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Does Coconut Milk Need to Be Refrigerated? (Opened and Unopened)

Does Coconut Milk Need to Be Refrigerated? (Opened and Unopened)
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When it comes to taking care of your kitchen, there are many, many things that need to be managed at once. Of course, you are going to have to make sure that your pantry is properly stocked and that everything within it is sealed as it should be.

On top of this, you will want to ensure that your fridge and freezer are taken care of as well, including making regular checks to see if the food inside is still fresh.

For some families, this can be pretty easy and an unremarkable task. However, there may be times when you realize that you may not be too sure how you are supposed to store a specific product.

If you are lucky, there may be instructions directly on the product to inform you of the best way to take care of it, but there may come a time when that isn’t exactly clear.

In some cases, you can rely on common sense to tell you how something should be stored. In some situations, a combined meal may have eggs in it, and you may know how long the product should last based on that.

Knowing the relative shelf life of various ingredients can help you tremendously, but when you are working with foods that are not common, it can be hard to guess how long the food in question may last.

Take coconut milk for an example. By its name alone, you would think that it would have the same type of shelf life as milk, right?

But at the same time, as the product name would suggest, it comes from a fruit and fruits generally do not last that long in the fridge, so would you go by that as a rule of thumb for shelf life?

More often than not, being able to research the answer is going to be the best solution, rather than guessing and making a wrong assumption, leading to drinking spoiled milk.

Storing Coconut Milk: The Basics

At its core, coconut milk absolutely needs to be stored in the fridge once it is opened. Coconut milk is a product of a fruit, and it is not dissimilar to fruit juice in that regard.

However, if the coconut milk has not been opened yet, there may be an alternative way you can go about storing it.

If you have ever searched for coconut milk in the store, you will often come across it in the aisle that is dedicated to Asian or Mexican cuisine, which is often not in the refrigerated section of a store.

By this assumption, you may not believe that it has to be stored in the fridge immediately, and you would be correct in this assumption.

Coconut milk, in any type of container, can be stored in a cool and dark place in the kitchen so long as it hasn’t been opened yet. The way that the packaging works preserves the freshness of the coconut milk until it is opened, so you do not have to fret too much about space in your fridge before you open the milk.

In fact, you can comfortably store coconut milk for surprisingly long periods of time as long as you haven’t opened it yet.

More often than not, the container that you have purchased the coconut milk in will have a “best by” date on it, and you can rely on this as reference for how long you can keep the coconut milk out of the fridge.

By the time you near the date on the container, you might want to start finding uses for the coconut milk so that you can make the most out of it before it goes bad. You can additionally freeze coconut milk, but this is a separate type of preservation with its own things to be aware of.

For the most part, cans are very straightforward with their storage. As with any other canned product, you will be able to clearly see the dates on the bottom, allowing you to know how long you can keep it stored.

You can keep the canned coconut milk in the pantry until the best by date, to which then you should begin thinking about either utilizing the milk or freezing it to preserve its life. Unopened coconut milk cans can last between two and five years, on average.

Coconut milk in a carton is much the same, although its shelf life is much shorter than the cans when it comes to how long it can last. Most coconut milk that comes in a carton will last only for about three to four months before you need to decide what to do with it.

This may be due to the fact that coconut milk that comes in cartons tends to be more diluted, so what fruit juice is in the carton will go bad more quickly, and simply the fact that cartons are not as long-term of a storage option.

Storing Opened Coconut Milk

So, all of this has been about storing unopened coconut milk. Does something drastic happen when you open coconut milk containers that affects how long it will last outside of the fridge? Absolutely.

Again, at its core, coconut milk is a type of fruit juice. Fruit juice, when opened, will rapidly begin to deteriorate, although it can last about a week in the fridge.

Coconut milk that has been opened, no matter what container it came in, should never be stored outside of the fridge, even if it is tightly sealed, as this will cause the milk to ferment and become borderline undrinkable.

Storing opened coconut milk is a fairly simple and straightforward process. Once you have used the coconut milk that you plan to use, whether that is in a drink, a meal, or anything else, you will want to pour the rest of the coconut milk into a sealable container.

For canned coconut milk, you will need to find a new container to pour it into, since you cannot really reseal cans. For carton coconut milk, depending on how the lid is designed, you may be able to keep the container as long as you put it in the fridge.

The key part here is that you only have a limited amount of time to use the milk now that it has been opened. Depending on a variety of factors such as brand, quality, condition, and age, you will have between three and 10 days to make use of the coconut milk now that it has been opened.

As you will quickly realize, this isn’t a lot of time to make use out of the coconut milk, so once you begin using it, you will want to make sure that you are able to use it all in a quick and timely manner.

There are ways that you can try to extend the shelf life of opened coconut milk, but for the most part, you are going to want to try and do what you can to use it up. There are many, many recipes out there of all different kinds that will make use of coconut milk, meaning that there is no shortage of opportunities to try it out in various cooking methods.

When storing canned coconut milk that has been opened, if you do not have a way to pour it into an airtight container, you will want to cover the can as tightly as possible with plastic wrap, a conveniently fitting lid, or foil of some sort to try and preserve the shelf life. If the coconut milk is left opened, you can expect it to go bad within a day or two.

If you need to keep coconut milk for longer than this, and you have already opened the container, you might feel at a loss as to what you could do. Thankfully, there is always the option of freezing coconut milk. In fact, you can theoretically freeze coconut milk indefinitely if you do not care about the taste and quality of it.

Freezing coconut milk can be a little bit tricky depending on what you are using it for. If you are using it as a drink, you can freeze the coconut milk in much the same way you would freeze ice cubes.

Doing so, you can keep the coconut milk in the freezer for a good two to three months before the difference in taste and texture begins to come in.

If you are using the coconut milk for cooking, you may not have an interest in freezing the milk into cute shapes. Instead, you will generally want to just freeze the milk in an airtight container with at least half an inch of space at the top, as coconut milk is known to expand as it freezes.

As long as you do this, it will maintain its quality for about three months before it begins to deteriorate. Once it begins deteriorating, it will still be usable, but the taste will be off and this may affect the overall outcome of the dish.

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