Does coconut milk spoil quickly?

Coconut milk has become a popular dairy-free alternative to traditional milk and cream. With its rich, creamy texture and sweet flavor, coconut milk can be used in everything from coffee and smoothies to curries, soups, and baked goods. However, unlike regular dairy milk which can last over a week when refrigerated, coconut milk has a much shorter shelf life. So does coconut milk spoil quickly? Let’s take a closer look at how long coconut milk lasts, signs of spoilage, and how to store it properly.

How Long Does Unopened Coconut Milk Last?

An unopened can or carton of coconut milk that has been continuously refrigerated will generally stay safe to consume for up to a week after the printed expiration date. The key is keeping it chilled at all times. Here are some general guidelines for how long coconut milk lasts when unopened:

Storage Method Shelf Life
Refrigerator 5-7 days past expiration date
Pantry/Cupboard Up to expiration date

As you can see, unopened coconut milk has a relatively short shelf life compared to other non-dairy milks. It’s important to store it in the refrigerator upon purchase, and use it within a week of the printed expiration date for best quality.

How Long Does Opened Coconut Milk Last?

Once opened, coconut milk has an even shorter shelf life. Exposure to oxygen starts the countdown to spoilage. Follow these guidelines for storing opened coconut milk:

Storage Method Shelf Life
Refrigerator 3-5 days
Freezer 3 months

As you can see, coconut milk really shouldn’t be kept for more than 3-5 days once opened. Make sure to transfer it to an airtight container and keep refrigerated immediately after opening. For longer storage, freeze unused portions in ice cube trays or muffin tins, then transfer to freezer bags. The frozen coconut milk cubes can be thawed as needed.

Signs of Spoilage

Coconut milk is perishable and can go bad rather quickly if not stored properly. Here are some signs that opened or unopened coconut milk has spoiled and should be discarded:

  • Sour, rancid, or “off” smell
  • Lumpy, curdled, or separated texture
  • Mold growth in the bottle or carton
  • Change in color from white to yellow or pink
  • Fizzing or bubbling when the bottle/carton is opened

If your coconut milk exhibits any of these signs, err on the safe side and throw it away. Consuming spoiled coconut milk can potentially lead to foodborne illness.

Tips for Proper Storage

To get the most shelf life out of your coconut milk and reduce food waste, follow these tips:

  • Check expiration dates and choose packages with the furthest out dates.
  • Keep unopened coconut milk refrigerated at 40°F or below.
  • Screw lids on tightly and check for damage that could allow air inside.
  • Use opened coconut milk within 3-5 days.
  • Transfer opened coconut milk to a clean, airtight container like a mason jar.
  • Freeze unused portions for later use within 3 months.
  • When freezing, leave headspace to allow for expansion.
  • Label frozen portions with dates and contents.

The Shelf Life of Different Types of Coconut Milk

Not all coconut milks have the same shelf life. Here is a comparison of how long different varieties last:

Type Unopened Shelf Life Opened Shelf Life
Canned (full fat) 2-3 weeks beyond “best by” date 5-7 days
Carton (refrigerated, full fat) 7-10 days past “use by” date 3-5 days
Carton (shelf-stable, light) Several months 7-10 days

As shown, canned and refrigerated coconut milk have shorter shelf lives compared to shelf-stable cartons like those from So Delicious or Silk. This is due to higher processing and sterilization that prolongs the shelf life of shelf-stable varieties.

Does Coconut Milk Go Bad or Expire?

Yes, coconut milk does have an expiration date and can go bad if left at room temperature too long. The shelf life depends on the best by date, storage method, and whether the package has been opened. Follow the guidelines above for maximum freshness and use-by times.

Can You Extend the Shelf Life?

Unfortunately, there is no way to extend the shelf life of coconut milk once opened. Make sure to seal the package tightly and refrigerate immediately after opening. To extend the shelf life of unopened coconut milk, you can:

  • Store unopened cans or cartons in the back of the refrigerator where it’s coldest.
  • Put unopened coconut milk in the freezer to extend its shelf life by a few months.
  • Purchase smaller cans or buy coconut milk in bulk and separate it into smaller containers to limit air exposure when opening.

Can You Freeze Coconut Milk?

Yes, you can freeze coconut milk to prolong its shelf life. Here are some tips for freezing coconut milk correctly:

  • Make sure coconut milk is sealed tightly before freezing.
  • Divide into usable portion sizes like ice cube trays or muffin tins.
  • Transfer frozen portions to freezer bags or airtight containers.
  • Label with dates and contents.
  • Freeze for up to 3 months.
  • Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before use.
  • Use thawed coconut milk within 3-5 days.
  • Avoid repeated freezing and thawing.

Freezing prevents bacterial growth that causes spoilage. With proper frozen storage, coconut milk can last for months.

Can You Refrigerate Coconut Milk After Opening?

Yes, it’s important to refrigerate coconut milk immediately after opening to maximize its shelf life. Transfer opened coconut milk to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. Make sure your refrigerator temperature is 40°F or below. Refrigeration is key for keeping coconut milk fresh after exposure to air.

Signs Your Refrigerated Coconut Milk Has Gone Bad

Watch for these signs that opened refrigerated coconut milk has spoiled:

  • Sour or rancid smell
  • Change in consistency – becomes lumpy or separates
  • Pink, yellow, or gray discoloration
  • Mold visible on the surface
  • Fizzing or bubbling when container is opened

When refrigerated coconut milk displays any of these characteristics, play it safe and throw it away. Don’t taste test coconut milk that may be spoiled.

Can Coconut Milk Be Frozen More Than Once?

It’s best not to freeze and defrost coconut milk more than once. Repeated freezing and thawing tends to degrade the taste, texture, and quality. Each freeze/thaw cycle allows more air to penetrate the packaging and introduces more opportunities for bacteria growth. For best results, freeze coconut milk once and then use within 3-5 days after thawing in the refrigerator.


Coconut milk does have a relatively short shelf life compared to other non-dairy alternatives. Proper storage is key to maximizing its freshness. Keep unopened cans and cartons refrigerated and use within a week of the expiration date. Once opened, coconut milk should be transferred to an airtight container and refrigerated for no more than 3-5 days. For longer term storage, divide into portion sizes and freeze for up to 3 months. Follow these tips and look for signs of spoilage to enjoy coconut milk while at peak quality.

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