You found a carton of almond milk that’s a few weeks past its date in your pantry. That makes you wonder: does almond milk go bad?
Or maybe there’s a half-open carton sitting in the fridge for a few days already, and you need to know how long is almond milk good for.
Or you’re new to almond milk, and you’re a bit confused about storage. Some containers sit in the refrigerated section, while others don’t, and you don’t know what to make of it.
In other words, there are a lot of questions about this non-dairy milk.
In this article, I cover the essentials on the shelf life, storage, and spoilage of almond milk. If that sounds interesting, read on.
Does Almond Milk Need to Be Refrigerated?
Shelf-stable almond milk requires refrigeration only after opening the container, while both refrigerated and homemade almond milk need to sit in the fridge at all times.
It works the same way for cow’s milk: some bottles sit in the fridges, while the cartons stand freely in a different aisle.
That’s the gist of it. Let’s talk about what’s going on here.
Refrigerated vs. Shelf-Stable Almond Milk
There are two varieties of almond milk on the market: refrigerated and shelf-stable. The main difference between the two is the packaging.
The shelf-stable almond milk comes in aseptic containers (that are close to sterile) and is processed so that the liquid is safe from any microbes. Moreover, the cartons protect the milk from light and air, ensuring the taste and nutritional value last for months.
The (probably) most popular aseptic packaging technology is called Tetra Pak®. Drinks that are packaged using this technology include milk, all its alternatives (rice, soy, almond, coconut), and many more.
The refrigerated bottles and cartons aren’t packaged in the same way and aren’t safe from external conditions. Because of that, refrigeration is in order.
One variety isn’t necessarily better than the other. It’s all a matter of personal preferences.
Sure, some almond milk connoisseurs might say that the fresh (refrigerated) variety tastes better and is less processed, but the differences are minuscule.
For most of us, it’s a matter of convenience. If you drink it regularly, feel free to grab the refrigerated one. But if you’re only an occasional consumer, the shelf-stable option is your best bet.
Does Almond Milk Go Bad?
Almond milk goes bad just like regular milk and all other milk alternatives do. While the shelf-stable variety lasts much longer than the refrigerated one, both eventually go bad.
Moreover, your almond milk doesn’t necessarily need to be spoiled for you to decide to discard it. There are three things to consider here:
- actual spoilage, like, e.g., it grows mold or turns sour (more on signs of spoilage in a minute)
- quality change – if it’s good enough (taste-wise) to drink
- storage time – if you store it way longer than you’re supposed to (look for specifics in the section on shelf life)
Any of the above is good enough to assume your almond milk is bad and throw it out.
Another thing to remember is that almond milk goes bad even if it’s unopened. That’s especially true for the refrigerated variety that usually doesn’t last for that long past the use-by date.
The shelf-stable one keeps for much longer after its date, but sooner or later, its flavor will deteriorate, and you’ll discard it for quality reasons.
With that in mind, let’s talk about the signs of actual spoilage.
How to Tell if Almond Milk Is Bad?
Here’s what to do to check if your almond milk is spoiled:
Examine the carton
If the carton is bloated, puffed-up, or leaky, throw out the milk. The dairy-free milk isn’t necessarily spoiled, but there’s something seriously wrong here. Better safe than sorry.
If there’s nothing wrong with the carton, give it a shake, pour yourself half a glass, and proceed.
Check milk’s appearance
Look for any black spots and discolorations (that could be mold) and anything else that looks suspicious. Also, check the drink’s texture.
Almond milk isn’t thick, and it’s not supposed to be thick unless it’s homemade and you leave the pulp in. Store-bought almond milk is mostly water, and its consistency is quite similar to milk’s.
If it’s slimy or lumpy, throw it out.
Almond milk from some brands is a bit thicker than from others, depending on the amount of thickeners added.
Give it a sniff
Almond milk smells nutty and fresh. If it’s a sweetened variety, there will be a hint of sweetness. If it’s flavored (e.g., vanilla), some of that flavor will be present in the smell. That’s what you should notice when you give your almond milk a whiff.
If it smells sour, old, or “funny,” it’s time for it to go.
Take a sip
If everything seems to be perfectly fine up to this point, take a small sip.
If your almond milk tastes sour or off in any way, pour it down the drain. Otherwise, decide if it’s good enough to use based on its taste.
Remember about shelf life
Of course, going through the process outlined above makes sense only if the date is within a reasonable period.
If the almond milk is already opened for two weeks, just toss it out. Same thing if it’s the shelf-stable variety that’s 3 months past the best-by date, or the refrigerated one that’s more than two weeks after its date.
What Happens if You Drink Spoiled Almond Milk
Typical signs of food poisoning include:
- a combination of the above
Those symptoms are typically caused by mycotoxins produced by mold and aren’t specific to almond milk by any means.
Of course, you may or may not observe any of these symptoms after drinking spoiled almond milk. So you might as well be fine and never know that there was something wrong with that glass of 2-weeks-old almond milk.
Also, you likely ingest some mold spores every now and then (or even more often) by accident, and you feel perfectly fine almost all of the time.
In other words, the fact that you don’t feel sick doesn’t make that old almond milk safe to drink.
How Long Does Almond Milk Last?
|Almond milk (shelf-stable, unopened)||Best by + 1 – 2 months|
|Almond milk (shelf-stable, opened)||7 – 10 days|
|Almond milk (refrigerated, unopened)||Use-by + 5 – 7 days|
|Almond milk (refrigerated, opened)||7 days|
|Homemade almond milk||3 – 4 days|
Shelf-stable almond milk comes with a shelf life of up to a year, and keeps for at least a few weeks past its date. Refrigerated almond milk has a much shorter storage time of up to a couple of weeks. Both varieties last for 7 up to 10 days of opening.
When it comes to homemade almond milk, it keeps for 3 to maybe 4 days. Store-bought varieties are pasteurized, so they last longer in the fridge than homemade ones.
That’s the rundown on the shelf life of almond milk. Let’s dive into details.
Once you open a container of almond milk, it keeps for about 7 to 10 days in the fridge. That’s what the most popular brands like Silk and Blue Diamond recommend. If it’s the refrigerated variety, go with that period or 5 to 7 days after the use-by date, whichever comes first.
The recommended storage times vary between brands a bit.
Blue Diamond, for example, recommend different periods depending on the variety of the milk (7 for refrigerated, 10 for shelf-stable). Silk, on the other hand, goes with the same 7 to 10 day period, no matter the variety.
Undoubtedly, there are other brands out there that may have different suggestions, like maybe 5 days of storage after opening. That’s what my carton of Alpro almond milk said.
If you want to adhere exactly to what the producer says, read the label and follow the advice you find there.
Overall, I wouldn’t store the milk for more than 10 days of opening, no matter the brand. That 7-to-10-day period (which is also the typical storage time for opened milk) is already much longer than the recommended 4 days of storage for leftovers.
Shelf-stable almond milk comes with a best-by date, while the refrigerated variety usually has a use-by date printed on it. Neither date is an expiration date, and both are more about food quality than safety.
Because of that, you probably want to know how long is almond milk good for after the “expiration” date. Unfortunately, there’s no hard science on the topic, but we can make some educated guesses.
Shelf-stable almond milk past printed date
Since the shelf-stable variety lasts for months, there isn’t a reason it shouldn’t keep quality for a bit longer. I mean, almond milk isn’t a time bomb that magically spoils the day after the date printed on the label.
How long does shelf-stable almond milk last past the printed date?
It’s difficult to say, but you shouldn’t expect it to stay fresh for longer than a month, maybe two.
Beyond that period, it’s probably better to discard the liquid anyway. It’ll probably be safe to drink, and it might even taste fine, but you need to draw a line in the sand somewhere.
Refrigerated almond milk past printed date
Refrigerated almond milk has a much shorter storage time, so the period that it’s still fine after its date is also pretty short.
My estimate is about 5 to maybe 7 days past its date. More than that, and you’re playing with fire.
Before drinking almond milk that’s past its date, make sure it’s not spoiled using the process I outlined in the section on spoilage. And if the milk is well after its date, it’s probably best to play it safe and toss it.
How Long Can Almond Milk Sit Out?
The official recommendation is that you should throw away all perishable foods that have been left (in room temperature) for more than 2 hours. That period shrinks to 1 hour if the temperature is above 90°F (or 32°C).
Of course, those periods apply only to refrigerated almond milk, or shelf-stable one that’s already opened.
It’s up to you if you’re super strict about these recommendations or not. I mean, if your almond milk sits out on the counter for 2 hours and 5 minutes, it’s probably going to be okay.
But if you accidentally left almond milk out overnight, discard it no matter if it seems okay or not.
How To Store Almond Milk
Shelf-stable almond milk should sit in a cool and dark place, away from heat sources. Once you open the carton, refrigerate the leftovers. Both almond milk sold refrigerated and homemade almond milk require refrigeration at all times.
Those are the basics that you’re likely already familiar with.
If you’re not sure if the nut milk you bought is shelf-stable or not, and the label isn’t clear about it, think about where it was in the store. If it was in the refrigerated section, store it in the fridge.
Once you open the container, seal it tightly before out place it in the fridge. If it’s not one of those resealable cartons or bottles, transfer the leftovers into a mason jar or an airtight container. Or anything else that you can seal.
If you want to up your storage game, store your almond milk away from the fridge door. That’s what Blue Diamond recommend.
The reason behind that is the door is usually the warmest part of the fridge and is prone to temperature fluctuations. It won’t make that big of a difference, though, unless you open the fridge a hundred times a day.
One last thing: food hygiene. Unless you’re finishing the carton or bottle, always pour the nut milk into a glass instead of drinking it straight from the container.
Can You Freeze Almond Milk?
Freezing almond milk is somewhat controversial.
Manufacturers (e.g., Silk) don’t recommend it. That’s because the liquid changes its texture after thawing, and it’s definitely not as good as it was before freezing.
There’s no denying that freezing nut milks works this way.
But many people, especially those who don’t drink it and only use almond milk for various recipes, freeze the leftovers to avoid waste. And you can make it work.
Frozen and thawed almond milk works well in baked or cooked recipes. In such dishes, the texture change isn’t that noticeable and doesn’t affect the quality of the end product that much.
On the other hand, freezing almond milk for drinking purposes isn’t a good idea. The texture change is apparent, and the milk is chunky instead of smooth. In other words, it’s pretty disgusting.
Overall, feel free to freeze almond milk for cooking and baking. And check out my guide to freezing almond milk for more details.