Is it OK to drink expired eggnog?

Quick Answer

It’s generally not recommended to drink eggnog past its expiration date. However, eggnog may still be safe to consume several days or even weeks after the expiration date, depending on how it was stored and the type of eggnog. Properly refrigerated, unopened shelf-stable and pasteurized eggnog can last 1-2 weeks past its date. Homemade and opened eggnog should be discarded by the expiration date. Smell and appearance are good ways to check if eggnog has truly spoiled.

What happens when eggnog expires?

Eggnog consists mainly of milk, cream, eggs, and sugar. Like other dairy products, eggnog is perishable and has a limited shelf life. Over time, the quality of eggnog declines as acids develop and fats begin to oxidize. The higher fat content makes eggnog more prone to spoilage than regular milk.

After expiration, eggnog may develop off flavors, curdle, separate, or become frothy. The texture and consistency can change. Bacteria may also grow and produce gas, causing puffiness. However, the most concerning risk is food poisoning from pathogenic microbes.

Bacteria growth

Eggnog provides a rich environment for microbes to thrive. Raw eggs used in homemade recipes present a risk of Salmonella. Milk and cream also easily harbor Listeria, E. coli, and other bacteria. Refrigeration helps slow microbial growth, but eggnog still has a restricted shelf life.

Over time, bacteria levels can multiply to dangerous concentrations. Even when eggnog looks and smells normal, harmful pathogens may be present. Consuming contaminated eggnog could cause a foodborne illness.

Nutrient loss

Eggnog’s vitamin and mineral content diminishes over time. Levels of vitamin C, B vitamins including riboflavin, and other heat-sensitive nutrients degrade faster in expired eggnog. The drink may also lose some protein quality.

However, nutrient loss is not a major concern with expired eggnog. The drink does not provide significant nutrition when fresh anyway. Eggnog’s low vitamin and mineral levels do not decrease dramatically with age.

How long does eggnog last past its expiration date?

The shelf life of eggnog depends on several factors:

Type of eggnog

Type Typical shelf life
Commercial shelf-stable, ultra-pasteurized 4-6 months unopened
Commercial refrigerated, pasteurized 3-4 weeks unopened
Homemade with raw eggs 2 weeks refrigerated
Homemade with pasteurized eggs 2-4 weeks refrigerated

Shelf-stable eggnog undergoes ultra high-temperature (UHT) pasteurization and can keep unrefrigerated for months. Once opened, it will last about 1 week refrigerated.

Refrigerated eggnog is pasteurized at lower temperatures and has a shorter shelf life of 3-6 weeks. Homemade eggnog with raw eggs only lasts 1-2 weeks refrigerated. Using pasteurized eggs extends homemade eggnog’s shelf life to 4 weeks.

Storage temperature

Temperature directly impacts eggnog’s shelf life. Eggnog lasts longest when continuously refrigerated at 40°F (4°C) or below. Occasional temperature fluctuations in the fridge shorten shelf life.

Eggnog should never be left out unrefrigerated for more than 2 hours. Keeping eggnog on the counter accelerates spoilage.

Freezing eggnog stops bacteria growth and extends its expiration date. However, freezing alters eggnog’s texture, causing separation and graininess.

Package and exposure

Once eggnog is opened, oxygen starts degrading flavor and quality. An opened carton or bottle has a shorter shelf life of about 1 week refrigerated.

Storing eggnog in the original airtight container better preserves freshness. Transferring to another container exposes eggnog to more air. Portioning into glasses also introduces oxygen.

Dietary considerations

Some groups have greater risk for foodborne illness and should not consume expired foods:

  • Pregnant women
  • Young children
  • Older adults
  • Those with weakened immune systems

Health agencies advise these vulnerable populations to discard eggnog by the use-by date for maximum safety.

How to tell if eggnog has gone bad

Relying on your senses is the best way to evaluate eggnog freshness:


Fresh eggnog has a rich, creamy, vanilla aroma. As it spoils, the smell becomes sour, medicinal, or unpleasantly tangy. Rancid or “eggy” odors indicate full spoilage. If it smells off, don’t drink it.


Good eggnog should have a smooth, creamy consistency. Separation, clumping, graininess, froth, or bubbles are red flags. Changes in color from creamy white to yellow or pink also signal spoilage. Mold shows expired eggnog is truly inedible.


The flavor of eggnog quickly deteriorates after expiration. Stale, bitter, or acidic taste is a sign it’s gone bad. Sour or metallic flavors mean full spoilage. However, never taste eggnog if visual and smell checks clearly indicate it’s unfit to drink.

What happens if you drink expired eggnog?

The risks of drinking expired eggnog primarily involve foodborne illness. Symptoms may include:

  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain and cramps
  • Headache, fever
  • Flu-like weakness and fatigue

Sensitive groups like children, pregnant women, and the elderly are more prone to complications from food poisoning. Rotten eggnog could potentially trigger miscarriage in pregnant women due to bacterial infection.

Symptoms often resolve within a week. See a doctor immediately if severe vomiting, diarrhea, high fever, or bloody stools occur after drinking expired eggnog.

Botulism risk

Botulism is a rare but potentially fatal illness caused by a nerve toxin. Babies under one year old are especially vulnerable. While very uncommon, botulism has occurred in the past from drinking eggnog made with raw eggs. Always use pasteurized eggs for homemade eggnog given to infants or young toddlers.

How to store eggnog properly

Follow these tips for maximizing eggnog’s shelf life:

  • Refrigerate eggnog at 40°F or below immediately after purchase.
  • Keep eggnog in the back of the fridge where temperature is coldest.
  • Store in the original closed container before and after opening.
  • Place opened container on an interior fridge shelf, not in the door.
  • Use clean utensils to serve eggnog and avoid introducing bacteria.
  • Do not store eggnog on the counter or return it to the fridge after sitting out.
  • Consume leftovers within 5 days.

Discard eggnog if it shows any signs of spoilage or reaches one week past expiration. Don’t take risks with this highly perishable drink.

Other ways to use expired eggnog

Instead of drinking expired eggnog, consider these safer options:

Cooking and baking

The heat from cooking destroys any bacteria in eggnog. Expired eggnog works great in recipes like:

  • French toast
  • Pancakes or waffles
  • Eggnog custard
  • Eggnog pie
  • Eggnog cheesecake
  • Eggnog-glazed ham

Be sure to cook egg-containing eggnog thoroughly to an internal temperature of 160°F.

Mixing cocktails

Alcohol does not actually kill bacteria but may inhibit growth. Heavy liquors like rum or brandy have the greatest germ-fighting effects. Expired eggnog can be safely enjoyed in boozy holiday cocktails.

Making non-food items

Spoiled eggnog often still works great for:

  • Watering plants
  • Polishing leather
  • Shampooing carpets
  • Attracting wild birds

Avoid drinking expired eggnog, but put it to good use around the home. Just discard any eggnog that looks or smells clearly rotten.


Drinking expired eggnog is generally not recommended. However, unopened shelf-stable eggnog may be safe up to 2 weeks past its “best by” date if refrigerated properly. The most cautious approach is sticking to the expiration or use-by date, especially for at-risk groups like young children, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems. Rely on your senses and good judgment to determine if eggnog seems too old to consume. Discard leftovers within a week and store eggnog under optimal conditions to get the most out of its limited shelf life. While it’s better not to drink spoiled eggnog, you can still use it creatively in cooking and cleaning. Ultimately, expired eggnog poses real risks and the safest option is to simply throw it out after its expiration.

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