Does Coconut Oil Go Bad



Coconut oil makes up 2.5% of global vegetable oil production. About 90% of that supply being produced by the Asian and Pacific Coconut Community.


It is traditionally used for sautéing and frying, though western kitchens have come to love it for the nut-like quality and sweetness for baking, pastries and popcorn. Coconut oil is especially popular among kitchens following a ketogenic or paleo diet.


Virgin coconut oil is fresh pressed from the meat of a coconut, and like any fresh food it will deteriorate with age. Yes, coconut oil can go bad.


Experts say that the incredible amount of saturated fat found in coconut oil gives it an exceptional shelf life when compared with other unrefined cooking oils. Even so, it will still become rancid with time.


Why Does Coconut Oil Go Bad?


Coconut oil is almost entirely made of fat, including more than 80% in saturated fats. Half of this saturated fat is in the form of a medium-chain fatty acid called lauric acid. Surprisingly there are only trace amounts of fiber, cholesterol, vitamins, minerals or plant sterols present.

Although the lion’s share of coconut oil is saturated fat, it’s actually unsaturated fats that will cause it to spoil.


All fats are organic compounds, meaning that they’re composed of chains of bonded carbon atoms. Unsaturated fatty acids, like those found in coconut oil, are distinct from saturated fats because they contain double bonds between some of the carbon atoms.


Double-bonded carbon in unsaturated fats is somewhat unstable, and likely to break down in the presence of oxygen through a process called “oxidation.” As these bonds break, the fat transforms into peroxides which give off characteristically unpleasant “rancid” smells and flavors.


Oxidative rancidity is a gradual degradation that begins when an oil is first pressed, and continues over time. Exposure to light, heat and oxygen accelerate this process.

The oxygen found in water molecules may also be damaging to coconut oil through a similar process. This is called hydrolytic rancidity. If your oil becomes contaminated by bacteria or mold, the enzymes they produce can similarly catalyze microbial rancidity.

Of these three common types of rancidity, oxidative is by far the most common cause. Practically speaking, you can’t stop it, but with proper care you can slow it down.


How To Keep Coconut Oil From Going Bad


When stored and handled with care, virgin coconut oil has a long shelf-life.

None of our tips are complicated. In fact, most will probably seem like common sense once you understand that exposure to oxygen, water and contaminants creates oxidation. And that light or heat can speed up the process.


Here are a few simple steps you can take to get the most from your jar:


Size Your Purchase To What You Intend To Use.


Oxidation is an ongoing process that occurs over time. Time is one variable you can’t change, but you can benefit by planning for it.


For example, don’t buy a mega-container if you only intend to use the oil sparingly. Most virgin coconut oil sold in the United States will be marked with a 24 month expiration window. Regular heat or light exposure may shorten the shelf-life once the jar is open.

Size your purchases so that you can use up the coconut oil in fewer than 12 months. This simple step will save storage space, and help you use all of the oil before it turns.


Seal And Store In A Cool Dark Place.


Minimize exposure oxygen and moisture in the air by keeping your jar sealed. When possible, keep it stored in a cool dark place like a closed cabinet away from cooking surfaces. Coconut oil doesn’t require refrigeration, but you can keep it chilled if you prefer.

Light and heat speed up the process of oxidation. Most coconut oil melts around 75 Fahrenheit. If your oil is typically in liquid form, consider if you can store it in a cooler darker place.


Liquefaction does not indicate the oil is presently damaged, but in many temperate climates it may signal the jar has received direct exposure to light or heat. These factors can damage the oil over a long period of time.


Use Clean Utensils To Remove Oil From The Jar.


Because coconut oil is mostly saturated fat, it is actually quite stable. Unfortunately, food contamination from a dirty utensil may not be. Crumbs and food waste may quickly catalyze mold or fermentation.


Avoid using your fingers or hands to scoop oil from the jar. The human body contains trillions of microorganisms – they actually outnumber human cells 10 to 1. It’s easier than you might think to pass contaminants from your fingers into the jar.


How To Tell If Your Coconut Oil Is Bad


Virgin coconut oil should be incredibly nutty, sweet and aromatic. If something smells “off,” it probably is. Here are a few common characteristics to look for with rancid coconut oil.


Is The Coconut Oil Yellow?


Coconut oil melts from a solid into liquid form around 75 F.

The solid form of virgin coconut oil should appear as a creamy white. If your coconut oil seems yellow, brown or otherwise off-white it may be bad.


In liquid form, virgin coconut oil should appear clear. If your liquid oil looks dingy or cloudy it may be contaminated. However, near its melting point coconut oil can exist in a part-solid, part-liquid state which can look very cloudy. For that reason, it’s easiest to distinguish yellow or brown contaminants when the oil is a solid.


Does The Surface Look Marbled?


If the surface of your solid coconut oil seems grainy or spotted, it may be bad. Clumpy discolorations that appear similar to curdled milk may indicate rancidity. The surface texture should have a continuous color and consistency.


Does It Appear Dirty Or Speckled?


If you can identify brown or green specks, it’s a good indicator that mold or bacteria is present. In some cases the oil may come across as “dirty” rather than “speckled.” This type of contamination may also be more visible on the surface of your jar rather than in the oil itself.


Do not keep dirty or speckled coconut oil in your kitchen.


Does It Smell Bad?


If the scent makes you gag, it’s a clear sign your oil is bad. Rancid oil is often described as bitter, stale or pungent. If it doesn’t smell fresh then it probably isn’t.


Is “Rancid” Coconut Oil Bad For You?


Do not use rancid oil for culinary or cosmetic purposes. Not only will it ruin the flavor of your dish, the scent of your hair or skin. Rancid oil is incredibly unhealthy.


As the unsaturated fats in coconut oil break down through oxidation they transform into trans-, cyclized-, and cross-linked fats. These types of damaged fats are incredibly unhealthy and can do harm to human cells. The Mayo Clinic calls trans fat among “the worst type of fat you can eat,” and notes that it is a specific contributor toward heart disease.