Yogurt that is up to 2 months past the expiration date is likely still safe to eat, as long as it has been stored properly and there are no signs of spoilage like mold growth or an off smell or texture. The expiration date is a general guideline, but yogurt can remain edible for some time afterwards due to its acidic nature, refrigeration, and packaging. Use common sense – if it looks and smells normal, it should be fine.
Expiration Dates are Conservative Estimates
The expiration date printed on yogurt is actually an estimate of when the yogurt will reach peak quality, not when it suddenly becomes unsafe to eat. Dairy products like yogurt tend to have conservative expiration dates because manufacturers prefer to err on the side of caution.
In reality, properly stored yogurt will stay fresh for a week or two past the printed date. The lactic acid created by the live cultures in yogurt gives it some leeway in terms of spoilage. As long as the yogurt shows no signs of mold, off-odors, or textural changes, it should be perfectly safe to consume even months past date on the container.
Refrigeration Slows Spoilage
One reason yogurt lasts so long is that it is stored cold. Refrigeration slows down the growth of bacteria and molds dramatically. Yogurt’s high moisture content means it could spoil quickly at room temperature, but is preserved when kept chilled around 40°F.
As long as your yogurt has been continuously refrigerated, the expiration date is extended. If it warms up for too long, such as being left out overnight, spoilage can accelerate. But if the yogurt remains cold right up until you consume it, it retains quality and safety for some time.
Packaging Protects from Contamination
Yogurt packaging creates an anaerobic environment, or one lacking oxygen. This helps prevent molds from growing, which are the most common spoilers of refrigerated foods. As long as the plastic yogurt cup or foil lid is intact and hasn’t been compromised, the yogurt inside remains protected.
Once opened, however, the yogurt is exposed to more oxygen. This decreases its shelf life to about 1 week past the printed date. An unopened yogurt has extra buffer time thanks to the packaging. Again, this is assuming proper refrigerated storage.
Watch for Obvious Signs of Spoilage
While yogurt can potentially last for months past its date if properly handled, you still need to rely on your senses to determine if it has gone bad. Here are some signs that your yogurt is no longer safe to eat:
– Mold growth – any fuzzy spots or film on the yogurt indicate spoilage
– Gas buildup in the container – bulging package could mean gasses from bacterial growth
– Sour smell – a very sour or alcoholic odor can signify yogurt has fermented too long
– Weird textures – excessive liquid, grittiness, or sliminess are red flags
Trust your eyes, nose, and taste buds. If anything seems off with the yogurt’s appearance, aroma, or flavor, err on the side of caution and throw it away. Safety over exceeding the date is recommended.
Best By vs. Expiration Dates
There are actually two different kinds of dates on yogurt packages. “Sell by” or “best by” dates indicate when the yogurt is estimated to reach peak quality and flavor. “Expiration” or “use by” dates are more about food safety.
Best by dates are typically 1-2 weeks after the production date. Yogurt remains enjoyable for a period after that time, even if the taste declines slightly. The expiration date is further out, around 4-6 weeks after production, when spoilage becomes a real risk.
So if your yogurt is just past its best by date, it likely has some shelf life left and is still tasty. If it’s well past the use by date, be more cautious and inspect closely before consuming.
Does High or Low Fat Content Matter?
The fat content of yogurt does not make a significant difference in how long it lasts past its printed date. Regular, low-fat, and non-fat yogurts have similar shelf lives. The main factors are the live cultures, refrigeration, and unopened packaging, rather than fat content.
However, yogurt with higher fat may deteriorate faster after opening. The milk fats can oxidize after exposure to air, causing faster development of off-flavors. Greek yogurt in particular may seem to expire quicker after opening due to its very high fat content. But if the container is sealed, the fat content makes minimal difference.
Can You Freeze Yogurt?
Freezing is an option for extending the shelf life of yogurt even further. The cold environment of the freezer slows spoilage basically to a halt. Frozen yogurt can keep for 2-3 months past the printed expiration date if sealed properly in an airtight container.
When ready to eat, thaw frozen yogurt in the refrigerator until it reaches a soft, spreadable texture. The consistency may be more watery or icy after thawing compared to fresh yogurt. But the yogurt is still safe to consume, though it may lose some creaminess.
Tips for Maximizing Yogurt Storage Life
Here are some tips for getting the most days out of your yogurt and keeping it fresh longer:
– Buy yogurt with expiration dates furthest in the future
– Store yogurt in the back, not the door, of your refrigerator
– Keep storage temperature at 40°F or below
– Check for deals and stock up if yogurt goes on sale
– Keep yogurt in its original container until ready to eat
– After opening, reseal container tightly or transfer to airtight storage
– When in doubt, sniff test before consuming older yogurt
The Bottom Line
It is perfectly safe to eat yogurt 1-2 months past its printed expiration date as long as you take precautions:
– Refrigerate continuously at 40°F or below
– Keep the yogurt package sealed tight
– Check for any mold, odors, or textural changes before eating
– Discard immediately if you detect spoilage
The acidic environment and cold storage give yogurt more leeway compared to other dairy products. Use your best judgment, be on the lookout for signs of spoilage, and enjoy your yogurt weeks past the date on the container with peace of mind.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does unopened yogurt last past its expiration date?
Unopened yogurt can often last 4-6 weeks past the printed expiration date as long as it has been properly stored in the refrigerator. The sealed packaging helps extend the shelf life.
What happens if you eat expired yogurt?
If expired yogurt was stored correctly and shows no signs of spoilage, it is unlikely to make you sick. At worst, yogurt that is past its prime may cause digestive upset if consumed. Symptoms like nausea, bloating, and cramps may occur.
Can unrefrigerated yogurt make you sick?
Yes, yogurt that has been left out too long at room temperature or warmer can make you sick due to rapid bacterial growth. Always keep yogurt refrigerated. If unrefrigerated for more than 2 hours, throw yogurt away.
Do probiotics survive in yogurt after the expiration date?
The live cultures in yogurt can begin to decline after the expiration date, but many probiotics will still survive weeks or months later. Yogurt that shows obvious signs of spoilage, however, likely has very minimal probiotics left.
Can you freeze yogurt after the expiration date?
Freezing expired yogurt can extend its shelf life for a few months. The yogurt will be safe to eat after freezing but may have lower quality due to the damage freezing does to texture and beneficial bacteria.
Does Greek yogurt last longer than regular yogurt?
No, Greek yogurt does not necessarily last longer. The amount of nutrients and live cultures is comparable between Greek and regular yogurt. Storage method and temperature have a larger impact on shelf life compared to style.
Can moldy yogurt make you sick if you just eat around it?
It’s unsafe to eat any moldy yogurt, even if you remove the visibly moldy parts. Mold can spread invisibly through the yogurt, so scraping it off does not make the rest safe to eat. Discard the entire container.
Can expired yogurt be used in cooking and baking?
Yes, yogurt that has passed its prime can safely be used in cooked or baked goods. The heat from cooking destroys any harmful bacteria that may have developed. Avoid using yogurt with obvious mold or spoilage.
Is it okay to eat yogurt that smells a little sour or tangy?
A slightly sour or tangy smell alone does not necessarily mean yogurt is spoiled. Yogurt naturally has a tart aroma due to the lactic acid. However, an extremely sharp or putrid smell means the yogurt should be discarded.
Does adding fruit or granola impact yogurt expiration?
Added ingredients like fruit and granola can decrease the yogurt’s shelf life slightly. Pieces of fruit can raise the pH and introduce bacteria. Check frequently for signs of spoilage if using mix-in ingredients.
Data on Yogurt Shelf Life Past Expiration Date
|Yogurt Type||Unopened||After Opening|
|Plain||4-6 weeks past date||1 week past date|
|Flavored||2-3 weeks past date||5-6 days past date|
|Non-fat||4-6 weeks past date||1 week past date|
|Low-fat||4-6 weeks past date||1 week past date|
|Whole milk||4-6 weeks past date||1 week past date|
|Greek||3-4 weeks past date||5-6 days past date|
|With fruit||2-3 weeks past date||3-5 days past date|
Yogurt that has been stored properly in the fridge and still looks and smells normal is very likely still safe to eat up to 2 months past the printed expiration date. The combination of refrigeration and yogurt’s acidic pH gives it more leeway compared to many other perishable foods. Use your best judgment, but that container in the back of the fridge with a date a few weeks ago is probably still perfectly fine to enjoy. Discard yogurt at the first hint of spoilage, but otherwise you can indulge your yogurt craving past the date with confidence.