Does oat milk actually go bad?

Oat milk has become an increasingly popular plant-based milk alternative in recent years. Made from soaked oats and water, it has a creamy, mild flavor that makes it perfect for drinking, baking, and adding to coffee and cereal. But there’s still a lot of confusion around how long oat milk actually lasts before going bad. Here’s what you need to know about storing and preserving oat milk to get the longest shelf life possible.

How Long Does Oat Milk Last When Unopened?

An unopened carton of oat milk will typically last 5-10 days past the “best by” date printed on the package. The actual shelf life depends on factors like the type of packaging, where it’s stored, and the quality of the oats and production process. Higher quality oat milks made with fewer preservatives tend to have shorter shelf lives. Once opened, the clock starts ticking more quickly.

Maximizing Freshness of Opened Oat Milk

Once you break the seal and open that carton, oat milk has a shorter shelf life. Here are some tips for keeping it fresher longer:

  • Keep it cold – Store opened oat milk in the refrigerator, not the door. The colder temperature slows spoilage.
  • Reseal it – Screw the cap back on tightly after each use.
  • Check for sour smell or texture – Give it a sniff and visual inspection periodically.
  • Don’t contaminate – Use a clean spoon each time and don’t let backwash from glasses enter.
  • Keep air out – You can pour unused milk into a smaller reusable container to reduce air exposure.

How Long Does Opened Oat Milk Last in the Fridge?

With proper storage methods, opened oat milk can last:

  • In a Carton – 5-7 days past printed date
  • Poured into an Airtight Container – 7-10 days past date

So if the carton says to use by August 1st, expect it to remain fresh for up to a week after opening when stored correctly. But don’t let it linger too long. Oat milk does eventually spoil.

Signs Your Oat Milk Has Gone Bad

Here are some common signs that your opened oat milk has spoiled and should be discarded:

  • Sour smell – Bad oat milk gives off a sour, funky odor instead of its typical mild, cereal-like aroma.
  • Change in color – It may turn a bit gray or yellow instead of creamy white.
  • Chunky texture – You’ll notice clumps or globs instead of a smooth liquid.
  • Mold – May have fuzzy spots or film floating on the surface.

If you notice any of these changes in your oat milk, it’s time to say goodbye and get a fresh carton or container.

Does Oat Milk Need to be Refrigerated?

Always refrigerate oat milk after opening. The colder temperature keeps spoilage at bay. Leaving it out on the counter accelerates the growth of bacteria and shortens its shelf life significantly.

Many oat milk brands also recommend refrigerating unopened cartons, especially if not shelf-stable. But an unopened, shelf-stable carton can safely be stored in the pantry. Just make sure to check the label for any refrigeration guidelines.

Can You Freeze Oat Milk?

Freezing is a great way to drastically extend the shelf life of oat milk and prevent waste. Here’s how to freeze it properly:

  1. Check label first – Some oat milks don’t freeze well due to separating.
  2. Freeze in airtight containers or bags after opening.
  3. Leave 1/2 inch of headspace for expansion.
  4. Avoid temperature fluctuations – Use the back of the freezer.
  5. Thaw overnight in fridge before using.

With minimal separation, frozen oat milk should retain its texture and flavor for up to 3-4 months. Give it a good shake once thawed.

Can Oat Milk Be Used After the Expiration Date?

It’s not recommended to use oat milk after the printed expiration or “use by” date, even if it’s been stored in the fridge or freezer. The quality and safety begin deteriorating after that timeframe. Consuming spoiled milk can lead to unpleasant digestive upset.

If it’s just a day or two past the date and the milk still smells and looks normal, then using it up quickly is probably fine. But relying on your senses alone isn’t completely reliable. Play it safe and don’t go too far past expiration, especially if serving to kids or pregnant women who are more susceptible to illness from spoiled drinks.

Tips for Using Up Oat Milk

To help avoid wasting that last bit of oat milk in the carton, here are some delicious ways to use it up:

  • Add to smoothies
  • Make oatmeal or overnight oats
  • Whisk into pancake or waffle batter
  • Stir into coffee drinks
  • Use in place of milk for mac and cheese
  • Make chia pudding
  • Blend into soups
  • Drizzle over granola and fruit

The Shelf Life of Other Non-Dairy Milks

Here’s how the refrigerated shelf life of oat milk after opening compares to other popular plant-based milk alternatives:

Non-Dairy Milk Fridge Life After Opening
Almond Milk 7-10 days
Soy Milk 5-7 days
Rice Milk 5-7 days
Coconut Milk 5-7 days
Hemp Milk 10-14 days

Hemp and oat milk tend to last a bit longer than other alt-milks due to their natural fat content. But no matter the source, proper refrigeration after opening is key to maximizing freshness.

The Takeaway on Oat Milk Shelf Life

Understanding how long oat milk stays fresh can help prevent wasting an almost-empty carton or drinking one that’s spoiled. With unopened oat milk, pay attention to the “best by” date and store it according to the label. Once opened, keep it refrigerated and use within 5-7 days for cartons or 7-10 days for reusable containers.

Check for signs of spoilage like off-smells, texture changes, or mold. And consider freezing excess oat milk if you won’t use it in time. Following these simple guidelines will keep your oat milk fresher longer so you can enjoy its creamy goodness without worry.

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