Yogurt in bowl on rustic black table - Photo of plain natural organic yoghurt close up.

While the saying goes, “don’t cry over spilled milk,” it really should also include, “don’t cry over spoiled yogurt.” That’s because, well, life happens, which means you may have forgotten to eat that container of ‘gurt in the fridge before its expiration date, or you accidentally left a container in your car overnight. (PSA: Yogurt and heat do not mix well.)

If you’re a risk-taker, you might still eat yogurt that’s been left out, considering it your audition tape for “Fear Factor.” You might take this risk because you’re not up to speed as to how long yogurt can actually last outside the fridge. Here’s how long it can last unrefrigerated as well as the signs of spoiled yogurt.

How Long Can Yogurt Sit Out?

Yogurt should be stored in the refrigerator soon after you bring it home. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, yogurt can sit at room temperature for 2 hours. Any longer than that, and you should throw it out.

This guideline also applies when it’s taken out of the fridge for a snack. Eat your yogurt quickly, or at least before the two-hour crucial minimum. If you’re wondering if this applies to all the many different varieties and flavors of yogurt, yes, it does.

This rule also applies to Greek yogurt, which is a thicker form of yogurt that’s prepared by straining the yogurt and removing enough of the whey, so it forms a solid sort of shape (think cream cheese).

Additionally, if the temperature in the room is higher than 90 degrees Fahrenheit, then shorten that 2 hour time to 1 hour. This means that leaving yogurt in a hot car is definitely a no-no.

Does Yogurt Go Bad in the Fridge?

While you shouldn’t eat chicken that’s past its expiration date, with yogurt, you can be a bit more free with the expiration rules. That’s because sealed yogurt can actually last one to two weeks past its expiration date.

Opened yogurt is a different story. You should check whether it’s spoiled before eating it since opened yogurt ages more quickly. To determine if yogurt has gone bad, look for these signs:

  1. Excess liquid: When opening a fresh container of yogurt, you may find water on the top. A little bit of this is OK, because it’s just whey, a nutrient-dense water found in some dairy products. It’s supposed to be mixed into the yogurt to provide a creamier texture as well as several nutrients, such as protein, potassium and calcium.

    Too much liquid, however, plus a curdling texture at the bottom of the container means that the yogurt has gone bad. Time to toss!

  2. Mold: When it comes to mold, some people are a little too liberal. For example, you may wonder: Is it OK to eat bread with mold on it? Or, we think it’s OK to cut mold off a block of cheese and call it a day. With yogurt, however, you can’t play fast and loose; the whole container will have to be thrown out at that point.

    The mold coloring may vary from green, off-white, orange to black. Avoid it at all cost since eating contaminated yogurt could lead to food poisoning. 

With all this in mind, you now can consider yourself “cultured” in the consumption of yogurt.