Orange juice is a popular beverage that many people enjoy drinking, especially at breakfast time. It provides a tasty way to get your daily dose of vitamin C and other nutrients found in oranges. But what happens if you accidentally leave a carton of orange juice out on the counter overnight or want to bring some along on a road trip without a cooler? Will it still be safe to drink afterward? Here’s a comprehensive look at how long orange juice lasts unrefrigerated, how to tell if it has gone bad, and how to keep it fresh longer.
How Long Does Unrefrigerated OJ Last?
The shelf life of orange juice depends on a variety of factors including the type of orange juice (freshly squeezed, from concentrate, etc.), how it has been processed and packaged, and whether it has any preservatives added. Here are some general guidelines for how long orange juice lasts out of the fridge:
Sealed Carton Orange Juice
- Fresh squeezed orange juice – lasts 1-2 days
- Not from concentrate – 5-7 days
- From concentrate – 7-10 days
Cartons you buy off the shelf at the grocery store have usually been pasteurized or ultra-pasteurized to help extend their shelf life. The heating process deactivates enzymes and kills microbes that can cause spoilage. Not from concentrate and reconstituted OJ have a shorter shelf life than concentrated orange juice once opened.
- Fresh squeezed – 4-6 hours
- Store bought – 1-2 days
An opened carton or bottle of orange juice will spoil faster than unopened due to exposure to microbes, light, and air. For maximum freshness, store opened orange juice in the refrigerator and aim to use within a couple days.
- Unopened – 1 year in freezer
- After reconstituting – 3-5 days in fridge
Frozen orange juice concentrate that is continuously frozen can keep for up to a year in the freezer before quality starts to degrade. Once reconstituted into liquid form, it should be stored in the fridge and used within 3-5 days.
Signs Orange Juice Has Gone Bad
Orange juice, like any perishable food, can spoil and become unsafe to drink if left unrefrigerated too long. Here are some signs that indicate your OJ has gone bad:
- Cloudiness – Freshly squeezed OJ will have a cloudy appearance due to pulp and oil droplets. Over time separation can occur with clear liquid at top and opaque sediment at bottom. If it becomes foamy, frothy, or effervescent, it’s fermenting.
- Mold – Mold growth may appear fuzzy or slimy and can be white, green, or black.
- Discoloration – Orange juice will naturally darken over time. A grayish brown hue means it’s oxidized and spoiled.
- Thickness/viscosity – Bad orange juice may become slimy or stringy as pectin breaks down.
- Chunkiness – Extended storage can break down pulp causing limp, mushy sediment.
- Fermented, yeasty aroma
- Rotten, unpleasant citrusy odor
- Vinegar-like smell indicates acetic acid bacteria growth
- Bitter, sour, or acidic flavor
- Effervescent, carbonated taste from fermentation
- Stale, dull, musty taste
Trust your senses – if your OJ looks, smells or tastes off, it’s best to discard it.
How to Extend Unrefrigerated OJ’s Shelf Life
If you’d like to keep orange juice at room temperature a little longer without it going bad, here are some tips:
Buy Concentrated OJ
Concentrated orange juice lasts significantly longer unrefrigerated compared to not from concentrate or fresh squeezed OJ. The removal of excess water inhibits microbial growth and slows deterioration.
Store your orange juice in the freezer until ready to use. Frozen OJ that is thawed in the fridge retains its quality and nutrition better than leaving it at room temperature.
Add Citric Acid
Mixing in a small amount of citric acid or lemon juice can help prevent growth of bacteria and fungi, extending the shelf life by a few days.
Store in Air-Tight Container
Minimizing exposure to oxygen through proper storage in an airtight container will help prevent oxidization and staling.
Keep Out of Sunlight
UV exposure accelerates the degradation of nutrients in orange juice. Keep it covered in a dark pantry or cupboard.
Can You Drink Spoiled Orange Juice?
It’s generally not recommended to consume orange juice past its prime as it can cause unpleasant symptoms or foodborne illness. Here’s what can happen if you drink bad OJ:
Mold growth, salmonella from improper handling, and bacterial buildup like E. coli or staphylococcus are possible in spoiled orange juice and can lead to food poisoning symptoms – nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, chills, headaches.
Over time, light exposure degrades vitamin C levels in orange juice. Drinking stale, oxidized OJ means you lose out on its nutritional benefits.
Unpleasant bitter taste from deterioration of limonoids, stale dull flavor from oxidation, and carbonation or vinegar notes from fermentation make drinking old orange juice unpalatable.
Mold growth produces mycotoxins that can trigger allergic reactions in some people sensitive or allergic to mold.
If your orange juice shows signs of spoilage, the safest option is to discard it. The potential risks outweigh any small benefits.
How Long Can Orange Juice be Left at Room Temperature?
|Orange Juice Type||Unopened Shelf Life at Room Temperature||Opened Shelf Life at Room Temperature|
|Fresh Squeezed||1-2 days||4-6 hours|
|Store Bought (Not From Concentrate)||5-7 days||1-2 days|
|Store Bought (From Concentrate)||7-10 days||1-2 days|
|Frozen Concentrate After Reconstituting||N/A||3-5 days|
Does Orange Juice Need to be Refrigerated?
Although orange juice can be kept at room temperature for a limited time before spoiling, refrigeration is the best way to preserve its freshness and prevent foodborne pathogens from growing. The cold temperatures of refrigeration help slow the activity of spoilage microorganisms and enzyme reactions that cause juice to deteriorate. For food safety and quality, it’s recommended to refrigerate orange juice after opening.
Tips for Refrigerating Orange Juice
- Keep refrigerated at 40°F or below
- Store in airtight containers to limit air exposure
- Don’t keep too long – consume within 3-5 days of opening
- Check for signs of spoilage before drinking
- Discard if mold is present
Properly stored in the refrigerator, orange juice can retain good flavor quality and nutrition for about a week after opening.
The Bottom Line
So does OJ go bad if not refrigerated? Yes, orange juice left out at room temperature for too long will eventually spoil. Unrefrigerated, the shelf life of orange juice ranges from 1-2 days for fresh squeezed up to 7-10 days for store bought concentrates. For food safety and best quality, orange juice not from concentrate or reconstituted from frozen should be kept refrigerated and consumed within a few days of opening. Check for signs of spoilage like off-colors, smells, textures, before drinking orange juice that has been left out.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why does OJ need to be refrigerated after opening?
Refrigerating opened orange juice helps inhibit microbial growth and slows down chemical deteriorative reactions. The cool temperatures keep it fresher longer by preserving flavor, color, and vitamin content.
Can I freeze OJ to make it last longer?
Yes, orange juice can be frozen to extend its shelf life, preferably in an airtight container. It may separate slightly or become cloudy but is still safe to consume when thawed in the refrigerator.
Is it safe to drink orange juice after it separates?
Separation alone doesn’t necessarily mean orange juice is bad. Give it a shake or stir to remix and check for other signs of spoilage like an off smell or taste. As long as it hasn’t developed a funky flavor, it should be fine to drink.
Why does my orange juice taste bitter and unpleasant?
A bitter, unpleasant taste is generally a sign your orange juice has spoiled. Chemical changes over time degrade limonoids and vitamin C, leading to a bitter taste. If it tastes off, it’s best not to drink it.
How long can reconstituted frozen orange juice last unrefrigerated?
Once reconstituted into liquid form, frozen orange juice concentrate should be stored in the fridge and used within 3-5 days for best quality. Leaving reconstituted OJ out at room temperature for longer than 1-2 days risks spoilage.