Does closed oat milk need to be refrigerated?

With the rising popularity of plant-based milks, oat milk has become a favorite for many. Its creamy texture makes it a great option for coffee drinks, smoothies, and more. But there seems to be some confusion around proper storage – does unopened oat milk really need to be refrigerated?

The shelf life of oat milk

First, let’s look at how long oat milk lasts before opening. Oat milk is made by blending oats with water, then straining out the oat pulp. This leaves you with a milk-like liquid that contains the natural oils and nutrients from oats.

The shelf life of unopened oat milk depends on a few factors:

  • Type of oat milk – shelf stable vs refrigerated. Shelf stable oat milk has been processed for longer shelf life.
  • Package date – a more recently packaged product will last longer.
  • Ingredients – oat milks with more preservatives tend to last longer.
  • Storage conditions – cooler room temperatures prolong shelf life.

Under optimal conditions, oat milk can last the following times before opening:

Oat Milk Type Shelf Life Unopened
Refrigerated oat milk 7-10 days
Shelf stable oat milk 4-8 months

As you can see, shelf stable oat milk keeps for a much longer duration. Refrigerated oat milk has a shorter shelf life of just over a week.

Does unopened oat milk need refrigeration?

With the shelf lives above in mind, do you need to keep unopened oat milk in the fridge?

Refrigerated oat milk – Yes, this always needs refrigeration, even when unopened. Leaving this type of oat milk out at room temperature for too long before opening can cause it to prematurely spoil.

Shelf stable oat milk – No, this type does not require refrigeration before opening. It can safely be stored in your pantry until you are ready to start using it. The packaging and processing gives it a long shelf life outside of the fridge.

Some key tips for storing unopened shelf stable oat milk:

  • Check the “best by” date and use within that timeframe.
  • Store in a cool, dry spot under 77°F for best quality.
  • Avoid freezing and thawing, which can cause separation.
  • Keep the container upright and tightly closed.

Following these storage guidelines will help your oat milk stay fresh until you open it. Then, it’s time to move it to the fridge…

Does opened oat milk need refrigeration?

Once you break the seal and open that carton or bottle, the rules change. Here’s what to know about storing opened oat milk:

Both refrigerated and shelf stable oat milk – Yes, all opened oat milk needs prompt refrigeration after opening. Exposure to air and microbes greatly reduces the shelf life. Keep opened oat milk stored in the fridge at all times.

How long does opened oat milk last in the fridge?

Oat Milk Type Refrigerator Life After Opening
Refrigerated oat milk 5-7 days
Shelf stable oat milk 7-10 days

For best quality, use opened oat milk within a week. Mark the date you opened it and toss when it hits the one week mark.

Signs oat milk has gone bad

Watch for these signs your oat milk has spoiled and needs to be discarded:

  • Change in color – Fresh oat milk is creamy white. Yellowing, browning, or graying usually means it’s gone bad.
  • Clumpy texture – Curdling, thickening, separation, or gelatinous globs are signs oat milk has soured.
  • Off smells – Rancid, sour, or fermented odors indicate spoilage.
  • Off tastes – Blech! Sour or bitter flavors mean oat milk is past its prime.
  • Mold – Any fuzzy spots, webbing, or cloudiness signals mold growth.

When in doubt, remember the old adage – if it smells bad, looks bad, or tastes bad, throw it out! Don’t risk getting sick by consuming spoiled oat milk.

The bottom line

To recap, here are the key rules for oat milk refrigeration:

  • Unopened shelf stable oat milk – Store in a cool, dry pantry. No refrigeration needed until opening.
  • Unopened refrigerated oat milk – Requires refrigeration at all times, even when unopened.
  • All opened oat milk – Refrigerate immediately after opening and use within 5-10 days.

Following these refrigeration guidelines will keep your oat milk fresh and safe to drink. Be sure to always check expiry dates, and discard any oat milk that shows signs of spoilage. With proper storage, you can enjoy the creamy goodness of oat milk while minimizing food waste!

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