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How Long Does Yogurt Last and How to Tell If It’s Bad?

Yogurt usually lasts for at least a few days after its “expiration” date and up to a week after opening the container.

That means your yogurt that “expired” two days ago that’s still sitting in the fridge is probably a-okay.

But before you dig in, you better know the typical spoilage signs of yogurt. Some of them, like mold or a harsh sour smell, are quite obvious, but others aren’t.

And that’s what this article is going to help you with – telling if your yogurt is bad and how long it will stay good for.

Sounds interesting? Read on.

Container of yogurt
Container of yogurt

How Long Does Yogurt Last?

Yogurt typically keeps for 3 to 5 days past the date on the label, sometimes more.

Once you open the container, the dairy product lasts for up to a week if it’s fresh or one to two days if it’s pushing or past its date.

Those periods are, as you can tell, rough estimates. And that means various producers might have recommendations that are slightly different from mine.

That’s why you should always read the label, but also take it with a grain of salt. And while we’re at it, do the same for every piece of information you find in this article too.

Greek yogurt: date on label
Greek yogurt: date on label

Storage Time After Opening

An open yogurt usually keeps for up to a week if it’s sealed tightly.

Some producers go as far as to say theirs keep for up to 10 days of opening or the date on the label, whichever comes first. But I wouldn’t put that statement to the test.

For me, I try to finish the opened cup as soon as I can, typically within 3 to 5 days tops. I’m playing it safe, but thanks to that, I rarely have to discard a yogurt that’s gone bad.

The date on the label plays a role too.

If it’s still a couple of weeks in the future, your yogurt should stay nice and fresh for the whole week. But if it’s already pushing the “expiration” date, don’t expect more than 2 to 3 days of good quality.

Try using yogurt leftovers within a couple of days of opening the container. The longer they stay in storage, the higher the chance they’ll go bad.

After the “Expiration” Date

First of all, the date on the label isn’t an expiration date but rather a use-by or sell-by date. Some producers even label it as a best-by date, but they all mean pretty much the same thing.

That date only indicates how long the producer estimates the yogurt will retain top quality. And it has nothing to do with food safety.

Of course, if you check the producer’s guidelines, they will tell you that you should discard their yogurt if it’s passed that date. And you can do that, but I bet you wouldn’t be reading this if you considered that good advice.

The truth is, most yogurts keep for at least a few days after the date stamped on the label. I had ones that were okay more than a week past their date, but I also had some that were super sour on the “use by” date.

Long story short, you have to open yours and see if it’s okay to eat or not.

Yogurt and other ingredients
Yogurt and other ingredients, preparing to make pancakes

Greek Yogurt vs. Regular Yogurt

When it comes to shelf life and spoilage, all types of yogurt are pretty much the same. That includes plain, no-fat, Greek-style, and flavored yogurts.

You go about the date on the label the same way for a container of Chobani greek yogurt as you do for your plain full-fat yogurt. Same thing for signs of spoilage.

The thing that noticeably affects the storage time and going bad of yogurt is the presence of preservatives.

Some yogurts are natural, preservative-free products. Others have a couple of extra ingredients that help them keep their texture and not spoil as quickly. As you might imagine, the latter group tends to keep for longer.

Of course, yogurts with preservatives aren’t as good for your health, and you should probably avoid them, but that’s a whole different topic.

Greek yogurt container
Greek yogurt container

How Do You Know If Yogurt Has Gone Bad?

To check if your yogurt is bad, check its appearance, smell, and taste. And in that order.

Here’s what to look for when checking if your yogurt is safe to eat:

  • Mold or other changes in appearance. If something about the way the yogurt looks seems off, like there are some green or black spots on the surface, discard it. The only exception here is separation (more on that in a moment).
  • Sour smell. Yogurt has a fresh and pleasant smell. If it starts to smell more like sour cream, it’s time for it to go. Of course, a slight sour note is still okay, and it is up to you to decide if your yogurt is too sour for your palate.
  • Off taste. If it doesn’t taste right, throw it out. As simple as that.

As you can tell, the list is quite similar to other dairy products, such as cottage cheese or heavy cream.

Measuring yogurt for pancakes
Measuring yogurt for pancakes

Separation

If you notice a bit of liquid (whey) on the surface of your yogurt, that’s separation, and it’s a perfectly normal phenomenon. In other words, it’s okay to eat that yogurt.

When dealing with that whey, you can either discard it or just stir it in – up to you. I usually go for the latter.

Separation is often present in yogurts that are nearing their dates or sit open for a couple of days already. And it’s much more common for all-natural yogurts than ones with preservatives or flavored ones.

That being said, I once or twice had yogurt that separated completely. There was a layer of liquid on top, and the bottom was a big jello-like block.

That yogurt was probably safe to eat, but I threw it out anyways. And I wouldn’t blame you if you did the same.

Yogurt surface separation
Fresh yogurt – little visible separation on the surface

Can Unopened Yogurt Go Bad?

Unopened yogurt can go bad. While the chances of it growing mold are rather small because it shouldn’t be infected with mold spores, and mold doesn’t grow from thin air, it can still go bad.

What you should expect from yogurt that’s, say, more than a week past its date, is that it’s heavily separated and probably sour.

When it comes to separation, it’s up to you how much is acceptable, and the same applies to sourness.

Of course, we’re talking here about yogurt that’s been continuously refrigerated and like a week or two past its date. If yours sat out for more than a couple of hours, or is like a month expired, just throw it out.

How To Store Yogurt

You should keep yogurt in the fridge. And the faster you put it in there when you’re back from the supermarket, the better.

Once you first open the yogurt, store the leftovers sealed tightly, possibly in a lidded container.

Technically speaking, your yogurt should sit in the back of the fridge instead of the fridge door. That’s because the door is where the temperature changes most often.

But unless you open your refrigerator every 20 minutes or so, leaving yogurts on the door shouldn’t be an issue at all. And yours won’t magically last for 3 days longer if you place them in the far corner.

Cooked pancakes
Cooked yogurt-based pancakes, no topping yet

Sealed Container

If you have some leftover yogurt on hand, transferring it into an airtight container is the best way to store it.

Sure, you can just wrap the top over the container so that it covers everything, and that’s much better than placing it in the fridge half-open. But that’s far from ideal.

Yogurt that’s not sealed tightly tends to dry out, pick up smells, and spoil quickly more often because any mold spores in your fridge have an easy way in.

In other words, the longer you expect the opened yogurt to sit in the fridge, the more important is to seal it tight.

If you don’t have a container on hand, use plastic wrap (or aluminum foil) and a rubber band for a temporary seal.

Clean Spoons

If you’re not going to use the whole container in one go, always use clean utensils when handling yogurt.

Say you only need a couple of tablespoons of yogurt for a salad dressing. I know it’s tempting to use the same spoon you used for mayo, but it’s not a good idea.

Go grab a clean one just to be safe. Yogurt isn’t mustard, which often stays fine even if you double-dip often.

Yogurt based pancake batter
Yogurt based pancake batter

How Long Can Yogurt Be Out of the Fridge?

Perishable products such as milk and other dairy products shouldn’t sit out for more than 2 hours at room temperature, or more than an hour if the temperature is 90°F or higher.

That’s the official recommendation.

Of course, if you accidentally left your unopened yogurt on the counter for like 3 hours, it would probably be okay to eat. But if you left it out overnight, it’s time to let it go.

What I’m trying to say is that you should know the rules and know when to bend (or break) them.

Can You Freeze Yogurt?

Freezing yogurt is a-okay, but the texture after defrosting isn’t quite the same.

First off, there’s going to be some liquid on top (separation) that you can stir in or discard.

Second, the yogurt will most likely be thinner than before freezing and grainy instead of smooth.

In other words, its quality changes significantly, and for most people, frozen and thawed yogurt isn’t good enough to eat raw (e.g., with fresh fruit). Of course, you can eat it this way, but you’ll hate every second of it.

The good news is that thawed yogurt works just fine in cooked dishes (think soups, pies, or pancakes).

In those dishes, the texture change isn’t a big deal because you mix the yogurt with many other ingredients and then cook the whole thing. So the texture of the end product has little to do with whether the yogurt was smooth or grainy.

Yogurt-based pancake topped with jam
Yogurt-based pancake topped with jam