Coconut cream is a thick, creamy, and flavorful ingredient used in many Asian, Polynesian, and Caribbean dishes. It comes packed in cans and usually has a shelf life of 12-24 months when unopened. But what happens when you discover an unopened can past its best by date in the back of your pantry? Is it still safe to use? Here is a comprehensive guide on the shelf life of canned coconut cream and whether you can eat coconut cream after the expiration date printed on the can.
What is the shelf life of unopened canned coconut cream?
An unopened can of coconut cream typically lasts 12-24 months past its packaged date if stored properly. The shelf life depends on factors like:
- Product quality – Premium brands use higher quality processing and packaging which enables a longer shelf life.
- Packaging – Airtight cans prevent air exposure and enable longer lasting coconut cream.
- Storage conditions – Cans stored in a cool, dry place last longer than cans exposed to direct sunlight or warmth.
- Preservatives – Some brands may use preservatives which extend shelf life.
Reputable brands of coconut cream like Aroy-D, Chaokoh, and Mae Ploy can usually last 18-24 months past the printed expiration date when the can is unopened and stored properly.
How to tell if unopened canned coconut cream is bad?
Although coconut cream can sometimes last past its best by date, the quality degrades over time. Signs that an unopened can of coconut cream has spoiled include:
- Bulging can – If the can looks puffed up or swollen, this indicates gas build up from spoilage inside and the contents should be discarded.
- Dents or rust – Severe dents, cracks, or rust on the can could compromise the seal and cause spoilage.
- Leaking or oozing – Leakage or oozing liquid when you open the can shows bacteria was able to get inside and spoil the contents.
- Mold – Visible mold growth either inside the can or on gelled coconut cream is a sign of spoilage.
- Off odors – A rancid, sour, or unpleasant odor means the coconut cream has spoiled.
If you observe any such signs, it’s best to discard the can even if it is still within the expiration date.
Is it safe to eat expired coconut cream from an unopened can?
Coconut cream from an unopened, properly stored can that has passed its best by date by a few months is likely still safe to eat. The shelf life extension past the printed date depends on the conditions it was stored in:
- 1-3 months past date – If stored in a cool, dry pantry, the canned coconut cream should be still be good for use.
- 4-6 months past date – If stored in the refrigerator, canned coconut cream can sometimes last this long past expiration.
- 1 year past date – For cans stored in the freezer, coconut cream can often still be safely consumed up to 1 year past the printed date.
However, quality degrades over time, so very old canned coconut cream may not taste as good. Always inspect the can carefully before use and never consume any with signs of spoilage.
Does coconut cream in a can ever go bad?
Yes, coconut cream can eventually go bad, even if the can is unopened. While coconut cream can last 12 months or more past the printed best by date with proper, cool storage, it has a finite shelf life.
Over time, the quality, texture, color, and taste of the coconut cream slowly degrades. Exposure to warm temperatures accelerates this decline. If left for too long, bacteria can begin growing inside the can once the contents have spoiled, indicated by swelling, sliminess, off odors, mold, etc.
So while canned coconut cream has an extended shelf life, it should ultimately get discarded once it shows any noticeable degradation in quality or safety issues like mold growth.
How to store unopened canned coconut cream?
To maximize freshness and shelf life of canned coconut cream once opened, follow these tips:
- Pantry storage – Store unopened cans in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight or sources of heat. Avoid hot garages, cabinets next to ovens, etc.
- Refrigeration – For longest lasting coconut cream, store the unopened cans in the refrigerator. The chill preserves freshness.
- Freezer storage – Canned coconut cream can be safely frozen for up to 1 year past the printed expiration date.
- Use oldest first – Practice FIFO (first in, first out) organization, using oldest cans first to avoid waste.
- Inspect condition – Check for rust, dents, swelling before opening. Discard any cans that are compromised.
Proper storage is key to maximizing the shelf life of canned coconut cream once opened.
What happens if you eat expired coconut cream from a can?
If you consume expired coconut cream that has begun spoiling, the most likely effects are gastrointestinal issues:
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea – Consuming rancid or moldy coconut cream can cause nausea, stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea as the body rejects the spoiled food.
- Food poisoning – Foodborne pathogens like salmonella, E. coli, or listeria can grow in expired coconut cream, causing food poisoning symptoms if large quantities are eaten.
- Allergic reaction – Spoiled coconut cream may trigger food intolerance or allergy symptoms like hives, itching, and swelling in sensitive individuals.
In most healthy adults, eating a small amount of spoiled coconut cream may cause temporary stomach upset. Seek medical help if symptoms are severe or persist longer than 48 hours.
Can spoiled coconut cream make you sick?
Yes, consuming spoiled, expired coconut cream could make you sick. Sickness occurs because spoiled coconut cream can harbor dangerous levels of bacteria, such as staph, listeria, salmonella, and E. coli.
Foodborne bacteria can rapidly multiply once canned coconut cream has gone bad. Consuming large volumes of contaminated coconut cream could lead to food poisoning.
Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea, fever, and chills. Severe cases may require hospitalization, especially in those with compromised immune systems, the very young, and the elderly.
Pregnant women need to be especially cautious, as certain foodborne bacteria can be harmful to the fetus. Always inspect coconut cream carefully before consuming and discard any expired cans.
How long does opened canned coconut cream last in the fridge?
Once opened, canned coconut cream will last about:
- Refrigerator: 7-10 days past printed date or 5-7 days after opening.
- Freezer: 4-6 months past printed date if frozen immediately after opening.
To maximize freshness after opening:
- Transfer to an airtight container, removing as much air as possible.
- Ensure the container is tightly sealed.
- Store in the refrigerator.
- Use within 5-7 days for peak freshness.
- Do not return any unused portion to the original can.
Discard any coconut cream that smells odd, looks curdled, changes consistency, or shows any mold growth. Freezing leftovers in airtight containers can prolong freshness for 4-6 months.
Can you freeze coconut cream from a can?
Yes, you can safely freeze leftover coconut cream from a can. Freezing enables longer preservation past the expiration date versus refrigeration.
Follow these steps for best frozen results:
- Pour coconut cream into freezer bags, plastic containers, or ice cube trays immediately after opening. Remove as much air as possible.
- Lay flat in the freezer if using bags or trays. This allows for easier thawing and portioning later.
- Once solid, transfer frozen coconut cream cubes or bricks from trays into labeled freezer bags. Exclude as much air as possible.
- Store frozen for up to 6 months past the printed expiration date.
- Thaw needed amounts in the refrigerator overnight before using.
- Avoid refreezing any thawed coconut cream.
Frozen coconut cream may separate slightly upon thawing but should reconstitute well when stirred. The taste remains delicious when freezing guidelines are followed.
Can you substitute canned coconut cream? What has the same consistency?
If you don’t have canned coconut cream on hand, a few substitutes can mimic the thick, rich consistency in recipes:
- Coconut milk + cornstarch – Add 1 teaspoon cornstarch per 1/3 cup coconut milk. Heat to thicken.
- Full fat coconut milk – Chill unshaken cans for separation, use the thicker cream atop.
- Cashew cream – Blend soaked raw cashews with water until smooth and creamy.
- Refrigerated coconut cream – Look for this with dairy and non-dairy creamers.
- Cream of coconut- Much thicker and sweeter. Use 2/3 cup cream of coconut for every 1 cup coconut cream.
- Dairy whipping cream – Has a similar fat content. Chill well before whipping.
When substituting, pay attention to thickness, fat content, and flavor. Make adjustments to suit the particular recipe. Homemade coconut cream is simple with coconut milk and cornstarch.
How long does coconut milk last after opening?
Once opened, coconut milk stored in the refrigerator will last:
- 7-10 days past the printed date if refrigerated immediately after opening.
- 4-6 days past the printed date if refrigerated several days after opening.
- About 5-7 days total after being opened.
To extend the shelf life after opening:
- Transfer coconut milk to an airtight container, removing as much air as possible.
- Make sure the container is tightly sealed.
- Store opened coconut milk in the refrigerator.
- Use within 5-7 days for peak freshness and to avoid spoilage.
- Don’t return unused coconut milk to the original can.
Watch for changes in smell, texture, or color. Discard coconut milk if it becomes slimy, ropes, smells off, or shows any mold spots. Follow safe refrigeration guidelines after opening.
Can coconut cream be substituted for coconut milk?
Coconut cream cannot be directly substituted for coconut milk in recipes, as coconut cream is much thicker and richer. However, coconut milk can be modified to make a substitute coconut cream in a pinch:
- Chill cans of coconut milk overnight, then open carefully without shaking. Scoop out the thicker cream layer on top and use this in place of coconut cream.
- For every 1 cup coconut cream needed, use 1 cup coconut milk combined with 2-3 tablespoons cornstarch or tapioca starch. Heat gently to thicken the coconut milk into a cream.
- Reduce the amount of coconut milk by 1/4 cup for every 1 cup coconut cream required. Make up the liquid with nondairy milk or water.
- Add cream of coconut to coconut milk to increase the fat percentage. Use 2/3 cup cream of coconut for every 1 cup coconut cream needed.
The texture may not be quite as thick using homemade substitutions. But in terms of flavor, you can mimic coconut cream fairly well by modifying coconut milk. Reduce liquids and stir often during cooking.
How do you make coconut cream at home?
It’s easy to make fresh coconut cream at home with just 2 ingredients:
- 1 cup chilled coconut milk, full fat
- 1-2 teaspoons cornstarch or arrowroot powder
- Refrigerate cans of coconut milk overnight so the solids and liquids separate.
- Without shaking, carefully open the cans and scoop out the thicker cream layer on top. Reserve the watery liquid for another use.
- Combine 1 cup chilled coconut cream and 1-2 teaspoons cornstarch in a saucepan. Heat gently just until thickened to desired consistency.
- Add a pinch of salt or sugar to enhance the flavor. Stir well until smooth and creamy.
- Cool completely then transfer to an airtight container. Refrigerate up to 1 week.
Homemade coconut cream has a wonderfully thick, rich texture perfect for curries, desserts, beverages, and more. Adjust the cornstarch to suit your preferred consistency.
While the shelf life of canned coconut cream is generally about 12-24 months, unopened cans may still be safely consumed well past expiration dates as long as the cans are in good condition and have been properly stored. Refrigeration or freezing enables even longer shelf life.
However, quality does degrade over time so very old cans that have passed their best by dates by more than 6-12 months should be discarded for best flavor, aroma, and texture. Always inspect cans thoroughly before opening and look for any swelling, rust, sliminess, or off odors which are red flags for spoilage.
Consuming spoiled coconut cream could potentially lead to foodborne illness or gastrointestinal distress in some cases, so freshness should not be ignored. But with careful storage and adherence to recommended time limits, canned coconut cream can often last many months past its printed date. Just be diligent about properly inspecting and evaluating the condition before use.