How long does canned coconut milk last after opening?

Coconut milk has become a popular dairy-free alternative to traditional cow’s milk. With its rich, creamy texture and subtle coconut flavor, canned coconut milk can be used for everything from coffee creamer to curry dishes to smoothies. But once you open a can of coconut milk, how long does it actually last before it goes bad?

What is Coconut Milk?

Coconut milk is made from the flesh of mature coconuts. The coconut meat is grated and soaked in hot water to extract the flavorful coconut cream. The soaked coconut solids are then strained out, leaving behind the dairy-free “milk.”

Canned coconut milk is available in full-fat and lite versions. Full-fat coconut milk contains the thick, creamy coconut cream with a fat content around 17-24%. Lite coconut milk is diluted with water and contains 5-12% fat.

How to Store Unopened Cans of Coconut Milk

An unopened can of coconut milk will stay fresh for a long time if stored properly. Here are some tips for storing unopened coconut milk:

  • Check the “best by” date on the can before buying. Purchase coconut milk with the furthest away expiration date.
  • Store unopened cans in a cool, dry place like the pantry or cupboard. Avoid storage areas that get hot like near the stove or in direct sunlight.
  • Keep cans away from direct heat sources. High temperatures can accelerate spoilage.
  • Store cans upright and avoid stacking them to prevent dents or rust.
  • Once open, transfer contents to an airtight container and refrigerate. Use within 4-7 days.

Following these storage guidelines, unopened canned coconut milk should last 10-18 months past the printed “best by” date on the can.

How to Tell if Unopened Coconut Milk Has Gone Bad

If stored properly in a cool, dry place, unopened canned coconut milk can last up to two years past its “best by” date before going bad. However, there are some signs that indicate your canned coconut milk may have spoiled before opening:

  • Bulging or dented can – If the can bulges or is dented, do not open it. Botulism and other harmful bacteria can grow inside a compromised can.
  • Rust – Rust around the rim or seams of the can could indicate a breach where bacteria entered.
  • Mold – Any visible mold on the outside of the can means do not eat the contents!
  • Expired date – If the “best by” date has long since passed, the coconut milk is likely expired. Even if unopened, the quality degrades over time.
  • Changes in texture – Shake the can. If the contents seem abnormally thick, thin, or make splashing sounds, the coconut milk could be spoiled.
  • Changes in smell – Upon opening, if you detect sour, buttermilk, or rotten odors, discard immediately.

When in doubt, remember the old adage – if it seems spoiled, it probably is. Best to be safe and throw it out.

How to Store Opened Cans of Coconut Milk

Once opened, canned coconut milk will only last for up to one week in the refrigerator. Follow these tips for storing opened coconut milk:

Storage Tip Reason
Transfer to an airtight container Prevents moisture loss and keeps out fridge odors
Refrigerate Slows microbial growth by cooling contents
Use within 4-7 days Quality declines rapidly once exposed to air
Keep unused portion covered Minimizes air exposure to retain freshness
Avoid returning to original can Re-opening repeatedly exposes contents to air

To maximize freshness, pour only the amount needed into a container instead of the entire contents. Limiting oxygen exposure will help coconut milk stay fresh for 4-7 days in the refrigerator.

How to Tell if Opened Coconut Milk Has Gone Bad

Opened coconut milk only lasts about one week. Check for these signs that your opened coconut milk has spoiled:

  • Change in color – Fresh coconut milk is pure white. Yellow, pink or gray hues indicate spoilage.
  • Change in texture – Healthy coconut milk looks smooth and creamy. Separation, sliminess, or chunky bits are not normal.
  • Curdling – Curdled coconut milk has gone bad. Toss immediately.
  • Mold – Any fuzzy growth or discoloration means coconut milk is long past safe to consume.
  • Sour smell – Fresh coconut milk smells mildly nutty and sweet. A sour or rancid odor is a clear sign of spoilage.
  • Past shelf life – Opened coconut milk only lasts about 7 days. Toss if it’s older than that.

When coconut milk looks or smells questionable, err on the side of caution – throw it away! Consuming spoiled coconut milk can cause unpleasant digestive upset.

How to Extend the Shelf Life of Open Coconut Milk

To make your opened coconut milk last a bit longer, try these tips:

  • Smaller portion size – Pour just what you need instead of the whole can to limit air exposure.
  • Freeze – For up to 3 months, freeze leftovers in ice cube trays for use in smoothies or curries.
  • Cook with it – Simmering coconut milk extends the shelf life by killing bacteria.
  • Culture it – Ferment leftover coconut milk into probiotic yogurt or kefir.
  • Watch for signs – Check frequently for any spoilage before consuming.

However, remember the golden rule – when in doubt, throw it out. Even properly stored opened coconut milk only stays fresh for about 1 week.

The Shelf Life of Coconut Milk

Here is a summary of how long coconut milk lasts:

Coconut Milk Type Unopened Shelf Life Once Opened
Canned (unopened) 10-18 months past “best by” date 4-7 days in the fridge
Tetra Pak (unopened) 18-24 months past “best by” date 7-10 days in the fridge
DIY homemade 2-3 days in the fridge 24 hours in the fridge

For optimal freshness and food safety, use unopened canned or Tetra Pak coconut milk by the “best by” date. Once opened, use refrigerated coconut milk within 1 week.

Signs of Spoilage

Here are the top signs that coconut milk has gone bad:

  • Changes in color or texture
  • Clumping, separation, or curdling
  • Sour, buttermilk, rancid smell
  • Moldy fuzz or spots
  • Bulging or leaking packaging
  • Expired “best by” date

If you notice any of these signs, err on the side of caution and discard the coconut milk. Do not taste or consume spoiled coconut milk.

Food Safety

To enjoy coconut milk safely and prevent foodborne illness:

  • Check “best by” dates and avoid old cans with dents/rust
  • Refrigerate after opening and use within 1 week
  • Look for visual signs of spoilage before consuming
  • Discard if coconut milk smells or looks questionable
  • Avoid tasting coconut milk that may be spoiled

Proper storage and handling reduces the risk of foodborne pathogens like salmonella or E. coli. When unsure if a coconut milk has gone bad, throw it away.

Uses for Coconut Milk

Coconut milk’s rich, velvety texture makes it a handy dairy substitute. Here are some popular uses:

  • Coffee creamer or whipped topping
  • Smoothies and protein shakes
  • Curries, stews, and soups
  • Oat or chia pudding
  • Baked goods and desserts
  • Overnight oats, granola, and cereal
  • Non-dairy yogurt or kefir

Look for canned full-fat coconut milk in the Asian food aisle of grocery stores. Be sure to check the expiration date and inspect the can for damage before purchasing.


When properly stored and handled, canned coconut milk can stay fresh and safe to consume for:

  • 10-18 months past the “best by” date if unopened
  • Up to 1 week in the fridge after opening

Check for visual and olfactory signs of spoilage before use. Discard coconut milk that smells sour or shows any mold, even if unexpired. For optimal quality and food safety, open coconut milk should be consumed within 4-7 days and kept refrigerated.

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