Does coconut milk go bad in the fridge?

In this article, we answer the following question: Does coconut milk go bad in the fridge? We discuss how long does coconut milk last in the fridge, how to store it properly and how can we tell if coconut milk has gone bad. 

Does coconut milk go bad in the fridge?

Coconut milk does not go bad in the fridge, in fact, the cool space will prolong its freshness. Once opened, it is best to store the coconut milk in an airtight glass container in the fridge. Under these conditions, it is perfectly preserved for up to four days. For its part, homemade coconut milk can be kept in the fridge for two or three days.

In 2014, India, Indonesia and the Philippines were the largest coconut producers, producing 21.7 billion, 16.4 billion  and 14.7 billion nuts, respectively. This is equivalent to 75.6% of the total world production (1).

Homemade vegetable milk, as they are not sterilized, pasteurized, or homogenized, have a much shorter and more delicate life than any packaged milk. A packaged unopened coconut milk can travel in a truck at 30ºC and be on a shelf for 2 years without this affecting its expiration date. Canned coconut milk has a shelf life of 2-5 years unopened and of 4 days in the refrigerator after opening (2).

 This is unthinkable in the case of natural or homemade vegetable milk (or any fresh product) since in these cases a series of more demanding but not complicated conservation concepts or rules must be taken into account.

When we make plant-based milk, we know that it is alive, that is, we know that all the micro and macronutrients that inhabit it (amino acids, minerals, fats, vitamins, enzymes…) are alive and in constant transformation. In order for homemade milk to last for 3 to 5 days on average, we must always keep it in the refrigerator, between 2ºC and 5ºC (3,6).

The shelf life of coconut milk depends on its processing. In general, coconut milk is not sold fresh, rather it is thermally treated in order to increase its shelf life. Possible processing are sterilization, pasteurization and retorting. In the pasteurization process, the milk is heated to pasteurization temperature of between 72 and 75°C for 20 min. The pasteurized coconut milk has a shelf-life of not more than 5 days at 4°C (4).

Retort processing is also known as pressure cooking or autoclave processing and is a common method for in-container sterilization of foods. The pressure needed in the retort is approximately 10 psi above atmospheric pressure for sterilization at 116°C, 15 psi at 121°C and 20 psi at 127 °C. Retort processing done at a combination of 90°C for 15 minutes can be stored up to 4 months at room temperature without affecting its overall acceptability (5).

The cold slows down the super activity of the nutrients and helps to preserve it for longer. When we expose non-dairy milk to room temperature (15-20ºC), the micro-organisms are activated, they work faster and the milk can spoil in a few hours.

How long does coconut milk last in the fridge?

If we keep the refrigerator between 5ºC and 8ºC, which is usual, the shelf life of non-dairy milk will vary between 3 and 5 days (6). The variations will depend mainly on the temperature of the refrigerator, the degree of oxidation and quality of the raw material used (cereals, seeds, nuts …), and the quality of the water.

A curious fact to take into account is that, contrary to what happens with any packaged milk that has been subjected to thermal pasteurization or sterilization processes, natural vegetable milk, because it is a living food, is like wine that gets better as it ages. It settles and improves its flavor and texture.

How can I tell if coconut milk is expired?

When coconut milk expires we will clearly perceive it through the smell and taste. Rancid odor is characteristic of lipid oxidation, which occurs with increasing storage time. Changes of texture with loss of consistency may also occur (5,7). We will notice that the milk no longer smells good and that if we take a sip, it is unpleasant, with a spicy touch due to the degree of fermentation. In some of the milk, you will also notice that the color and texture of the milk change a little, becoming darker and runny. Microbial growth causes the coconut milk water and oil layers to become separated (8).

Other FAQs about Milk which you may be interested in.

Can I add milk to my spaghetti sauce?

Can you drink milk 2 days after the expiration date?

How to correctly store coconut milk?

It is enough to store the milk in a preferable glass container with a tight lid. It is important to close the container and prevent the milk from absorbing odors from the refrigerator. To better preserve the milk we can also distribute it in glass jars of more or less individual size (the typical jams, which will have the volume of a soda can approximately) and they are stored in the refrigerator. With this trick two things are improved:

CONSERVATION, since each pot I finish in 1 or 2 times at most, and the rest are still closed and therefore more protected.

DECANTATION is easier to shake one of these jars and leave it homogeneous than to stir all the liquid that can fit in a larger container.

Although pasteurization kills much of the bacteria in milk, any remaining bacteria can grow quickly in milk at room temperature or warmer. Store milk towards the rear of the refrigerator rather than the front or side shelf door, where the temperature varies the most (6).

 Can you freeze coconut milk?

We can freeze coconut milk with the intention of making popsicles or ice creams without problems. But when we want to freeze the milk to prolong its conservation, we must bear in mind that when we defrost it:

  • Its expiration date will be greater than its fresh version that has not been subjected to freezing, so it will last for fewer days (1 or 2 days).
  • Thawed milk will also suffer a deterioration in its structure and texture. Nut milk is the best vegetable milk to heat.

If we have no choice but to freeze, we will, but as a general rule, it is preferable to lower the temperature of the refrigerator to 2ºC and thus extend the life of our fresh milk for longer. In this way, we will avoid sacrificing the original texture and flavor of the milk and we will be able to enjoy the aging process that improves the drink so much.

In a study, coconut products were blanched at 70°C and frozen and their shelf life was determined. Sensory study revealed that the organoleptic properties of the coconut products were within the acceptable range though products showed differences sometimes, after 4 weeks storage compared with fresh samples. The results indicated that the minimum shelf life of the frozen coconut products is 8 weeks. The thermal treatment applied to the fresh coconut milk, which inactivated the enzyme peroxidase, was determinant to avoid enzymatic oxidation and rancidity during frozen storage (7). This indicates that homemade coconut milk must be blanched before frozen. Blanching can also extend the shelf life of the product under refrigeration.

Final thoughts

In this article, we answered the following question: Does coconut milk go bad in the fridge? We discussed how long does coconut milk last in the fridge, how to store it properly and how can we tell if coconut milk has gone bad. 

 Coconut milk is a very good addition to fried sauces and is an interesting alternative to thickeners in sauces such as flour and cornstarch. Coconut milk is a fairly thick liquid that has a fine and creamy texture and a sweet taste to the actor. It is prepared by straining the water from the coconut pulp and does not contain the milk of animal origin.

If you have any questions or comments on the content, please let us know.

References

  1. Hoe, T. K. The current scenario and development of the coconut industry. The Planter, 2018, 94, 413-426.
  2. FoodKeeper. United States Department of Agriculture.
  3. Andersen, A. Almond Milk. Michigan State University. 2015.
  4. Narataruksa, Phavanee, et al. Fouling behavior of coconut milk at pasteurization temperatures. Appl therm eng, 2010, 30, 1387-1395.
  5. Sahana, N., and D. Ramasamy. Process optimization and shelf life study of retort processed coconut milk. Pharma Innov, 2019, 8, 134-6.  
  6. Milk. The Nutrition Source. Harvard University.
  7. Gunathilake, K. D. P. P. Shelf Life and Quality Evaluation of Deep Frozen Coconut Cream, Coconut Scrapings and Coconut Slices. CORD, 2016, 32, 7-7.
  8. Patil, Umesh, and Soottawat Benjakul. Coconut milk and coconut oil: their manufacture associated with protein functionality. J food sci, 2018, 83, 2019-2027.