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How long does refrigerated almond milk last after expiration date?

Almond milk has become a popular plant-based milk alternative for many people. But like other perishable foods, it does eventually spoil and expire. The expiration date printed on the carton is meant to indicate the last date by which the manufacturer recommends using the almond milk for peak quality and flavor. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be thrown out immediately after that date.

Refrigerating almond milk after opening can extend its shelf life for several days past the printed date. But how long exactly does it last? Here is a detailed guide to how long refrigerated almond milk lasts after the expiration date, how to tell if it has gone bad, and how to store it to maximize freshness.

Factors That Affect How Long Almond Milk Lasts

Several key factors determine how long refrigerated almond milk will stay fresh and edible after its expiration date:

  • Container type – Cartons keep almond milk fresher than plastic bottles due to less air exposure.
  • Fat content – Reduced fat and fat-free varieties spoil faster than full fat.
  • Ingredients – Added stabilizers help extend shelf life.
  • Storage temperature – Colder fridge temperatures prolong freshness.
  • Opening and handling – Double-check cap is sealed and limit exposure to air/bacteria.
  • Age – Fresher milk lasts longer than milk close to its expiration date.

Being aware of these factors allows you to better assess just how long your almond milk will stay good after opening. Next, we’ll look at some general timelines for refrigeration.

Refrigerated Almond Milk Expiration Timeline

Here is a general guideline for how long different types of almond milk tend to last when properly stored in the refrigerator after their printed expiration date:

Almond Milk Type Time After Expiration Date
Unopened shelf-stable carton 7-10 days
Opened refrigerated carton 7-10 days
Opened refrigerated plastic bottle 3-5 days

As you can see, unopened shelf-stable varieties that are refrigerated after reaching their “best by” date typically last about a week longer. Once opened, cartons keep better than plastic bottles. And proper refrigeration is key – any time left at room temperature reduces the freshness.

How To Tell If Refrigerated Almond Milk Has Gone Bad

Because the signs of spoiled almond milk can be subtle, it’s important to know what to look for. Watch for these signs that indicate your refrigerated almond milk has gone bad and should be discarded:

  • Sour odor – Fresh almond milk smells faintly nutty. If it smells sour or unpleasant, it’s gone bad.
  • Chunky texture – Almond milk should be smooth. Chunks, clumps or curdling indicate spoilage.
  • Mold – Check the package carefully for fuzzy mold spots, which means it’s spoiled.
  • Off flavors – Spoiled milk tastes sour or bitter instead of creamy and mildly sweet.
  • Expired date – If it’s more than 1-2 weeks past the printed expiration, toss it.

If your almond milk shows any of those signs, it’s best to discard it. Consuming spoiled milk can cause unpleasant digestive upset in some cases. Don’t take risks with your health – when in doubt, throw it out.

How To Store Almond Milk For Maximum Freshness

To get the most shelf life out of your refrigerated almond milk after opening, be sure to store it properly. Here are some tips for keeping almond milk fresh for as long as possible:

  • Keep refrigerated – Don’t leave almond milk out at room temperature longer than 2 hours.
  • Seal the container – Securely close the cap or lid to prevent air exposure.
  • Use clean utensils – When pouring, don’t let dirty spoons touch the milk.
  • Keep away from funky fridges – Store milk far from any older, spoiled foods.
  • Don’t return leftovers – Milk that sits out should be discarded, not refrigerated again.

Following those basic storage guidelines will help ensure your almond milk lasts as long as possible and resist spoiling after its expiration date. Always refrigerate promptly after use and check for any signs of spoilage before consuming.

Does Spoiled Almond Milk Always Taste Bad?

It’s a common misconception that spoiled milk will taste sour or unpleasant. While off-flavors are a definite sign of spoilage, almond milk doesn’t always taste bad when it goes bad. Sometimes it can grow harmful bacteria without any noticeable odd flavors. Don’t rely on taste or smell alone – if it’s passed the expiration date, err on the side of caution and discard any questionable milk.

Can Expired Almond Milk Make You Sick?

Consuming almond milk that’s expired or spoiled comes with some risk of foodborne illness. Some pathogens and toxins that can grow in bad milk include:

  • Salmonella – Causes vomiting, fever, diarrhea.
  • E. coli – Stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea.
  • Listeria – Fever, muscle aches, nausea.
  • Staphylococcal toxins – Vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain.

Symptoms usually start within hours or days of consuming contaminated milk. While rare, food poisoning from spoiled dairy is still possible. So if your almond milk shows any odd signs, don’t take chances – throw it away and get a fresh carton or bottle instead.

Can You Freeze Almond Milk After The Expiration Date?

Freezing is not recommended for storing almond milk past its printed expiration date. The texture and consistency tends to break down during freezing and thawing. However, if your unopened milk is still several weeks away from its “best by” date, you can safely freeze it for up to 3 months and then refrigerate and use after thawing.

How To Use Up Almond Milk Before It Expires

To avoid wasting money and food, use up refrigerated almond milk within 5-7 days of opening. Here are some easy ways to use it up while it’s still fresh:

  • Pour over cereal, oatmeal or granola
  • Blend into smoothies
  • Mix into coffee, tea, hot cocoa
  • Use in pancake batter
  • Make chia pudding
  • Stir into soups or curries
  • Drink plain chilled

Buying smaller containers and using multiple smaller servings can also help minimize waste. With some creativity and planning, you can enjoy every last drop before it expires.

Conclusion

Almond milk can usually last 5-10 days past its printed expiration date if properly refrigerated, especially unopened cartons. However, once opened, it has a shorter shelf life of just 3-7 days in the fridge. Store almond milk sealed at cold fridge temperatures and discard if it smells odd, curdles, or shows any mold. While not guaranteed to make you sick, consuming expired or spoiled milk does come with some risk of foodborne illness. So always err on the side of caution – if in doubt about the safety of older almond milk, it’s best not to drink it. With smart storage and consumption habits, you can enjoy the convenience and nutrition of almond milk while also minimizing food waste.