Can you drink expired plant based milk?

Plant-based milks like almond, soy, oat, coconut, and rice milk are becoming increasingly popular alternatives to dairy milk. With so many options available, it’s important to understand how long these milks last and whether it’s safe to consume them past the printed expiration date.

Quick Answers

Here are quick answers to common questions about drinking expired plant-based milk:

  • Most unopened, commercially packaged plant-based milks stay fresh for 7-10 days past the printed “best by” date.
  • Once opened, plant-based milk should be consumed within 7-10 days and discarded after that.
  • It’s generally safe to drink plant-based milk up to a week past the printed date if it has been stored properly, looks and smells normal.
  • Extended shelf life (ESL) milk in Tetra Pak cartons can usually last 2-4 weeks past the printed date if unopened.
  • Don’t drink plant-based milk if it smells sour, is curdled, moldy or undergoing separation.
  • Some bacteria can grow rapidly in spoiled plant milk, so err on the side of caution and discard expired milk.

How Long Does Unopened Plant Milk Last?

The shelf life of commercially packaged, unopened plant milk depends on the type:

  • Soy milk: lasts 5-10 days past printed date.
  • Almond milk: lasts 7-10 days past date.
  • Coconut milk: lasts 7-10 days past date.
  • Oat milk: lasts 7 days past date.
  • Rice milk: lasts 7-10 days past date.
  • Hemp milk: lasts 7 days past date.

These timelines assume proper storage below 40°F. The shelf life can be extended by 2-3 weeks if the closed carton is continuously refrigerated.

How Long Does Opened Plant Milk Last?

Once opened, the clock starts ticking on plant-based milk’s shelf life. Follow these timelines for storing opened cartons properly in the fridge:

  • Soy milk: 7-10 days
  • Almond milk: 7-10 days
  • Coconut milk: 5-7 days
  • Oat milk: 7-10 days
  • Rice milk: 5-7 days
  • Hemp milk: 7 days

The above timelines are for milk stored at 40°F or below. Discard any remaining milk after these timeframes.

How to Tell if Expired Plant Milk is Safe

Here are some tips for evaluating if plant-based milk is still safe and palatable to drink after the expiration date:

  • Do a visual check. Milk should appear white and creamy, with no clumps or separation.
  • Sniff the milk. It should smell fresh, with no sour or ‘off’ odors.
  • Check consistency. Milk should have a smooth, uniform texture with no gelling or curdling.
  • Take a small sip. Taste should be smooth and creamy, not bitter, sour or moldy.
  • If milk fails any of these checks, err on the safe side and discard.

Dangers of Spoiled Plant-Based Milk

Drinking plant milk after it has truly spoiled can cause foodborne illness. Here are some potential risks:

  • Bacterial growth – Harmful bacteria like E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria can grow rapidly in spoiled milk.
  • Mold contamination – Spoiled milk may contain toxic molds that can cause allergic reactions or sickness.
  • Food poisoning – Stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting are common if you drink rancid plant milk.
  • Unpleasant symptoms – At minimum, spoiled milk may cause bad gas, diarrhea, bloating and indigestion.

Food poisoning from plant milk is rare but possible if it is way past expiration and contaminated. Use common sense – when in doubt, throw it out.

Do Plant Milks Last Longer Than Dairy Milk?

Unlike cow’s milk, plant-based milks don’t inherently contain lactose, casein and other dairy proteins. This means they are generally less perishable than animal milk.

Here’s how the shelf life of different plant-based milks compare to regular dairy milk:

Milk Type Unopened Shelf Life Opened Shelf Life
Dairy milk 2 weeks 5-7 days
Almond milk 1-2 months 7-10 days
Soy milk 1 month 1-2 weeks
Oat milk 3 weeks 7-10 days
Coconut milk 2-3 months 5-7 days
Rice milk 6 months 5-7 days

As shown, commercially packaged plant milks generally stay fresh and palatable for 1-2 months longer than dairy milk when sealed. Once opened, both dairy and plant milks have around a 7-10 day fridge life.

Does Expired Plant Milk Pose Health Risks?

Drinking plant-based milk modestly past its printed date is generally safe, if it has been stored properly. However, spoiled milk that is weeks to months expired can harbor dangerous mold and bacteria.

Here are some health risks associated with drinking very expired plant milk:

  • Foodborne illness – From Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, Campylobacter, etc. Mold produces mycotoxins.
  • Vomiting and diarrhea – Common symptoms of food poisoning.
  • Abdominal pain and cramping – Also signs your body is reacting to foodborne pathogens.
  • Allergic reaction – Some molds and bacteria can trigger rashes, swelling, anaphylaxis.
  • Headaches and fatigue – Can result from exposure to bacteria endotoxins and mold mycotoxins.

While not guaranteed, drinking milk weeks past its prime significantly raises your risk of adverse effects. Exercise caution and discard milk at the first signs of spoilage.

Tips For Storing Opened Plant Milk

To maximize the shelf life of opened plant-based milk cartons:

  • Store in the fridge right after opening, not the pantry.
  • Screw cap on tight or clip any dispensing spouts.
  • Keep away from light and areas with fluctuating temps.
  • Avoid introducing bacteria – don’t double-dip with utensils.
  • Check for signs of spoilage every time you use.
  • Discard if you see any mold, curdling, etc.
  • Consume within 7-10 days and don’t push limits.
  • Write the opened date on the carton with marker.

Should You Freeze Plant Milk to Extend Life?

Freezing unopened plant milk can effectively pause the expiration date by several months. Once thawed, it generally retains quality and mouthfeel.

Some tips for freezing plant milk successfully:

  • Leave plenty of room for expansion.
  • Only freeze unopened milk, not opened.
  • Minimize temperature fluctuations when thawing.
  • Gently mix any separation before consuming.
  • Use within a week of fully thawing.
  • Don’t refreeze milk after it’s thawed.

Freezing isn’t recommended for coconut milk or hemp milk as the oils may separate. Most almond, soy, rice and oat milks freeze well when done properly.

Does Expired Plant Milk Curdle or Chunk?

Plant milk that has gone way past its prime will begin exhibiting visual signs of spoilage like:

  • Curdling/Clumping – Proteins coagulate into solid chunky clumps.
  • Mold growth – Fuzzy spots appear and begin spreading.
  • Separation – Liquid separates from solids and fats.
  • Discoloration – Changes from white to yellow, brown, or green tinged.
  • Bubbles – From gases produced by bacterial fermentation.

These changes indicate the milk has spoiled and reached the end of its shelf life. At this stage, it is best discarded immediately rather than consumed.

Does Expired Plant Milk Still Taste Okay?

Plant milk that is just barely past its printed date often still retains a pleasant taste. However, for milk that is weeks to months expired, you’ll notice:

  • Unpleasant sour taste
  • Bitter, vinegary tang
  • Moldy/musty taste
  • Soapy, fermented flavor
  • Rotten aftertaste

These off-flavors signal the milk has spoiled and is no longer palatable or hygienic. Only taste milk before the date as an additional check – never after it expires.

Can You Use Expired Plant Milk in Cooking/Baking?

When plant milk is on the cusp of expiration or newly expired, using it in cooked dishes like:

  • Oatmeal
  • Soups
  • Casseroles
  • Baked goods
  • Smoothies

Can be safe if the heat is high enough. However, discarded moldy, chunky and curdled milk. The texture and taste will be unpleasant.

As a rule of thumb, only use plant milk that smells and looks normal in cooking. Never consume plant milk that is clearly spoiled.

Does Expired Plant Milk Go Bad Faster When Opened?

Yes, once opened and exposed to air, plant milk degrades much quicker. The introduction of oxygen and repeated contact with utensils speeds up spoilage.

Follow these open carton guidelines:

  • Drink within 7-10 days.
  • Store only in refrigerator.
  • Check frequently for signs of spoilage.
  • Don’t drink if expired over 7-10 days.
  • Discard leftovers – don’t attempt to re-close.

Once opened, it’s ideal to use plant milk quickly within 5-7 days and avoid risking major spoilage.

Can Expired Plant Milk Make You Vomit?

Consuming plant milk harboring dangerous levels of spoilage bacteria, mold and their byproducts can definitely cause vomiting or diarrhea.

Vomiting may result from:

  • Inflammation from bacteria endotoxins.
  • Foodborne illness.
  • Reaction to mycotoxins.
  • Body forcibly expelling a toxin.

If the expired milk smells funny or shows curdling/mold, err on the safe side and avoid. The consequences aren’t worth the risk.

Does Refrigeration Extend Plant Milk Life?

Proper refrigeration is key to maximizing plant milk’s shelf life, both opened and unopened. Storing cartons below 40°F inhibits microbial growth.

Follow these fridge tips:

  • Quickly refrigerate after purchase.
  • Use fridge milk before pantry boxes.
  • Keep unopened cartons on central shelves.
  • Place opened cartons towards front.
  • Ensure fridge temp is 34-40°F.
  • Check fridge thermometer regularly.
  • Discard milk if fridge fails.

Refrigeration can extend the shelf life of unopened plant milk by weeks to months compared to pantry storage.


Drinking plant milk just a few days past its printed date is generally safe if it has been properly stored and there are no signs of spoilage. However, weeks old expired milk may harbor dangerous levels of bacteria leading to foodborne illness. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and discard plant milk past 7-10 days or immediately if you notice an off smell, taste or appearance.

Leave a Comment