Coconut milk has become a popular ingredient in many recipes due to its rich, creamy texture and natural sweetness. Canned coconut milk provides convenience for cooking and baking, and it’s readily available in most grocery stores.
But what should you do after opening a can of coconut milk? Can it be refrigerated and saved for later use? Here’s a detailed look at how to store coconut milk after opening.
Can Opened Canned Coconut Milk be Refrigerated?
Yes, you can refrigerate leftover coconut milk from a can. The key is properly storing it to maximize freshness and shelf life.
An unopened can of coconut milk has a shelf life of 18-24 months. Once opened, it should be transferred to an airtight container or jar and refrigerated. This helps prevent spoilage from exposure to air and bacteria.
When stored properly in the refrigerator, opened canned coconut milk will stay fresh for:
- 5-7 days – for full fat coconut milk
- 3-5 days – for lite coconut milk
So while refrigeration can extend the shelf life of opened canned milk, it is still best to use it within a week to retain quality and flavor.
How to Store Opened Canned Coconut Milk
Follow these tips for storing coconut milk after opening:
- Transfer leftover coconut milk from the can into an airtight container, mason jar, or resealable plastic bag. Make sure it has an airtight seal or lid.
- Press plastic wrap directly on the surface of the coconut milk before sealing the container. This prevents a skin from forming.
- Refrigerate for up to one week.
- Be sure to label the container with the date opened.
- Use a clean utensil each time when scooping out coconut milk to prevent bacteria.
- Do not return leftover coconut milk to the original can, which can introduce bacteria.
Signs Coconut Milk Has Gone Bad
Check your refrigerated coconut milk for the following signs of spoilage:
- Change in color – Fresh coconut milk is white. It will start to turn pink, gray, or yellow as it goes bad.
- Clumping – Coconut milk should have a smooth, creamy consistency. Clumping or curdling indicates spoilage.
- Mold – Check the surface for fuzzy mold spots, which signal contamination.
- Separation – Separation of the coconut cream and watery liquid is normal, but excessive wateriness may mean spoilage.
- Sour smell or taste – Coconut milk should smell fresh and taste slightly sweet. A sour odor or taste is a clear sign it has gone off.
If your refrigerated coconut milk displays any of these characteristics, it’s best to throw it away.
Does Coconut Milk Need to be Shaken Before Use?
Canned coconut milk separates into solid cream and liquid water during storage. This is perfectly normal. Give the can a good shake before opening to re-blend the solid and liquid portions.
Once opened, refrigerated coconut milk will also separate. Shake or stir the container well each time before using to fully reincorporate.
If the coconut milk appears curdled after shaking, it has likely gone bad and should be discarded.
Difference Between Full Fat and Lite Coconut Milk
Full fat and lite canned coconut milks have a few key differences to be aware of:
|Higher fat content – around 22g per 100g||Lower in fat – 5-10g per 100g|
|Thicker, richer texture||Thinner, less creamy|
|Solidifies more when chilled due to higher fat||Stays more liquid when refrigerated|
|Slightly sweeter flavor||Milder in flavor|
|5-7 days refrigerated shelf life after opening||3-5 days refrigerated shelf life after opening|
Full fat coconut milk works best for recipes where you want richer flavor and creamy texture, like curries, desserts, sauces, and soups. It solidifies more when chilled.
Lite coconut milk contains less fat, so it won’t make recipes as creamy. But it provides a lighter texture and milder flavor in drinks, smoothies, oatmeal, etc.
Shelf Life of Canned Coconut Milk After Opening
The shelf life depends on whether it is refrigerated or left at room temperature:
- Full fat – 5 to 7 days
- Lite – 3 to 5 days
- Room temperature:
- Full fat – 2 to 3 days
- Lite – 1 to 2 days
For maximum freshness, coconut milk should be refrigerated after opening. But in a pinch, you can store leftovers in a sealed container at room temperature for a couple days.
Keep in mind it will spoil faster out of the fridge. Look for changes in smell, texture, or appearance.
Can You Freeze Leftover Coconut Milk?
Freezing is a great option for preserving opened canned coconut milk. It can extend the shelf life for up to 3 months in the freezer.
- Transfer leftover coconut milk to airtight containers or freezer bags.
- Press plastic wrap directly on the surface before sealing.
- Label with the date and freeze for up to 3 months.
- Thaw overnight in the fridge before using.
- Use thawed coconut milk within 1 week.
- Avoid refreezing previously thawed coconut milk.
The high fat content of coconut milk means it holds up well in the freezer. Thawed milk will return to a smooth, creamy liquid when fully thawed and shaken.
How Long Does Unopened Canned Coconut Milk Last?
An unopened can of coconut milk has a very long shelf life, provided it stays sealed.
Unopened canned coconut milk lasts:
- Pantry or cupboard: 18-24 months past the printed “best by” or expiration date.
- Refrigerator: 24-36 months past the printed date.
The expiration date is simply the last date by which the manufacturer guarantees peak quality. So unopened canned coconut milk is still safe to use well past the printed date, provided the can remains in good condition.
Proper storage helps extend shelf life for unopened cans:
- Store in a cool, dry spot under 75°F.
- Avoid direct sunlight or high humidity.
- Refrigeration can prolong shelf life further but is not required.
- Rotate stock and use older cans first.
If the can is no longer in good condition (heavy dents, rust, bulging), throw it away even if unopened. Damage can allow bacteria to enter the can over time.
How to Use Up Leftover Coconut Milk
Don’t let leftover coconut milk go to waste! Here are some delicious ways to use up what remains in the can or container:
- Add to smoothies for creaminess
- Mix into oatmeal, chia pudding, or overnight oats
- Make coconut rice pudding
- Blend into coffee drinks or milk teas
- Use in pancake, waffle, or crepe batter
- Toss with rice noodles or stir fry veggies
- Simmer with chicken, fish, or shrimp
- Make homemade coconut yogurt
- Add to curry sauce or lentil dal
- Whip into cream and use on desserts
For cooking and baking, you can generally substitute 1 cup coconut milk for 1 cup dairy milk or cream. The possibilities are endless!
Is it safe to drink coconut milk straight from the can?
It’s not recommended to drink coconut milk directly from the can, even when it’s newly opened. Pour it into a glass or container first. The can interior can transfer metallic flavors and may contain traces of BPA in the lining.
Can you make whipped coconut cream from canned milk?
Yes, chilled cans of full fat coconut milk can be whipped into fluffy whipped coconut cream. Refrigerate cans overnight, then scoop out the solidified coconut cream and whip it until light and airy.
Can you substitute coconut milk for milk in baking?
Coconut milk can be used as a 1:1 substitute for cow’s milk or other dairy in most baked goods recipes. It will provide moisture as well as a hint of coconut flavor.
Does coconut milk have casein like dairy milk?
No, coconut milk does not contain casein or any dairy proteins. This makes it safe for people with dairy allergies. It’s also vegan and paleo diet friendly.
Is homemade coconut milk better than canned?
Fresh homemade coconut milk has a fuller coconut flavor and aroma. But canned is much more convenient. For drinking and cooking, canned works very well. Make homemade if you want maximum flavor and control over ingredients.
Canned coconut milk can keep in the fridge for up to a week after opening. Transfer leftover milk to an airtight container, store in the fridge, and use within 5-7 days. Look for signs of spoilage like changes in color, consistency, or smell. Freezing also extends the shelf life for several months.
With proper storage and handling, canned coconut milk can be kept fresh after opening so you can enjoy its convenience without waste.