Can you get sick from expired coconut milk?

In this brief article, we will answer the question “Can you get sick from expired coconut milk?”, with an in-depth analysis of what coconut milk is. We will also discuss the health benefits of using coconut milk.

Can you get sick from expired coconut milk?

It depends if the coconut milk isn’t spoiled yet. The shelf life of coconut milk varies depending on storage conditions, making it a delicate matter. Even under chilled storage, untreated coconut milk can spoil rapidly. 

This is due to its rich composition, which provides an ideal environment for the growth of common spoilage microorganisms, often introduced through contaminated shells, utensils, processing equipment, or handlers.

The terms “expiry date” or “best before” date provided by the manufacturer indicate the period during which the product is expected to be in its prime condition. 

Beyond this date, the food may not necessarily go bad or become unsafe to consume, but it might lose its original texture or taste. The key to keeping coconut milk for longer periods of time is to store it properly. (1, 2)

What factors influence coconut milk shelf life?

Commercially, coconut milk’s shelf life has been significantly extended through various methods, with canning, aseptic packaging, and spray drying being the primary approaches.

Among these methods, heat processing has proven to be highly effective in prolonging the shelf life of coconut milk. Short-term preservation can be achieved through pasteurization, but for long-term storage, a more rigorous heating regime is required to ensure the product reaches commercial sterility.

For instance, pasteurized coconut milk typically retains its quality for no more than five days when stored at 4ºC. In contrast, canned coconut milk, subjected to the more stringent heating process, can remain shelf-stable for at least 24 months under normal storage conditions. (1)

What are the risks of drinking spoiled coconut milk?

Due to its nutritional composition, coconut milk is prone to contamination and can support the growth of spoilage and potentially harmful microorganisms. 

As a result, consuming contaminated coconut milk may give rise to unpleasant symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or a combination of these discomforts. (1, 3, 4)

How does coconut milk go bad?

Untreated coconut milk, even when refrigerated, is highly susceptible to rapid spoilage. Its rich composition provides an ideal environment for the growth of various common spoilage microorganisms.

Some of the bacteria commonly found in coconut milk belong to the genera Bacillus, Achromobacter, Microbacterium, Micrococcus, and Brevibacterium. 

Additionally, coliform organisms are present, while fungi such as Penicillium, Geotricum, Mucor, Fusarium, and Saccharomyces spp. are among the predominant isolates from coconut milk.

Apart from microbial spoilage, coconut milk is also highly prone to chemical deterioration, including enzymatic processes. Lipid autoxidation and lipolysis are the primary culprits, leading to undesirable tastes and odors. 

The enzyme lipase catalyzes the rapid hydrolysis of acylglycerols, releasing short-chain fatty acids like butyric, caproic, caprylic, and capric acids, which give rise to strong odors. 

Medium-chain fatty acids, such as lauric and myristic acids found in coconut oil, can produce a distinctive soapy taste. Oxidative rancidity occurs when unsaturated fatty acids undergo oxidation, further contributing to coconut milk’s chemical degradation. (1)

How long does coconut milk remain good?

Fresh or pasteurized coconut milk, whether store-bought or homemade without aseptic conditions, has a relatively limited shelf life. At room temperature, its viability is restricted to just a few hours. 

However, refrigeration at temperatures between 4°C and 5°C can extend its freshness for approximately 2-3 days.

In contrast, coconut milk that has undergone pasteurization, undergone aseptic packaging, and is stored in refrigerated conditions exhibits much greater stability. It can maintain its quality for a considerably longer period of 12-30 days.

For coconut milk that has been ultra-pasteurized and aseptically packaged, its shelf life is significantly extended. When stored at room temperature, it can last anywhere from 90 to 170 days, providing consumers with a prolonged window to use the product. (3)

Canned coconut milk can last for at least 24 months under normal storage conditions. (1)

How to store coconut milk?

Storing an unopened container of coconut milk is best done in a cool, dark, and dry place, such as a pantry or kitchen cabinet. However, once the container is opened, refrigeration becomes essential to preserve the freshness of the coconut milk.

To prevent the coconut milk from absorbing undesirable odors, it is crucial to tightly seal the container lid and keep it away from strongly aromatic foods.

When opening canned coconut milk, it is advisable to transfer any leftover milk to an airtight plastic or glass container. This precaution helps prevent potential interactions between the metal can and the coconut milk during storage.

For homemade coconut milk, refrigeration is always the recommended storage method. 

Before using refrigerated canned or homemade coconut milk, gently shake the container to ensure that the solid contents are evenly dispersed within the milk, providing a consistent texture and taste when used. (3) 

Can you freeze coconut milk?

Yes, coconut milk can be frozen as a preservation method. If an opened container of coconut milk is not going to be used within a week, it is advisable to store it in the freezer to maintain its quality.

However, it’s essential to consider that freezing can impact the texture of coconut milk. During the thawing process, the milk solids and liquids may separate, resulting in a loss of its original smooth and creamy consistency. (1)


In this brief article, we answered the question “Can you get sick from expired coconut milk?”, with an in-depth analysis of what coconut milk is. We also discussed the health benefits of using coconut milk.


  1. Seow, C. C., & Gwee, C. N. Coconut milk: chemistry and technology. International Journal of Food Science and Technology, 32(3), 189–201. 1997.
  2. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Website. Washington, DC. Food Product Dating. 2019.
  3. Reyes-Jurado, F., et. al. Plant-Based Milk Alternatives: Types, Processes, Benefits, and Characteristics. Food Reviews International, 1–32, 2021.
  4. Kehinde, B. A., Panghal, A., Garg, M. K., Sharma, P., & Chhikara, N. (2020). Vegetable milk as probiotic and prebiotic foods. Advances in Food and Nutrition Research.

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