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How Long Can Yogurt Sit Out? (And More)

Liliya Kandrashevich /Shutterstock

Yogurt can only sit out for so long before it goes bad and becomes unsafe to eat. Here’s everything you need to know.

Few dairy products are as beloved and versatile as yogurt.

Whether dolloped over a piping-hot bowl of granola, swirled into a savory tzatziki sauce, or spooned over canned chipotles in a burrito, yogurt’s creamy tang and probiotic goodness have made it a staple ingredient in countless cuisines.

However, for all its delectable qualities, there lingers a question that can leave even the most seasoned dairy enthusiasts pondering: “How long can yogurt sit out?”

Embark with me on a search for the answer and find out how long yogurt can sit out. Along the way, we’ll go over the factors that affect yogurt’s shelf life and the best practices to keep your yogurt fresh after bringing it back home.

How Long Can Yogurt Sit Out?

Yogurt is a perishable product.1Driessen, S. Dates on food products. What do they mean? University of Minnesota Extension. Retrieved May 12, 2023, from https://extension.umn.edu/preserving-and-preparing/dates-food-products-what-do-they-mean

As such, it doesn’t keep well at room temperature.

Generally, yogurt shouldn’t be left to sit out for longer than two hours at room temperature. On warm days, yogurt can only sit out for one hour if the temperature is 90°F (32°C) and above.2(2017, March 7). How Long Can Yogurt Sit Out? Undeniably Dairy. Retrieved May 12, 2023, from https://www.usdairy.com/news-articles/how-long-can-yogurt-sit-out3USDA (2023, March 24). What is the “2 Hour Rule” with leaving food out? AskUSDA. Retrieved May 12, 2023, from https://ask.usda.gov/s/article/What-is-the-2-Hour-Rule-with-leaving-food-out

As long as the yogurt wasn’t left out for too long, it is still safe to eat or refrigerate. However, if it sat out for more than one to two hours, don’t eat the yogurt — err on the side of caution and throw it away, as it may be overgrown with harmful bacteria and make you sick.

How to Keep Yogurt Fresh and Safe

Store yogurt in the back of the fridge immediately after bringing it back home from the store.

An unopened container of yogurt will keep for one to two weeks from the date of purchase in the fridge, as long as it is refrigerated at a temperature of 40°F (4.4°C) or below.

Once opened, the yogurt will keep for up to a week in the fridge.4How Long Does Yogurt Last in the Fridge? Still Tasty. Retrieved May 12, 2023, from https://www.stilltasty.com/fooditems/index/18717

Make sure the yogurt doesn’t sit out at room temperature for more than 1 to 2 hours and use it up as soon as you can for best quality.

Yogurt can be frozen for long-term storage. Although frozen yogurt stays safe to eat indefinitely as long as it is kept at a temperature of 0°F (-18°C) or below, it will only retain its best smell, taste, and texture for 1 to 2 months from the date of freezing.

To freeze yogurt, transfer it to an ice cube tray or airtight food storage container and place it in the freezer. Blend the frozen yogurt blocks in smoothies or thaw out larger portions of yogurt by transferring them to the refrigerator the night before you plan to use them.

Does Yogurt Go Bad?

Yes, yogurt can go bad if it’s stored for too long. The warmer the temperature, the quicker the yogurt goes bad.

If you suspect that yogurt is bad, don’t eat it. While the spoilage bacteria that give yogurt a sour taste and smell are generally harmless, spoiled yogurt can also be overgrown with pathogenic bacteria that attack the body and cause food poisoning if ingested in large enough quantities.5McCallum, K. (2022, December 6). How Long Is Yogurt Good After Its Expiration Date? Houston Methodist. Retrieved May 12, 2023, from https://www.houstonmethodist.org/blog/articles/2022/dec/how-long-is-yogurt-good-after-its-expiration-date/

Those particularly at risk of getting sick and having a serious illness from spoiled food are adults aged 65 and older, children younger than 5 years, pregnant women and their unborn babies, and individuals with a weakened immune system (meaning those who are sick or recovering from an illness).6(2022, August 10). People With a Higher Risk of Food Poisoning. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Retrieved May 12, 2023, from https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/people-at-risk-food-poisoning.html

If you or somebody else in your household are part of any of these groups, it’s especially important to exercise caution and avoid eating bad yogurt.

How to Tell If Yogurt Has Gone Bad

So, how can you tell if yogurt is bad?

Check the expiration date: In the United States, yogurt products often have a “use-by” date. If the yogurt is past its expiration date, it may be best to discard it.

Look for visual signs of spoilage: Inspect the yogurt visually for any signs of spoilage. Look for mold, unusual discoloration, or an off-putting texture. If you notice any visible signs of spoilage or if the yogurt appears curdled, it has probably gone bad.

Give the yogurt a sniff: Fresh yogurt typically has a slightly tangy aroma. However, if you detect a sour or rancid smell, it indicates that the yogurt is spoiled (or already well on its way to spoiling).

Bottom Line

Don’t leave yogurt at room temperature for more than one to two hours. Yogurt that has sat for longer than that should be discarded, as it may no longer be edible.

Put the yogurt in the fridge or freezer as soon as you get home from the store. Refrigerated yogurt will keep for one to two weeks from the date of purchase, and frozen yogurt will retain its best quality for one to two months from the date of freezing.



Dim is a food writer, cookbook author, and the editor of Home Cook World. His first book, Cooking Methods & Techniques, was published in 2022. He is a certified food handler with Level 1 and Level 2 Certificates in Food Hygiene and Safety for Catering, and a trained chef with a Level 3 Professional Chef Diploma.

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