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How long does coconut milk last once opened?

Coconut milk is a popular plant-based milk alternative that is commonly used in cooking and baking. It has a rich, creamy texture and a sweet, coconutty flavor. But once you open a can or carton of coconut milk, how long does it last before it goes bad?

What is Coconut Milk?

Coconut milk is made from the white flesh of mature brown coconuts. To make coconut milk, the coconut meat is grated and soaked in hot water to soften it. The softened coconut is then strained to extract the flavorful coconut milk.

The resulting coconut milk is a creamy, milky-white liquid. It can be used as a milk substitute in recipes, smoothies, or coffees. Coconut milk is lactose-free and vegan. It’s also rich in healthy fats and nutrients.

Types of Coconut Milk

There are a few different types of coconut milk available:

  • Canned coconut milk – This is the most widely available type of coconut milk. It’s sold in cans and is very thick and creamy with the highest fat content.
  • Carton coconut milk – Also known as “coconut milk beverage”, this type is thinner in consistency and usually has added stabilizers.
  • Refrigerated coconut milk – This is fresh coconut milk that is usually sold in the refrigerated section of health food stores. It has the shortest shelf life.
  • Light coconut milk – A thinner, lower-fat version made with less coconut extract.

For the purposes of discussing shelf life, this article will focus on canned and carton coconut milks from the pantry. Refrigerated coconut milk should be used within about 5-7 days of opening.

How Long Does Opened Coconut Milk Last?

Once opened, both canned and carton coconut milk should be refrigerated and used within:

  • 5-7 days for canned coconut milk
  • 7-10 days for carton coconut milk

These time frames are for coconut milk that has been continuously refrigerated after opening. The colder temperature helps slow spoilage and bacteria growth.

How to Tell if Opened Coconut Milk Has Gone Bad

Coconut milk that has gone bad will show the following signs of spoilage:

  • Sour smell
  • Curdled texture or watery separation
  • Mold growth
  • Discolored appearance
  • Changed consistency

If your opened coconut milk displays any of these characteristics, it’s best to throw it out. Consuming spoiled coconut milk can cause digestive upset.

Extending the Shelf Life of Opened Coconut Milk

You can extend the shelf life of opened coconut milk by a few extra days with these tips:

  • Transfer it to an airtight container or resealable bag after opening.
  • Keep the coconut milk as cold as possible by storing it at the back of the fridge.
  • Make sure your fridge temperature is 40°F or below.
  • Store coconut milk away from light exposure to prevent oxidation.
  • Use clean utensils each time you scoop out some coconut milk.

Does Coconut Milk Go Bad if Unopened?

Unopened, store-bought coconut milk has a much longer shelf life. An unopened can or carton of coconut milk generally stays fresh for:

  • Canned – 18-24 months past the “best by” date printed on the can
  • Carton – 7-10 days past the “expires on” or “use by” date on the package

As long as the container is not damaged in any way, unopened coconut milk lasts for well over a year in the pantry due to the sterilization process used during canning.

However, optimal quality only lasts for about 18-24 months for canned milk and 7-10 days for cartons after the date on the label. Over time, the color, consistency, and flavor of coconut milk will degrade even if unopened.

How to Store Coconut Milk Properly

To get the longest shelf life out of coconut milk, proper storage is key. Here are some storage tips:

Unopened Coconut Milk

  • Store cans and cartons in a cool, dry pantry away from direct sunlight and heat sources.
  • Avoid storing cans and cartons directly on the floor where it’s colder and could lead to condensation.
  • Keep coconut milk containers clean and dry to prevent rusting of cans.
  • Don’t let cans or cartons freeze, which can cause separation of coconut solids.

Opened Coconut Milk

  • Transfer coconut milk to an airtight container or pitcher and refrigerate.
  • Make sure your fridge is set to 40°F or below.
  • Store coconut milk towards the back of the fridge where it’s coldest.
  • Keep leftovers for only 5-7 days (canned) or 7-10 days (carton) after opening.

How to Use Up Leftover Coconut Milk

To avoid wasting the leftover coconut milk in an opened can or carton, here are some delicious ways to use it up:

  • Make coconut rice pudding or chia pudding
  • Blend it into soups, curries, or stews
  • Add to oatmeal or overnight oats
  • Mix into yogurt with fruit and granola
  • Make homemade popsicles
  • Whip up coconut whipped cream
  • Use in place of milk in baked goods like muffins
  • Freeze leftovers in ice cube trays for smoothies

You can also portion and freeze any extra coconut milk in freezer bags or containers for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge before using.

Signs Your Coconut Milk Has Gone Bad

Coconut milk is perishable and can go bad if left open too long in the fridge or if stored incorrectly. Here are some signs that your coconut milk has spoiled and should be discarded:

Signs of Spoilage Description
Sour smell Spoiled coconut milk will have a distinct sour, unpleasant odor.
Curdled texture Bad coconut milk may be chunky, lumpy, gelatinous or appear curdled.
Mold growth You may see fuzzy mold growing either on the surface or bottom of the packaging.
Separation Stored incorrectly, coconut milk can separate with a watery layer on top.
Discoloration Instead of white, coconut milk may look yellow, pink or gray in color.

If you notice your coconut milk shows any of these signs, err on the side of caution and throw it away. Consuming spoiled coconut milk could potentially cause foodborne illness.

How Long Does Coconut Milk Last In Fridge After Opening?

Properly stored coconut milk that has been continuously refrigerated will generally stay fresh after opening for:

  • Canned coconut milk: 5 to 7 days
  • Carton coconut milk: 7 to 10 days

The shelf life is slightly shorter for canned milk compared to cartons due to the preservatives added to carton coconut milk. But for both types, coconut milk should not be left in the fridge for longer than 7-10 days after opening.

To maximize freshness, transfer opened coconut milk to an airtight container and store it towards the back of the fridge, not the door. Keep your fridge at 40°F or cooler. Use clean utensils each time you scoop out some coconut milk.

Does Coconut Milk Go Bad If Unopened?

Unopened, store-bought coconut milk generally stays good for:

  • Canned coconut milk: 2 to 5 years past the “best by” date
  • Carton coconut milk: 7 to 10 days past the “expires on” date

Canned coconut milk has an incredibly long shelf life of 2 years or more past the printed date, assuming the can is not damaged. This is because the canning process kills any bacteria and seals out new contaminants.

For cartons, the shelf life is much shorter at just 7-10 days past the expiry date printed on the package. So make sure to check this date before purchasing carton coconut milk.

Does Coconut Milk Go Bad If Not Refrigerated After Opening?

Yes, coconut milk can go bad if left unrefrigerated after opening. Without refrigeration, opened coconut milk left at room temperature will only stay fresh for:

  • Canned – 4 to 6 hours
  • Carton – 2 to 4 hours

The warmer temperature allows rapid growth of bacteria and molds. For food safety, leftover coconut milk should always be transferred to an airtight container and refrigerated immediately after opening.

How To Store Coconut Milk To Extend Shelf Life

Follow these tips for storing coconut milk correctly:

Unopened Coconut Milk

  • Store cans and cartons in a cool, dry pantry away from direct sunlight.
  • Avoid storing cans directly on the floor or it may get too cold.
  • Don’t allow coconut milk to freeze as this causes separation.

Opened Coconut Milk

  • Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate.
  • Refrigerate at 40°F or below.
  • Store towards the back of the fridge where coldest.
  • Use clean utensils when scooping to avoid contamination.
  • Consume within 5-7 days (canned) or 7-10 days (carton).

How To Use Up Leftover Coconut Milk

To avoid wasting extra coconut milk after opening, try using it in these delicious recipes:

  • Coconut rice pudding
  • Coconut whipped cream
  • Coconut curry dishes
  • Overnight oats or chia pudding
  • Smoothies
  • Muffins or banana bread
  • Freeze in ice cube trays for smoothies

Coconut milk can also be portioned into freezer bags or containers and frozen for up to 3 months. Remember to thaw overnight in the fridge before using.

Conclusion

Coconut milk is a versatile ingredient that can add creaminess and tropical flavor to recipes. But like any dairy milk, it has a limited shelf life. Properly stored, unopened cans of coconut milk can last 2 years past the printed date. Once opened, coconut milk lasts just 5-7 days (canned) or 7-10 days (carton) in the fridge.

To maximize freshness, store coconut milk correctly based on whether it’s unopened, opened, canned or carton. Use your senses to check for signs of spoilage like changes in appearance, texture and smell. For leftovers, incorporate coconut milk into tasty recipes like chia puddings or curry dishes.

Following these tips will help ensure your coconut milk stays fresh and safe to consume within the recommended time period after opening.