Almond milk is an increasingly popular alternative to cow’s milk—so much so that ‘almond, soy, or regular?’ is the coffee shop version of ‘sparkling or flat?’ Indeed, this vegan, dairy-free substitute for milk is everywhere these days, including the non-refrigerated section of the grocery store. So what’s the deal...does almond milk go bad? Short answer: Yes, it does. But if you’re hoping to free up some precious refrigerator real estate by storing your almond milk in the pantry, that’s also a possibility. Truthfully, it’s complicated—read on for the lowdown and you’ll see what we mean.
How to Store Almond Milk
Almond milk storage guidelines depend on the following two factors: Is it shelf-stable and has it been opened?
You don’t need to pore over the fine print on the carton in order to determine whether or not almond milk is shelf-stable, because this type of almond milk will be sold alongside similar items (like shelf-stable chicken stock and canned soup, for example). A good rule of thumb is to follow the supermarket’s lead when it comes to almond milk storage. In other words, almond milk that was purchased at room temperature can be kept that way at home (provided it’s unopened), while almond milk that you scored from the refrigerated section should be promptly stored in similarly chilly conditions at home. That said, every part of the grocery store is likely a bit cooler than your home, so it’s a good idea to store the shelf-stable stuff in a relatively cool and dark area for best quality (and not, you know, next to the radiator).
And what if your almond milk has been opened? This one’s easy: It doesn’t matter if almond milk was sold as shelf-stable or required refrigeration from the get-go—once a carton of almond milk has been opened it must be stored at a consistent temperature of 40°F or below (i.e., in the fridge).
How Long Does Almond Milk Last?
According to the food safety experts at StillTasty, shelf-stable almond milk that has not been opened will stay fresh at room temperature for three to four weeks past the date on the package. (FYI: Per the FDA, those ‘best by’ and ‘sell by’ dates are actually not food safety indicators, but rather the manufacturer’s own assessment of peak quality for any given product.)
What if you bought your carton of almond milk from the refrigerated section? Glad you asked because that changes things a bit. An unopened carton of almond milk that was purchased cold will stay fresh for roughly one week after the date you find on the product, provided it was kept at a consistent temperature of 40°F or below. Tip: Don’t store almond milk—or any milk, for that matter—in the door of the fridge where it’s susceptible to temperature fluctuations.
As for almond milk that has already been opened, its lifespan is seven to ten days in the fridge, regardless of whether you bought it chilled or at room temperature. The takeaway? No matter what kind of almond milk you took home from the store, you should progress from a splash of the stuff in your coffee to latte proportions by day six.
How to Tell If Almond Milk Has Spoiled
As with so many food products, the best way to tell whether or not almond milk has seen better days is simply by using your sense(s). Although almond milk doesn’t contain any dairy, the natural fats in nuts are prone to going rancid in much the same way. Anyone who has experienced a bad nut will be able to identify this easily—but even if you’ve been spared that misfortune, rancid is rancid and it’s not hard to detect. If your almond milk takes on a thicker consistency, develops a sour flavor or just smells a bit ‘off’ then your best bet is to discard and start anew.