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Do you have to refrigerate oat milk?

Oat milk has become an increasingly popular plant-based milk alternative in recent years. With its creamy texture and natural sweetness, oat milk is delicious in coffee, smoothies, cereal and more. But there seems to be some confusion around whether or not oat milk needs to be refrigerated. Let’s take a closer look at how to store oat milk to maintain safety and quality.

Does oat milk need to be refrigerated?

The short answer is yes, oat milk does need to be stored in the refrigerator after opening. Like dairy milk, oat milk is perishable and can spoil if left unrefrigerated. Most brands of oat milk recommend storing open oat milk cartons in the refrigerator for 5-10 days.

Unopened, shelf-stable oat milk cartons can be stored in the pantry. But once opened, oat milk should always be refrigerated. The fridge preserves freshness and prevents bacterial growth.

Why refrigerate after opening?

There are a few reasons why it’s important to refrigerate oat milk after opening:

  • Prevents spoilage – Refrigeration slows the growth of bacteria, yeasts and molds that can cause oat milk to spoil.
  • Maintains flavor – Cool temperatures keep oat milk tasting fresh. Warm oat milk quickly develops an unpleasant, sour taste.
  • Retains nutrients – Heat and light degrade some nutrients like vitamins over time. Refrigeration helps retain nutritional value.
  • Avoids food safety risks – Bacteria spreads rapidly in perishable foods left out at room temperature. Refrigerating oat milk reduces the chance of foodborne illness.

How long does opened oat milk last in the fridge?

Once opened, oat milk will generally stay fresh in the refrigerator for 5-10 days. The exact shelf life depends on the type and brand.

Oat Milk Type Refrigerator Life After Opening
Shelf-stable, aseptic cartons 7-10 days
Refrigerated cartons 5-7 days
DIY homemade oat milk 3-5 days

Aseptic shelf-stable oat milk lasts a little longer than refrigerated cartons since the packaging undergoes a higher heat treatment. Refrigerating homemade oat milk is especially important since it lacks preservatives.

How to tell if opened oat milk has spoiled

Here are some signs that opened oat milk has gone bad and should be discarded:

  • Change in smell or taste – Soured, sour, or bitter smell and taste indicates spoilage.
  • Discoloration – Milk turns from white to yellow or orange.
  • Mold – Visible fuzzy mold developing in the oat milk.
  • Curdling – Thick clumps or curds forming in the liquid.
  • Gas bubbles – Bubbles or foam forming inside the carton.

If your oat milk exhibits any of these signs, it’s best to throw it out. Consuming spoiled milk can cause unpleasant symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Does oat milk need to be shaken before using?

Shaking oat milk containers before pouring is always a good idea. The natural separation of the liquid and solids means oat milk needs a quick shake to recombine before use.

Shaking homogenizes the beverage for a creamy, uniform consistency and fully incorporated flavor. If oat milk sits for a while, the oat extract can settle at the bottom of the carton. Give it a shake for 10-15 seconds before drinking or adding to your food or coffee.

Can you freeze oat milk?

Yes, freezing is an excellent way to extend the shelf life of oat milk and reduce food waste. Here are some freezing tips for oat milk:

  • Check “best by” date and only freeze unopened, non-expired oat milk.
  • Leave 2-3 inches at the top of cartons or containers as oat milk will expand when frozen.
  • Freeze for up to 3-4 months for best quality.
  • Thaw in the refrigerator before using.
  • Use thawed oat milk within 1 week.
  • Avoid repeated freeze-thaw cycles.
  • Shake vigorously after thawing as separation can occur.

Freezing can impact texture, causing oat milk to become thinner after thawing. But the taste remains unchanged.

Can you microwave oat milk?

Microwaving is not recommended for oat milk. The high heat of microwave ovens can cause oat milk to curdle, bubble up, and take on a boiled taste. It’s best to heat oat milk gently on the stovetop or use it cold.

If you do opt to microwave oat milk, heat it at 50% power in short 15-20 second intervals. Stir well between each interval to evenly distribute heat. Avoid boiling.

How long does unopened shelf-stable oat milk last?

Unopened, shelf-stable oat milk has an impressive shelf life. Keep unopened oat milk cartons stored in a cool, dry pantry away from direct sunlight. Here are the typical shelf lives:

Type of Oat Milk Shelf Life Unopened
Aseptic shelf-stable carton 5-12 months
Refrigerated oat milk 3-4 weeks
Homemade oat milk 3-5 days

Always check the “best by” or expiration date on the package and use within that time frame for optimal freshness and flavor.

Does oat milk need calcium added?

Oat milk is naturally lower in calcium than cow’s milk. Many brands now add supplemental calcium to help improve the nutritional value of oat milk. Added calcium levels typically range from 120mg to 500mg per serving.

If you opt for oat milk without added calcium, you may need to get extra calcium from other food sources like fortified plant milks, canned fish with bones, yogurt, leafy greens, etc. This is especially important for growing children and adolescents.

Adults should aim for around 1000mg of calcium daily. Check the nutrition label and select fortified brands or take a calcium supplement if needed to meet your daily requirements.

The bottom line

Always store opened oat milk cartons in the refrigerator and use within 5-10 days for food safety and the best quality. Keep unopened oat milk in a cool, dry pantry and refrigerate after opening. With proper storage, oat milk can retain its delicious creamy taste and nutritional content.

Check for signs of spoilage before consuming like smell, taste, texture, and appearance changes. Freeze for long term storage or shake well before use. Follow these simple oat milk storage tips and enjoy all of its wonderful benefits while keeping your food fresh.