Dairy Talk: How Long Can Yogurt Sit Out Before It Goes Bad?

You grab a yogurt from the fridge with the idea of making an afternoon snack, and just taking a moment to relax, only to realize there's more stuff you have to get done. 

In a rush, your yogurt ends up on the counter – alone and forgotten. When you finally come back for it, you have to wonder: Is it still safe to eat it?

I’ve been in that same spot many times before – running a household is a full-time job, and yes, sometimes it gets so hectic that I can’t even find the time to finish my yogurt.

If you’re on the same boat, then you’re probably wondering how long can yogurt sit out before it goes bad. So, let’s find out! 🙂

So, How Long Can Yogurt Sit Out?

Let’s cut to the chase.

Two hours. That’s the maximum amount of time yogurt can spend outside of the fridge, at room temperature, before the bacteria in it goes haywire.

That was quick, huh?

Well, of course, it was – I mean, if the same rule applied to milk, and other dairy products, why should yogurt be any different?

Granted, the two-hour rule isn’t a universal one. How long can yogurt sit out depends on a lot of factors, not just the time it spent chilling on your kitchen countertop

  • For instance, are we talking about average room temperatures or something more along the lines of a home sauna? If the temperature in your home sits somewhere in between 41 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, the two-hour rule applies to you.
  • However, if the temperatures are pushing that upper limit, and going above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (in which case I suggest you check your air conditioning), feel free to cut that down to one hour. And even then, there’s a chance it’s already contaminated.

Here’s what I mean by contaminated:

Okay, so, everyone knows yogurt comes from milk, right?

And if you paid attention in school, you know it’s filled with live and active bacteria. Yes, your yogurt is alive! That’s a good thing, though – these are all “good” bacteria that help improve digestion

But if you leave the yogurt out of the fridge for too long, microbes will quickly catch on to what’s going on, and start growing like crazy. You can have too much of a good thing, after all.

Plus, who would want to eat warm yogurt, anyway?

Who Says You Can’t Mix Yogurt With The Best Vegan Cereals?


Say Goodbye To Your Afternoon Snack: How To Tell If Yogurt Has Gone Bad

Knowing how long can yogurt sit out doesn’t mean much if you’re not sure when you left it on the counter, in the first place.

That’s why another vital thing you should know – especially if you plan on serving yogurt to your kids – is how to recognize the apparent signs that it’s spoiled:

1. Check The Expiration Date

  • I do this once a week with everything that has a limited shelf-life. It’s a habit I developed as soon as I had my first child out of the fear of giving him something spoiled. Anyway, you should do that with yogurt, too.

2. Look For Fur

  • Yes, I just used the word “fur” to describe mold. My boys came up with it, and we continued to use it to this day.
  • So, if you see mold or fungus – those brown, green, and white fuzzy spots – floating around in your yogurt, it’s way past the point of being safe for consumption. Proceed to throw it away immediately!

3. Yogurt Should Have The Consistency Of Yogurt

  • You know where I’m going with this – if it looks more like cottage cheese than yogurt, or it started looking all watery, it’s no good.
  • That said, remember it’s okay for yogurt to have some water on the surface, especially if it’s been sitting untouched for some time. It’s not a sign that it went rancid – stir it back in, and you’re good to go.

4. Honey, Can You Smell This?

  • I wish I had a dime for every time I heard John ask this, with this head in the fridge. He’s a grown man, but he still can’t figure out if the leftover salmon went bad or not. I spoiled him way too much, I guess!
  • What I’m trying to say is you should smell the yogurt, too. It’s supposed to have a bit of a sour smell, but if it turned rancid, it’s time to throw it out.

What If You Already Ate Spoiled Yogurt By Accident?

First off, I hope it was an accident, and that it’s not something that happens very often. If it does, though, you should start paying more attention to what you’re eating!

Anyway, let’s get back to the point:

What happens if you eat yogurt that went bad?

Well, you won’t get a fatal food poisoning, so that’s good news. However, that doesn’t mean you should stop paying attention to how fresh the yogurt is – there’s still a lot that can go wrong.

After all, bacteria are having a party in there! 

  • For instance, you’re likely to experience some abdominal cramps. That will probably be the first sign of trouble. You could also suffer from diarrhea, and even vomit, all as a result of foodborne illness.

SAFETY NOTE:

People get food poisoning all the time; it’s nothing new. However, if the symptoms seem too severe this time around, or you feel like it’s taking a massive toll on your body, please seek medical attention!


How To Store Yogurt Properly: Barbara’s Essential Tips

Here are some essential tips for keeping your yogurt fresh and safe to consume for as long as possible:

  1. You should always refrigerate yogurt in temperatures lower than 40 degrees Fahrenheit. That way, unopened yogurt should stay fresh for up to two weeks.
  2. If you haven’t been in the mood for yogurt lately, and you worry it might go bad just sitting in the fridge for days, know that freezing it is an option, too. That way, it won’t spoil for up to three months, and the taste will stay unchanged! However, know that it will be a bit watery after thawing. That’s why I always prefer to use frozen yogurt in smoothies.
  3. Don’t plan on eating the whole thing in one sitting? Then grab as much as plan on eating now, and return the rest to the fridge. Remember to reseal it, or move it to an airtight container, to keep contaminants and moisture out of your yogurt.
  4. If you forgot to return it to the fridge, but it was sitting out for less than two hours, it’s still okay to put it back to the refrigerator, but expect it to have a much shorter shelf-life.
  5. If you’re making homemade yogurt, make sure you refrigerate it within two hours after it sets, and becomes firm. If it fails to set, throw it away – it’s not safe to consume!

Having The Best Counter Depth Refrigerator Could Help Keep Things – Including Yogurt – Fresh!


How Long Can Yogurt Sit Out: Final Thoughts

Again, two hours max.

That’s the room temperature limit – anything longer than that, and you risk spending your day running from your bedroom to the toilet, and back. You know; the usual wonders of food poisoning.

I hope this article covered everything you wanted to know about how long can yogurt sit out, but in case I missed something, or you have any follow-up questions, feel free to leave it in the comment section below!

Barbara Whitney
 

For the last 20 years, I’ve been cooking, preparing, researching, and gathering recipes, tools, and knowledge about food and the way we prepare it. Raising two lively boys and spoiling one great husband later, it’s safe to say that I’ve optimized my kitchen to deliver the best possible meal, no matter the occasion.

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