How To Tell If Coconut Oil Has Gone Bad

There is nothing wrong with hoarding food essentials, especially pantry items like cooking oil. Coconut oil is one of the most popular plant-based oils used for many applications, but would you know how to tell if it has gone bad?

You can tell coconut oil has gone bad by a change in color from white to yellow, a chunky appearance like cottage cheese, and black moldy spots drifting on top of the oil. The smell can be sour or stale, and the taste will be bitter and rancid. If the oil container is plastic, it will appear bloated. 

Before you cook your next unique meal or apply homemade coconut oil-based lotion, it would be a good idea to test it and see that it has not expired. So let’s take a look at some helpful tips.

Coconut oil

How Do You Tell If Coconut Oil Is Bad?

If you use it daily, you should have no trouble identifying a difference in texture or smell. But say you use it maybe once a month and aren’t sure. 

Here is how you can tell that it has signs of spoilage: 

1. A Change In Color – Translucent/ White To Yellow 

Typically, coconut oil is translucent; only once it becomes cold and solidifies will it turn milky white. 

If the coconut oil is bad, the color will turn from milky white to a dirty yellow. 

2. A Change In Consistency 

Fresh coconut oil will have a smooth consistency. It will be runny with no solid pieces visible. If it is in liquid form but has cottage cheese-like pieces floating, it is going bad.

3. Floating Black Spots 

In the right environment, black mold can form inside any container or surface; coconut oil is no exception. 

If you don’t seal the lid airtight, you’ll notice small black spots art forming on the sides of the container. This is because the mold spores can separate and float on the surface of the oil.

4. A Change In Odor 

Usually, coconut oil doesn’t have a very strong scent unless it is made from the flesh part of the coconut. Cold pressed virgin one will have a sweet smell, and refined one has little to no scent.

If it has turned bad, the smell will be more pronounced and either sour, musty, or bitter.

5. A Change In Taste 

Virgin coconut oil has a delightful, sweet taste and can be eaten raw in its solid state. However, it will be easy to distinguish rancid oil from fresh.

Bad coconut oil will taste bitter or sour and leave a horrible aftertaste in the mouth.

Change in taste coconut oil

What Causes Coconut Oil To Go Bad?

There are tons of things you must consider when storing food. Non-perishables are easy to manage and have a long shelf life, but perishables need to be stored correctly to prevent them from going bad

  • Exposure to elements such as light causes it to go rancid
  • Exposure to temperature fluctuations can cause it to go bad before its expiry date.
  • Exposure to air – leaving the lid open accidentally can cause oxidation and turning rancid fast, allowing bacteria and mold to start forming.
  • Exposure to direct sunlight causes the oil to change its chemistry, and the container will become moist inside from condensation and oxidation.
  • Exposure to other foods – using a dirty or contaminated utensil to scoop out can cause E.Coli, mold, and fungus to form.
Good or Bad

Does Extra Virgin Coconut Oil Go Bad?

It can last a fair amount of time but there is a shelf life difference between the different types of coconut oil. 

Virgin coconut oil can last indefinitely when stored correctly. On the other hand, refined oil can last only three months past expiry. 

The shelf life of the cheaper, refined oil is between 18 to 36 months, while some manufacturers prefer to say virgin oil will be fresh for around five years on the condition that it is stored correctly.

In general, coconut oil’s shelf life is estimated to be about 18-36 months for refined  and three to five years for unrefined. However, this period can vary depending on several factors, how you store it, the conditions, climate, and exposure to other ingredients.

Why different oils go bad faster than others are connected to the following reasons: 

1. It Depends On Your Climate 

Although it might seem irrelevant, the climate significantly impacts food items, especially perishables such as these oils.

Extreme heat and moisture can cause the oil to change its chemistry and become rancid faster. In addition, refined oil will go bad faster than unrefined. 

The jar of coconut oil should be airtight in high moisture areas and it doesn’t need to go in the fridge to preserve it longer. Colder temperatures will harden it. 

2. The Manufacturing Process 

Coconut oil can be made from two coconut parts, the extracted flesh or the kernel (also called copra). Oil pressed from the kernel part of the coconut is refined oil. 

On the other hand, Virgin coconut oil is extracted from the fresh flesh of the coconut. It holds a stronger coconut flavor. 

The manufacturing process and part of the coconut play a vital role in the longevity and shelf life of the final product. The virgin oil will last indefinitely in proper storage and retain its distinct sweet coconut scent.

What Can Happen If You Ingest Or Apply Spoilt Coconut Oil?

There is always a chance of ingesting coconut oil that has gone bad. Like with any other vegetable oil or olive oil, if it is rancid and you consume it, you may get ill, and the following can happen – 

  • You may develop an upset stomach and diarrhea 
  • You can become nauseous and vomit
  • If there is E.Coli in the oil, you can get food poisoning.

You must also maintain a strict hygiene routine in homemade creams, lotions, or masks. Hands come in contact with many germs and bacteria; you should wash your hands before touching any face cream or lotions. 

Hands and utensils can transfer germs and food particles  into the oil and cause contamination. Given heat and moisture, and they may develop and thrive. Bacteria in a cream that has gone bad can cause severe skin conditions. 

Do you Refrigerate Coconut oil after Opening?

I don’t. Coconut oil does not require refrigeration after opening. In fact, refrigeration can cause it to solidify and make it harder to use. 

Coconut oil has a long shelf life and is resistant to rancidity due to its high saturated fat content. It can be stored at room temperature in a cool, dark place, such as a pantry or cupboard, away from direct sunlight and heat sources. 

Just make sure to tightly seal the container to prevent any contaminants from entering. 

Can Bacteria Grow in Coconut Oil? 

Coconut oil has natural antimicrobial properties due to the presence of lauric acid, which can inhibit the growth of certain types of bacteria and fungi. However, it is still possible for bacteria to grow in it under certain conditions. 

If contaminated with bacteria or if exposed to moisture, coconut oil can become a suitable environment for bacterial growth. This is more likely to occur if the oil has been improperly handled, stored, or contaminated during use.

To minimize the risk of bacterial growth, it’s important to practice good hygiene and proper storage. Always use clean utensils or hands when scooping out coconut oil, and ensure that the container is tightly sealed after each use. 

What Happens if I use Expired coconut oil?

Using expired oil may not immediately cause harm, but its quality, taste, and nutritional value may have deteriorated. Expired oil can become rancid, resulting in an unpleasant taste and odor, potentially leading to digestive discomfort. 

If the oil shows signs of spoilage, such as a strange smell, mold, or an off appearance, it is advisable to discard it. It is generally recommended to use coconut oil before its expiration date to ensure the best flavor and quality, and if in doubt, it’s best to replace it with fresh oil.

What Are Other Uses of Coconut oil? 

It really has a wide range of uses beyond cooking and baking


It is a popular ingredient in skincare products due to its moisturizing properties and minerals. It can be used as a natural moisturizer, lip balm, makeup remover, or body lotion. 


It can be applied to hair as a deep conditioner, helping to nourish and hydrate dry or damaged hair. It can also be used as a natural hair serum or to help control frizz.

Massage oil

Due to its smooth texture and pleasant aroma, coconut oil is commonly used as a massage oil. It can provide lubrication and moisturize the skin during massages.

Oral hygiene

Some people practice oil pulling, a traditional oral hygiene technique, using coconut oil. Swishing a tablespoon in your mouth for several minutes may help reduce bacteria and promote oral health.

Natural remedy

Given its natural antioxidants properties and vitamins e, coconut oil is often used as a base for homemade natural remedies such as salves, balms, and ointments for various skin conditions like dry skin, eczema, or insect bites.


Coconut oil can serve as a natural and organic lubricant for certain purposes, though it should not be used with latex condoms, as it may degrade the latex.

Cleaning and polishing

It can be used as a natural alternative for cleaning and polishing various surfaces, such as wood furniture, leather goods, and stainless steel.


Coconut oil has many healing and health benefits and should be a staple perishable item in any kitchen cupboard. 

So does coconut oil go bad? Don’t take chances if you suspect so, discard and replace it with a new tub, making sure you store it correctly.

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