Does coconut milk go bad? +(shelf life of a carton)
In this brief article, we will answer the questions: does coconut milk go bad, and how to store it. Coconut milk is a versatile product used for both cooking and baking, it is added for its creaminess and sweetness.
Does coconut milk go bad?
Yes, coconut milk goes bad. Coconut milk is available in different commercial forms and its shelf life varies depending on its composition, processing and packaging.
However, if the coconut is canned, pasteurized or sterilized, it does go bad with time (1).
What factors determine the shelf life of coconut milk?
The factors that determine the shelf life of coconut milk are mainly the composition of the milk, the production process, the packaging material used to bottle the product, as well as its storage conditions, as follows:
Coconut milk is a drink in the form of an emulsion extracted from coconut meat and contains nutrients such as proteins, lipids, carbohydrates and water. The composition affects the stability of the coconut milk emulsion and its susceptibility to microbial spoilage (1,2,3).
Different thermal processes are involved in the production of coconut milk in order to reduce the initial microbial contamination, stabilize the enzymatic reactions, thus increasing its shelf life: sterilization, pasteurization and retorting.
In the pasteurization process, the milk is heated to a temperature of about 72°C for 20 min, while by sterilization, a heat of 121°C for 20 min is used. In retorting, in addition to heat, high pressure is used, which is more effective in increasing the shelf life of coconut milk (1,3).
The packaging affects the shelf life of coconut milk, as different packaging materials have different barrier properties against heat, moisture, light and air.
Finally, the storage conditions may determine the shelf life of coconut milk. Lower storage temperatures and protection from heat, air and light may extend the shelf life of shelf stable products (7).
In the case of pasteurized products, refrigeration is needed to reduce the microbial growth and reduce the rate of chemical and enzymatic reactions.
How to know that coconut has gone bad?
To know that coconut has gone bad, you should be able to identify the possible signs of spoilage in the coconut milk.
During storage, coconut milk is not only affected by the action of microorganisms, but can lose quality due to chemical reactions, such as lipid oxidation, protein degradation, changes of acidity and others, which causes the milk to coagulate, change in flavor and color (3).
Some possible signs of spoilage are (1,2,3,6):
- Generation of off-odors, rancid or sour.
- Evident coagulation (phase separation) even after shaking of the product.
- Bloating of the packaging or gas release when packaging is opened.
- Discoloration, visible mold spots.
- Rancid, oxidized flavor.
What is the shelf life of coconut milk?
The shelf life of coconut milk varies from a few days to several months, depending on the type and the storage conditions, as mentioned on the table below (1,2,3,4):
|Type||Storage||Shelf life – unopened||Shelf life – opened (refrigeration)|
|Canned||Room temperature||“best-by” date on the packaging||7-10 days|
|Pasteurized||Refrigeration||5 days||5 days|
|Sterilized||Room temperature||4 months||7-10 days|
|Sterilized||Freezer||8 weeks||7-10 days|
How long does coconut milk last after the expiration date?
The shelf life after the expiration date is unpredictable and can only be theorized, because it depends on many factors, such as the storage conditions, the composition of the coconut milk and the packaging material.
However, it is known that the “best-by” date printed on the product packaging ensures the safety consumption of the product till that date, and spoilage will theoretically start to happen after this date (8).
In the worst scenario, considering fresh coconut milk stored at room temperature, if the shelf life is 24 hours, it means that spoilage will start immediately after being produced and the spoilage process takes 24 hours, being safe to consume within this period (9).
When stored in the refrigerator, fresh coconut milk can be safely used within approximately 7 after being produced (10), which would theoretically mean that a spoilage process under refrigeration takes 7 days to occur.
Applying this to other types of coconut milk, you can suppose that the deterioration of an unopened and recently expired packaging of coconut milk in the refrigerator will happen within 7 days after being opened.
However, as the spoilage may also occur when the product is kept unopened and stored for longer periods, you will need to carefully examine the appearance, texture, odor, color and flavor of the coconut milk prior to its consumption after the expiration date.
How to store coconut milk?
The recommended storage conditions for coconut milk depend on the type.
While sterilized coconut milk is shelf stable for 4 months at room temperature when unopened and in the fridge after opening, pasteurized coconut milk should be stored in the refrigerator during the entire shelf life of the product (1,2,3).
Shelf stable coconut milk:
Unopened coconut milk cans are stored in cool, dark, and humid places to avoid spoiling coconut milk. Ideally, the temperature in the pantry should be 50 to 70 °F (7).
Pasteurized coconut milk or opened coconut milk:
Opened coconut milk packaging or unopened pasteurized coconut milk should be kept in their original packaging in the refrigerator to a temperature of 40°F or below. Do not overload the refrigerator and keep the refrigerator clean.
Freezing coconut milk:
Coconut milk can be frozen in an airtight container. Frozen coconut milk has a shelf life of 8 weeks (3).
How long does canned/carton coconut milk last in the fridge?
Canned or in the caton packed coconut milk lasts for about 7 to 10 days in the fridge after being opened, according to data provided by the USDA (4). They are shelf stable products with a shelf life when kept unopened indicated by the manufacturer.
However, this is only an approximate shelf life. The shelf life of refrigerated coconut milk depends on many factors, such as:
- The composition of the coconut milk
- The initial microbial load, which is determined by the production process
- The storage conditions of the product when kept unopened
- The temperature of the home refrigerator (door opening cause temperature fluctuations which can increase the internal temperature, reducing the shelf life)
On the other hand, according to the scientific literature, pasteurized coconut milk can last for more than 15 days under refrigeration without presenting severe changes (10).
Can you use expired coconut milk?
You can use expired coconut milk, unless possible signs of spoilage are noticed. According to the USDA, a product should still be safe and if it has been stored and handled properly until spoilage is evident (6).
However, it is not recommended to use expired coconut milk if you notice any signs of off-odor, color alteration, formation of gas inside the packaging, formation of slime on the surface of the product or spots of mold.
The consumption of spoiled food can cause several problems to human health, ranging from gastrointestinal discomfort to possible hospitalization due to food poisoning (5).
Other FAQs about Milk which you may be interested in.
In this brief article, we discussed “does coconut milk go bad?”, the possible signs indicating that coconut milk has gone bad and how to store it.
- Narataruksa, Phavanee, et al. Fouling behavior of coconut milk at pasteurization temperatures. Appl therm eng, 2010, 30, 1387-1395.
- Sahana, N., and D. Ramasamy. Process optimization and shelf life study of retort processed coconut milk. Pharma Innov, 2019, 8, 134-6.
- 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.
- Foodkeeper Data. United States Department of Agriculture.
- Foodborne illness and diseases. United States Department of Agriculture. 2020.
- Food Product dating. United States Department of Agriculture. 2019.
- Van Laanen, Peggy. Safe home food storage. University of Texas. 2002.
- Wilson, Norbert LW, Ruiqing Miaob, and Carter Weisc. Food Waste, Date Labels, and Risk Preferences: An Experimental Exploration. University California Davis
- Sahana, N., and D. Ramasamy. Process optimization and shelf life study of retort processed coconut milk. Pharma Innov J, 2019, 8, 134-136.
- Yalegama, L. L. W. C., P. Ambigaipalan, and P. C. Arampath. Physico-chemical and shelf life evaluation of pasteurized coconut milk. Second Symposium On Plantation Crop Research. 2008.