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Does Coconut Oil Go Bad? Storage, Shelf Life & Spoilage

Your coconut oil is a couple of weeks (or months) past its date, and you’re wondering: does coconut oil go bad?

It certainly doesn’t retain quality forever, but the fact that it’s “expired” doesn’t mean you have to discard it right away. Far from it.

If you store it properly, coconut oil typically lasts for months past its date. But that doesn’t mean that yours is fine, no questions asked.

Instead, you should know the spoilage signs of coconut oil and how to know if yours is bad or not.

That’s where this article comes in. In it, we talk about spoilage, shelf life, and storage practices for coconut oil.

Sounds interesting? Let’s get into it.

Coconut oil jar
Coconut oil jar

Does Coconut Oil Go Bad?

Coconut oil, like any other oil, goes bad eventually.

While coconut oil usually doesn’t go moldy (although it could), it goes rancid after a long enough storage period. That’s when you discard it.

We’ll talk about the specifics in a second.

But before you go any further, check your jar to learn if what you have is virgin coconut oil or a refined one. They smell and taste different, and that’s important when you’re checking yours for spoilage.

Got it? Read on.

Extra virgin and virgin coconut oil are the same thing. The word “extra” doesn’t change anything in the context of coconut oil.

How To Tell If Coconut Oil Is Bad?

To check if your coconut oil is spoiled, examine its appearance, smell, and taste. Here’s what to pay attention to:

  • Color. Liquid coconut oil is clear, while solid is white (like milk). When it melts and goes solid again, it turns creamy (see below). But if yours turns yellow, get rid of it.
  • Black spots and any other organic growth. If you notice any signs of organic growth, either on the surface or floating around when the oil is liquid, it’s best to discard the fat. If your oil is exposed to mold spores enough times, it could grow mold.
  • Rancid smell. For starters, you should know that virgin (unrefined) coconut oil has a nutty, coconut-like smell. On the other hand, refined coconut oil has a pretty neutral scent (that’s why it’s often used in cooking). If yours smells different, especially bitter, sour, paint-like, or reminds you of chemicals, the oil is rancid, and it has to go.
  • Rancid taste. Again, virgin coconut oil has a light coconut flavor, while the refined variety doesn’t have much of a taste. If yours taste kind of sour or bitter, it’s no good.
Coconut oil after melting and solidifying
Coconut oil after melting and solidifying

As you can tell, I ignored the elephant in the room – melting and solidifying of coconut oil. That’s because neither is a sign of spoilage. I talk about this in more detail in the next section.

If something else pops up that doesn’t fit the typical signs I described above, go with your gut and follow the “better safe than sorry” advice.

If you’re not sure that old coconut oil is still safe to eat, maybe it looks a bit off or smells weird, assume that it’s gone bad. Or use it in one of the many other ways you can use coconut oil outside cooking.

Solid coconut oil
Solid coconut oil

Melted Coconut Oil

Coconut oil that has melted, or melted and solidified again, is still safe to use. That’s true even if that has happened multiple times.

Also, there’s no nutrient loss in the process, so you don’t have to be concerned if you open your kitchen cupboard in the middle of a sweltering day and find your coconut oil melted.

If you prefer your coconut oil to stay solid (or liquid), you can adjust for that by changing where you store it. I talk about it in detail in the storage section.

Last, coconut oil isn’t the only fat that melts and solidifies depending on the temperature. For example, think about olive oil, which is usually more viscous in the fridge than it is at room temperature, or butter that melts on the stove.

If you’re curious what temperature is needed to melt coconut oil, the answer is 75°F (or 24°C). That’s why when you keep it in the kitchen, it usually turns into liquid only in the middle of the summer and solidifies after only a couple of days of slightly colder weather.

Melted coconut oil
Melted coconut oil

How Long Does Coconut Oil Last?

Coconut oil comes with a shelf life of one to two years and retains quality for at least a couple of extra weeks if you store it properly.

Opening the jar for the first time doesn’t affect the shelf life that much. Sure, it exposes the oil to fresh air, which might speed up the rancidification process a bit, but that’s not a big deal. Unless you leave the jar unsealed for a prolonged period, of course.

In case you were wondering, there’s a difference in shelf life between refined and virgin coconut oil. The latter tends to last longer than the former, but there’s no consensus on how long each one is good for, exactly.

Refined coconut oil lasts about 2 years, while virgin (unrefined) keeps for approximately 3 years. But I’ve also seen sellers claiming virgin coconut oil (or VCO) lasts up to 5 years, so there’s that.

For me, the easiest way to go about that is to start with the date on the label, assume that the oil should keep for a few extra months, and always check if it’s still okay before using.

It’s a simple system, but it works.

Coconut oil: best by date
Coconut oil: best by date on the lid

Expired Coconut Oil

First of all, the date on the jar of coconut oil isn’t an expiration date, but rather a best-by or best-if-used-by date. It’s about food quality, not food safety.

In other words, it doesn’t imply that once the oil reaches that date it’s no longer safe to consume.

Having that out of the way, you might be wondering how long after the “expiration” date coconut oil is good for. Unfortunately, there’s no good answer here.

It all depends on the quality of the oil itself and how well you store it. But even if you follow all the rules to a T, I cannot guarantee you anything.

Your coconut oil should retain quality for at least a couple of months past its date. That’s the best I’ve got. Sometimes it’s going to be a month, other times half a year or even more. That’s the nature of the beast.

How To Store Coconut Oil

You can store coconut oil in a kitchen cupboard at room temperature, in the pantry, or even refrigerate it. Make sure the oil is sealed tightly in its glass jar, the temperature is fairly stable, and it’s away from direct sunlight and heat sources.

The glass jar coconut oil usually comes in is perfect for long-term storage. There’s no need to transfer the oil into a more suitable container upon opening.

Like all other oils, proper food hygiene is crucial for coconut oil to last as long as possible. That includes:

  • sealing the jar right after scooping the amount you need
  • always using clean spoons and never double-dipping

Following those practices ensures you don’t accidentally introduce any mold spores or other contaminants into the jar.

When it comes to where the jar should sit, it all depends on whether you prefer to have it liquid, solid-but-scoopable, or plain solid.

To have it liquid, you should keep it somewhere warm, like maybe on top of your hot water heater. For the intermediate state where the oil is solid, but you can scoop it easily, keep it in a cool cupboard in the pantry or kitchen. If you want it to be super solid for some reason, the fridge is the way to go.

You can quickly melt coconut oil in a warm bath. Scoop as much as you need into a bowl, and place that bowl in another bowl filled with hot water. Warm tap water works too, though a bit slower.

Muffins prep coconut oil and applesauce
Muffins prep coconut oil and applesauce

Does Coconut Oil Need To Be Refrigerated?

You don’t need to refrigerate coconut oil. Neither an unopened jar nor one that you just opened requires refrigeration.

You can refrigerate it if you prefer the oil to be solid and quite firm, but that’s about the only reason to do so. Otherwise, just stick it in a cupboard that doesn’t get too hot in the summer.

For me, I store coconut oil in a cupboard in the kitchen, where it stays solid but scoopable for most of the year. The oil melts whenever there are two or more consecutive days of hot weather in the summer, and I’m fine with it.