Is it OK to eat expired coconut milk?


Coconut milk has become a popular ingredient in many dishes and beverages. It provides a creamy, rich texture and a touch of natural sweetness. However, like any perishable food, coconut milk does eventually expire. You may have a can sitting in your pantry and wonder, is it still safe to use coconut milk past its printed expiration date?

This article will examine how to tell if coconut milk has gone bad, the safety of consuming expired coconut milk, and how long coconut milk actually lasts when properly stored. We’ll also provide some tips for using up coconut milk before it expires. Read on to get the scoop on the shelf life and safety of expired canned coconut milk!

How to Tell if Coconut Milk Has Gone Bad

Coconut milk is made by grating the white flesh of mature coconuts and soaking it in hot water to extract the flavorful oils. The resulting liquid is strained to produce the coconut milk we buy in cans and cartons.

Like other dairy products, coconut milk can spoil and become unsafe to ingest. Here are some signs that your coconut milk has gone bad:

  • Sour smell – Fresh coconut milk should have a slightly sweet, nutty aroma. If it smells sour or rancid, it has likely spoiled.
  • Mold – Check the coconut milk for fuzzy mold growing on the surface, which signals spoilage.
  • Curdling – Expired coconut milk may look curdled or lumpy rather than smooth and creamy.
  • Gas buildup – Bulging or swollen cans may indicate gas production from spoilage.
  • Changes in color – Significant darkening or unnatural colors like blue, red, or pink indicate the coconut milk is spoiled.

If you detect any of these characteristics in a can or carton of coconut milk, it’s best to play it safe and throw it out. Rancid coconut milk has an unpleasant taste and consuming large amounts may cause digestive upset.

Is it Safe to Consume Expired Coconut Milk?

The shelf life printed on coconut milk is simply the manufacturer’s estimate of how long it will maintain peak quality. Coconut milk may still be perfectly safe to consume for a period after its sell-by date.

However, food safety experts, including the FDA, advise against eating or drinking anything past its expiration date. As coconut milk continues to age, the risk of contamination and foodborne illness rises, even if the product doesn’t outwardly look or smell spoiled.

Bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus and Salmonella can grow slowly in coconut milk over time without producing obvious signs. Consuming contaminated coconut milk could result in a gastrointestinal illness. The amount of bacteria may still be relatively low, but it’s difficult to gauge safety without laboratory testing.

Consuming expired coconut milk intended for cooking rather than drinking may pose less risk of illness. High heat from thoroughly cooking the coconut milk can destroy harmful bacteria. But even then, the quality and flavor will steadily decline the longer it is kept past its prime.

Our recommendation is to avoid using coconut milk more than 3-5 days past its printed expiration date. Even when refrigerated, coconut milk’s safe shelf life is quite limited compared to many other staple foods.

How Long Does Unopened Coconut Milk Last?

The shelf life of coconut milk depends highly on whether it is an unopened can/carton versus one that has been opened:

Unopened Coconut Milk

Pantry/Cupboard Refrigerator
6-8 months past printed date 1 year past printed date

When stored at cool room temperature around 70°F, unopened cans of coconut milk typically stay fresh for 6-8 months past the printed sell-by or use-by date. Keeping cans refrigerated extends the shelf life up to a year.

Canned coconut milk has an advantage over cartons because the metal can protects the contents from oxygen and light exposure. Make sure cans are not bulging, dented, or leaking before use. If the cans are in good condition, the coconut milk inside remains perfectly safe for long periods after opening provided it is immediately refrigerated.

Opened Coconut Milk

Pantry/Cupboard Refrigerator
2-3 days 5-7 days

Once exposed to oxygen, the quality of coconut milk quickly deteriorates. Opened cans and cartons should be kept refrigerated and used within 5-7 days. If left at room temperature, consume within 2-3 days.

The expiration date on commercial coconut milk typically ranges between 10-18 months from the packaging date. Store-bought coconut milk lasts this long unopened. But once opened, it is quite perishable and lasts less than a week in the fridge.

If you don’t think you can use up a whole can of coconut milk within 5-7 days, consider freezing the leftovers in an airtight container or resealable plastic bag. Thawed coconut milk separates, but it can be shaken or whisked back together. Frozen coconut milk lasts up to 3 months.

Tips for Using Up Coconut Milk Before It Expires

To avoid wasting money and food due to expired coconut milk, try these proactive tips:

– Purchase smaller cans or shelf-stable cartons you can use up faster once opened. Canned coconut milk often comes in 13.5 or 15 oz size.

– Look for coconut milk with a farther out expiration or “best by” date and store it in the back of the pantry or fridge. Use newer purchases first.

– Check expiration dates regularly and plan dishes that call for coconut milk, like Thai curry, coconut rice pudding, or piña coladas.

– Keep a list on the fridge of recipes to try that use up coconut milk.

– Once opened, label coconut milk with the date. Use in soups, smoothies, oatmeal, etc before it expires.

– Freeze leftover coconut milk in ice cube trays or muffin tins. Pop out and store frozen cubes in a bag.

– Add a splash of coconut milk to lentil or vegetable curries at the end. The high heat helps extend the life once opened.

– Make coconut whipped cream to top pies and desserts. Whip chilled coconut milk with sugar or honey.

– Use close-dated or slower-moving products for cooking instead of drinking raw. High heat helps destroy bacteria.

– Purchase coconut milk powder which has a shelf life of 2-3 years when stored properly in an airtight container. Reconstitute as needed.

– Consider making your own coconut milk from shredded coconut. It doesn’t keep long but lets you create smaller batches.

With some planning and clever kitchen strategies, you can fully enjoy the flavors and health benefits of coconut milk without having to toss expired cans or cartons.

Is Expired Canned Coconut Milk Safe in Coffee and Smoothies?

We don’t recommend using coconut milk past its prime in beverages meant to be consumed raw.

Added to coffee, smoothies, or straight from a glass, expired coconut milk poses higher food safety risks. Bacteria potentially present has not been destroyed by cooking. Consuming rancid or spoiled coconut milk unheated risks foodborne illness.

The overall quality also steadily drops. Oxidation degrades the oils, vitamins, and flavors. Older coconut milk in coffee may curdle, separate, and taste unpleasantly sour or metallic.

For the best taste and food safety, stick to freshly opened coconut milk in raw beverages and use expired product only for cooking. If coconut milk smells or looks odd when you open the carton, play it safe and toss it out regardless of the printed date.

The Bottom Line

So back to our original question – is it OK to eat expired coconut milk? The answer is it depends. Very recently expired coconut milk is probably fine for cooking, baking, and other applications with high heat. However, we strongly recommend against drinking or consuming coconut milk that is past its prime without cooking it first. Don’t rely on dates alone to determine safety either – always inspect the product and your senses too.

Proper refrigeration and freezing extends the shelf life of coconut milk considerably. But once exposed to air and aging, both the safety and quality drop quickly. Smaller packages, planning recipes, and repurposing leftovers into frozen cubes can help you fully use coconut milk while it’s still fresh.

Being informed about food safety and using some kitchen finesse lets you feel confident about including creamy coconut milk in your recipes without having to toss expired product. Instead of wondering “is it still good?”, you’ll know when it’s time to restock with a fresh can or carton.


Coconut milk adds delicious flavor and richness to both sweet and savory dishes. While properly stored, unopened cans have a long shelf life of up to a year past the printed date, opened coconut milk spoils fairly rapidly. Once opened, it should be used within 5-7 days and only for cooked applications, not raw beverages.

Look for signs of spoilage like off-smells, curdling, or gas bubbles when evaluating older coconut milk. Consuming rancid coconut milk poses health risks, so when in doubt, throw it out. Following safe storage methods, buying smaller containers, planning recipes, and freezing extras can help you use up coconut milk while it’s still fresh. With some simple precautions, you can safely enjoy coconut milk’s creamy goodness without having to toss expired product.

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