If you’ve been on social media, you’ve probably come across your fair share of these #guttok hashtags.
Probiotics like yogurt has always been popular. But these and similar foods have found mass acceptance after gut health become a hot topic among the health conscious.
Walk down the aisles of Walmart or Costco and you’ll find a variety of yogurt brands vying for attention. You pick a few flavors on your shopping trip, plonk the grocery bag on the countertop. Something grabs your attention and you leave those tubes of yum unattended.
This happens more often than not (I admit I have been guilty of it a couple of times). When you finally remember, you wonder whether it is still fresh or gone spoilt and whether you can still eat it without falling sick.
So how long can yogurt sit out before it’s time to chuck it away?
Freshly purchased and unopened yogurt can last for 2 hours at room temperature around 40°F or lower. Yogurt is said to barely last for 1 hour in the open when temperature gets to 90°F or higher.
Some don’t take this at face value and tend to have yogurt that’s been sitting outside for 4-5 hours, sometimes even longer. They claim to have no symptoms or effects of food poisoning.
Are they going about this in the right way?
In this article, I try to answer all these questions including how you can identify whether your probiotic meal is spoiled or not.
But, before that, let’s see:
Benefits of Eating Yogurt
Fermented foods along with traditionally made curd yogurt, are basically a way to preserve food and its nutrients. These healthy foods have been consumed for millennia across cultures.
Yogurt (my favorite Greek yogurt included) is a pasteurized, cultured and fermented dairy food, but with a much recent history. With more people becoming vegans, you now find these probiotic superfoods made with plant milk.
You know that yogurt is good for your body and mind. The enzymes and nutrients in this superfood help increase good bacteria in your gut and remove food toxins. You get an immunity boost as well as improved mental health.
Did you know scientists have found that gut bacteria can affect or increase conditions like depression and anxiety?
The bottom line is you should continue eating various yogurt foods as often as you can, at least once a day.
Coming back to your yogurt packs from the store, a quality product will last for a couple of weeks when unopened and stored in a cool place – the fridge.
Unlike other fermented foods like sauerkraut or kimchi which last for weeks in pantry storage, this milk derived food plays by a different set of rules.
How Long Can Yogurt Sit Out?
You’ll always find blueberry flavored Greek and coconut yogurt in my fridge. This is such a convenient snacking food to have on hand (you can even use ito bake moist cakes and muffins).
But even the best quality ones will taste good and remain fresh so long as they are stored properly.
According to the USDA site, most raw and cooked foods (this applies to dairy too) last around 2 hours without refrigeration before disease causing bacteria start multiplying.
If you’ve read our post on storing raw chicken in the fridge, I’ve explained this in detail.
In a nutshell, food have to be kept within a narrow temperature range. If the temperature goes higher than 40°F, your food is more prone to contamination by mold, yeast and nasty bacterium.
You may also like: All You Need to Know About Healthy Non-Perishable Food
Can Unopened Yogurt Sit Out For Longer?
You may be tempted to eat your unopened tube of delicious fruit yogurt even though it’s been lying in the car all day.
As I said earlier, foods are best consumed with the first few hours of purchase. Yogurt that has been sitting out for longer can cause food poisoning due to the rapid growth of bacteria at their favorable temperatures
How Long Can Yogurt Sit Out Of The Fridge?
The same rule applies to yogurt that has been left out to warm up or thaw. 2-3 hours is ideal.
You can reseal the carton or empty the remaining content into a sealable container and store immediately in the fridge or freezer.
Some food scientists believe that yogurt will stay good for almost 8 hours in cold weather. They will only taste sour as it continues to ferment when keep out and some may find this unpalatable.
Warm weather encourages bacteria to reproduce faster so sticking to 1-2 hours is safer.
Sitting out for 3 to 6 hours – you’re cutting it close. Beyond 8 hours, I’d say good luck to you.
Discover: Can You Eat Undercooked Potatoes?
Can You Keep Regular Yogurt Outside?
Regular or conventional yogurt has a curd like consistency and is sometimes made from farm fresh milk and cultures. This variety doesn't last long out of the refrigerator – an hour or less usually.
If you making yogurt at home, always use pasteurized milk as the germs causing food-borne illness have been effectively destroyed in the process.
Imagine the irony of getting diarrhea and yeast infection from the very food that is supposed to help control it!
It happens when you eat contaminated or spoiling yogurt.
To avoid being the next victim of food poisoning, let’s do a quick test to know:
Is My Yogurt Spoiled?
If you haven’t stored it immediately in the fridge, especially after opening, your store-bought yogurt could spoil.
In fact, if you’ve stored in a hot room or for more than 3-4 hours, chances are the decaying process has already begun.
Here are some signs of spoiling:
- Mold – Any sign of green, pink or whitish mold on your yogurt is an indication that it is a health hazard. Discard it immediately.
- Excess Fluid – Your yogurt may have a lot of liquid on the surface. Some amount of liquid is to be expected as the whey and fat separate. But too much indicates a yogurt with its best days long behind it.
- Lumpy texture – Swirl a spoon through your yogurt cup. If the stuff looks lumpy instead of creamy, the yogurt is probably spoilt.
- Smelly – Yogurt does have a slight sourdough-ish smell. that’s perfectly okay. But, if your yogurt smells rancid or fetid, it’s better to throw the container away.
There you have it. Everything you need to know about storing yogurt at room temperature and in the fridge.
Sure, yogurt is a fermented dairy product, but the chances of it spoiling exist under certain conditions.
The conservative advice is to keep let it sit out for no more than two hours.
But an extra hour or two shouldn’t be a cause for concern, unless the temperature is in the 100s (or hot 30s for celsius folks) or you have a sensitive digestive system.
And your yogurt can turn sour in hot weather or if kept out for too long. Some of you may not like the taste, and it is always recommended to place it in the fridge.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
I tried to answer some common questions for which readers may need answers.
Can you eat yogurt past expiration date?
Manufacturers tend to put conservative dates and some products like yogurt are safe to consume even past the best-by or expiry date.
Unless it smells off, has developed mold, or tastes weird, you can use expired commercial yogurt for 1-2 weeks more. Say you got a yogurt on 5th May and it said to expire on the 10th, you can still consume it within the next 15 days.
This comes with a few caveats.
You should have stored it in the fridge or freezer. It should be unopened. Play safe and don’t serve it small kids, elderly or someone prone to stomach infections.
Is flavored yogurt siting on the countertop for three hours edible?
Surprisingly, flavored yogurt made with real fruits and sugar tend to last longer outside. This is probably because the sugar in it acts sort of like a preservative.
Is homemade yogurt good beyond a week in the fridge?
For homemade yogurt, chuck it away if you see signs of spoiling. If it is sitting in the fridge for more than a 7-10 days, better to not to use it.