We use it to cook, moisturize our skin and give our hair a healthy sheen—and when it comes to the many things coconut oil can do, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. That said, a little bit of this magical oil goes a long way, which means that a single jar is liable to hang around for quite some time. So, does coconut oil go bad? Yes, says Umair Syed, health expert and dietitian at Optimunity. Read on for everything you need to know about how to keep coconut oil fresh (and when it’s time to spring for a new jar).

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Does coconut oil go bad?

Although coconut oil has quite a long shelf life, it is perishable. In general, if your coconut oil has been hanging around for more than two years, it’s best to bid it adieu. The two-year rule isn’t the only thing to consider, though. Per Syed, when it comes to coconut oil, “the main cause of deterioration is air exposure,” so it’s advised to promptly seal the stuff up after each use. Finally, the dietitian tells us that contamination from food is a common cause of premature spoilage. As such, he recommends always using clean utensils when cooking with coconut oil. (Makes sense, right?)

How do I know if coconut oil is bad?

Syed says that there are a few straightforward indicators of spoilage that you can look for. Fresh coconut oil should have a pale white tint; if yours looks yellow, green (ew) or otherwise discolored, there’s a strong chance it has gone rancid. (Coconut oil that shows signs of having developed mold should be tossed, too.)

If it has passed the color test, it’s time to give it a sniff. “Coconut oil has a coconutty or neutral aroma that is naturally pleasant, [but] the scent of rancid coconut oil is extremely sour or harsh,” says Syed.

Next, take a look at its texture: Coconut oil that looks chunky or curdled is most likely past its prime. Finally, feel free to give it a taste—provided you haven’t encountered any of the aforementioned red flags, that is; as long as the coconut oil doesn’t taste sour or bitter, you’re in the clear.

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Is it safe to use expired coconut oil?

The expiration date on your coconut oil doesn’t mean too much. Indeed, expiration dates are not reliable indicators of freshness—they’re actually somewhat arbitrary suggestions made by the manufacturer. So the short answer is, yes, coconut oil that is past the expiration date printed on the jar may very well be safe to use.

However, if you have independently confirmed that your coconut oil is rancid, you should steer clear. The expert cautions against applying or consuming rancid coconut oil, as doing so can “raise the number of free radicals in the body, which has been related to inflammatory and cardiovascular illnesses.” Psst: This 2018 study published in the Journal of Food and Nutrition Sciences concluded that all varieties of rancid oils can contribute to the formation of harmful, cell-damaging free radicals in the body.

How to properly store coconut oil

Oxidation (i.e., exposure to air) and heat will cause coconut oil to deteriorate more rapidly, so it’s best to always store the stuff in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. (Note: Refrigeration is not required, but it will extend the shelf life and is your best bet if you’ve run out of room in the pantry.)

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