surprisingly versatile, so you’ll never have to throw them away again.
7 Uses for Old Popcorn Kernels
Don’t toss your old popcorn kernels!
There are so many uses for these versatile little gems. You can use them to create some decadent recipes, useful items around the house, amp up playtime, and more.
Here are some of our favorite ideas. Keep in mind these ideas only work with plain popcorn kernels. Microwave popcorn is coated in oils and other ingredients that make the kernels unfit for projects such as these.
Idea #1: Make Ice Cream
What better way to use old popcorn kernels than making ice cream? Popcorn ice cream is a flavor gaining popularity, and you can make it extra special by popping some on the stovetop as a garnish.
Plus, it’s simple.
You’ll need to soak the popcorn kernels in milk (any milk will work, even non-dairy) until the flavor permeates the milk. You could also use cream for richer flavored ice cream, or you could use a mix. Either way, try soaking overnight to give the flavor time to dig in.
Once the flavor soaks in, you can strain the kernels out and use the milk/cream as your custard base for the ice cream. You can use any ice cream recipe at this point.
Most popcorn ice cream recipes call for soaking your base in popped popcorn, but this is a great way to use up old kernels without them going to waste, and you still get the same fantastic flavor. You can skip the soaking step in any recipe if you’ve already soaked the kernels.
This awesome buttered popcorn ice cream recipe from Serious Eats. Note their recipe calls for a 2:1 ratio of cream to milk.
Dig into this luscious popcorn ice cream recipe from the James Beard foundation for a slightly fancier version. This one uses a 1:1 ratio of cream to milk.
Idea #2: Make an Ice Pack
How does it sound to have an ice pack that doesn’t melt or turn soggy as it gets warm?
That’s the thought behind the revolutionary idea to turn old popcorn kernels into an ice pack. They get cold in the freezer, but they won’t melt. This is because popcorn kernels (especially old ones) don’t contain moisture, so their structure won’t freeze solid.
Plus, it’s so simple.
Toss the kernels in a freezer bag (size of your choice), and you’re done.
Idea #3: Use Them for Crafts
Crafts and decorations – especially for the fall season – are fun to do with your family and friends, and you get the added bonus of keeping what you create. Old popcorn kernels make fantastic craft supplies and have a subtle fall vibe.
Try old popcorn kernels, glue, and a paper plate for kids. It sounds simple, but they’ll have a blast for hours, and they can either keep or gift their craft once they finish. You could provide an outline for the younger children and let the older ones use their imagination to create something unique.
Pinterest is a treasure trove of ideas for recipes.
Here are a few ideas to get started:
- Popcorn wreath
- Colored popcorn kernels
- Montessori trays
- Dancing popcorn
The ideas are endless, and they’re a great way to put those old kernels to use and make something fun out of them.
Idea #4: Create a Sensory Game
Popcorn kernels have a unique texture, which makes them perfect for sensory trays for kids. Don’t worry; it’s not complicated. Add the kernels to a wide tray (ensure they have high sides to avoid spilling). Add other items with different colors, textures, and uses. Ensure to include a couple of items they can use to scoop or dig.
That’s it. Let them loose to explore their imagination, and you’ll be surprised at how long they’ll enjoy this.
Idea #5: Make a Doorstopper
Doorstoppers are typically made from plastic beads or beans, but popcorn kernels fulfill the same function. They can be used for windows or doors; they’re incredibly easy to make and gratifyingly inexpensive.
Want to keep it simple?
Add the kernels to a long pair of socks (knee-high socks work best), then tie a knot at the end. If you don’t have long enough socks, you could use any long/skinny item you can find around the house, such as a pillowcase (roll it to make it thinner).
If you want to doll it up a bit, you could sew a tube of fleece or a different type of fabric, fill it with the kernels and sew the end shut. It’s not fancy, but it might be a little more decorative than the sock method.
Idea #6: Spruce Up Your Cornmeal
If you want to use those old popcorn kernels in cooking, you can do that. The best way to do this is to grind the kernels into a powder. If it’s grainy, that’s fine; you want to get it as fine as you can.
You can add some of this kernel powder in place or alongside cornmeal in recipes that call for it. There are endless uses, so this can be a great way to use up all your old kernels.
You can use your ground kernels for anything, including cornbread, waffles, polenta, grits, or a crispy fried food coating. Southern Living has some great ideas to start with.
Idea #7: Use Them in a Contest
Popcorn kernels are a great item to fill a jar or bowl to create a guessing game.
Whether you want to come up with a unique idea for a charity raffle or simply something fun to do at home, people will have fun guessing how many kernels there are.
This works especially well if you have many old kernels to work with.
What Can You Do with Expired Corn?
If the expired corn is canned, it’s likely still safe to eat past its expiration date. Canned goods are typically safe even 1-2 years after they’ve technically expired, although the taste may not be as fresh.
If the corn in question is fresh on the cob, there isn’t much you can do with it. If you notice signs of molding, it’s a good idea to toss it to avoid getting sick.
If it’s not molding or slimy yet, but it’s not fresh enough to eat on the cob anymore, you could cut the kernels off, puree them, and save the puree in the freezer. This can be used for creamed corn, cornbread, or any other recipe that needs an extra punch of corn flavor.
How Do You Know If Popcorn Kernels Are Bad?
There are some telltale signs to look for if you want to know when popcorn kernels are going bad. No one wants to eat bad popcorn, after all.
Here’s what to look for:
- Color – toss them if you see black or gray spots on the hull, which indicates mold.
- Bugs – any time there are visible bugs or strange-looking crumbs in your popcorn, it’s a good idea to toss all of that batch.
- Smell – if a bag of microwave popcorn smells like bad oil, it’s gone bad. This indicates the oils inside the packet have gone bad. It’s a pretty distinct rancid smell that’s hard to miss.
- Taste – any off-tasting popcorn should be thrown away, as the taste is the biggest indicator of stale or spoiled popcorn. It’s not worth it to get sick.
Now that you know how many ways you can use those old popcorn kernels, you might need help choosing what to do first.
Thankfully, popcorn kernels last a long time, so you can pick and choose as you go along in life. Just label them properly, so you don’t accidentally try to pop them for your next movie night.
And if you’re not feeling innovative but don’t want to toss any extra kernels in the trash, you can compost popcorn kernels too.
Sue’s favorite pastime? Watching a good movie with a giant tub of popcorn by her side. Her friends and family know that if they want to get her something, popcorn is always a safe bet. Sue has an adventurous spirit and loves to travel exploring new places – she’s been to more than 40 countries!