Can you keep rice milk out of the fridge?

Rice milk has become a popular dairy-free milk alternative for many people. It is made from rice and water and sometimes sweetened with sugar or vanilla. Some brands also add vitamins and minerals to create a nutritional profile closer to dairy milk. But there is some debate around whether rice milk needs to be refrigerated or not. In this article, we’ll take a look at the shelf life of rice milk and provide guidance on how to store it properly.

The shelf life of rice milk

Like dairy milk, rice milk is perishable and has a limited shelf life. The shelf life depends on a few factors:

  • Type of rice milk – Some brands use a high pressure processing method that gives the rice milk a longer shelf life unopened. But once opened, it should be handled like regular rice milk.
  • Ingredients – Some rice milks contain preservatives that help extend the shelf life.
  • Storage temperature – Refrigeration prolongs the shelf life significantly.
  • Packaging – Shelf stable rice milk in aseptic cartons can last 6-12 months unopened. Rice milk in the fridge lasts 5-7 days.

On average, most rice milks last:

  • Unopened shelf stable rice milk: 5-12 months
  • Opened rice milk refrigerated: 5-7 days
  • Opened rice milk unrefrigerated: 2-3 days

Does rice milk need refrigeration?

Even though some rice milk brands advertise that their products are “shelf stable”, refrigeration is still recommended once opened. Here are some reasons why rice milk should be kept refrigerated:

  • It contains nutrients that can degrade over time. Refrigeration preserves vitamin, mineral and nutrient content.
  • The proteins and fats can oxidize and go rancid at room temperature. Keeping it chilled prevents spoilage.
  • Bacterial growth is slowed by refrigeration. Rice milk still provides an environment where bacteria can multiply over time.
  • It will taste fresher and last longer when chilled in the refrigerator.

How to tell if rice milk has gone bad

Here are some signs that indicate your rice milk has spoiled and should be discarded:

  • Change in smell – Fresh rice milk has a mild, creamy aroma. If it starts to smell sour or unpleasant, it has likely spoiled.
  • Change in texture – Spoiled rice milk may become slimy or stringy or have an abnormal thickness.
  • Mold – Check for fuzzy mold growth which signals spoilage.
  • Change in color – The color of the milk may darken or look curdled if it has gone bad.
  • Expired date – If it is past the expiration or use by date, it should be discarded.

If you detect any signs of spoilage, rice milk should not be consumed and should be thrown out.

How to store rice milk properly

To get the longest shelf life out of your rice milk, follow these storage tips:

  • Store unopened rice milk in a cool, dry pantry away from direct sunlight.
  • Once opened, transfer rice milk to a covered container and refrigerate.
  • Make sure rice milk is kept at a temperature of 40°F (4°C) or below.
  • Keep rice milk towards the back of the fridge where temperature is most stable.
  • Don’t store rice milk on the refrigerator door where temperature fluctuates.
  • Keep the container clean and dry to prevent bacterial growth.
  • Use opened rice milk within 5-7 days.
  • Don’t mix new and old rice milk – this introduces bacteria.
  • Check for signs of spoilage before consuming.

Can you freeze rice milk?

Freezing is an option for storing rice milk for longer periods. Here’s what to know about freezing rice milk:

  • It can be frozen for 2-3 months in airtight containers or bags.
  • Leave room in the container for expansion as it freezes.
  • Thaw in the refrigerator before using.
  • Give it a good shake once thawed – separation can occur when frozen.
  • Use thawed rice milk within 1 week for best quality.
  • Avoid repeated freeze-thaw cycles which degrade texture and flavor.

Does rice milk need to be used quickly once opened?

Rice milk will stay fresh for 5-7 days if properly stored in the refrigerator after opening. Follow these tips for using opened rice milk:

  • Transfer rice milk to an airtight container like a mason jar or pitcher.
  • Make sure the container is clean and dry before filling.
  • Store the container towards the back of the fridge at 40°F or below.
  • Keep track of when you opened it and when it expires.
  • Give it a sniff and visual inspection before each use.
  • Don’t use rice milk if it smells sour or shows signs of spoilage.
  • Replace the remainder with a new container after 5-7 days.

With proper refrigeration, rice milk can be gradually used within a week of opening with no issues.

Can you return rice milk to the pantry after opening?

It’s not recommended to return rice milk to the pantry after it’s been opened and refrigerated. Some reasons why:

  • Bacteria multiplies rapidly at room temperature once introduced.
  • Proteins and fats spoil faster unrefrigerated.
  • Nutrients degrade more quickly without chilling.
  • The milk may take on unpleasant odors and flavors.
  • It has a shorter shelf life than unopened, shelf-stable milk.

For food safety and quality, rice milk should stay refrigerated once opened. Only unopened, shelf-stable rice milk can be stored in the pantry.

Can you put rice milk back in the fridge after using?

It’s fine to place rice milk back in the refrigerator after briefly being taken out for use, as long as you follow a few guidelines:

  • Use clean utensils and glasses when handling to prevent contamination.
  • Don’t let it sit out for more than 2 hours at room temperature.
  • Make sure the cap or cover is securely replaced.
  • Give the container a quick clean if dripped or spilled when out.
  • Store it towards the back of the fridge immediately.
  • Consume within 5-7 days of first opening.

As long as rice milk isn’t left out too long and is handled properly, it can be safely returned to the refrigerator after using.

Does rice milk go bad faster after opening?

Yes, rice milk does go bad faster after opening. Here’s why:

  • Exposure to oxygen – When the container is opened, oxygen can interact with proteins and fats causing them to degrade.
  • Contamination – Utensils and backwash introduce bacteria when pouring.
  • Temperature change – Fluctuations in temperature speed up spoilage.
  • Nutrient loss – Vitamins and minerals break down over time, especially when not chilled.

For best quality, rice milk should be used within 5-7 days of opening. Unopened, it can last 5-12 months stored properly. Keeping opened rice milk refrigerated and in an airtight container will help extend its shelf life after opening.

Shelf life comparison between refrigerated and non-refrigerated rice milk

Rice Milk Type Refrigerated Non-Refrigerated
Unopened Shelf Stable 5-12 months 5-12 months
Opened 5-7 days 2-3 days

This table shows that refrigerating rice milk dramatically extends the shelf life after opening compared to leaving it out at room temperature. Even shelf stable rice milk that is unopened keeps significantly longer in the refrigerator.

Should you refrigerate rice milk for cooking and baking?

Refrigerated rice milk is best for cooking and baking for a few reasons:

  • It has a fresher, less spoiled taste when chilled.
  • Nutrients are retained for longer versus rice milk left out.
  • The consistency and texture is better preserved in the refrigerator.
  • Cold rice milk won’t impact baking chemistry like room temperature milk.
  • It’s safer to use refrigerated milk in raw doughs and batters.

For optimal flavor, nutrient retention and food safety, use chilled rice milk measured straight from the refrigerator when cooking and baking.

Tips for baking and cooking with rice milk

Here are some tips for incorporating rice milk into recipes:

  • Reduce oven temperature by 25°F to prevent over-browning since rice milk is sweeter.
  • Add a touch more leavening agent like baking powder to account for lower protein.
  • Use it straight from the fridge for recipes like smoothies, oatmeal, etc.
  • Factor in extra rice milk if cooking down sauces – it can curdle if overheated.
  • Start with less and add more as needed when replacing cow’s milk at a 1:1 ratio.
  • Stir gently when heating to prevent scorching on the bottom.

With a bit of experimentation, rice milk can be seamlessly used in all types of cooking and baking recipes.


Rice milk should always be refrigerated after opening to optimize its shelf life. Even unopened, shelf stable rice milk keeps longer chilled in the fridge. Refrigeration is key for preserving nutrients, preventing bacterial growth, and maintaining quality. Rice milk can be safely returned to the fridge after brief usage, as long as it’s handled properly. For cooking and baking, chilled rice milk is ideal. Follow proper storage and food handling guidelines, and rice milk can be enjoyed within 5-7 days of opening.

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