Does Eggnog Go Bad?

So you’ve prepared Eggnog for Christmas Eve, and it turns out you’ve overestimated your family’s needs. In other words, there are leftovers, and you definitely don’t want them to go to waste.

You know that eggnog goes bad, but aren’t quite sure how long you can refrigerate it.

Or maybe you decided to test out commercially prepared eggnog sold in refrigerated cartons. While eggnog is a classic holiday cocktail, there’s no reason not to enjoy it more often. You can use it as coffee creamer, or add it to your oatmeal.

So you’ve bought a carton only to notice a day or two later that it lasts only a few days. You know that you won’t be able to use all of it before it goes bad. That brings up the question: can you freeze eggnog?

If you would like to learn a thing or two about storage, shelf life, freezing, and going bad of eggnog, this article is here to help.

Homemade Cinnamon Eggnog
Homemade Cinnamon Eggnog

How to Store Eggnog?

The main ingredients of Eggnog (or milk punch) are milk, eggs (or only yolks) and whipped cream. And since all of them require refrigeration, it’s no wonder that eggnog requires it too.

Let’s start with homemade egg nog. Before you can refrigerate it, make sure it cools down a bit. Then pour the leftovers to an airtight container or a mason jar, seal tightly, and chuck in the fridge. That’s it.

When it comes to store-bought eggnog, it usually comes in a Tetra Pak, which you can easily reseal. So once you’ve poured as much eggnog as you want or a recipe calls for, just seal it tightly and put back in the refrigerator. If there’s only a little eggnog left in the carton, you can always pour the rest into a jar or container.

When it comes to storing the beverage in the fridge, remember that the fridge door is the place where the temperature fluctuates the most. If you expect to refrigerate it for more than a day, it’s better to put it in the far corner, where the temperature is relatively stable.

Eggnog  with milk, rum, and cinnamon
Eggnog with milk, rum, and cinnamon

Can You Freeze Eggnog?

You can freeze eggnog, but like with other dairy beverages like buttermilk or sour cream, there will be separation and some lumps after thawing.

Sure, you can shake it or blend it, but that will only help to a certain degree. The resulting consistency after blending depends on the recipe, so you need to test that out on your own.

In short, it won’t be ideal, so drinking frozen and thawed egg nog alone might not be a good idea. But it will certainly work as a creamer, or in baked dishes like pumpkin pie.

Double layer eggnog
Image used under Creative Commons from Quinn Dombrowski

How To Freeze Eggnog?

Before we get to freezing, it’s best that you know how you plan on using the beverage.

If you want to use it as a creamer, you need to be able to get a small amount for your coffee easily. That means freezing using an ice cube tray is the way to go.

If, on the other hand, you can to use the frozen eggnog in recipes, it’s best that you freeze it in airtight containers. Make sure the container is sealed tightly before you put it into the freezer. And remember to leave some headspace, as the liquid will slightly expand.

For bonus points, you can divide the beverage into portions needed for your recipes and freeze each one separately. This way, you can thaw exactly as much as you need.

When it comes to defrosting, thaw the eggnog overnight in the fridge. If you thaw it in the fridge, you can refreeze the rest if you don’t use all of it. If you need to thaw it fast, feel free to use other defrosting techniques described in the linked article.

Eggnog in a glass with a ribbon
Image used under Creative Commons from Susana Fernandez

How Long Does Eggnog Last

Since homemade eggnog isn’t pasteurized and doesn’t have any preservatives, it’s best to finish it within 2 to 3 days.

When it comes to store-bought eggnog, it usually comes with a sell-by date. That date is usually a good estimate of how long the beverage will retain freshness. An unopened package should be fine for an extra two or three days, but not much longer.

Once you open the carton, it should last for about 5 to maybe 7 days. It lasts longer than the homemade variety because, at the very least, it has been pasteurized.

Eggnog (homemade)2 – 3 days
Eggnog (store-bought, unopened)Sell-by + 2 – 3 days
Eggnog (store-bought, opened)5 days

Please note that the periods above are estimates.

Image used under Creative Commons from Joshua Rappeneker

How to Tell If Eggnog Is Bad

As often with dairy products, there isn’t one perfect way to check if eggnog is still safe to drink or not. Instead, as usual, you have to rely on your senses.

First off, let’s start with the smell. Open the carton or container and give the liquid a good whiff. If it starts smelling somewhat sour, it’s past its prime, and you should discard it.

Next in line is checking the appearance. Pour some in a glass and check if the color has changed. Since there are gazillion recipes and each one has its own distinct color, I cannot tell you what it should or shouldn’t look like. But if the color has changed noticeably, throw it out. Same thing if you noticed the texture is lumpy.

If everything seems to be perfectly fine, chances are the beverage is safe to drink. Give it a taste to make sure it’s still good enough to use.

Last but not least, if you store homemade eggnog for longer than a week, or an opened store-bought one for more than a week and a half, just throw them out. Yes, even if they still feel perfectly fine to drink.

As usual, it’s difficult to spot first signs of spoilage, so it’s better to be safe than sorry at this point.

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