Just opened an almond milk carton and not sure how long almond milk lasts or whether you need to refrigerate it?
Or you found an expired carton sitting in the back of a pantry shelf, and you’re wondering if it’s any good.
If so, this article is for you. Read on.
Table of Contents
- Does Almond Milk Need to Be Refrigerated?
- Refrigerated vs. Shelf-Stable Almond Milk
- How Long Does Almond Milk Last?
- How to Tell if Almond Milk Is Bad?
- What Happens if You Drink Spoiled Almond Milk
Does Almond Milk Need to Be Refrigerated?
You should always refrigerate almond milk after opening, no matter the type. For unopened almond milk, the shelf-stable cartons available on the shelves in the grocery store can be stored in the pantry, while ones sitting in the refrigerated section need to go to the fridge.
It works the same way for cow’s milk: some bottles sit in the fridges, while the cartons stand freely in a different aisle.
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 grocery store or supermarket. If it was in the refrigerated section, store it in the fridge.
Once you open the container, seal it tightly before placing it in the fridge. If it’s not one of those resealable cartons or bottles, transfer the leftovers into a mason jar, an airtight container, or anything else that’s sealable.
If you want to up your storage game, store your almond milk away from the fridge door.
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 nut milk, always pour it into a glass instead of drinking it straight from the container.
Next up, let’s briefly cover the differences between refrigerated and shelf-stable almond milk. Knowing those will help you understand the rest of the article.
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 drink 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 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.
How Long Does Almond Milk Last?
|Almond milk (shelf-stable, unopened)||Best by + 6 months|
|Almond milk (shelf-stable, opened)||7 – 10 days|
|Almond milk (refrigerated, unopened)||Use-by + 5 – 7 days|
|Almond milk (refrigerated, opened)||7 – 10 days|
|Homemade almond milk||3 – 4 days|
Store-bought almond milk lasts for 7 to 10 days of opening if sealed tightly and refrigerated, no matter if it’s the shelf-stable or refrigerated variety. Homemade almond drink has an even shorter storage time of it keeps for 3 to maybe 4 days. Store-bought almond milk is pasteurized, so it lasts longer in the fridge than homemade one.
That’s the gist of it.
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.
That said, the recommended storage times vary a bit between brands.
Blue Diamond, for example, recommends 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 says.
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 after 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 standard recommended 4 days of storage for leftovers.
And if you need more time, check out my article on freezing almond milk.
Expired Almond Milk
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.
Unopened shelf-stable almond milk typically lasts for 1 to 2 years, and it should easily keep for an extra couple of months without quality changes. The drink is well protected from the outside world and doesn’t contain any microbes thanks to how it’s processed, so it doesn’t spoil easily.
In other words, shelf-stable almond milk isn’t a time bomb that magically spoils the day (or week, or even a month) after the date printed on the label.
As long as the date on the label is within the acceptable range, you can open the carton and check for any spoilage signs listed here.
Refrigerated almond milk has a storage time of a few weeks max, so all you can get is probably between 5 and 7 days beyond the use-by date printed on the label. 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 beyond its date, it’s probably best to play it safe and toss it.
How Long Can Almond Milk Sit Out?
The USDA recommends you should throw away all perishable foods that have been left out at 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 open almond milk and almond milk sold refrigerated. Shelf-stable cartons aren’t perishable foods.
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 leave almond milk out overnight, discard it, no matter if it seems okay or not.
How to Tell if Almond Milk Is Bad?
Signs of almond milk spoilage include bloated or leaky packaging, mold, unusual texture, and off smells or tastes. It’s also important to ensure the drink isn’t opened for more than 7 to 10 days, and that it’s not expired for longer than a week if it’s the refrigerated variety.
That’s the short version.
Next up, let’s expand upon each of these points.
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 the carton looks fine, give it a shake and pour yourself some.
Check the milk’s appearance
Look for any black spots and discolorations (that could be mold) and anything else that looks suspicious. Also, pay attention to the drink’s texture.
Almond milk isn’t thick, and it’s not supposed to be thick unless you make it at home and leave the pulp in. Store-bought almond milk is mostly water, and its consistency is quite similar to that of milk.
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 sweetened, there will be a hint of sweetness, and if it’s flavored (e.g., vanilla), some of that will be reflected 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
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 refrigerated variety and it’s more than two weeks past 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-week-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.
2 thoughts on “Does Almond Milk Go Bad? How To Tell If It’s Spoiled?”
I drink Almond milk almost everyday. Especially in my morning smoothies. It will go bad after opening. Twice now, I have gone several days without my regular toast and smoothies breakfast, to come back to it and not checked the almond milk for freshness. Once it is opened be very, very careful! The first time it only lasted about four hours, but I had nothing left in my stomach when it was over. The second time was much, much worse. Started throwing up in just a couple of hours and continued that for over 2 hours.n it included clammy skin, severe cramping and nausea. Then it got worse! The clammy skin turned into dripping sweat, soaking my clothes and although the throwing up slowed, diarrhea started and was uncontrollable. I lost any strength I had by then and thank goodness my husband was home or I would still be on the bathroom floor. He was able to put some nausea medicine under my tongue and I was able to finally get under contol. Sorry to be so graphic but those who drink alternative milk need to pay attention after it is open! It does go bad and FOOD POISONING is real!
I have a tetra box of Natura Unsweetened Almond milk, kept in the pantry. Best before date is about 1.5 months ago. I tasted the milk, it was fine, but unflavourful. There were little white particles that appeared after I shook the contents. It did not smell spoiled.
I needed a bit extra for an overnight recipe for groats, but decided to err on the side of caution and avoid ‘food poisoning’.
Will keep the milk for usage myself, but not to share with my children.
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