Warning About Canned Coconut Milk !

I know that the majority of you who cook with canned coconut milk- are not the people who need this warning. This is for those of you who, occasionally, use ingredients from your cupboard that are fairly old .Or waaaay old. Uhemmmm.

While I bet that 'too old' coconut milk wouldn't cause you bodily harm, I can assure you that it can RUIN your entire dish. Case in point: I haven't cooked for a while and I have, thank heavens, recently been inspired to end the hiatus. I have been working today on a long project of Coconut Kabocha Squash Soup. Because my very first experience with coconut milk, some 25 years ago, was with a bad can of coconut milk-containing 'Penang Sauce', I tasted both cans of coconut milk before using them, in my soup pot ,and they seemed A.O.K.....( Not.)

But I didn't find this out til AFTER I had cooked squash and onion in the coconut milk, then separated the liquids from the solids and pureed the solids. It was then that I re- tasted the liquid, before adding it to the squash puree. ARGH! Rancid Coconut Milk! Down the drain. (I am guessing that the 'milk' part [this was what I tasted ]was o.k., but it was the separated, solidified, fat part that had gone rancid.) Miraculously, the squash tastes fine.
So I've opened 2 cans of newer, very white, coconut milk. After whisking and heating it, it tastes clean and fresh and strongly of pure coconut. (Rancid coconut milk has a sour tang.)Whew.( Now I've added the freshly purchased coconut milk to the squash cilantro puree, and next comes the corn etc.)

But because I made this dreadful mistake, even though I was on the lookout for rancidity, I wanted to give a shout-out to cooks both new and seasoned. Taste. Your. Food. Often! And watch out for rancid coconut milk that has been on the shelf too long. Before adding a can of coconut milk to a recipe, separately whisk it all together, and then taste before using!

(P.S. This is one place when my "oh, go ahead and use it up" mentality does NOT work! )

LeBec Fin
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14 Comments

Kathleen C. September 7, 2020
Thanks for your feedback. Yes, I really am interested in fermentation. So many things have improved nutritional profiles after fermentation. I've made sauerkraut, sourdough for many years, villa yogurt, kefir and kombucha. But I'm mostly whole foods plant based these days so cutting down on dairy. So I was interested in fermentations with plant based milks. I'll keep searching for info on it. The recipes on line have only been ways to sour them with vinegar, for example, to use as substitutions for dairy products.

 
Kathleen C. September 7, 2020
Thanks for your feedback. Yes, I really am interested in fermentation. So many things have improved nutritional profiles after fermentation. I've made sauerkraut, sourdough for many years, villa yogurt, kefir and kombucha. But I'm mostly whole foods plant based these days so cutting down on dairy. So I was interested in fermentations with plant based milks. I'll keep searching for info on it. The recipes on line have only been ways to sour them with vinegar, for example, to use as substitutions for dairy products.
 
cookbookchick September 6, 2020
As I’m sure Lebec Fin knows, there are some questionable foods you should NEVER taste. For instance, canned food that has caused the can to expand. Botulism is a concern. As one of my microbiology profs put it years ago (yes, I was a microbiologist), one tiny taste could be the end of you. I find it’s safer to check online about specific foods I’m unsure of - and in the end, “when in doubt, throw it out.” It’s not worth risking a ruined dish - or a ruined life.
 
Kathleen C. September 6, 2020
Mine was not canned. It was a box I’d opened a bit over a week ago. Yes, thanks, I understand about botulism. I expect there’s a way to ferment coconut milk, like most everything, but I can’t guess. I did throw it out, but ????
 
cookbookchick September 7, 2020
Yes, I understood that yours was not canned. And your curiosity about fermentation is merited. It is an interesting question. But I'm glad to hear that you threw it out! :-)
 
Kathleen C. September 6, 2020
I have a "box" of coconut milk which is now sour. It smells fine, looks fine, but tastes sour. I can't find anyone who ferments coconut milk, but I can't help wondering whether that would work. Now I guess, with no other information, I need to throw it out. I know that I have read that the bacteria which causes food spoilage... ie wilting, is not the bacteria which causes food borne illness.... So much missing information!!! Dairy milk products I was told in my microbiology class, are safe in all their fermented forms, no matter how disgusting. That was years ago and I will concede that things may have changed, but ??????
 
Mary M. June 5, 2018
JUST OPENED a can of organic Coconut milk was BROWN and STINKY. Not outdated.
 
cookbookchick November 30, 2015
I haven't (yet) had this experience with coconut milk, but I recently opened an old (old!) can of sweetened condensed milk to find it looking the color of caramel. It looked like it might if you had deliberately caramelized it. Was it okay to use? Not for my key lime pie. But safe to use? I don't know. I wrote to the manufacturer (one of the main ones we find in the grocery store) and was advised to toss it -- which of course they would -- so I did. But I continue to be curious about it.
 
LeBec F. November 30, 2015
I think of sweetened condensed milk as being 99.9% sugar and anything that sweet will likely outlast us all! so, personally, I would have used it. but that's me!
 
cookbookchick November 30, 2015
I was tempted, LBF, but the color mixed with fresh key lime juice (such a project to squeeze those little things!) would have been khaki. I threw it out, but I have one more vintage can. Dulce de Leche!
 
Susan W. November 29, 2015
Wow. I've used coconut milk for years, but never experienced this. I use it fairly quickly, but it's a good thing to be aware of.
 
Annie S. November 29, 2015
Oh yes! Rancid coconut is a thing. I recently bought some from a small Asian market that doesn't get a huge amount of traffic.
 
ChefJune November 29, 2015
Thanks Mindy. I'm on my way to toss a can that's been in there... oh, I don't know since when. Think I'd rather start fresh.
 
Nancy November 29, 2015
Never encountered a rotten can of coconut milk, but will be more careful in using it in future.
Sorry for your experience, but good to hear about it. Thank you.
 
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