Coconut milk has become a popular dairy-free alternative to traditional cow’s milk. Made from the meat and water of mature coconuts, coconut milk provides a creamy, nutty flavor perfect for cooking and baking. But how long does an unopened carton of coconut milk last after purchasing it? Here is a comprehensive guide to the shelf life of coconut milk and how to tell when it has gone bad.
Unopened Coconut Milk
An unopened carton of coconut milk, whether from the refrigerated section or a shelf-stable tetra pack, lasts quite a long time past the “best by” date printed on the package. Here are some general guidelines for how long unopened coconut milk lasts:
- Refrigerated coconut milk: 3-4 weeks past the printed date
- Shelf-stable coconut milk: 6-8 months past the printed date
The shelf life depends on the type of processing and packaging. Refrigerated cartons need to be kept cold, while shelf-stable varieties are specially processed for prolonged storage at room temperature. Tetra pack coconut milk boxes often have a “best by” date 12-18 months in the future.
How to Tell if Unopened Coconut Milk Has Gone Bad
Watch for these signs that your unopened coconut milk has spoiled and needs to be discarded:
- Bulging or leaking packaging
- Strong sour odor when carton is opened
- Curdled consistency instead of creamy
- Mold visible inside packaging
If there are no signs of spoilage, the coconut milk should be safe to consume or cook with for quite some time past its printed date. Discard if you notice any changes from its normal appearance, aroma, or texture.
How Long Does Opened Coconut Milk Last?
Once opened, both refrigerated and shelf-stable coconut milk have a shorter shelf life. Here are some guidelines for how long opened coconut milk lasts before it goes bad:
|Coconut Milk Type
For best quality, it’s recommended to store opened coconut milk in the refrigerator whenever possible. Discard any remainder after 7-10 days. If kept at room temperature, make sure to use within 3-5 days.
How to Tell When Opened Coconut Milk Goes Bad
Watch for these signs that your opened coconut milk has gone bad and needs to be thrown out:
- Sour, unpleasant smell
- Curdled texture instead of smooth and creamy
- Mold growing on surface
- Pink, blue, green discoloration
Coconut milk that has been continuously refrigerated may last up to 7-10 days past opening before it starts to smell or taste “off.” Discard immediately at the first signs of spoilage.
Does Coconut Milk Go Bad or Expire?
Yes, coconut milk does eventually go bad and expire, even if unopened. The shelf life depends on the best by date, proper storage conditions, and whether or not the carton has been opened. The signs of expired coconut milk include:
- Sour or rancid smell
- Change in texture and consistency
- Mold growth
If your coconut milk shows any of these signs, err on the side of caution and throw it away. Don’t consume coconut milk past its prime as it can cause digestive upset if spoiled bacteria is present.
How to Store Coconut Milk to Extend Shelf Life
Here are some tips for getting the longest shelf life out of your coconut milk:
- Purchase coconut milk with the furthest away “best by” date.
- Keep unopened coconut milk away from direct sunlight and sources of heat.
- Store unopened tetra packs of coconut milk in a cool, dry pantry.
- Refrigerate opened cartons of coconut milk.
- Make sure opened coconut milk is tightly sealed between uses.
- Use clean utensils each time you scoop out coconut milk.
- Do not return leftover coconut milk from cooking back to the original carton.
If you follow proper storage methods, keep coconut milk sealed, and refrigerate after opening, it can safely last for its printed shelf life and beyond.
Can You Freeze Coconut Milk?
Yes, you can freeze coconut milk to extend its shelf life even further. Here are some tips for freezing coconut milk:
- Make sure coconut milk is not past its “best by” date before freezing.
- Freeze coconut milk in original carton or pour into resealable plastic freezer bags.
- Flatten bags or cartons to limit air exposure and prevent freezer burn.
- Coconut milk can be frozen for up to 6 months.
- Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.
- Give thawed coconut milk a good stir or shake before use.
- Use thawed coconut milk within 4-5 days.
Freezing prevents spoilage and allows you to keep coconut milk on hand for longer. Thaw in the refrigerator, not at room temperature to prevent curdling.
Coconut Milk Substitutes
If you don’t have coconut milk when a recipe calls for it, here are some suitable substitutions to use in a pinch:
- Unsweetened almond milk
- 2% dairy milk
- Light coconut cream diluted with water
- DIY: Blend unsweetened shredded coconut with hot water, let sit 30 mins
Substitute an equal amount of your coconut milk swap. Adjust consistency with less water for thicker results or more water for a thinner consistency as needed. The flavor won’t be exactly the same, but these subs work well enough in most recipes.
Does coconut milk need to be refrigerated?
Unopened shelf-stable coconut milk in tetra packs does not need refrigeration. However, refrigerated coconut milk in cartons should always be kept cold, even unopened. Once opened, it’s best to refrigerate both types of coconut milk.
How do you fix curdled coconut milk?
If your coconut milk accidentally curdles from high heat or acidity, try whisking in a small amount of room temperature milk or water to smooth it out again. Bring gently back up to temperature without boiling to reincorporate. Straining through a cheesecloth can also help remove clumps.
Can I remake coconut cream from coconut milk?
Yes, you can make coconut cream by refrigerating full-fat canned coconut milk overnight. Open the can and scoop out the solid coconut cream that separates and rises to the top. DIY coconut cream has the same consistency as the real thing!
With proper storage and handling, coconut milk can be enjoyed well within the time period printed on its packaging or longer. Keep it sealed, refrigerate after opening, and look for signs of spoilage before use. An unopened carton lasts for weeks or months, while opened coconut milk is best within 7-10 days. Freezing extends shelf life for up to 6 months. Use your senses and judgment to determine if your coconut milk has expired before consuming in recipes or beverages. Follow the safety guidelines and enjoy the creamy flavor of coconut milk while it’s still fresh.