Coconut oil has become a popular ingredient in many households around the world, not only for cooking but also for its various health benefits. If you have a jar of coconut oil that’s been sitting in your pantry for a while now, you may be wondering if it’s still good.
Good news – coconut oil has a naturally long shelf life and can last for up to 2 years once opened! Of course, factors like the type of coconut oil, quality of the oil, and storage conditions also play a role.
What is the shelf life of coconut oil?
Like other cooking oils such as olive oil or vegetable oil, coconut oil has a long shelf life. If stored correctly, it can last up to 2 years, following the general rule for most oils.
Unrefined coconut oil, also known as virgin or extra-virgin coconut oil, tends to have a longer shelf life than refined coconut oil and can last up to 5 years in some cases. However, it’s always best to check the quality of the oil before using it, and if you notice any signs of spoilage, such as a rancid odor or off taste, it’s best to discard it (more on that later).
Comparison of coconut oil shelf life
|Shelf life – room temperature||Shelf life – refrigerator, unopened||Shelf life – refrigerator, opened|
|Refined coconut oil||18-24 months||~24 months||~2 years|
|Unrefined (virgin and extra-virgin) coconut oil||3-5 years||~5 years||~2 years|
Storing coconut oil in the refrigerator is not necessary, but doing so can slow down the spoilage process, meaning you can extend it to the longer end of its shelf life. However, note that refrigerating coconut oil will cause the oil to harden and become difficult to work with, but this isn’t necessarily a big deal since it melts easily.
And here’s a more in-depth look at how to store coconut oil to extend its shelf life.
Refined vs. unrefined coconut oil – differences and storage
Unrefined (virgin) coconut oil typically lasts longer than refined coconut oil because it contains more antioxidants and natural preservatives.
Virgin coconut oil is made by cold-pressing fresh coconut meat to extract the oil. The process typically involves minimal processing which retains more of its natural antioxidants and other beneficial compounds, making this the purest form of coconut oil, and the best type of coconut oil to buy. (Or make at home.) These antioxidants help protect the oil from oxidative damage and prevent it from spoiling.
In contrast, refined coconut oil undergoes a more extensive process that involves bleaching and deodorizing the oil to remove impurities and increase its shelf life to about 2 years. This process removes some of the natural antioxidants and other beneficial compounds, making the oil more susceptible to oxidation and spoilage.
For more, see this blog post on refined vs unrefined coconut oil.
How do you know if coconut oil has gone bad?
Yes, coconut oil can go bad due to oxidation over time. Exposure to heat, light, and air can cause the oil to break down, resulting in rancidity and off-flavors.
Here are some signs that your coconut oil has gone bad:
- Rancid or sour smell: Fresh coconut oil has a sweet, mild aroma. If it smells sour, rancid, or stale, it may have gone bad.
- Change in texture or appearance: Coconut oil should be smooth and creamy in texture and not lumpy, chunky, or curdled.
- Sour or off-taste: Coconut oil should have a mild, sweet taste. If it tastes sour, bitter, or off, it’s probably not good.
- Mold or signs of spoilage: If you notice any mold growth, unusual discoloration, or signs of spoilage on the surface of the coconut oil, it is best to discard it.
What happens when you eat coconut oil that has been open for a long time?
Consuming coconut oil that has been open for a long time can pose potential health risks. Over time, the oil can become rancid and develop harmful free radicals due to exposure to air, light, and heat. Eating rancid coconut oil can cause digestion issues, inflammation and oxidative stress in your body.
It’s essential to check the quality of the coconut oil and best-before date before using it, especially if it has been open for an extended period. If you notice any of the signs above, it’s best to discard it to avoid any potential health risks.
So, how long does coconut oil last after opening?
For the best quality, it’s best to use up coconut oil within 2 years of opening or by its best-before date. However, the specific shelf life of your coconut oil can vary depending on the type you have. The absolute best type of coconut oil is virgin coconut oil. If you’re wondering what brand to buy, see our list of top coconut oil brands!
After opening, you can store coconut oil in your pantry or a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight, heat, or moisture. Make sure the lid is screwed on tight to avoid exposure to air, which can lead to oxidation and spoilage. If the coconut oil solidifies at cooler temperatures, place the container in warm water to melt it before use. We have a complete guide on the best way to store coconut oil, which you can read here.
It is not necessary to refrigerate coconut oil after opening, as long as it is stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight, heat, or moisture. Refrigeration can cause the oil to solidify and become difficult to use, but it can extend the shelf life of coconut oil if you live in a warm or humid climate.
I don’t recommend eating old coconut oil in case it has gone rancid and developed harmful free radicals, which can lead to digestive issues, inflammation, and other potential health risks. Make sure to check for any signs of spoilage, such as a rancid smell or a change in color or texture, before using it.