Almond milk has become a popular plant-based milk alternative in recent years. With its creamy texture and nutty flavor, many people opt for almond milk over cow’s milk for their morning coffee, cereal, or just a cold glass of milk. But like any perishable food, almond milk does eventually expire. So what happens if you take a sip of your almond milk and notice it’s past its printed expiration date? Is it still safe to consume expired almond milk?
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about expired almond milk, including:
- How to tell if almond milk is expired
- The safety of drinking expired almond milk
- Changes in taste and nutritional value
- Proper storage to maximize freshness
- When expired almond milk should be discarded
We’ll also provide helpful tips on preventing waste, salvaging unused almond milk, and knowing when it’s definitely time to throw out that old carton. Let’s dive in!
How to Tell If Almond Milk is Expired
Almond milk, like other plant-based milk alternatives, has a relatively short shelf life compared to cow’s dairy milk. The exact expiration date depends on the type:
|Type of Almond Milk||Shelf Life|
|Refrigerated almond milk||7-10 days after opening|
|Shelf-stable almond milk||Several months to 1 year|
|Homemade almond milk||3-4 days|
The easiest way to identify if your almond milk is expired is to check the “use by” or “best by” date printed on the carton. However, some additional signs your almond milk may be past its prime include:
- Sour or “off” smell
- Change in color or consistency – separation, chunks, thickness
- Mold growth inside carton
- Fizzing or bubbling when container is opened
If you notice any of the above warning signs, it’s best to discard the carton instead of taking a chance drinking expired milk. Trust your senses – if it smells or looks bad, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Don’t forget to also check the expiration dates of any almond milk stored in your pantry or fridge.
Is it Safe to Drink Expired Almond Milk?
So the almond milk sitting in your fridge is a few days past its printed date – does this mean it has gone bad and can’t be consumed?
The answer is, it depends. Almond milk can remain safe to drink for a short period after its sell-by date under optimal storage conditions. Many people report drinking expired almond milk for 1-2 weeks past the date on the carton with no ill effects.
However, safety ultimately depends on how expired the milk is and how well it was stored after opening:
|Storage Conditions||Likely Safety|
|Unopened, shelf-stable milk within 1 month of sell-by date||Generally safe if not spoiled|
|Refrigerated after opening and milk is within 5-7 days of date||Should be safe if stored properly|
|Expired 2+ weeks ago or left unrefrigerated||Higher risk of food poisoning|
|Curdled, moldy, separated, or foul smelling||Do not consume|
As a good rule of thumb, if your almond milk is no more than a week past its printed date and has been continuously refrigerated, it should be fine to drink. But any longer than that, it’s best to discard it. Always inspect the milk first and use your best judgment.
Taste and Nutrition Changes
While expired almond milk may still be safe for consumption short-term, you’ll likely notice some changes in taste, texture, and nutritional value the longer it sits.
Some of the common changes that occur as almond milk ages include:
- Flat taste – The flavors become muted and flavor compounds degrade over time.
- Sour taste – Can take on a sour or bitter flavor from spoilage.
- Grainy or curdled texture – The proteins and fats separate, leaving clumps.
- Vitamin loss – Some vitamins like vitamin C and folate break down with age.
- Weakened proteins – The beneficial proteins in almond milk deteriorate.
While unpleasant, these taste and nutrition changes are not inherently dangerous if consumed shortly after expiration. But the benefits of drinking that almond milk diminish each day past the sell-by date.
If you notice pronounced sourness, bitterness, separation, or curdling, it’s best to toss the carton. At that point the milk has likely spoiled and continued breakdown could increase the risk of foodborne illness.
How to Store Almond Milk to Maximize Freshness
To get the most shelf life and freshness out of your almond milk, be sure to store it properly after purchasing and opening. Here are some tips for maximizing the life of almond milk:
- Purchase milk well before the sell-by or use-by date. This gives you the most time to use it up.
- Quickly refrigerate almond milk after purchase, especially if not shelf-stable.
- Keep refrigerated at 40°F or below to slow spoilage.
- Seal the container tightly after each use.
- Store almond milk towards the back of the fridge where temperature fluctuations are minimized.
- Keep track of date opened and plan to use within 5-7 days.
- Don’t return any unused milk back to the original container.
- Keep away from absorptive foods like meat that could impact flavor.
Proper refrigeration and sealing are key to preventing premature spoilage or contamination. If you follow these handling and storage best practices, you should be able to safely enjoy your almond milk up until its expiration date.
When to Toss Out Expired Almond Milk
So when does expired almond milk cross the line from still consumable to needing to be discarded? Here are some signs it’s definitely time to say goodbye and throw that carton away:
- More than 1-2 weeks past printed expiration date
- Sour odor or pronounced bitterness
- Visual mold – discard immediately if you see this!
- Curdled texture or watery separation
- Fizzing, bubbling, or bulging container
- Left unrefrigerated or improperly stored
- Consumed by infants, young children, pregnant women, or elderly
As a general practice, if your almond milk is more than 7-10 days past opening, it’s best to err on the side of caution and discard it. The small savings isn’t worth the risk of possible foodborne illness.
If you accidentally drank expired almond milk without realizing, monitor yourself for symptoms but don’t panic. Unless the milk was very old or spoiled, you will likely be fine. But if you develop nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or other concerning symptoms, contact your doctor.
Preventing Waste of Unused Almond Milk
To avoid wasting leftover almond milk that’s approaching expiration, there are several creative ways to use it up:
- Cook it into oatmeal, cream soups, or smoothies.
- Mix it into pancake or waffle batter.
- Make overnight oats by soaking with old-fashioned oats.
- Whisk it into coffee, tea, hot chocolate, or chai latte.
- Blend it into protein shakes or fruit smoothies.
- Use in place of regular milk for French toast or bread pudding.
- Stir it into cream sauces, puddings, or custards.
- Freeze leftovers in ice cube trays to add to smoothies later.
The heating or freezing process helps make the old almond milk safe for consumption again. Avoid wasting those last few servings by getting creative with recipes before the milk turns.
Is Expired Almond Milk Salvageable?
Once almond milk has spoiled past a safe point, it cannot be salvaged or made consumable again at home. Food safety experts warn against trying to re-pasteurize or boil milk thinking it kills bacteria.
However, if the expired almond milk just has some sourness or is a few days past its prime, you can sometimes rescue it for use in baked goods or other cooked dishes that will mask the degradation in flavor.
Some ways you could salvage almond milk that’s slightly expired include:
- Baking it into breads, muffins, or cakes
- Heating it into soups or sauces
- Mixing it into smoothies with frozen fruit and other ingredients
- Whisking it into oatmeal with added sweeteners or toppings
- Adding mixing it with coffee, cocoa, or tea
But if the expired almond milk smells rancid, is curdled, or moldy it cannot be salvaged and should be disposed. Don’t take risks with milk that has spoiled.
Checking your carton of almond milk and realizing the expiration date has passed can be an unpleasant surprise. But in many cases, almond milk can still be safely consumed for a short window after the printed sell-by or use-by date.
The key is storing opened almond milk properly in the refrigerator and discarding it if it becomes more than 1-2 weeks old or shows signs of spoilage like curdling or mold growth. While it may lose some freshness and taste, drinking slightly expired almond milk stored under optimal conditions poses minimal safety risk for most healthy adults.
Be diligent checking expiration dates, observing for any changes from spoilage, and properly refrigerating opened cartons. Then you can enjoy all that delicious almond milk before it expires. But when in doubt, remember it’s better to be safe and ditch milk that is questionable. Bon appétit!