coconut oil

Coconut Oil Shelf Life: Can It Go Bad?

Coconut oil originated from tropical countries and is now a trendy item in Europe and America. This vegetable oil rises to prominence for its health benefits. Its usage is not limited for culinary purposes, but also for body and skincare.

Similar to other kinds of oil, coconut oil is commonly used for sautéing, cooking, baking, salad dressing, and even added to coffee or tea.

So, you just stumbled upon a jar of coconut oil from the cupboard, and you have no idea when you put it back there. At this point, you need to make sure whether coconut oil goes bad.

Or, you’re new to coconut oil and want to make sure that it lasts for a while in case you don’t use it up immediately.

Fear not, as we got your back. In this article, we will share the nitty-gritty of coconut oil, its shelf life, storage, and, most importantly, how to tell if coconut oil goes off. Sounds interesting? Read on!

Just a little note before we go further into details, for the purpose of this article, we limit the scope of coconut oil for culinary use only.

What Is Coconut Oil?

If you are new to this idea of coconut oil, you might be wondering what’s in it and how it’s made. Coconut oil is extracted from the white meat (or kernel) of coconut fruit (Cocos nucifera).

According to the processing methods, we can find two different types of coconut oil, namely unrefined (also famous as virgin coconut oil or VCO) and refined coconut oil.

Virgin coconut oil is comparable to cold-pressed or extra virgin olive oil, in terms of preparation methods. Fresh coconut fruits are crushed and pressed with minimum heat to retain the benefits of antioxidants and other nutrients in the oil.

VCO has a lower smoking point of 350ºF (or 177ºC) and is more suitable for baking and salad dressing. VCO has that distinct aroma of the coconut fruit.

Refined coconut oil is extracted from dried copra using the expeller-pressing method and subsequently undergoes a refining process.

The process is similar to any other type of oil, which includes refining, bleaching, and deodorizing (RBD). These steps aim to remove contaminants and impurities and result in odorless and flavorless oil.

It has a higher smoking point of 440ºF (or 223ºC) and is more suitable for cooking and frying.

See more: 7 Best Coconut Oil Substitutes for Cooking


How To Store Coconut Oil

One thing that often rises confusion is that coconut oil sometimes changes its state from solid to liquid, vice versa. This is entirely normal.

Coconut oil has a melting point of 75 to 76ºF (around 24ºC). So, when the temperature is higher than this, coconut oil liquefies, and at a few degrees lower, it solidifies.

Storing coconut oil is relatively similar to any other oil. It needs a cool, dry, dark place, away from sources of sunlight and heat. Your pantry or cupboard should be an ideal place. It means don’t place it anywhere near a window, stove, or oven.

Coconut oil should be protected from air, heat, and moisture as these conditions are supporting an oxidation process, which causes the oil to go rancid. Virgin coconut oil is more prone to spoilage since it is technically a raw product.

Buying coconut oil in dark containers is preferable. But if that’s not available, consider transferring the oil into a dark bottle or container to block the lights.

If you buy a big bottle but only use the oil occasionally, transferring some amount into a smaller container is recommended. Keep the original bottle for later use. This little hack is effective to reduce the exposure to air.

After opening, always keep it tightly sealed when not in use. If you buy oil in a jar, always use clean utensils and avoid double-dipping to keep any contaminants at bay.

Does coconut oil need to be refrigerated?

Coconut oil is shelf-stable, and refrigeration is not necessary. Instead, refrigeration makes coconut oil rock solid and more difficult to use. Or at least you need to wait longer before it’s ready to use. Room temperature is sufficient to maintain its quality and shelf life.

How To Tell If Coconut Oil Is Bad

Coconut oil has a pretty long shelf life, but, once it is contaminated, going bad is imminent. Unlike canola oil and olive oil, common spoilage signs of coconut oil are more apparent.

When it comes to food spoilage, your senses are quite reliable to pass judgment. These are some common signs of coconut oil going off:

  • 1. Rancid oil

Similar to other foods that are high in fat, going rancid is inevitable for coconut oil. Storage conditions have a crucial role in preventing coconut oil from going rancid.

With poor conditions, such as leaving the bottle unclosed for long or exposure to sunlight, coconut oil gets rancid faster. Sometimes it can happen even before the best-by date.

  • 2. Visible molds

If you notice any dark or green specks, that’s also another reason to toss the oil.

  • 3. Sour smell and taste

When spoiled, coconut oil develops a strong, sour odor and taste.

  • 4. Discoloration

Unrefined, virgin coconut oil is usually naturally yellowish. Meanwhile, refined oil is typically clear and transparent. When it’s solid, it has a milky white color.

If you see any color getting darker, like the refined oil getting yellowish, it’s also a sign coconut oil is going off.

  • 5. Blotchy and chunky oil

If the texture is chunky or like curdled milk, it’s also time to discard coconut oil.

If you have old or expired coconut oil that still looks okay, it’s worth checking if it’s rancid or spoiled. Also, if you have coconut oil that’s too old, say older than 5 years. You can assume it’s expired.


How Long Does Coconut Oil Last?

On average, coconut oil stays for 2 to 3 years after its production date. Coconut oil is usually labeled with a “best-by” or “best before” date. Under ideal circumstances, its quality should retain until this date and possibly longer. 

Similar to other foods, coconut oil won’t go bad instantly after this date has passed. Unopened bottles are likely consumable for the next several months after the recommended, provided that the package is not damaged.

After opening, the handling and storage methods are very vital. Generally, it is best to use within a year.

Homemade virgin coconut oil generally lasts for a few months, shorter than commercially-prepared oil. It also depends on the recipes.

Coconut oil typesPantry
Coconut oil refined (unopened)Best by date + 3 to 6 months
Coconut oil (opened)1 year
Virgin coconut oil (unopened)Best by date + 3 to 6 months
Virgin coconut oil (opened)1 year
Homemade virgin coconut oil6 to 10 months

This table is a rough estimate. The actual shelf life varies from brands and storage conditions. Although coconut oil lasts for a long time and doesn’t quickly spoil, checking it once in a while is recommended to see if the oil is still worth keeping. 


FAQs

Does coconut oil go bad if it melts?

No. Both refined and virgin coconut oil naturally melts at 24ºC or 76ºF. Thus, it’s not a suspicious sign if coconut oil melts into a liquid when stored at room temperature. The nutritional values and safety aspects are not affected by this physical change.

What are white balls in coconut oil?

As mentioned earlier, coconut oil melts at 24ºC or 76ºF. If the temperature around the storage fluctuates, the oil can change forms from liquid to solid, vice versa. These strange-looking white balls are just chunks of solidified fat that are not fully melted.

Is coconut oil organic?

Not all coconut oils are prepared with organic coconuts. If this is your concern, make sure to check the organic certification logo on the label or reach out to the manufacturer.

What are substitutes for coconut oil?

Choosing a suitable replacement for coconut oil is not too difficult, depending on the recipe or how you want to use the oil. For other oil substitution, consider sunflower oil, vegetable oil, etc. For baking, you can use butter. Non-fat alternatives include applesauce or fruit purée.

Final Thoughts

Coconut oil has gained popularity for its myriad uses and health benefits. Despite its long shelf life, coconut oil loses its quality and eventually goes bad.

Coconut oil is shelf-stable and keeps well outside the fridge, as long as in a dark, dry area, away from heat and lights. Poor storage and contamination speed up its spoilage. Don’t use it if it’s rancid, discolored, smells sour, and shows molds.

Related: How Long Does Coconut Flour Last?

coconut oil shelf life

*Photo by Pantry/depositphotos

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