You stocked up on yogurt and bought a few containers too many. Now they’re nearing their dates. How long does yogurt last?
Or you have a container that’s a few days past its date, and you’re wondering if you can still eat it or not. Can you eat yogurt past the expiration date?
If these sound familiar, this article is for you. In it, we go through storage, shelf life, and going bad of yogurt.
All milk-based yogurts are quite similar in terms of storage, shelf life, and spoilage. That means no matter if you have regular, Greek, Icelandic, fat-free, or a flavored one on hand, the suggestions below apply to it.
How To Store Yogurt
Store yogurt in the fridge. That’s true for all kinds of yogurt, including plain natural, Greek-style, and flavored ones. Even dairy-free yogurts (like soy- and coconut-based ones) require refrigeration.
Once you open the package, make sure you cover it tightly.
Without a cover, it starts to dry out, and it might pick up any strong odors from the fridge. Plus it’s easy to introduce microorganisms to it, and that’s how you end up with mold.
If you plan on using the leftovers within a day, using the aluminum top of the package is usually enough. But if you expect the rest to sit in the fridge for a few days, pour the yogurt in a mason jar or a small airtight container. This way, it will retain freshness for longer.
If you’re looking for other options for storing leftover yogurt in the fridge, here’s a video:
How Long Can Yogurt Sit Out?
A good rule of thumb is to not let your yogurt sit outside the fridge for longer than two hours.
But does it mean that if it sits out for an hour and 56 minutes it’s safe, but if you leave it there for an extra five minutes, you should throw it out?
Of course not.
The main idea here is to limit the time your yogurt sits unrefrigerated, but also to use common sense.
That means that yogurt shouldn’t sit for hours in the trunk if it’s hot outside, but the same isn’t a big deal if it’s freezing cold.
Also, you might prefer yogurt that’s a tad bit warmer than what it is straight from the fridge. And it’s okay to let it warm up on the counter for half an hour before you eat it (my wife prefers it this way). For some cheeses, like Brie, serving it at room temperature is actually encouraged.
In the summer, try picking up all the refrigerated items right before you go to checkout. This minimizes how long they stay at room temperature.
Can You Freeze Yogurt?
There’s this ongoing debate on whether or not you can freeze yogurt, and the responses are all over the place.
In short, you can freeze yogurt, but just like buttermilk or other dairy products, it will separate once thawed. Stirring it will help a bit with getting some of its texture back, but don’t expect miracles here.
Thicker yogurts generally freeze better, so you might have more success with freezing Greek-style yogurt than with the plain one.
If you need to freeze yogurt, make sure you use it in cooked or baked dishes. In such dishes, the changed texture doesn’t matter all that much.
Check out our article on freezing yogurt for more details.
How Long Does Yogurt Last
Pointing out the exact shelf life of yogurt is difficult. There are a few things that come into play here.
First, it’s the type of yogurt (plain, Greek, Icelandic, flavored, reduced-fat) that matters. A flavored one might last longer because it usually contains some additives that lengthen how long the yogurt stays good for.
Second, it’s the ingredients and whether or not it contains preservatives.
The third factor, and one that you have limited information about or control over, is how it was stored before it got to the store. If your yogurt was mishandled before it got to the supermarket’s fridge, it could spoil early.
Generally, the first thing to do is to check the date on the label. Usually, it’s a sell-by date, which isn’t an expiration date and has little to do with food safety. That date informs you how long the store can keep the product on the shelves.
That also means that the dairy product should retain freshness for a couple of days longer. In case of yogurt, it’s usually up to a week past that date.
Yogurt can just as easily be spoiled a day past its date or even earlier, especially if it’s free of preservatives.
Once you open your yogurt, you should use it within a week. That is, of course, if you store it properly.
While a week sounds nice, to get the best quality I recommend using the yogurt within 3 to 5 days tops. That’s, of course, a general estimate and will vary for different styles and brands.
Let’s sum it up.
All kinds of yogurt last for up to a week past the date on the label. After opening, you should finish any leftovers within five to maybe seven days. If your yogurt is past its date, it’s best to finish it soon after opening.
|Yogurt (unopened)||Sell-by + 1 week|
|Yogurt (opened)||5 – 7 days|
Please note that the periods above are rough estimates and dairy products can easily spoil way earlier.
Does Yogurt Go Bad? How To Tell If Yogurt Is Bad?
Yogurt goes bad just as any other dairy product does. Signs that your yogurt has gone bad include:
- Mold, other organic growth, or discolorations. If you notice some funny business going on on the surface of your yogurt, it’s time for it to go.
- Texture change. If there’s lots of water on the surface, and the rest is chunky instead of smooths, you know it’s bad.
- Sour smell. Check if your yogurt doesn’t smell stale or sour instead of fresh.
- Off taste. If your yogurt, despite looking and smelling okay, tastes funny or sour, it’s past its prime.
Last but not least, if your half-open yogurt sits in the fridge for more than a week, or an unopened one is a couple of weeks past the date on the label, discard it.
Same thing if you left it at room temperature overnight by accident.
In either case, it’s better to cut your losses and don’t risk foodborne illness.
If there’s some liquid on top of the yogurt, fear not. It’s whey that has separated, and you can stir it in back in. The process is natural and not harmful in any way.
Separation of whey happens most often in preservative-free yogurts and ones that are nearing or are slightly past their date.
FAQs about Yogurt
You can eat “expired” yogurt as long as it doesn’t have any signs of spoilage, and you don’t already have it in your fridge for way too long.
If it’s more than a week after the date on the label or the day you first opened it, discard it. Even if it looks perfectly fine, it’s safer to err on the side of caution and throw it out. Better safe than sorry.
Greek yogurt is good for up to a week past its date, and for 5 to 7 days of opening. It’s no different than regular yogurt, or any other yogurt styles for that matter.
Rotten Records: Share Your Snap!
Caught some food past its prime? Upload your photo to “Rotten Records” and help others spot the signs of spoilage. Every image makes our food community safer and more informed!