Does Almond Milk Need to Be Refrigerated? | Regular vs. Shelf-Stable


Almond Milk Sitting on a Counter

Wondering whether almond milk needs to be refrigerated or not is a logical question to ask. Does it store the same as dairy milk or does it keep differently? Being lactose intolerant myself, I frequently use almond milk so I did some research to learn about the correct storage methods.

Almond milk needs to be refrigerated once it’s opened. If the almond milk hasn’t been opened – and it’s of the shelf-stable variety – it will usually be okay at room temperature for a few weeks. However, some types of almond milk need to be refrigerated even if unopened.

Before setting out to buy your stock of almond milk, you should understand the way it should be used and stored. You have to understand the various types of almond milk, the way it is stored, and its shelf life. You should always make sure that you will consume your stock within the time the milk remains fresh. Overstocking can cause you losses when it goes bad. Read on to find out the options you have. 

How Should You Store Your Almond Milk?

Almond milk can be refrigerated based on how it was prepared and packaged.

Homemade almond milk is unpasteurized and should be placed in an airtight pitcher and refrigerated at all times. It can stay for 3-5 days, depending on the almonds used in the preparation. My favorite airtight pitcher is this one, found on Amazon. Besides doing the job well it also looks super cool.

When it is opened and partly used, almond milk should be refrigerated and consumed within seven days. Shelf-stable varieties can last up to 10 days. Some types of almond milk have no preservatives and should be kept refrigerated after opening to prevent them from spoiling.

Unopened packages of almond milk can be stored at room temperature and will last up to four weeks after the use-by date. They have a prolonged shelf-life because of the sterilization process they undergo during the manufacturing process. Their packaging also involves aseptic cartons that help in prolonging their shelf-life.

Freezing almond milk can help prolong its shelf-life, but it is not a recommended option since it alters the composition and nutritional value of the milk when thawing. Frozen almond milk is good for cooking.

For some brands, the milk may remain fit for consumption ten days after opening the box, but you have to check for signs of spoilage before consuming it. This takes us to the next crucial step: to understand if your almond milk can go bad, and if so, the signs of spoilage you should look out for.

Typical Shelf Life of Almond Milk

TypeFridge Shelf LifePantry Shelf Life
Homemade3 DaysFridge Only
Non-Shelf Stable Unopened10 daysFridge Only
Non-Shelf Stable Opened7 DaysFridge Only
Shelf-Stable Unopened6-10 Weeks 4-8 Weeks
Shelf-Stable Opened10 DaysFridge Only

Just keep in mind that these numbers are not hard and fast. Your mileage can vary based on what the expiration date is when you bought it, how you store it, cold or warm spots on a pantry or fridge, etc. You should always look for signs of spoilage before consuming it.

How Can Almond Milk Go Bad?

Almond milk can go bad, especially if the milk container is partially used and left unrefrigerated. However, different types of almonds have different storage and usage requirements and shelf-lives.

Nevertheless, the one thing typical of all types of almonds is that their quality will deteriorate the moment a pack is left open for a while at room temperature. Leaving the container for more than 24 hours will lead to spoilage.

Pro Tip: When refrigerating almond milk, it is recommended to place it inside the refrigerator bowl and not on the door rungs. The door areas are prone to temperature fluctuations and may accelerate spoilage, considering that almond milk is susceptible to warm temperatures.

Shelf-Stable versus Refrigerated Almond Milk

Refrigerated Almond Milk

Of all almond milk types, refrigerated almond is the most fragile and should remain in the fridge at all times. If your favorite brand of almond milk sits in the fridge on the supermarket shelf, you should keep it to a similar temperature at home.

After bringing your carton home, set it in the refrigerator until opening. If unopened, it can stay there without spoiling up to a week past its use-by date. However, once opened, it is likely to go off within seven to ten days. And, if left unrefrigerated for a few hours, it can spoil and become unsafe to drink.

An open container should be consumed within 7-10 days according to the use-by date instructions. Refrigerated almonds come with a best-by date and cannot be used after the recommended date.

What About “Shelf-Stable” Almond Milk?

Shelf-stable almond milk, like this kind found on Amazon, is an unrefrigerated variant that can be stored at room temperature for long periods without spoiling, but only if the packs stay unopened.

Open containers must be tightly sealed and refrigerated to prevent the milk from going bad. Once opened, the milk can last ten days under refrigeration. Shelf-stable almond milk has a best-before date, meaning it can still be consumed about 2 to 4 weeks after the recommended date.

If you have put in your basket cartons that were stored on a supermarket’s shelf and not in the fridge, it means that these products are shelf-stable. In this case, you can easily store them in your pantry away from direct sunlight and drastic temperature changes. Also, you should ensure that the storage area is far from any significant source of heat. 

If still closed, such cartons will not spoil for up to four weeks past the “best-by” or expiry date printed on the package. However, once you have opened your almond milk, you should keep it in the fridge at all times. The milk is not likely to spoil for up to seven to ten days after opening. 

However, it is safer to follow the instructions and recommendations provided for each type of almond milk you buy. Consume your milk within the stipulated “best-by” or “best before” dates. In case you still have more packs with you after the recommended dates, the signs below will help you determine if you should discard them or not.

Signs that Your Almond Milk is Spoiled

Usually, a carton of almond milk that is open can stay outside of the fridge for a few hours without causing any issues. However, if you have left it on your counter for a while, you should check whether it is still okay or not.

Also, you can still consume your almond milk after the expiry of the use-by date. However, you should be cautious and look for signs of spoilage. Unlike dairy milk, which either smells terrible or not, non-dairy milk might offer you only less clear clues about its status. However, there are some signs that you can easily interpret to check whether it is spoiled:

  • It does not smell as fresh or nutty as it usually would.
  • When you notice an unusual smell coming from the milk during use, discard it immediately.
  • If the almond milk has a sour taste or begins to clump or discolor, then it is time to get a new batch. Its color can change into a yellowish hue.
  • Look out for the texture of the almond milk. If the texture is thicker than usual, it is a sign that the milk has gone bad.
  • Spoiled milk can also cause bloating on the packaging. This characteristic is a hint that mold has been increasing inside.

Check its consistency by pouring it a little in your sink or a glass. If you notice that there are lumps and it is not as smooth and creamy as standard, you should discard it.

Effects of Almond Milk Gone Bad

As with any other type of milk, drinking spoiled almond milk can cause food poisoning. Almond milk has few bacteria compared to dairy milk, but if left open for long, the bacterial spores can grow and become a health hazard. That is why it should remain refrigerated at all times. You should also observe high standards of hygiene when handling your milk.

Additionally, if you are not allergic to nuts, or any of the other ingredients in your preferred almond milk, such a beverage won’t cause any significant health issues. However, you should always check how your body reacts to almond milk before filling up your coffee cup with it.

Conversely, if you are a big drinker of almond milk and you just realized that you added five-weeks old milk to your protein shake, you might face food poisoning. Almond milk contains fewer bacteria, and therefore danger, than cow milk, but spores can still form in the carton and lead to side effects.

What are the Proper Storage Practices for Almond Milk?

Your almond milk should be kept fresh all the time in order to prolong its shelf-life. Here are some of the best storage practices you must observe:

  • The cabinet is fine for certain brands- Keep your unopened shelf-stable almond milk cartons in your cabinet or shelf until the recommended best-by date. As soon as you open it, make sure it is refrigerated to retain its freshness.
  • Avoid the fridge door- For opened shelf-stable packs, they should be stored in the back of the fridge or the main body where the temperature is the coldest and stable. Please do not put them on the back of the fridge door.
  • Homemade must be refrigerated- When preparing homemade almond milk, start by rinsing your almonds thoroughly. Store the milk in an airtight pitcher and refrigerate to keep bacteria away.
  • Always refrigerate once opened- Make sure opened packs are refrigerated after every use.
  • Don’t drink past the expiration date- Always use your almond milk stock within the recommended time to prevent spoilage, losses, and health risks.
  • Only freeze for baking- If you have to freeze your almond milk, let it be for the sole purpose of baking and make sure it is kept in an airtight container, like this one that I recommend. Frozen and thawed almond milk is good for cooking and baking recipes since it does not affect the quality of the food. Most manufacturers do not recommend freezing for the reason that it changes its composition after thawing, and its nutritional value is also altered. Therefore, you should not freeze almond milk to drink later. The change in its consistency will make it unpalatable. The best freezing method, when you have to, is to use ice cube trays.

Is Almond Milk Okay If Left out Overnight? 

As we have seen, a few hours outside of the fridge won’t harm the taste or consistency of your almond milk. However, leaving it outside of the refrigerator overnight does. Especially if you are dealing with an open carton of refrigerated produce or a jug of homemade milk, you should think about discarding it. 

While deciding what to do with the open carton in question, take into consideration the kind of temperatures it has been exposed to and the surrounding environment’s characteristics.

As a general rule, you should check if your milk is still suitable for consumption if left out of the fridge any longer than two hours. Use the methods listed in the previous section to do so.

Homemade Almond Milk

Making homemade almond milk might not be the cheapest or quickest way to add such a delicious ingredient to your morning coffee. However, drinking the juice of such hard work can be extremely rewarding. And, best of all, homemade almond milk is packed with nutrients and vitamins that you won’t get in the same measure anywhere else. 

When it comes down to storing your just-made almond milk pitcher, you should keep into consideration that its goodness will start to spoil only after four to five days. That is mostly because of the lack of preservatives and processing added to store-bought almond milk cartons.

I recommend keeping it in an airtight container to help maximize the shelf-life. Here is a good one that I highly recommend, found on Amazon.

You should keep your almond milk in the fridge at all times, and try to drink it within the first few days of making it. Keeping this in mind will guarantee you to have the freshest and most delicious product on your breakfast table.

Extra Storage Tips

Now you know all about storing all sorts of almond milk. However, there is a little additional info that can help you keep it fresh for even longer.

  • There is little difference in flavor or nutritional values between the shelf-stable and refrigerated almond milk, so pick the one that fits best your storage needs. If you have only limited space left in the fridge, opt for cartons of milk that won’t spoil when sitting in the pantry for days. This trick will reduce wastages and the chances of drinking bad milk.
  • When storing your open carton in the fridge, keep it away from the fridge door. This area of your refrigerator is the one that stays the warmest, and it is the most susceptible to temperature changes. 
  • If you picked shelf-stable almond milk and you have been keeping your stock in the pantry, make sure to refrigerate it for a few hours before serving.

Final Thoughts

Almond milk is very delicious and nutritious. It is non-dairy, full of vitamin E, and plenty of health benefits such as strengthening bones and lowering the risk of heart disease, among others. Almond milk is ideal for those who are lactose intolerant. However, to keep your almond milk fresh all the time, you have to make sure it is well stored.

If proper storage and hygienic practices are observed, it can serve you for much longer. The most practical thing to do with your almond milk is to refrigerate it, especially when it has been opened and partially used. For best outcomes:

  • Always check the labels on your almond milk cartons for ‘best before’ or ‘best by’ dates to make sure you don’t consume spoiled milk.
  • If your stock goes beyond the recommended consumption dates, you should first check for signs of spoilage before using your milk.
  • Only deep freeze your Almond milk if you’ll be using it in your cooking.
  • Almond milk is very sweet and nutritious, don’t let it spoil.

Now you know all the tips and tricks to store and enjoy your almond milk at its best, so you are ready to dive into a plant-based diet. However, there are some critical pieces of information that you should remember next time you visit your local supermarket. First, you will need to choose carefully between shelf-stable and refrigerated cartons, as they require different storage characteristics. 

Additionally, once opened, a bottle or carton of almond milk will spoil within seven to ten days on average and should sit in your fridge, away from its door, at all times. Lastly, while almond milk does not cause as much trouble if it is spoiled, you should keep in mind hygienic and storage requirements to avoid food poisoning.

Thanks for stopping by!

Jelly Grandma

Anne James

Hi, I'm Anne but my grandchildren call me Jelly Grandma. I hope your visit here has been a sweet one.

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