How can I tell if coconut milk is bad?

Coconut milk is a popular dairy-free milk alternative that is commonly used in many cuisines. It has a rich, creamy texture and a sweet coconut flavor. However, like any perishable food, coconut milk can spoil and go bad. Knowing how to tell if your coconut milk has gone bad will help you avoid accidentally using spoiled coconut milk in recipes.

Signs that Coconut Milk Has Gone Bad

Here are some of the most common signs that your coconut milk has spoiled and should be discarded:

  • Sour smell – Fresh coconut milk should have a mildly sweet scent. If it smells sour or unpleasant, it has likely gone bad.
  • Mold growth – Check the coconut milk for fuzzy mold spots or filaments on the surface or bottom of the carton/can.
  • Curdling – Bad coconut milk will curdle and separate with watery liquid on top when added to hot dishes or coffee.
  • Off taste – Spoiled coconut milk will simply not taste pleasant. It may taste sour, bitter, or off.
  • Discolored – The color changes from white to yellow, pink, or gray.
  • Lumpy texture – Bad coconut milk loses its smooth, creamy consistency and becomes gritty or lumpy.

How to Tell Coconut Milk is Still Good

Here are signs that indicate your coconut milk is still fresh and safe to consume:

  • Within expiry date – If the expiry date printed on the packaging hasn’t passed, the coconut milk is likely still good.
  • Tightly sealed package – If the carton or can isn’t open or leaking, the coconut milk inside should be fine.
  • Smooth, creamy texture – When you shake the carton, fresh coconut milk should still look smooth and creamy, not curdled or separated.
  • Pleasant coconut aroma – It should smell mildly sweet like coconuts when you open the package.
  • No mold – There should be no fuzzy spots, filaments, or discoloration indicating mold.
  • Normal color – The coconut milk is white or off-white with no weird discoloration.

How Long Does Coconut Milk Last?

The shelf life of coconut milk depends on whether it is a shelf-stable canned/carton variety or refrigerated coconut milk. Here is a breakdown:

Type of Coconut Milk Unopened After Opening
Shelf-stable (canned/carton) 12-18 months 5-7 days
Refrigerated (sold chilled) 10-14 days 4-6 days

Any coconut milk stored for longer than the recommended time period is at risk of spoiling.

Shelf Life of Coconut Milk

The printed expiration date on the packaging is the best guide for how long coconut milk lasts when sealed and stored properly. However, some additional guidelines include:

  • Unopened canned coconut milk: 12-18 months from the manufactured date
  • Unopened refrigerated coconut milk: 7-10 days from the sell-by date
  • Opened canned coconut milk: 5-7 days in the fridge
  • Opened refrigerated coconut milk: 4-6 days in the fridge

Coconut milk can last for longer than the recommended shelf life if it’s continuously refrigerated and kept sealed. However, its quality slowly declines over time, resulting in less flavor and nutrient value.

How to Store Coconut Milk

Proper storage is key for maximizing how long coconut milk lasts:

  • Unopened coconut milk: Store in a cool, dry pantry away from direct sunlight. Avoid storage in hot places like near the oven.
  • Opened coconut milk: Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate. Make sure the lid is sealed tightly.
  • Place either unopened or opened coconut milk cartons on interior fridge shelves rather than the door where the temperature fluctuates.
  • Don’t store coconut milk on the counter or at room temperature once opened.

Can You Freeze Coconut Milk?

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

  • Make sure the coconut milk is fresh and stays sealed until ready to freeze.
  • Pour the coconut milk into freezer-safe, airtight containers leaving about 1/2 inch of headspace.
  • Seal the containers tightly and label with the date.
  • Freeze for up to 3 months.
  • Thaw overnight in the fridge before using.
  • Use thawed coconut milk in cooking and baking rather than drinking straight.
  • Avoid refreezing thawed coconut milk.

Can you drink expired coconut milk?

It’s not recommended to drink coconut milk after its expiry date. Even if it looks and smells normal, expired coconut milk can make you sick. Bacteria like Salmonella and Listeria can grow in spoiled coconut milk, causing food poisoning symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea when ingested. Always discard coconut milk that is past its expiry.

What happens if you drink bad coconut milk?

Drinking spoiled coconut milk can give you food poisoning, resulting in unpleasant symptoms like:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps and pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever and chills
  • Headache
  • Fatigue and body aches

The symptoms may start within hours of ingesting bad coconut milk and last for a couple days until the illness runs its course. Seek medical care if symptoms are severe or persist longer than 48 hours.

How to tell if opened canned coconut milk is bad?

Here are the signs that an opened can of coconut milk has gone bad:

  • Sour, unpleasant smell
  • Mold growing inside the can
  • Lumpy texture or watery separation
  • Curdled consistency when stirred
  • Off white or pink discoloration

Trust your senses – if opened canned coconut milk smells or looks bad, throw it out. Don’t taste it. Also, discard any cans with significant dents, cracks, or rust since the seal may be compromised.

Can you use coconut milk after the expiration date?

It’s not recommended to use coconut milk past its printed expiration date, even if it still looks and smells normal. The quality and safety start diminishing over time. Expired coconut milk is more likely to contain harmful bacteria that could lead to foodborne illness. For best quality and food safety, use coconut milk by its expiry date.

Does coconut milk need to be refrigerated after opening?

Yes, coconut milk should always be refrigerated after opening. Keeping it chilled below 40°F inhibits bacteria growth, extending the shelf life up to a week past its use-by date. Leaving coconut milk out unrefrigerated once opened significantly increases the risk of spoilage and food poisoning.

Can you get sick from coconut milk?

Yes, you can get sick from consuming contaminated or spoiled coconut milk. Some potential illnesses include:

  • Salmonella – Causes fever, diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps 12-72 hours after ingesting.
  • Listeria – Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, nausea, diarrhea. May take up to 2 months to appear.
  • Mold toxicity – Mycotoxins from mold can cause nausea, vomiting, and an allergic response.

To avoid getting sick, inspect coconut milk closely and never consume it past the expiry date or if there are signs of spoilage like an off smell, taste, or appearance.


Checking the expiry date, smell, texture, and appearance of coconut milk can help you determine if it has gone bad. Discard coconut milk that is past its date, smells sour, is moldy, or looks curdled or discolored. Consuming spoiled coconut milk can cause unpleasant symptoms, so it’s important to store it properly and follow food safety guidelines. With some simple checks, you can have fresh and tasty coconut milk for your recipes.

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