Almond milk has become a popular plant-based milk alternative for many people. It is made from ground almonds and water, often with added vitamins, minerals and sweeteners. Some of the benefits of almond milk include it being lactose-free, low in calories, naturally free of saturated fat and cholesterol, and containing vitamins and minerals like calcium, vitamin E and riboflavin.
However, there has been some confusion around whether almond milk needs to be refrigerated after opening, and if it can go bad at room temperature. In this article, we’ll take a detailed look at how long almond milk lasts once opened, whether it needs to be refrigerated, and signs that your almond milk has gone bad.
Does Opened Almond Milk Need Refrigeration?
Most brands of almond milk recommend refrigerating the carton after opening. This helps the almond milk stay fresher for longer. However, some people question whether it’s strictly necessary to store opened almond milk in the fridge.
The answer depends somewhat on the specific brand and type of almond milk you have purchased. Let’s look at some of the key factors:
- Carton vs Bottle: Almond milk in cardboard cartons is more vulnerable to spoilage than milk stored in plastic bottles. Plastic bottles provide an extra barrier against oxygen and light, which can accelerate food spoilage.
- Added Preservatives: Many almond milk brands contain preservatives like potassium sorbate to help the milk stay fresh and extend shelf life. Preservatives allow it to stay fresher outside the fridge.
- Sugar Content: Unsweetened or lightly sweetened almond milk has less added sugars, so it generally doesn’t last as long as sweetened varieties.
Overall, most manufacturers and food safety experts recommend storing almond milk in the refrigerator after opening. Refrigeration slows the growth of bacteria and extends the shelf life. For optimal freshness and food safety, keep opened almond milk containers in the fridge.
How Long Does Almond Milk Last When Opened?
If unopened, almond milk can typically last for several months past the “best by” date while stored in a cool, dry pantry. However, once opened the shelf life is reduced due to exposure to oxygen and potential contaminants from the environment or utensils.
Here are some general guidelines for how long almond milk lasts refrigerated after opening:
|Type of Almond Milk||Refrigerator (after opening)|
|Plain almond milk||7-10 days|
|Sweetened almond milk||10-14 days|
|Almond milk creamer||7-10 days|
|Flavored almond milk||7-10 days|
As you can see, the typical fridge life of opened almond milk is about 1-2 weeks. Sweetened varieties tend to last a bit longer thanks to the added sugar content. Once past the timelines above, it’s best to toss almond milk to avoid spoilage.
Does Almond Milk Go Bad at Room Temperature When Opened?
Storing opened almond milk at room temperature accelerates the spoilage process. With no refrigeration, the warmer temperatures allow bacteria and mold to grow rapidly.
Most brands of almond milk recommend using within 7-10 days after opening if kept refrigerated. At room temperature, the window before spoilage shortens to just about 2-3 days.
Within a couple days left unrefrigerated, opened almond milk may start to taste sour or spoiled. Keep it refrigerated and use within a week for safety and best quality.
Can Spoiled Almond Milk Make You Sick?
Yes, consuming almond milk that has spoiled can potentially make you sick. Here are a few risks of drinking bad almond milk:
- Foodborne Illness – Spoiled milk can allow dangerous bacteria like streptococcus, salmonella, and E. coli to grow. Consuming these organisms can cause food poisoning symptoms.
- Mold Toxins – If visible mold grows in the almond milk, it may produce mycotoxins that can cause illness.
- Gastrointestinal Upset – The bacteria and acids that are produced as milk spoils can lead to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain if ingested.
Some people report getting mild cases of food poisoning from consuming soured plant-based milks like almond milk. Babies, young children, older adults, and those with compromised immune systems face the biggest risk of illness from spoiled milk products.
How Can You Tell If Almond Milk Has Gone Bad?
Watch for these common signs that your almond milk has spoiled and should be discarded:
- Sour Smell & Taste – Fresh almond milk has a mild, nutty aroma and flavor. As it starts to turn, it gives off a distinct sour smell and taste.
- Change in Color – The color may shift from creamy white to a yellow, curdled appearance.
- Mold Growth – Look closely for fuzzy mold developing on the surface of the almond milk or on the inner walls of the carton.
- Expired Date – If it has passed the “best by” or expiration date by over a week, it may be spoiled.
- Curdling – Almond milk that has gone off may appear lumpy or curdled rather than smooth.
Trust your senses – if almond milk smells or tastes unpleasant in any way, err on the safe side and throw it out. Rancid milk is not worth the health risk.
How to Store Almond Milk After Opening
Follow these tips for storing almond milk correctly after opening to extend its shelf life:
- Refrigerate after use – Return the carton or bottle back to the fridge instead of leaving it out.
- Use within 7-10 days – For best quality and safety, use up opened almond milk within a week and a half.
- Seal the container – Close the bottle or carton tightly after each use.
- Check “best by” date – Don’t use past the recommended date.
- Store on interior fridge shelf – Position away from the door to avoid temperature fluctuations.
- Don’t return unused milk – Don’t pour unused milk back into the container, as it can introduce bacteria.
- Keep away from kids – Store almond milk on a higher shelf away from young children.
Be diligent about proper storage and consumption timelines to get the most out of your almond milk without it going bad prematurely.
What to Do With Almond Milk That Has Gone Bad?
If you determine your almond milk has already spoiled, it’s important to properly discard it. Here are some safe ways to get rid of soured almond milk:
- Pour it down the sink drain – Run plenty of water while pouring to prevent build up.
- Place in the trash – Seal the carton in a plastic bag first to contain the smell.
- Bury it – Dig a hole away from gardens and bury the sealed carton in the ground.
- Compost it – Add smaller amounts to a regular compost pile, not vermicompost.
Avoid pouring large volumes of spoiled milk directly into your yard or garden beds, as the uncontrolled bacterial growth can be harmful for plants. Discarding small amounts down the drain or in curbside trash is typically the easiest and most sanitary option.
Almond milk does require refrigeration after opening, even though it may remain safely on shelves when sealed. Leaving opened containers out at room temperature allows bacteria and mold to multiply quickly in the nut milk, causing spoilage and potential foodborne illness.
For optimum freshness and health safety, store opened almond milk cartons in the refrigerator and use within 7-10 days. Discard almond milk that smells or tastes sour, changes consistency or color, grows mold, or is past the expiration date. Follow proper refrigerator storage and food handling practices, and enjoy your almond milk before it goes bad!