Almond milk usually lasts longer than its dairy milk cousin. But much like the OG cow’s milk, almond milk has a temporary shelf-life and eventually goes bad.
Depending on what type you use (homemade, commercial, or shelf-stable), your almond milk will start to go bad within a matter of days. However, proper storage and handling can keep your almond milk good ’til the last drop.
When does almond milk go bad?
Almond milk generally starts to go bad within 3 to 10 days of opening the carton. Homemade almond milk has a shorter shelf-life (3 to 7 days) than store-bought varieties, which usually keep for 7 to 10 days after being opened.
Almond milk found in the refrigerated section of your grocery store has been ultra-pasteurized, which gives it a little longevity. During the pasteurization process, the milk is quickly heated to 280°F (138°C) to kill any existing bacteria and germs in the ingredients, and then quickly cooled down.
This type of almond milk should be stored in the fridge at all times and tightly sealed after each use to keep it from spoiling too soon.
Once you open the carton, you generally have about 7 days to drink up before the milk goes bad. This is because opening the container allows oxygen to get in, which then lets bacteria breed.
Homemade varieties are usually good for anywhere between 3 to 7 days after they’re made. And you’ll def be able to tell when things are getting a bit funky. Your milk will start to become clumpy and begin to stink — clear signs that it’s time to toss it.
So, why does DIY almond milk go bad faster than its store-bought brethren? Unlike refrigerated or shelf-stable versions, homemade almond milk doesn’t go through the pasteurization process, so any bacteria found in any of your ingredients aren’t killed. It also isn’t immediately sealed in a sterilized container, so oxygen gets in right away to create the perfect playground for more bacteria.
You may also notice ingredient separation is more noticeable in homemade almond milk. If it’s still fresh, giving your carton or bottle a quick shake will usually mix your milk right up!
Yes! Except for unopened, shelf-stable versions, leaving almond milk out on the counter, in the pantry, or anywhere else that’s not your fridge will put it on the fast track to spoilage.
This is because almond milk that’s left unrefrigerated for too long will start to attract bacteria, which makes it go bad — and can increase your chance of getting sick.
So, how long is “too long”? According to the USDA, you should never leave food requiring refrigeration out in room temp conditions for more than 2 hours.
You may be wondering, “But what about the almond milk that you buy from the pantry section? That’s not refrigerated!”
This is known as shelf-stable almond milk. The main difference is it’s been ultra-pasteurized and then sealed in special packaging that keeps it from spoiling when stored at room temperature. Shelf-stable cartons ensure the milk stays sterile and that no bacteria can get in.
Shelf-stable almond milk is usually still safe to drink for 4 to 6 weeks after the “sell by” or “best buy” date listed on the carton — IF it hasn’t been opened. But once you open it, you’ll need to refrigerate it ASAP. It’ll then keep for about 7 to 10 days.
Again, you should always monitor the milk to make sure it’s not showing signs of going bad, and check any labels on the cartons for more specifics on how long it should last.
Even if it’s only been a few days (and not the suggested amount of time for freshness), if you start to notice the following signs, it’s likely time to toss that almond milk:
- Bloated carton. Unopened carton looking a little plump and bloated? There’s a good chance it’s gone bad.
- Weird smell. Almond milk usually has a faint nutty smell, but if you notice any unpleasant odors or eau de sour milk, it’s likely no good.
- Strange appearance. Homemade almond milk can start to separate, and a simple shake-up can bring it back to a normal consistency. But if you start to notice lumps, weird textures, curdling, or a strange consistency that shaking won’t fix, your almond milk has probably gone bad. Throw it out!
- Mold… actual mold. Yup, mold could be growing inside your milk container. If you notice any spots or specks of fungus, chuck the milk ASAP. See tiny black spots in your milk? If it’s homemade, these could be specks of almond skin. However, it’s best not to take any chances and still throw it out.
- Funny taste. Almond milk usually tastes faintly nutty and may be sweetened or flavored, depending on the type or brand you buy. If you notice anything “off” (or even sour) when you take a sip, it’s most likely no longer good.
A general rule of thumb when storing almond milk: Store it like the store does.
Commercially bought (aka from your store’s fridge section) and homemade almond milk should be put in the fridge from the get-go. Shelf-stable cartons can be kept in the pantry or a cupboard until they’re ready for use. Once opened, however, these also need to be refrigerated.
Not storing almond milk properly can shorten shelf-life, so it’s important to keep conditions consistent.
Try these simple storage hacks to keep your almond milk as fresh as possible (and retain all of its nutrients!):
- Store in the back of the fridge. Don’t keep your cartons in the door of the refrigerator, as the temperature in this area fluctuates every time you open/close the door. Instead, store almond milk toward the back of your fridge, where temps are colder and more consistent.
- Store unopened shelf-stable cartons in a space with a steady room temperature. Be careful of areas where it can get too hot, as this can spoil the milk before you open it. Peep the carton for specific temp recommendations.
- Keep the carton tightly sealed. This will keep oxygen out and prevent bacteria from growing.
Once opened, almond milk is generally only good for about 3 to 10 days, depending on your preferred type. Homemade almond milk goes bad the fastest, and should be drunk within a few days.
Almond milk that’s gone bad will usually start to look lumpy, clumpy, or generally inconsistent. It’ll also start to smell funny, and the taste will be off. For shelf-stable products, a bloated carton can signal contaminated milk before it’s even opened.
It’s important to store your almond milk properly. All opened cartons should be kept in the back of the fridge (where it’s nice and cold) with the cap closed tightly.