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Coconut milk is an especially diverse ingredient for your cooking and baking needs. For those who avoid dairy products, this is the ideal substitute.
It may be non-dairy, but that does not mean it is significantly less perishable than its dairy counterpart. When sealed in a can, like many other foods, it can sit for a very long time in your pantry.
There are recipes that do not call for the entire can or container so the rest must be stored in the refrigerator until the next time you need it. But how long will it last?
A sealed container of coconut milk has a longer shelf life than cow’s milk. However, it is shortened considerably once it is unsealed. So it needs to be stored properly to retain its freshness for as long as possible.
We are going to talk about the process in making coconut milk. What are the signs that coconut milk is spoiled. What are the best ways to store coconut milk - sealed and opened - to maximize its freshness and usability and how long it lasts under all storage conditions.
Regardless of the company you favor to buy, coconut milk is produced in the same manner everywhere. First, the flesh of the coconut is removed from the shell. Next, the flesh is squeezed or pressed to separate the “milk.” The result is a thick textured milk.
The thicker coconut milk is suited for many soup and sauce recipes. When the recipe calls for milk, this is the best go-to non-dairy cream substitute for cooking, baking and for your favorite desserts.
For a thinner texture the grated flesh must be soaked in water before the pressing/squeezing process begins. Thinner coconut milk is popular among those who have dairy allergies and are lactose intolerant. Many vegans also enjoy this food as a staple in their diet.
Does Coconut Milk Spoil?
The short answer is yes, it does. Coconut milk is no different to its non-dairy counterparts.
The important question is how long before it will spoil. The answer depends if the container is sealed or open and whether it is stored in the refrigerator, freezer or at room temperature.
For example, the shelf life of an unopened can of coconut milk is approximately between two to five years. You can rely on that as long as the sealed can does not have any punctures or bulges. If it does, then the product has been compromised and you must throw it away immediately.
Coconut milk, sealed in an aseptic packaging has a shelf life of between six and twelve months. Once it is open and is properly stored, it will be good for up to a month after the printed expiration date.
The refrigerated coconut milk that is not stored in aseptic packaging should be used up within a week of the expiration date.
Once any sealed coconut milk has been opened, the spoilage process begins. You can rely on refrigerated thicker coconut milk staying good for seven to ten days. Thinner milk will last for about seven days.
Always check for freshness prior to use.
What Signs Show Coconut Milk Has Gone Bad
There are many obvious visual signs that will tell you that it is time to throw away any unused coconut milk.
One is mold that will appear as a film on the surface.
Discard coconut milk if you see chunks. Do not confuse chunks with when the fat solids of thicker coconut milk separate and float to the top while the liquid remains below. The first scenario is definitely a sign of spoilage, while the latter is safe to eat.
If the color turns darker or it curdles don’t risk consuming it. Rancid or sour smelling coconut milk means it is time to get rid of it and buy fresh.
There is one indicator that is not based on the appearance of the coconut milk itself. Check the container for bulges or swelling. If you find this sign, then discard immediately.
Storing Sealed Coconut Milk
Coconut milk is commonly stored in shelf-stable containers. Thicker, high-fat coconut milk is typically stored in cans.
Regardless of the container, always store it in your kitchen a cool and dark place that is away from heat and humidity.
Freezing sealed coconut milk is not recommended because the freezing process will not extend its shelf life in any significant way.
Nowadays, you will also find coconut milk in the refrigeration section of the local grocery store. This version must continue to be stored in your refrigerator when you bring it home.
Storing Opened Coconut Milk
As soon as you open the container of coconut milk, be certain it is stored in an airtight container that is always kept in the refrigerator.
Unlike with a sealed container of coconut milk, properly freezing an opened coconut milk in an airtight container will extend its shelf life up to six months. When you are ready to use it, frozen coconut milk thaws overnight while in the refrigerator.
Remember that a few factors are involved to maximize the freshness of your coconut milk. Always use the “best by” date to determine the length of your storage conditions.
Sealed - For cans at room temperature is 2-5 years. Other containers at room temperature is 6-12 months. Refrigeration is the preferred way to store. Freezer does not extend shelf life.
Opened - always store in airtight containers. Continuous refrigeration will allow it to last 6-7 days after the expiration date. Freezer extends shelf life to at least 3 months. If the temperature is a constant 0 degrees, the milk could last indefinitely.
Coconut milk that is sold in the refrigerator section of the store must always be refrigerated. Its shelf life is 7 days after it is opened.
Always store in a cool and dark environment. Keep it away from heat and humidity.
When freezing coconut milk leave at least ½” of room at the top of the container. Coconut milk expands when it freezes.
Frozen coconut milk can be thawed overnight in the refrigerator. Coconut milk fats separate when cold or frozen, so mix it up to restore its original consistency.
Signs of Coconut Milk Spoilage. Discard immediately if you find:
Rancid or sour smelling
For sealed containers, especially for cans, if you find rust, bulges, leaks
The can has swelling or is severely dented.
Coconut Milk fats typically separate when refrigerated or frozen. This is not an indication of spoilage.
Expiration dates are not indicators of when they will spoil. This is the timeframe of the product’s peak quality.