Almond milk is a staple of several vegan diets. This plant-based milk has been touted as an ideal flavored alternative to dairy milk.
One thing that its users keep worrying about is the product’s shelf life and how to store it.
So, the question that keeps coming up is; does almond milk need to be refrigerated? Since my wife is lactose intolerant, I also happen to be a frequent user of almond milk by extension.
I have also done thorough research on the essentials of its shelf life, storage, and spoilage and I thought it would be good to share the information with other almond milk lovers.
Like any other regular milk, normal pasteurized almond milk needs to be refrigerated once it’s opened. However, if the almond milk has not been opened and it’s of the shelf-stable type (sterilized), it will stay fresh at room temperature for about a year.
Will almond milk go bad if you don’t refrigerate it?
Normal pasteurized almond milk is perishable and will go bad if you don’t refrigerate it once it is opened.
However, you can store unopened shelf-stable almond milk in your pantry at room temperature up until the use-by date printed on the package.
Refrigeration helps to keep spoilage bacteria in the milk inactive thus elongating its shelf life.
So, if you do not refrigerate it, you will be encouraging the bacteria to multiply faster, hence shortening the milk’s shelf life.
What happens to opened and unopened almond milk if left out of the fridge?
Just like any other packaged food, almond milk has a recommended timeline within which it is safe for consumption when taken out of the refrigerator.
Here’s what happens when opened and unopened milk is left out of the fridge overnight and for more than four hours.
In my experience, a few hours outside the fridge will not affect the consistency and taste of your almond milk.
However, leaving it outside the fridge overnight does affect the flavor and texture and should be discarded unless the almond milk is in an unopened, shelf-stable package.
If stored above 40-degree Fahrenheit, your milk will start to develop signs of spoilage such as off-taste, sour smell, or curdled consistency.
Even if your almond milk doesn’t show any visible sign of spoilage, it might contain unsafe levels of bacteria and toxins produced by those bacteria.
For 4 hours and above
Generally, refrigerated foods, including almond milk, should never be left out of the fridge for more than two hours at room temperature.
And if the temperature is above 90-degree Fahrenheit, you should not leave your almond milk out for more than an hour.
After that time frame, bacteria may start to develop since the food is in the temperature danger zone. These bacteria are a threat to your well-being since they can lead to food poisoning.
How long can almond milk sit out unrefrigerated?
Often, shelf-stable almond milk comes with a shelf life of up to one year and can stay fresh for at least some weeks past its use-by date.
On the other hand, refrigerated almond milk has a much shorter storage time of up to around 7 days.
Here’s is how long almond milk can sit outside of the fridge.
If not opened
Unopened almond milk that has been pasteurized and stored in Tetra Pak or aseptic carton can sit at room temperature for 6-8 weeks or until the use-by date on the package.
Shelf-stable almond milk will stay fresh for up to a year when unopened.
Its extended shelf life is because of its sterilization process, where the milk is heated at ultra-high temperatures to kill foodborne microorganisms that cause spoilage.
You should not consume almond milk left outside the fridge for more than two hours, whether shelf-stable or pasteurized. That’s what most commercial almond milk manufacturers recommend.
However, I would recommend taking your almond milk within the first hour of opening so that you can enjoy its full flavor and freshness.
Also, you should avoid leaving the milk exposed to the temperature danger zone and return the remnants inside the refrigerator immediately after use.
Can you freeze homemade almond milk?
When making almond milk at home, you may not have access to sterilization or pasteurization equipment to help you preserve your final product.
Freezing is thus the best way to prevent homemade almond milk from going bad or preserve and keep it fresh.
However, the texture, color, and flavor of your almond milk will not be the same after defrosting. After thawing, the fat content separates from water, and almond milk appears to have a grainy texture.
Try freezing your almond milk in an ice cube tray if you want to have easy-to-use portion sizes. A standard ice cube tray holds one bit of liquid per cell.
Once they are fully frozen, transfer the cubes to a resealable freezer bag to easily access serving-size portions.
Note: Keep in mind that when you thaw your frozen homemade almond milk, it will have a shelf-life of just 3-5 days instead of 7-10 days. However, you can rest assured that it won’t affect the nutritional value of your almond milk.
Almond milk shelf life
Here’s is the typical shelf life of almond milk.
|Shelf-stable (unopened)||1 year unopened and 2-4 weeks past the use-by date. After this, the quality of your almond milk will start to deteriorate||No refrigeration required.|
|Shelf-Stable (opened)||Unsafe||7-10 days|
Can you drink almond milk if not refrigerated?
Normal pasteurized almond milk is perishable and will go bad if not refrigerated. So, you should not consume almond milk left out for more than two hours unless it is in an unopened, shelf-stable package.
How long is refrigerated almond milk good for after the expiration date?
Generally, unopened almond milk will stay safe for use for about one week after the use-by date, provided you have refrigerated it continuously.
To extend the shelf life of your almond milk, don’t store it on the fridge door. Instead, keep it in the main body of your refrigerator in its original aseptic package.
Is it better to buy refrigerated almond milk?
My general advice about non-dairy milk is to look for a brand you like and stick to it. Use it in any recipe that requires non-dairy milk, and I suggest almond or soy milk since I find coconut and hemp don’t work well with most recipes.
In my experience, I have noticed that shelf-stable almond milk tends to contain fewer ingredients.
However, since pasteurized/refrigerated almond milk appears to contain a lot of fat, I personally choose shelf-stable almond milk over refrigerated. Furthermore, shelf-stable almond milk is much more affordable, and you can stock up.
The most important thing is to buy something you like and something that will comfortably fit within your nutritional and dietary requirements.
Watch this YouTube video about almond milk and other plant-based milk.
So, why is some almond milk not refrigerated?
As we have seen here, the main reason some almond milk doesn’t require refrigeration is that it is sterilized and stored in shelf-stable packaging.
This packaging is made from specially designed Tetra Pak or aseptic materials that extend the food shelf life, even when kept at room temperature.
This doesn’t only apply to almond milk. Shelf-stable packaging also includes canned foods that are dried or heated at ultra-high temperatures to kill any harmful microorganisms in the food.
Aseptic packaging is often ceiled with aluminum foil, which protects the milk from oxygen and light, both of which can lead to bacterial growth.
When the almond milk packaging is lined with aluminum foil, it eliminates the need for refrigeration or additional preservatives.
So, there you have it. I hope this article helps you navigate the dilemma around storage of your favorite almond milk.