Nowadays, most of us are switching over from cow’s milk to plant-based milk, due to dietary requirements, intolerances, or just for the better taste.
Of all the different options that there are, from oat milk, coconut, cashew, and almond, which is probably the most popular.
If you enjoy almond milk, and you opened up a carton, but what no idea how long the almond milk is going to last, or if you even need to keep it in the fridge.
Perhaps you found an expired carton sitting on your pantry shelf, and have no idea if it is any good or not.
If this sounds like you, perhaps if you are new to drinking plant-based milk, then keep reading because we are about to answer all of your questions.
Do You Need To Refrigerate Almond Milk?
Any almond milk should be refrigerated after opening, regardless of the type of almond milk.
If almond milk is unopened, and shelf-stable then you can store it in the pantry until you choose to open it, as shelf-stable almond milk can last a year on average.
However, if you get the milk from the refrigerated section, then it cannot go in the pantry and needs to be put in the fridge straight away.
This is just like cow’s milk, as some can stay in the fridge, while some can stand freely non-refrigerated.
If you are unsure if the milk that you have purchased is shelf stable or not, and the label is not clear, simply consider where it was positioned in the store.
Was it in a refrigerated area or was it on a normal shelf?
If it was in the refrigerated section then put it in the fridge as soon as you get home.
Once the container has been opened ensure that you seal it up tightly before you place it in the fridge.
If you do not have one of those resealable cartons, then transfer the leftovers to a mason jar, or a bottle with a resealable top.
If you want to increase your storage game, then simply store your almond milk away from the fridge door.
The reason for this would be that this part of the fridge is more prone to fluctuating temperatures.
This does not make a massive difference though, unless you were to repeatedly open the fridge all day long.
Finally, be aware that unless you are finishing the milk off, always pour it into a glass.
Do not drink it straight from the container, this is highly unhygienic, and adds bacteria to the milk.
Next, we want to cover the actual differences between shelf-stable and refrigerated almond milk. Being aware of this will help you better understand milk longevity.
Almond Milk: Shelf Stable Vs Refrigerated
When you go to a superstore, there are two primary types of almond milk you will be able to get.
You can get either shelf-stable almond milk or you can get refrigerated almond milk. The primary difference between the two is the packaging.
Shelf-stable almond milk will come in aseptic containers, which are near sterile, and it is uniquely processed to ensure that the liquid is safe from microbes.
As well as this, the cartons also protect the drink from air and light which can make sure that the nutritional value of the milk and the taste of it will last for months if it stays closed.
The most popular packaging technology for this is known as Tetra Pak, most plant-based shelf-stable milk is packaged in this.
Refrigerated bottles and cartons will not be packaged in the same way as shelf-stable ones, so they are not as safe from external temperatures and conditions.
This is why they need to be refrigerated.
We cannot claim that any one variety is better than the other one, it is personal preference.
Most would even say that they taste the same, and the only real difference is where they must be kept before opening.
Meanwhile, some connoisseurs of almond milk would say that the fresher or refrigerated variety tastes better and seems to be less processed.
However, the differences are really minor.
For most people, the choice is simply down to what is most convenient. If you regularly drink it, refrigerated ones are a good choice.
If you only consume it now and again, a shelf-stable option is best.
However, if you would rather buy many at once, then shelf-stable ones are the best choice, to save on room in your fridge.
That way you only have one in the fridge at any given time.
How Long Will Almond Milk Last?
Let’s consider how long almond milk is likely to last in every situation.
|Almond Milk Type||Pantry||Refrigerator|
|Shelf Stable Almond Milk – Unopened||6 + months|
|Shelf Stable Almond Milk – Opened||7 to 10 days|
|Refrigerated Almond Milk – Unopened||Use by date/ 5 to 7 days|
|Refrigerated Almond Milk – Opened||7 to 10 days|
|Almond Milk Homemade||3 to 4 days|
As you can see in the table above, almond milk that has been bought from the store will last for around 7 to 10 days if it is refrigerated and tightly sealed, regardless of whether it is refrigerated or shelf-stable varieties.
The shortest amount of storage time is for homemade almond milk, which will keep for 3 days or a maximum of 4 days.
Store-bought almond milk is also pasteurized, making it last even longer in the refrigerator than homemade almond milk.
That is the absolute basics, pasteurizing simply makes it last longer, and while homemade almond milk may taste the freshest, you will not have a super long time to consume it.
Once you have opened up a container of almond milk, you will have up to 7 to 10 days to drink it, regardless of whether it is a shelf-stable or refrigerated type, the focus here is that it has been opened!
However, be aware that the storage times of almond milk can vary quite significantly between different brands.
One brand, Blue Diamond, for example, recommends different periods depending on how it is stored. They recommend 7 days for refrigerated milk, but 10 for shelf stability.
A different brand, known as Silk, recommends a 7-10 day period, no matter what storage technique is required.
Of course, this also means that there are plenty of other brands out there who may suggest otherwise, sometimes even suggesting 5 days of storage after the carton is opened.
However, no matter what is said, we believe it would be unwise to store the milk for any longer than 10 days after you have opened it, regardless of the brand.
This 7 to 10-day period which most go by is already a lot longer than the typical recommended 4 days that anyone should store leftovers for!
If you are desperate to keep it for longer, or perhaps simply hate wastage, then you could freeze it. This is especially handy if you want to keep it for a specific purpose.
Almond milk that is shelf stable will have a best-by date, the refrigerated type will often have a use-by date.
However, neither of these dates is expiration. Both use-by and best-by are essentially quality tips and not for expiration.
For this reason, it is a good idea to be in the know about how long almond milk is actually good for once the best-by or use-by date has passed.
Sadly, there is little to no information on this, and it is not an exact science, but there are some ways to make a good educated guess.
Shelf-Stable Almond Milk
Unopened shelf-stable almond milk generally will last for 1 to 2 years. Therefore, it should keep for an additional couple of months with no quality changes.
It is well protected from the external world and does not have any microbes in it thanks to processing.
Shelf-stable Almond milk does not spoil very easily.
Shelf-stable almond milk is not going to spoil in a day, week, or month after the date that is on the label.
As long as the date on the label is within a decent time frame, you should be able to check it for signs of spoilage and it should be fine.
Refrigerated Almond Milk
Almond milk that has to be refrigerated, however, will have a storage life of a few weeks maximum.
Therefore, all you are likely to get out of it is around 5 to 7 days at best, in addition to the use-by date that is shown on the label.
Any more than a week after the use-by date and you are likely to find it spoiled.
Can Almond Milk Sit Out For Long?
It is recommended by the USDA that you throw out any perishable foods which have sat out at room temperature for any longer than 2 hours.
This period will shrink to a single hour if the room temperature is higher than 90 degrees Fahrenheit or 32 degrees Celsius.
These periods will only apply to opened almond milk, or refrigerated almond milk. Shelf-stable almond milk is not considered to be a perishable product.
Of course, if you are very strict about these recommendations, you can proceed with caution.
However, if your almond milk has sat out for 2 hours and 5 minutes it is probably fine, but 2 hours and 30 minutes is pushing it a bit.
If you happen to leave out your almond milk overnight, it does need to be discarded, regardless if it seems okay. Again, this does not apply to shelf-stable unopened almond milk.
Tell-Tale Signs That Almond Milk Has Gone Bad
There are some signs you can look for that will give you a heads-up that almond milk has gone bad.
These signs can include leaky packaging, bloated packaging, an unusual texture, off smells, off-tastes, and the biggest sign of all would be mold.
Also, ensure that the drink has not been open for longer than 7 to 10 days, and double-check that it did not go out of date any longer than a week ago if it is a refrigerated version.
Let’s quickly look into all the steps you can take to ensure that your almond milk has not gone off.
Check over the carton, and make sure that it is not puffy, leaking, or bloated. If the carton displays any of these signs then it is time to throw it out.
Dairy-free milk like this is not necessarily spoiled in these scenarios, however, if any of these signs crop up it is best to be safe.
Signs such as these would indicate that something is seriously wrong.
However, if the carton looks to be okay, shake it up and pour a little bit out, then check out how it looks.
Check for any black spots or discoloration which would be mold. Anything that looks like it is not milk! Also, consider the texture.
Almond milk is thin, not thick unless it is homemade. Commercial almond milk is primarily water and the consistency is a lot like milk.
If it is thick, something is wrong.
Almond milk should smell fresh and like nuts. If it is sweetened, it will smell sweet too.
When doing a sniff test this is what you should get from it. If it smells any way other than this, it is best to throw it out.
The Taste Test
If everything else seems to be in order the only other way you can test to ensure it is okay is to taste it.
If it tastes sour or off at all, it should go down the drain. But, if it tastes fine then you can drink it.
What Will Happen If You Drink Spoiled Almond Milk?
While it is highly unlikely that spoiled almond milk will make you severely unwell, it is wise to keep a close eye out for food poisoning.
Symptoms of food poisoning can include:
- All of the above.
Food poisoning symptoms are typically caused by mycotoxins that are produced by mold, and this is not specific to almond milk.
You may not get any of these from drinking spoiled almond milk, however.
You may be totally fine. And it is good to know that it is normal for us to ingest mold spores now and again unaware, and most of us feel fine all the time.
So, remember, just because you feel fine does not mean old almond milk is okay to ingest.
Almond milk, like any milk, can go bad, but for the most longevity, it is best to buy shelf-stable almond milk.
If you are unsure if it is good or bad, start by checking the carton, then the appearance, smell, and taste. If you are unsure, don’t drink it.
Store-bought almond milk will also last a lot longer than homemade almond milk too, so while it may not be as flavor-filled or fresh, it does have a longer lifespan!
Always check your milk before you drink it.