Almond milk is one of the most popular non-dairy milk options available at nearly every grocery store or supermarket. Most people find the flavor at least palatable, if not thoroughly enjoyable, and it’s a relatively inexpensive and long-lasting alternative to dairy.
If you’ve brought home a wholesale sized case of 1L boxes or opened a container for a single recipe and aren’t sure what to do with the rest, the question you’re likely asking yourself is, does almond milk go bad?
So, does almond milk go bad? Yes, almond milk will go bad if it’s not stored properly. However many shelf-stable almond milk options can last nearly indefinitely under the right circumstances. The secret is in the storage.
In this article, we’ll discuss how and why almond milk might go bad and what to expect if your almond milk hasn’t been properly stored, as well as give you some helpful tips for storing your almond milk properly to extend its shelf life as long as possible.
Shelf Stable Vs Refrigerated Almond Milk
Not all almond milk is packaged in shelf-stable aseptic packaging and therefore it does need to be refrigerated at all times to prevent your milk from spoiling. It also won’t have the lengthy lifespan of unopened shelf-stable almond milk.
If you’re unsure whether your almond milk needs to be refrigerated or not, think back to where it was being stored in the grocery store when you bought it.
Shelf-stable almond milk will usually be in an aisle at room temperature, whereas refrigerated almond milk will be stored in the cooler section of your store.
Does Almond Milk Have To Be Refrigerated?
Homemade almond milk does need to be refrigerated as soon as possible after it’s been made to protect it from bacterial contamination. Storebought almond milk is somewhat more confusing.
All almond milk needs to be refrigerated once the container has been opened, however, not all almond milk needs to be refrigerated immediately if it has been commercially sealed in shelf-stable packaging.
Why Is Some Almond Milk Not Refrigerated?
Shelf-stable packaging is designed to extend the life of food products at room temperature. This includes many canned goods as well as other foods that have been carefully heat-treated or dried and then sealed to prevent any potential pathogen from adhering itself to the food item.
Some almond milk is contained in aseptic packaging that allows it to be shelf-stable. Aseptic packaging is a product container that is lined with aluminum to protect the contents against light and oxygen, preventing any potential spoilage without the need for refrigeration or preservatives.
The product is separated from the aluminum by FDA-approved, food-safe polyethylene plastic that prevents any of the metal from leaching into the liquid and also sealing the liquid inside the package tightly.
The package is filled and sealed in a sterile environment that prevents any and all microorganisms from entering the package.
With all these preventative measures taken, shelf-stable almond milk doesn’t need to be refrigerated until the seal is broken and the package is opened. At that point, all safety measures have been compromised and you now need to rely on refrigeration for preservation.
Deciding How To Store Almond Milk
If you have made your own almond milk or purchased refrigerated almond milk, you must store it in the fridge.
Try to avoid placing it in the door of your fridge as this area experiences the most temperature fluctuations and exposure to the outside air. Instead, keep it on a shelf towards the back of your fridge.
Ideally, you will have an air-tight container that seals well to prevent bacteria from entering into your milk and also to help protect your milk from going stale or picking up other flavors that are airborne in your fridge.
If you have unopened shelf-stable almond milk, you can store it in any cool, dry location that is not directly exposed to light.
It’s best to keep it in a relatively temperature controlled environment as well, as heat fluctuations can slowly impact the quality of your almond milk over time.
How Long Does Almond Milk Last?
How long is almond milk good for depends on what kind of almond milk you have and how it is being stored.
We’ve talked about the difference between shelf-stable almond milk and refrigerated almond milk, and that distinction makes the biggest difference in how long it will last.
All commercially produced almond milk will have a “use by” or “best before” date stamped on the package. This date will give you the best approximation of how long your almond milk will last at peak freshness.
After this date, your milk may not go bad right away, but the flavor and texture will start to become less appealing and the milk may develop an unpleasant aroma.
An opened container of shelf-stable almond milk will stay fresh for a week to 10 days in your fridge. Refrigerated almond milk will have more variance, depending on the packaging process and what preservatives were or were not used.
It may stay fresh for as long as a week or as little as 2–3 days.
Homemade almond milk won’t have any preservatives and should be used up within 3–4 days of making it, at the most.
Almond Milk Shelf Life Chart
|Shelf-Stable, unopened||2–4 weeks past “use by date” before quality starts to really degrade||Unnecessary|
|Shelf-Stable, opened||Unsafe||1 week–10 days|
|Refrigerated||Unsafe||2 days–1 week|
How To Tell If Almond Milk Is Bad
One of the first signs that your milk has gone bad is if the container expands, puffs up, and looks bloated.
Of course, this is only visible in cardboard or plastic containers; if you’re made your own almond milk and stored it in a glass jar it won’t expand. The expansion happens when the milk starts to ferment, which isn’t ideal.
The next obvious cue is a sour or tart odor. Almond milk should smell a little bit nutty and sweet but if it is starting to turn, it will smell slightly fermented.
Almond milk that is that looks lumpy or coagulated is also not a great sign, but it’s not always a sure sign of bad milk. If you shake the almond milk well and there’s no bad smell, it may have just started to separate a bit and still be fine.
If all signs are pointing to safe at this point you can do a taste test. If you’re concerned, just take a small taste, you’ll notice right away if it is too sour for your liking.
Does Almond Milk Go Bad If Unopened?
Again, the answer to this question depends on whether the almond milk is packaged using shelf-stable processes or not.
If you bought almond milk from a refrigerated section of your grocery store, it is probably not shelf-stable and it will go bad over time, even if it isn’t opened. Especially if it isn’t refrigerated properly.
Shelf-stable almond milk, on the other hand, will be safe nearly indefinitely, though it may not be enjoyable forever.
Even according to the USDA, shelf-stable foods are safe to consume after their “use by” or “best before” date, though the quality of the product may not be as high or reliable.
Does Almond Milk Curdle?
Yes, almond milk can curdle though you’re more likely to notice this when you heat fresh, healthy, safe almond milk too hot too quickly and add it to an acidic ingredient or liquid.
Many people choose to swap traditional dairy milk in their specialty coffees and teas and this can quickly lead to curdled almond milk.
Coffee is acidic enough to curdle almond milk, especially if it’s extra hot and the almond milk was cold or cool when added.
To avoid this travesty, heat and froth your almond milk first, and then add the coffee to the milk.
Does Almond Milk Go Bad If Left Out?
Yes, if almond milk has been opened it will go bad if it isn’t refrigerated. Bacteria and other microorganisms will happily infiltrate your milk starting the process of fermentation.
If almond milk is properly fermented, it can be made into kefir which is a delicious, healthy, and safe fermented almond milk.
However, if almond milk ferments accidentally because miscellaneous bacteria start to grow in your milk, it is not necessarily going to be either safe or delicious and you should dispose of it.
Does Almond Milk Go Bad In Heat?
Almond milk will not stay fresh if it’s left out in the heat, no. However, it can be safely heated purposefully for cooking, baking (you could try making this delectable pumpkin pie with almond milk), or hot beverages and that will not necessarily make it go bad.
Almond milk will burn easily and, as previously mentioned, can curdle if it’s subjected to extreme temperature changes quickly or mixed with an acidic ingredient, but if you cook with it correctly, it can handle heat just fine.
Black Specks In Almond Milk – What Does It Mean?
Finding anything black in your almond milk is not a good sign, especially if it’s a commercially packaged container of milk.
Though it’s not common, mold can grow inside your milk, creating a black fungus. If this is the case, it is not safe for consumption and should be discarded. To be on the safe side, any almond milk with black or chunks should be discarded.
If you’ve made your own almond milk there is a possibility that pieces of the outer peeling made it through the filtering and straining process, but if you have no other bits of debris or chunks, again, it’s likely mold and should not be used.
Expired Almond Milk
Most storebought almond milk will have a “best-before” date rather than a strict expiration date. This is an indication that the manufacturer isn’t confident in the quality of their almond milk after the date stamped on the package.
How Long Does Almond Milk Last After Expiration Date?
If you’ve opened your almond milk, you probably have a few days up to a week beyond the expiration date before your milk is noticeably unpleasant to drink. There is quite a variation between brands because the quality will depend heavily on whether or not preservatives have been used.
How you store the milk will also make a difference to how long you can expect it to last beyond the recommended use-by date.
Whenever your milk has gone beyond the expiration date, check it for visible signs of going bad and a sour smell coming from the container.
If your eyes and nose are confident, take a small taste test. If it tastes ok, it should be safe to drink.
Unopened Almond Milk Past Expiration Date – Is It Safe To Drink?
Unopened shelf-stable almond milk will be safe to drink beyond the expiration date, though if you wait too long, it may not taste as good as you were hoping it would.
Refrigerated almond milk can still go bad, even if it’s unopened, if it’s too far beyond the recommended best before date.
If it looks, smells, and tastes fine, it’s safe to drink, but if any of your senses notice something isn’t right, you’re better off discarding the old milk and investing in a new container.
What Happens If You Drink Expired Almond Milk?
Spoiled almond milk can make you sick, just like any other spoiled food item. The bacteria that may grow in almond milk is not likely to be life-threatening unless you have a severely compromised immune system, but it can cause uncomfortable digestive issues and even fever or vomiting if you drink enough.
However, if your almond milk is expired but hasn’t gone bad, nothing will happen. You will be just as safe and healthy after drinking it as you were before you had it.
Frequently Asked Questions About Almond Milk
Is almond milk dairy?
No, almond milk is naturally dairy-free. It’s made by soaking ground almond meal in water and then filtering and straining it to extract a flavorful, smooth, and lightly creamy liquid.
Commercially produced almond milk will typically also contain preservatives, thickening agents, or possibly other flavorings, but it does not contain any animal products at all.
This makes is not only safe for lactose intolerant people or those with an allergy to dairy products, but also strict vegans.
Can almond milk be heated?
Almond milk can be heated and it’s frequently used as a milk alternative in many different cooking and baking recipes and even in specialty coffees.
In most cases, almond milk can be substituted for dairy milk at a 1:1 ratio, though if your recipe calls for a high-fat milk option, almond milk won’t be as thick nor will it reduce when heated to create a thick liquid.
Instead, if you want to thicken your almond milk, heating it with a thickening agent like cornstarch, flour or agar agar is a better solution.
If you’re trying to heat almond milk on its own, you do need to be careful. It will burn more easily than traditional dairy products and overcooking it will alter the flavor, leaving a bitter, burnt nut taste in your milk.
What does almond milk taste like?
Almond milk does have a very mild almond flavor, but its nowhere near as strong as eating the actual nut itself would be.
It’s usually made using raw almonds, which have a mild, sweet flavor. Most commercially produced almond milk will have been filtered and processed and, possibly even sweetened or flavored, so the taste may vary.
Homemade almond milk will have a stronger flavor relationship to raw almonds, but it is still light and more like a sweet, watery cream than you would expect.