How to Tell if Coconut Milk is Bad [Definitive Guide]

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Coconut milk is essential in many dishes, such as curries, puddings, stews, and more. It’s often used as a dairy alternative, particularly in Asian countries like Thailand. However, there are several signs that the product has gone bad, including the smell, appearance, and taste. Using bad coconut milk can cause abdominal and digestive problems.

Signs That Coconut Milk is Bad

Appearance Normally, coconut milk should look white or slightly off-white. Depending on the manufacturer, it may range in shades of white and appear opaque. It will have a creamy or milk-like texture to it. Changes in temperature or the ratio of ingredients may cause the milk to curdle. Unless this is in combination with other signs on this list, curdled coconut milk is not necessarily a sign that it is bad. Bad coconut milk will look darker or may have mold on the surface. This will usually be green or yellow. You may also notice that the texture has changed, as there might be chunks in the milk. Some bad coconut milk may be gray. However, this alone is not an indication that it has gone bad. Occasionally, coconut milk may be slightly gray due to the production process or the amount of protein inside. It may not necessarily indicate that it is off. Additionally, canned coconut milk will swell when it goes bad, so this is a strong indication that it is not safe for consumption. Canned coconut milk stored for a long time may start to look gray as flecks of metal have become part of it. This indicates that you should not consume it. Smell The smell is one of the most obvious signs that coconut milk is bad. Fresh coconut milk will smell sweet, although unsweetened coconut milk can sometimes smell strange. It may also smell like coconuts or have a subtly creamy scent. Occasionally, lauric acid may be present in coconut milk, which can cause it to smell like soap. This does not indicate that it has gone bad. When coconut milk has gone bad, it will smell rancid or sour. This smell will progressively worsen over time. Taste Fresh coconut milk will taste very similar to cow’s milk and certain tropical fruits. It may taste salty, nutty, or slightly sweet If you are not sure whether the coconut milk has gone bad, having a small taste should be enough to indicate its freshness.  Bad coconut milk will taste sour or acidic. It might also taste overly sweet or tangy. Coconut milk that has been tinned for excessive time may taste slightly metallic or tin-like. This also indicates that it is not safe for consumption.

Is Chunky Coconut Milk Bad?

No, chunky coconut milk is not an indication that it is bad. The fat in the milk rises to the top, causing the water to sink and making it chunky. This is normal, particularly if you leave the milk to set for a short while (5). You can try stirring it or shaking the container to make the coconut milk return to its original consistency. 

How Long Does Coconut Milk Last Once Opened?

The shelf life of coconut milk depends on how you choose to store it.

Refrigerated Coconut Milk

  • This has the shortest shelf life 
  • Once opened, you should aim to use it within 7 to 10 days
  • If unopened, you can keep it in the refrigerator until the “best before” date on the package
  • If you have any leftovers, you can keep them in an airtight refrigerated container for up to 5 days

Frozen Milk

  • You can freeze coconut milk, although it will not taste as strong after defrosting it
  • If stored properly in an airtight container and unopened, frozen coconut milk can last up to a month

Why Does Coconut Milk Turn Solid?

As coconut milk combines solids and liquids, it is natural for it to become solid. It will usually happen after placing the milk in the fridge and sometimes when it is left at room temperature.  The fat inside the milk begins to stick together and eventually sink to become solid. The liquid separates from this and remains on the surface. Not all coconut milk will solidify, as some canned milk contains guar gum to prevent this from occurring.

Is it OK to Use Coconut Milk That Has Solidified?

Yes, it is perfectly fine to use solidified coconut milk as long as you do not notice any signs that it has gone bad. To return the coconut milk to its original consistency, you can try shaking the can vigorously for a few minutes. If this does not work, try running the can under hot water to warm it slightly. You can also try pouring the milk into a pan and heating it while mixing for a short time.

Is Coconut Milk Thick?

Yes, coconut milk is thick and has a consistency similar to cow’s milk. However, it is creamier than this because it combines coconut flesh with water.

What Happens If You Drink Bad Coconut Milk?

Drinking bad coconut milk can cause food poisoning, although having a small amount should be relatively fine. Some of the symptoms may include: 
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Abdominal cramps

To Sum Up

There are several signs that coconut milk has gone bad, such as a sour smell, rancid taste, or gray color. If it becomes chunky or solid, this does not indicate that it is bad, and a quick shake of the can will fix this. If open and stored properly, it can last up to 5 days.