Can I drink unopened expired almond milk?

Quick Answer

Generally, it’s not recommended to drink almond milk past its expiration date, even if the carton is unopened. However, almond milk can usually last 1-2 weeks past its printed expiration date if it has been continuously refrigerated and the package is not damaged. Look for changes in color, texture, and smell before consuming expired almond milk. Discard almond milk if it smells sour, tastes off, or has curdled.

What happens when almond milk expires?

Like other dairy-free milks, almond milk contains very little protein and no lactose sugar, so it does not spoil in the same way as animal milk. The expiration date on almond milk is more about quality than safety. Over time, the flavors and nutrients in almond milk can degrade and the texture can separate. However, these changes happen slowly when the unopened carton is stored in the refrigerator.

Here are some of the common changes that occur as almond milk expires:

  • Loss of nutrients – Vitamins like A, D, E, and B12 degrade over time.
  • Change in consistency – The texture becomes thinner or gritty as proteins and emulsion break down.
  • Separation – The almond milk separates with the almond solids and watery whey forming distinct layers.
  • Off flavors – The milky sweet taste becomes stale, bitter, or chalky.
  • Discoloration – The light beige color darkens over time, sometimes turning yellow.
  • Mold growth – If expired for too long, mold can grow inside unopened cartons.

How long does sealed almond milk last after expiration?

The shelf life of almond milk depends on several factors:

  • Type of almond milk – Refrigerated cartons have a shorter shelf life than shelf-stable aseptic boxes.
  • Ingredients – Formulas with more stabilizers tend to last longer.
  • Storage temperature – Cooler temperatures prolong shelf life.
  • Package date – Fresher cartons last longer after the sell-by date.
  • Damage to packaging – Small tears or punctures decrease shelf life.

Under ideal conditions, here are some general guidelines for how long almond milk can last past its printed expiration date:

  • Refrigerated almond milk – 7-14 days past expiration
  • Shelf-stable almond milk – 1-2 months past expiration

However, the signs of spoilage are more important to look for than the date alone. Trust your senses to determine if expired almond milk is still drinkable.

Is it safe to drink expired almond milk?

Consuming spoiled foods can sometimes cause foodborne illness. However, almond milk poses a relatively low risk for a few reasons:

  • Low moisture – Bacteria need water to survive and multiply.
  • Low nutrients – Milk has more proteins and sugars to sustain microbes.
  • High acidity – The low pH inhibits microbial growth.
  • Processed – Pasteurization kills pathogenic bacteria.

While drinking slightly expired almond milk is unlikely to cause food poisoning in healthy individuals, there are some rare risks to consider:

  • Mold – Inhaling or consuming mold spores can trigger allergic reactions.
  • Bacteria – Salmonella has been found in recalled almond milk linked to almond contamination.
  • Toxins – Roquefortine and mycophenolic acid can form as almond milk spoils.

Those with compromised immune systems, chronic illnesses, and severe food allergies should avoid expired foods entirely due to higher risk of adverse reactions.

How to tell if expired almond milk is bad

Rely on your senses, not just the date on the label, to determine if your almond milk has spoiled. Here are some signs that almond milk has gone bad and should be discarded:

  • Appearance – Watery separation, foaming, gelatinous texture, abnormal color
  • Smell – Sour, bitter, moldy, or unpleasant chemical smell
  • Taste – Soapy, tangy, bitter, or foul taste
  • Mold – Fuzzy spots, slimy residue, or white/green/black film
  • Gas – Bulging package, popped seal, gushing or fizzing when opening

Almond milk that passes the sight, smell, and taste tests is likely still safe to consume if it has been refrigerated continually and the carton is undamaged. However, the declining quality means it’s best to use expired almond milk for cooking rather than drinking straight.

What to do with expired almond milk

Although not as appetizing as fresh, expired almond milk generally does not need to be chucked straight in the bin. Here are some uses for almond milk that is past its prime:

  • Smoothies – Blend with strongly flavored fruits to mask staleness.
  • Coffee drinks – The coffee overpowers any off tastes.
  • Cereal – The crunch and added sweetness make old almond milk less noticeable.
  • Baked goods – Use as a substitute for other liquids in recipes.
  • Scrambled eggs – Adds creaminess without an obvious spoiled taste.
  • Soup base – Stale flavors diminish when mixed into strongly seasoned broths.
  • Polenta – Use in place of regular milk when cooking polenta.
  • Overnight oats – The spices and fruits infuse flavors into the oats and mask the older almond milk.
  • Granola – A small amount of almond milk can help bind together granola bars or clusters.
  • Nuts & seeds – Soak to blend into nut-based sauces, spreads, and cheezes.

If the almond milk has truly spoiled and smells or tastes unpleasant, it’s safest to discard it. But as long as it has been stored properly, even expired almond milk can still be useful.

How to extend almond milk shelf life

To help your almond milk stay fresh for as long as possible, be sure to:

  • Check expiration or best-by date when purchasing
  • Store unopened almond milk in the refrigerator
  • Keep the temperature at 40°F or below
  • Avoid storing almond milk on the refrigerator door
  • Seal the opened carton and return to the fridge immediately after use
  • Keep the open container towards the front of the fridge
  • Pour out remaining milk within 7-10 days of opening
  • Rinse opened empty containers before recycling

Proper refrigeration is key for extending the shelf life once a carton is opened. Only leave almond milk out at room temperature when you plan to use it up quickly.

Does expired almond milk make you sick?

Drinking almond milk slightly past its expiration date is unlikely to cause food poisoning or make you sick. However, severely spoiled milk that is moldy, tastes foul, or gives off a rancid odor can potentially cause illness.

Consuming high levels of spoilage microbes or their toxic byproducts can lead to symptoms like:

  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps, pain
  • Headache, dizziness
  • Sore throat, cough

In healthy people, these symptoms are more likely to be caused by milk that is weeks or months expired rather than just a few days past the sell-by date.

Those who are pregnant, elderly, or have compromised immunity are at higher risk for adverse effects from spoiled milk. Still, serious illness is rare because almond milk provides very little nourishment to support extensive microbe multiplication.

Can expired almond milk make babies sick?

Babies have vulnerable, developing digestive and immune systems. Consuming spoiled milk introduces foreign bacteria, molds, or other microbes that a baby’s body may not be equipped to handle. To avoid illness, it is not recommended to feed babies any expired foods, including almond milk.

Signs that spoiled almond milk made a baby sick may include:

  • Spitting up
  • Diarrhea
  • Fussiness or crying
  • Loss of appetite
  • Softer stools
  • Gas or bloating

If your baby becomes ill after drinking expired milk, discontinue use and speak to your pediatrician. Otherwise, always properly store and fresh almond milk to avoid spoilage. Only make enough plant milk needed for a couple days max to limit waste.

Does almond milk need to be refrigerated before opening?

The shelf-stable and refrigerated varieties of almond milk have different storage needs:

Shelf-stable almond milk:

  • Can be stored unopened at room temperature until expiration date
  • No refrigeration required until opening
  • Once opened, store in the fridge and use within 7-10 days

Refrigerated almond milk:

  • Needs continuous refrigeration at 40°F before opening
  • Should be refrigerated as soon as possible after purchasing
  • Will spoil within 7-10 days if left unrefrigerated before opening

Always check the packaging instructions to determine if your almond milk needs refrigerating before opening. Proper storage maximizes the shelf life and quality.

Can you freeze almond milk to extend its shelf life?

Freezing is an excellent way to extend the shelf life of almond milk and prevent waste. Full unopened cartons can be safely frozen for 2-3 months past the printed ‘best by’ date.

Here are some tips for freezing almond milk:

  • Make sure carton is tightly sealed with no damage.
  • Flat packages freeze better than gable top cartons.
  • Leave space in carton for expansion during freezing.
  • Freeze immediately after purchasing for best quality.
  • Use freezer bags or containers for opened almond milk.
  • Thaw in refrigerator before using.

The texture and flavor of almond milk can degrade over long frozen storage. But it will still be drinkable and fine for cooking. Frozen almond milk may separate and need a good shake once thawed.

Does almond milk need to be used quickly after opening?

Once opened, almond milk will only stay fresh for 7-10 days in the refrigerator. To maximize shelf life after opening:

  • Transfer unused portion to an airtight container or bottle.
  • Ensure the lid is tightly sealed.
  • Store in the coldest part of the refrigerator, not the door.
  • Finish within 5-7 days for best quality.
  • Discard if it smells, tastes, or looks spoiled.

The key is minimizing contamination and temperature fluctuations. Only keep opened almond milk refrigerated. Do not store at room temperature or repeatedly return warm milk to the refrigerator.

Quickly using up opened milk or freezing extras in portions helps reduce waste. But an unopened carton can last for weeks beyond the printed date if refrigerated continuously.


While it may seem risky, drinking expired almond milk stored properly is generally not dangerous. Smell, taste, and inspect the milk first, as your senses are the best tools for checking spoiled milk. Discard almond milk that smells off, changes texture, or shows signs of mold.

For best quality, use unopened almond milk by the expiration date. But almond milk can often last 1-2 weeks safely when the carton is not damaged and has been refrigerated continuously. Babies, the elderly, and those with immunity issues should not consume expired almond milk to be extra cautious.

As long as it looks, smells, and tastes normal, even expired almond milk can be used for cooking, smoothies, and coffee drinks. Handle almond milk carefully and refrigerate opened containers for no more than 7-10 days. Freezing unopened packages extends shelf life for a few extra months too. Following proper storage methods minimizes waste and ensures almond milk stays fresh as long as possible.

Leave a Comment