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How To Tell If Coconut Milk Is Bad

Coconut milk is a delicious and versatile ingredient used in many dishes around the world. But just like any other food product, it can go bad.

So, how do you tell if your coconut milk is no longer good? In this guide, we will explore the signs of spoiled coconut milk and how to store it properly to extend its shelf life.

Bottle of coconut milk with fresh coconut on the counter.

Understanding Coconut Milk

First, it’s important to know what coconut milk is. It is a creamy liquid made from the meat of mature coconuts and is often used in cooking, especially in Asian cuisines. Coconut milk comes in two main forms:

  • Canned coconut milk is thicker and higher in fat. It’s commonly used in sauces, desserts, and beverages.
  • Carton coconut milk is thinner and typically used as a dairy milk alternative in cereals, coffee, and smoothies.

Ways to tell if coconut milk is bad

Check the Expiration Date

Before opening your coconut milk, always look at the expiration date on the package. This is the first clue to tell if your coconut milk might be bad. Keep these points in mind:

  • The expiration date is a good indicator of the product’s freshness, but it’s not always 100% accurate.
  • If the coconut milk was not stored properly, it could go bad before the printed date.
  • If the expiration date has passed, it’s best to discard the coconut milk.

Inspect the Packaging

Next, check the packaging. Coconut milk that has gone bad can cause changes in the packaging:

  • Cans of coconut milk might bulge or leak.
  • Cartons might become puffy or swollen.

If the packaging shows any of these signs, it’s best not to use coconut milk.

Changes in Appearance and Smell

Once you open the package, use your senses to check the coconut milk.

  • Fresh coconut milk should have a creamy texture and a slightly sweet, coconutty smell.
  • If it has separated into a watery layer and a thicker layer, that’s normal for canned coconut milk. Just stir it back together.
  • However, if you see mold, clumps, or any strange colors, or if it smells sour or off, then the coconut milk has likely gone bad.

Taste Test

If you’re still unsure, you can do a small taste test.

  • Fresh coconut milk has a subtly sweet and nutty flavor.
  • If it tastes sour or off, spit it out immediately. This is a sign that the coconut milk is spoiled and should not be consumed.

While we’re focusing on coconut milk in this guide, it’s important to note that other plant-based milks like almond milk also have their own signs of spoilage.

Similar to coconut milk, if almond milk smells sour or has changed in color or texture, it could indicate that the milk has gone bad.

How long does coconut milk last?

The shelf life of coconut milk depends on a few factors, such as the type of packaging and how it’s stored.

Unopened canned coconut milk generally lasts between two to five years if stored in a cool, dry place. Once opened, canned coconut milk should be stored in the refrigerator and used within 4-6 days.

On the other hand, an unopened carton of coconut milk usually has a shelf life of about one year, but always check the best-before date on the package. Once opened, the carton of coconut milk should be refrigerated and typically lasts 7-10 days.

Frozen coconut milk can last for up to three months, although the texture may change slightly when thawed.

These are just general guidelines. Always check for signs of spoilage such as changes in color, texture, smell, or taste before consuming. When in doubt, it’s better to be safe and discard the coconut milk.

To ensure you’re using the freshest coconut milk, it’s crucial to start with a ripe coconut, which can be identified by its heavy weight, rich brown husk, and a noticeable sloshing sound when shaken – learn more about how to tell if a coconut is ripe in our comprehensive guide.

Proper Storage to Extend Shelf Life

Storing coconut milk properly can help it stay fresh for longer. Here are some storage tips:

  • Unopened canned or carton coconut milk should be stored in a cool, dark place like a pantry.
  • After opening, refrigerate the coconut milk and use it within 4-6 days.
  • You can also freeze coconut milk for up to 3 months. However, freezing might change the texture, so it’s best used in cooked dishes after freezing.

What Happens If You Drink Bad Coconut Milk?

Drinking spoiled coconut milk can lead to food poisoning, as bacteria and mold can grow in the milk once it has gone bad. Symptoms of food poisoning can include:

  • Stomach upset or cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Muscle aches

Symptoms can start within a few hours of drinking the bad coconut milk, but sometimes they may not appear until several days later. While unpleasant, food poisoning symptoms usually resolve on their own within a day.

However, if symptoms are severe or persist for more than a day, it’s important to seek medical attention. Dehydration can be a risk with prolonged vomiting or diarrhea, so make sure to drink plenty of fluids.

This is why it’s crucial to check your coconut milk for any signs of spoilage before drinking or using it in food preparation.

It’s not just coconut milk and other plant-based milk that can spoil; traditional dairy milk can too. If regular milk smells sour, looks curdled or thick, or tastes off, it’s likely past its prime and should be discarded.

Frequently asked questions about how to tell if coconut milk is bad

Once opened, coconut milk should be refrigerated and typically used within 4-6 days. Remember to always store it in a clean, airtight container to maintain its freshness.

Yes, separation is normal in canned coconut milk. It’s the heavier fat separating from the water. Just give it a good stir before using it.

Yes, you can freeze coconut milk for up to three months. However, the texture may change slightly when thawed, so it’s best used in cooked dishes after freezing.


Coconut milk is a nutritious and tasty ingredient that can enhance many dishes. Knowing how to tell if your coconut milk has gone bad is essential to ensure you’re using a safe and quality product in your meals.

Always remember to check the expiration date, inspect the packaging, and use your senses to assess the

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