Does Eggnog Go Bad?

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Eggnog requires refrigeration unless it is in an unopened can.
Eggnog requires refrigeration unless it is in an unopened can. (Image: Spike Mafford/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Eggnog is a rich, delicious drink that is usually only available during the winter holidays. This sweet, dessert-like beverage contains dairy products, including cream, milk and raw eggs, which means that it will only last as long as the shelf life of these ingredients. Depending on how the eggnog is packaged and whether or not it contains alcohol, it may last from a few days to several months.

Deck the Halls With Cups of Eggnog

Most eggnog that's kept in your grocery store's refrigerated section will last for around one week if kept at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Once opened, it will last for about five days. For eggnog with a longer shelf life, purchase canned eggnog, which doesn't require refrigeration and lasts for up to five months, unopened, in a cool pantry. When you open your canned eggnog, refrigerate it, and it will last for about five days. Unopened, shelf-stable bottled eggnog that contains alcohol can last up to 18 months without refrigeration. Once opened, the alcoholic beverage may last several weeks in the fridge. Homemade eggnog usually lasts for around three days if refrigerated; if at least 5 percent alcohol is added, it may last a few weeks.

Keeping It Cool

Eggnog requires consistent refrigeration, so if you leave it out in temperatures of 40 to 90 F for more than two hours, you'll need to discard it. In ambient temperatures above 90 F, discard your eggnog after it sits out for more than one hour. Although the eggnog may not appear to be spoiled, it's best to toss it because harmful bacteria could develop in it when it's not properly refrigerated. While freezing your eggnog at 0 F will extend its shelf life for up to three months, it will negatively affect its texture, separating its ingredients when thawed and making it slightly clumpy.

When Good Eggnog Goes Bad

Even when your eggnog is properly refrigerated, it will still spoil eventually. If your eggnog is no longer good, you may be able to tell from its texture and smell. When the drink goes bad, it will become lumpy and develop a sour, unpleasant aroma due to the presence of lactic acid spoilage bacteria in it. You may also notice visible mold growing on your eggnog. Eggnog is beige to yellowish in color due to the milk, cream, eggs and spices it contains. If your eggnog becomes discolored, it's likely spoiled and you should discard it.

Pasteurizing Eggnog

Most commercially available eggnog is pasteurized for safety. When making eggnog yourself, always pasteurize your raw eggs by mixing them with half of the milk and cream your recipe calls for and heating the mixture to 160 F. Cool the pasteurized egg mixture and combine it with the rest of your ingredients. This process will kill off any dangerous Salmonella bacteria present in the raw eggs. Adding alcohol to your eggnog may prevent the growth of new harmful bacteria, but it may not kill off existing Salmonella bacteria in the raw eggs. This is why pasteurizing your egg base is necessary, even if you plan to add some spirits to your eggnog.

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