Full of protein, probiotics, potassium and with a host of other health benefits, Greek yogurt is a superfood that I just can’t get enough of. Made from pasteurized milk, the only real drawback it has is that you need to be careful in how you store it. How long can you leave yogurt out the fridge?
In this article I’ll explain how long yogurt can sit out, how to identify spoiled yogurt and how to prolong the amount of time you can enjoy it for.
What Happens if You Eat Greek Yogurt That’s Gone Bad?
Food safety is important no matter what you’re planning on eating. However you should take special care with any product containing milk.
If you do eat yogurt that’s past its best, the side-effects can be quite nasty. At best, you’ll recoil at the foul taste of the yogurt. At worst, it can lead to you developing a severe case of food poisoning.
Food poisoning from expired dairy products can cause symptoms such as vomiting, breathing difficulties and diarrhea.
I can’t emphasise enough that eating yogurt after it’s gone bad is just a terrible idea. Setting aside for one moment the risks to your health, the simple fact is it tastes terrible!
If you have any hesitation at all about whether your yogurt is safe to eat, throw it out and get some more.
How Long Can Greek Yogurt Sit Out?
We’ve all been there. You’ve packed away all of your groceries only to realise that you’ve left your yogurt in the car. Or maybe you took it out of the fridge to eat and got distracted, leaving it on the side for longer than you intended.
Whatever the cause, the fact is that it’s been sitting out at room temperature and now you’re unsure of whether you should eat it or throw it away. The answer to that question depends almost entirely on how long it’s been outside of the fridge.
The Two Hour Rule
The official government advice says that yogurt (whether Greek, natural or any other variety) should be discarded if it has been sat unrefrigerated at 40°F for over two hours. This window of safety is halved to one hour if the room temperature is 90 degrees fahrenheit.
The average room temperature in the USA is 68-72°F. This means that you should really throw out any yogurt that has been left out for more than 90 minutes.
If the yogurt has been sat in your car you should take into account the higher temperature and adjust the safety window of two hours accordingly.
How Can You Tell if Greek Yogurt is Bad?
So now you know that at an absolute maximum, you should consume or refrigerate yogurt left out of the fridge within two hours.
Whilst that’s a great rule to follow, there may be times when you’re still not quite sure whether or not your yogurt is safe to consume, even if it’s been properly stored in the fridge.
The good news is that there are several ways to tell if you’re dealing with spoiled yogurt, which I’ll explain further.
One of the first things you’ll if your yogurt has gone off is a strong smell. Depending on how far past its best it is, this can be enough to trigger a gag reflex.
If your yogurt doesn’t smell as you’d expect it to, toss it out and don’t take the risk.
When yogurt starts to go bad, the consistency changes. Lumps start to develop as the product congeals, leaving it looking more like cottage cheese.
On the flip side of this, yogurt that has gone bad may also become very watery. Whilst some amount of water on the surface of yogurt is completely normal, an overly watery texture is a sign that its taken a turn for the worse and should be thrown out.
If you notice any brown or green spots on the surface of your yogurt, no matter how small they are, throw it out immediately.
These spots are a sign that mold is present. Scooping out the visible mold won’t make things any better either – throw it away!
How Long Does Greek Yogurt Last in the Fridge?
There’s a reason that you find yogurt in the refrigerated aisle when you buy it – cold temperatures are the only way to prolong its freshness!
US Dairy advise that you should store yogurt in the fridge at a temperature below 40 degrees fahrenheit. You can store it in this way for up to two weeks, depending on the expiration date printed on the packaging.
Storing Opened Yogurt
If you don’t intend to consume it all in one sitting, you should spoon out your desired portion size and return the container to the fridge. Ideally, you should be able to fully replace the lid of the container to maximize the remaining shelf life.
However, if your yogurt didn’t come with a replaceable lid, you should transfer the remaining contents into an airtight container that can be properly sealed. This will help to prevent any bacteria or mold from entering it whilst sitting in the fridge.
Freezing Greek Yogurt
If you’re anything like me, keeping hold of Greek yogurt beyond 14 days isn’t something you’ll worry about very often – it’s just too delicious to last that long!
With that said, there will be times when you might want to store it for longer. Perhaps you’re going away or have bought a bit more than you need.
The question then is can you freeze Greek yogurt? Yes, you can!
How to Freeze Greek Yogurt
There are a few different ways that you can use your freezer to store yogurt. If you haven’t yet opened the packaging the best thing to do is pop the whole thing into the freezer as it is.
If you’ve already opened the package and want to freeze what’s left, I recommend that you empty the remaining yogurt into an airtight container before freezing. Don’t have any containers to spare? Not to worry. You can also use zip lock bags or freezer bags to get the job done. This is also a great way to freeze multiple portions of yogurt for future use.
If you’re planning to use the frozen yogurt as ingredients in a smoothie, a great idea is to portion it out into an ice cube tray. Then, when you come to make your smoothie you have ready-to-use yogurt cubes – perfect!
How Long Does Frozen Yogurt Last?
Once frozen, your yogurt will last for up to two months.
You can leave it in the freezer for longer than this, though I wouldn’t recommend it. Beyond this point the texture of the yogurt will change and freezer burn becomes more likely.
How to Safely Defrost
There’s really only one way to properly defrost frozen yogurt and that’s by taking it out of the freezer and leaving it in the refrigerator overnight. Using this method will gradually increase the yogurt’s temperature without the risk of it spoiling. Leaving it at room temperature on the counter to thaw runs the risk of it going bad.