How Long Can Coconut Milk Sit Out? [Refrigerated Vs. Unrefrigerated]

There is a wide array of non-dairy milk options available on the market today. As you decide which one suits your taste and lifestyle best, consider coconut milk.

It has a light, sweet flavor and, in moderate amounts, can contribute to improved heart health and lower cholesterol.

Since coconut milk is not a dairy product, it has different storage times than cow’s milk.

Coconut milk, a popular dairy alternative, has varying shelf lives depending on its state and storage conditions. An opened can or carton of coconut milk should ideally be consumed or refrigerated within 2 hours of opening to prevent bacterial growth, as recommended by food safety guidelines. If unopened, shelf-stable cartons of coconut milk can last about 1 month past the printed ‘best by’ date when stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. For unopened canned coconut milk, the shelf life extends up to 5 months beyond the ‘best by’ date under similar storage conditions. It’s important to note that these durations can vary based on storage environments and the product’s initial quality. Always check for signs of spoilage like sour odor, discoloration, or mold before use, regardless of the ‘best by’ date, to ensure the coconut milk is safe for consumption.

Continue reading for specifics about storing each kind of coconut milk, including homemade, shelf-stable, canned, and refrigerated; how to freeze coconut milk; different types of coconut milk; benefits of coconut milk; and how to identify coconut milk that has gone bad. 

How Long Can Coconut Milk Sit Out At Room Temperature

Food safety is a concern across the board, and a good rule of thumb is that prepared foods should be put away in the refrigerator within two hours.

This holds true for coconut milk as well. Once you open a carton or can of coconut milk, put it into the refrigerator in an airtight container within 2 hours.

Unrefrigerated Cartons Of Coconut Milk

Shelf-stable coconut milk in unopened containers will be good for quite a while if stored properly.

Manufacturers guarantee that cardboard cartons of unopened, non-refrigerated coconut milk will be safe, stored at room temperature until the date stamped on the package.

Coconut Milk

Due to pasteurization, the coconut milk in these packages should be good for another month beyond the best by date.

Once you open the carton, store the coconut milk in the refrigerator and use it within 7-10 days.

Canned Coconut Milk

Canned coconut milk stored at room temperature is likely to be good for 2-5 months past the best by date stamped on the can.

According to the McCormick website, canned coconut milk is shelf-stable for 2 years. Once you open the can, store the remaining milk in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.

Refrigerated Cartons Of Coconut Milk

Use Refrigerated coconut milk in cartons within the best by date on the carton. Once you open the carton, the coconut milk will retain the best quality for 7-10 days.

Silk notes that many of their non-dairy products will last longer than 10 days in the refrigerator depending on storage factors, so check for the quality of your product.

Homemade Coconut Milk

You should refrigerate homemade coconut milk as soon as possible. Because it will not be pasteurized, it will have a much shorter shelf life. Use homemade coconut milk within 2 days of making it.

Other Coconut Milk Products

Coconut milk yogurt, ice cream, and coffee creamer are also delicious substitutes for the dairy versions of these products.

Coconut milk, yogurt, and ice cream should not sit out longer than it takes to serve and eat them.

Of course, the ice cream will melt, and the yogurt will spoil more quickly than the milk will.

You can store a multi-serving package of coconut milk yogurt in the refrigerator for about a week.

Coconut milk creamer is a refrigerated product and should be returned to the refrigerator as soon as you use it. 

Storing Coconut Milk In The Refrigerator

Coconut milk has a light, slightly sweet flavor. Due to its mildness, it tends to absorb stronger flavors that are in your refrigerator.

Since you don’t want last night’s garlic pesto to affect the taste of your coconut milk, be sure to store the coconut milk in an airtight container with a tight-fitting lid.


You should also try to keep your coconut milk as far away from strongly scented foods in the refrigerator as possible to keep it tasting fresh and sweet.

Storing Coconut Milk In The Pantry

Shelf-stable cartons and cans of coconut milk can be safely stored in the pantry or cabinet at room temperature for quite a long time. Pay attention to the best by date stamped on the container or label.

Also, check your cans and cartons for any signs of damage like punctures, dents, or rust.

Damaged containers may allow air and bacteria in which would compromise the contents. 

Freezing Coconut Milk

Manufacturers like Silk and So Delicious do not recommend freezing coconut milk because the components are likely to separate.

After thawing, coconut milk may not mix back together, making the texture unpleasant.

On the other hand, many people recommend freezing coconut milk in ice cube trays and then using the cubes in smoothie recipes.

When you add the frozen coconut milk to a smoothie and blend all the ingredients, you won’t notice that it was ever separated.

How To Identify Spoiled Coconut Milk

Even though coconut milk is not a dairy product, it can still spoil. Fresh, safe coconut milk will be white in appearance and will have a slightly sweet taste.

Depending on the brand and the purpose of the product, it could be thick and creamy or thinner like 2% milk. 


If your coconut milk has a bad smell, tastes bitter, has mold growing on it, or it has turned to a pink or gray color, it is no longer safe to eat, and you should discard it. 

However, some coconut milk, especially the canned varieties, may separate when they are stored.

The heavier fats will fall to the bottom while the thin watery liquid will sit on the top. This separation is perfectly normal and can be resolved by stirring, shaking, or mixing the coconut milk until the mixture returns to its creamy state.

Canned Coconut Milk vs. Cartons Of Coconut Milk

You may have noticed that a can of coconut milk is a very different product than a carton of coconut milk. This is because these products have different purposes.

When you open a can of coconut milk, you will find that the heavier thick coconut fats have settled to the bottom of the can while a thin watery liquid sits on the top.

You can resolve this perfectly natural separation by thoroughly mixing the contents of the can. You can shake the can thoroughly before opening it as well.

The ingredients in canned coconut milk are simple: coconut, water, guar gum, or another stabilizer.

There are no preservatives or artificial ingredients. Use canned coconut milk for cooking and baking. Try a coconut cake or a curry recipe to use this unique ingredient.

The coconut milk you find in cartons is a beverage, so it is much thinner. Read the packaging carefully to see what all is in the drink.

Some manufacturers add stabilizers, sweeteners, and flavorings to coconut milk beverages, although most of these products are allergen-conscious.

Coconut Milk

The So Delicious organic coconut milk contains mainly organic coconut milk and cane sugar and some added vitamins and minerals and stabilizers.

Silk Original Coconut milk beverage also has organic coconut and cane sugar, with similar stabilizers, vitamins, and minerals.

Manufacturers make coconut milk in cartons to have the same texture and uses as dairy milk.

Benefits Of Coconut Milk

Coconut Milk has some excellent nutritional benefits but also some potential drawbacks.

One advantage is, of course, it is a tasty alternative to dairy milk if you are lactose intolerant.

Coconut milk’s light, refreshing taste doesn’t distract from the dish you are making. Adding unsweetened coconut milk to your diet may help you lose weight.

According to Medical News Today, the medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) in coconut milk may contribute to weight loss by lowering the desire to eat large amounts, burning fats, and increasing insulin sensitivity.

Coconut milk may also improve heart health by improving cholesterol levels. Finally, the lauric acid in coconut milk may help boost the immune system. 

Those who prefer to eat a vegan or vegetarian diet may find that coconut milk is the perfect substitution for dairy milk.

You can easily find coconut milk, yogurt, ice cream, and other substitutes in mainstream grocery stores.

Potential Disadvantages Of Coconut Milk

One issue to be aware of is that coconut milk does not have as much protein as dairy milk, so if you change to coconut milk, you will need to increase the amount of protein you eat in another way.

Another potential issue with coconut milk is that it is high in fat. While it can help you lose weight and improve heart health in moderation, it can cause unhealthy weight gain when taken to the extreme.

When coconut milk is eaten along with a high carbohydrate diet, the effects of the innate fats increases. 

Finally, although coconut is a fruit, some people with nut allergies are sensitive to coconut. Be aware of food allergy symptoms when you make any change to your diet.

Concluding Thoughts

Coconut milk is a delightful beverage, a great alternative to dairy milk, and an essential ingredient in curry.

After opening a carton or can of shelf-stable coconut milk, you should refrigerate it within 2 hours. Coconut milk drink from a carton will remain fresh in the refrigerator for 7-10 days.

Move any extra canned coconut to an airtight container and store it in the fridge for 4-5 days.

Homemade coconut milk is not pasteurized, so keep it in the refrigerator and use it within 2 days.

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