Ultimate Guide To Almond Milk: Does It Go Bad?

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As more and more people turn towards a plant-based lifestyle, almond milk is quickly becoming a popular non-dairy, cow’s milk alternative.

Once exclusive to health food stores and organic farm shops, almond milk is now pretty easy to find in almost every grocery store and supermarket in the country. 

One of the reasons almond milk is so popular is that it’s relatively inexpensive when compared to other non-dairy milk alternatives. Factor in its delicious flavor and its long shelf-life, and it’s easy to see why it is the go-to milk substitute for many people, vegan or not. 

But just how long does almond milk last? And does it go bad at all? If you’ve brought home a particularly large bottle and you’re wondering how you’re going to get through it all, these are questions that you might be asking yourself. 

To help answer these questions, we’ve put together this ultimate guide to almond milk. We’ll take a look at whether or not it goes bad, how to store it properly, as well as anything else you’ve ever wanted to know about almond milk. 

Does Almond Milk Go Bad?

To put it simply, yes, almond milk does go bad. Especially if it’s not stored properly. However, there are some shelf-stable almond milk brands that will last a super long time if stored in the right conditions. 

Below, we’ll take a look at the difference between shelf-stable and refrigerated almond milk. This will help you determine which you have and, ultimately, how long you’ll be able to store it for safely. 

Shelf Stable VS. Refrigerated Almond Milk

With so many almond milk brands to choose from, it can be difficult to tell whether the one you’ve chosen is shelf-stable or needs to be refrigerated. The indicating factor lies with the packaging.

If your almond milk isn’t in shelf-stable, aseptic packaging then it will need to be kept refrigerated at all times to stop it from spoiling. It also won’t have anywhere near the same lengthy lifespan as a bottle of unopened, shelf-stable almond milk.

One easy way to tell the difference between the two is to think about where it was stored in the supermarket. If you grabbed your almond milk from a refrigerator, then it will need to be refrigerated at home.

If it came from an unrefrigerated section at room temperature, it’s likely shelf-stable and can be stored this way at home until opened. 

Does Almond Milk Have To Be Refrigerated?

Even if you’ve got shelf-stable almond milk, it’s essential that you refrigerate it as soon as it’s open. This doesn’t mean that you need to store it straight in your refrigerator from the grocery store, though.

If it’s shelf-stable and you don’t intend on using it for a while, it can remain stored at room temperature. 

To reiterate, the keyword here is “open”. Whether it’s shelf-stable or not, as soon as you’ve opened your carton of almond milk it needs to be kept in the refrigerator. 

If you make your own almond milk at home, this will also need to be refrigerated as soon as possible. This prevents bacterial contamination. 

Why Is Some Almond Milk Not Refrigerated?

The reason some almond milk doesn’t need to be refrigerated is because it is stored in shelf-stable packaging. This is made from specially designed, aseptic materials that extend the shelf life of food, even when stored at room temperature.

This isn’t exclusive to almond milk though, and shelf-stable packaging also includes canned goods that have been heat-treated to prevent any harmful pathogens from coming into contact with the food. 

Aseptic packaging is usually lined with aluminum foil, and this protects the contents from light and oxygen, both of which can cause bacterial growth. By lining the packaging with aluminum foil, the need for refrigeration or added preservatives is taken away. 

Now, you might be wondering what keeps the food separated from the aluminum foil itself. A layer of FDA-approved, food-safe polyethylene plastic is layered on top of the aluminum foil and this stops any of the metal from leaching into the food.

It also ensures that the food is securely stored inside the packaging, so there are no messy leaks. More importantly, it also means that nothing can get in. 

Once the shelf-stable packaging is filled with food (in this case, almond milk), it is sealed in a sterile environment. This stops any microorganisms from entering the packaging and, as such, ensures that there isn’t any bacterial growth forming inside the container.

The result is a self-contained, completely sterile container that doesn’t have to be stored in a refrigerator until it’s been opened.

Once the seal has been broken, however, all of these preventative measures have been compromised and you need to refrigerate the almond milk to preserve it. 

How Do You Store Almond Milk?

If the almond milk you have purchased was taken from the refrigerator section of your grocery store, or if you’ve made your own homemade almond milk, you’ll need to store it in your refrigerator. 

One thing that you need to avoid doing when refrigerating almond milk, however, is placing it in the door. This area of your refrigerator experiences the most temperature fluctuations and exposure to outside air.

The ideal place to store your almond milk is towards the back of your refrigerator on one of the internal shelves. 

If you can decant your almond milk into a separate airtight container, this is even better as you’ll be able to prevent any bacteria lurking in your refrigerator from entering your milk.

It will also stop the milk from going stale and prevent it from picking up any other flavors coming from the other ingredients in your fridge, such as onions or garlic. 

If you have purchased shelf-stable almond milk from a room-temperature aisle in your grocery store, it can be stored in similar conditions in your home until you open it.

Make sure it is out of contact with direct sunlight though, as the fluctuating temperatures building up inside the container can affect the flavor and quality of the almond milk. 

A kitchen cabinet away from the oven would be an ideal place to store almond milk in shelf-stable packaging. And, once again, as soon as you open it you’ll need to start storing it in the back of your refrigerator.

How Long Does Almond Milk Last?

The shelf-life of your almond milk will ultimately depend on two things; the type of almond milk you’ve purchased and how you’re storing it. 

As we’ve discussed above, shelf-stable almond milk has a much longer shelf life than refrigerated almond milk. In some cases, a carton on shelf-stable almond milk might last for several months unopened. Conversely, refrigerated almond milk may only last for a week or two. 

The best way of finding out how long your almond milk will last is by looking at the information given on the packaging. All commercially produced almond milk will have both a “use by” and a “best before” date. This gives you an approximate idea of how long your almond milk will last before its quality starts deteriorating. 

These dates don’t necessarily mean that the almond milk has gone bad. Instead, it may be an indicator that the flavor and texture will be less appealing. It may also have developed a strong, unpleasant aroma. 

Of course, homemade almond milk won’t have any “use by” or “best before” dates, nor will it have undergone the same packaging process as commercially produced almond milk. In this case, it’s best to assume that homemade almond milk will only last for 3-4 days in the refrigerator at most. 

To make things a little easier when it comes to working out how long your almond milk will last, take a look at the chart below:

  Pantry Fridge
Shelf-Stable (Unopened) 2-4 weeks past “use by” date. After this, the quality of the almond milk will begin to degrade Unnecessary
Shelf-Stable (Opened) Unsafe 7 – 10 days
Refrigerated Unsafe 2 – 7 days
Homemade Unsafe 3 – 4 days

How Do You Tell If Almond Milk Has Gone Bad?

If you’ve lost track of time and you’re quite sure how long you’ve been storing your almond milk, there are a few telltale signs that will show you whether or not your almond milk has gone bad. 

The first thing to look out for is if the packaging has puffed-up, expanded slightly, or looks bloated. This happens when the milk starts to ferment, which spoils both the texture and flavor.

Bloating will only be visible in cardboard or plastic packaging though, so if you’ve made your own homemade almond milk or you’ve decanted it into a separate container, you’ll need to look out for some of the below clues. 

When it’s at its best, almond milk should smell a little nutty and sweet. If it has a sour or tart odor, the fermentation process is likely to have started. This is another indicator that it’s started to go bad. 

Another thing to look for is the appearance of the almond milk. If it’s looking lumpy or coagulated, it could be on the turn. However, this isn’t a 100% sure sign of almond milk going bad.

If it still smells good and the packaging hasn’t started to bloat, give the container a good shake. It may be that the milk just started to separate, and it will still be fine to use. 

If you’re still unsure, the final way of checking if your almond milk has gone bad is to taste it. Take a very small sip. If it still starts like it usually does, then you’re good to use it. If it has gone bad, you’ll know straight away as it will have a sour taste. 

Does Almond Milk Go Bad If Unopened?

Once again, we need to look at the packaging that your almond milk is being contained in.

If you picked up a container of almond milk from your grocery store’s refrigerator section, then it won’t be shelf-stable and, as such, it will go bad within a few weeks, even if it hasn’t been opened. This is especially true if it hasn’t been refrigerated properly, either. 

If you have bought almond milk from a room temperature aisle, it will be in shelf-stable packaging and this means it will have a very long shelf life. In fact, it may be safe to store for a couple of years before it really starts to deteriorate. 

According to the USDA, foods that are contained in shelf-stable packaging are safe to consume after both their “use by” and “best before” date. Although, the quality of the taste and flavor may start to deteriorate the longer they are stored. 

Does Almond Milk Curdle?

Almond milk can curdle, although this is most likely to happen when fresh almond milk is heated too quickly or combined with an acidic ingredient, such as lemon or vinegar. Almond milk may also curdle when added to tea or coffee, especially if they are very hot. 

If your almond milk looks lumpy inside its container, or when you’ve decanted it as a single ingredient, there’s a chance that it has gone bad. To be certain, give the container a good shake. If it still looks curdled, then it’s best to assume that it’s no longer safe to consume. 

Does Almond Milk Go Bad If Left Out?

If an open carton of almond milk, whether refrigerated or shelf-safe, has been left out for an extended period of time it will go bad.

It won’t take long for bacteria and other microorganisms to get into your milk and, when they do, the fermentation process will start. This is what causes your almond milk to go bad.

It’s worth noting that some almond milk is fermented on purpose to make kefir.

However, this is done in a controlled environment and any almond milk that has started fermenting simply by left out should be thrown away. This is because you don’t know what bacteria has gotten into it to start it fermenting. 

Does Almond Milk Go Bad In Heat?

As with leaving almond milk out, it will also start to go bad if it’s left in a warm environment.

It can, however,  be heated from fresh straight out of the refrigerator without going bad. You can also add it to hot beverages without it going bad, although the heat of the water may cause it to curdle. 

It’s also very easy to accidentally burn almond milk. But, if you heat it slowly and patiently over a low heat, the chances of it burning or curdling will be greatly reduced. 

What Does It Mean If There Are Black Specks In Almond Milk?

If you’ve noticed black specks in your almond milk, you should throw it away. Finding black specks in any type of milk is never a good sign, especially if it’s been commercially packaged. 

It’s quite uncommon, but the black specks floating in your almond milk could be a black fungus that has come from mold growing inside the packaging. Again, if you notice this, you should discard the entire container of milk.

If you’ve made your own homemade almond milk, there is a chance that pieces of the almond’s skin have made it into the milk when you strained it. To be on the safe side, however, it’s still a good idea to throw the milk out. 

How Long Does Almond Milk Last After The Expiration Date?

Once you’ve opened your almond milk, the clock really starts ticking and you’ll only have a few days in which to use it. After the expiration date has passed, you’ll notice that the almond milk has started to get an unpleasant smell and taste. 

Depending on the brand of almond milk you’ve gone for, there can be quite a difference in how long you can expect it to last past the expiration date. This is because some brands add preservatives to their almond milk, while others prefer to leave things as natural as possible. 

The way you’ve stored your almond milk will also dictate how long past its expiration date you can expect it to last. If it’s shelf-stable, it will have a very long shelf-life past the expiration date on the packet. If it’s refrigerated, you’ll need to use it as soon as possible. 

It’s extremely important to check for signs of your almond milk going bad if you’re still planning on using it past its expiration date. Check the smell, appearance, and the state of the packaging itself.

And, if you’re still unsure, take a small sip. If it’s super sour, you’ll need to throw it away. 

Is It Safe To Drink Unopened Almond Milk Past Its Expiration Date?

Almond milk that is in shelf-stable packaging will be safe to drink far past the expiration date if it hasn’t been opened. You may notice that the taste has deteriorated, but it will still be safe to consume. 

If your almond milk came from the refrigerator section, it will still go bad even if it’s not been opened. This is because it doesn’t have as many preservatives in it, nor is it stored in shelf-stable packaging. 

It’s never a good idea to risk it when you’re dealing with refrigerated almond milk. If you’re not sure whether it’s still safe to drink past its expiration date, look for signs of it going bad. And, if you’re still not certain, it’s better to throw it away. 

What Happens If You Drink Expired Almond Milk?

As with anything that has gone bad, drinking expired almond milk can make you quite sick.

The bacteria that has grown in the almond milk and caused it to go bad may not be potentially life-threatening, but it may cause vomiting, diarrhea, or other digestive issues. It can also be incredibly dangerous to anybody with a compromised immune system. 

If your almond milk hasn’t expired, nothing will happen! You’ll be safe to drink it and enjoy it without any issues. 

Is Almond Milk Dairy?

No, it’s not. Almond milk is a dairy-alternative that is made by soaking ground almond meal in water. It is then filtered and strained, resulting in a smoothie, creamy liquid with a delicious, nutty flavor.

Some commercially-produced almond milk contains certain preservatives to give it longer shelf life, but as a rule, almond milk never contains any animal products. This makes it a great milk substitute for vegans, as well as for anybody that suffers from lactose intolerance or dairy allergies. 

What Does Almond Milk Taste Like?

Surprisingly, almond milk doesn’t taste too much like almonds! It has a very mild, nutty flavor that is nowhere near as strong as the nut itself. This is because almond milk is made from raw almonds, rather than roasting them beforehand.

Some brands may also add sweeteners or flavorings to enhance the taste of almond milk but, generally speaking, it never pushes it into a more almond-like flavor. 

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community.
She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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