How do you know if unsweetened almond milk is bad?

Almond milk has become a popular plant-based milk alternative for many people. Unsweetened almond milk has no added sugar and fewer calories than sweetened varieties, making it appealing for health-conscious consumers. But like any perishable food, unsweetened almond milk can spoil and go bad. Here are some signs to look for to determine if your unsweetened almond milk has gone bad and tips for proper storage to maximize freshness.

Check the Expiration Date

The first and easiest way to tell if your unsweetened almond milk is expired or bad is to check the expiration date printed on the carton. This will give you a good indication of how long the almond milk should stay fresh and good for consumption. Once the printed expiration date has passed, the unsweetened almond milk is more likely to have gone bad.

However, the expiration date is not foolproof. Unsweetened almond milk may still be good for a short period past the printed date, especially if it has been stored properly in the refrigerator. Conversely, it could spoil before the expiration date if stored incorrectly. So the expiration date gives you a helpful guideline, but you still need to assess the milk’s quality yourself through smell, texture, and taste.

Examine the Color

When unsweetened almond milk is fresh, it should have a creamy white color. As it starts to spoil and go bad, the color changes to yellow or grey and becomes chalky in appearance. This is due to oxidation and microbial growth in the milk. A yellow or grey color is a warning sign that the unsweetened almond milk has gone off.

However, separating is normal and the creamiest part of the milk will still appear white. So be sure to shake or stir the carton before assessing the color. But if the almond milk remains yellowish or grey after shaking, it is likely bad.

Smell for Sourness

Fresh unsweetened almond milk should have a pleasant nutty aroma. As unsweetened almond milk starts to go bad, it will smell sour or bitter. This rancid odor is a clear sign the milk has spoiled and should not be consumed.

Trust your senses on this – you should immediately be able to notice an off or pungent sour smell when you open the milk carton if the almond milk has gone bad. A sour milk odor always means throw it out.

Check Texture and Consistency

Unsweetened almond milk should have a smooth, creamy consistency when shaken or stirred. Signs of spoilage include chunkiness, separation, or curdling.

As the proteins in almond milk break down and the milk sours, you may see clumps or curds forming – which is a definite red flag. Separation is normal, but the milk should go back to smooth and creamy after a good shake. If not, or there are identifiable chunks or curdling, the unsweetened almond milk is past its prime.

Taste Test

If your unsweetened almond milk passes the smell, color, and texture tests, the final check is performing a taste. Fresh unsweetened almond milk should taste pleasantly nutty with no sourness or bitterness. Even a small sip of rancid or improperly stored milk will immediately taste off.

Your tastebuds are sensitive, so a bad aftertaste or just feeling that something is “not quite right” means you should not drink the milk. No signs of spoilage are visible, but trusting your taste buds will keep you safe.

Watch for Curdling in Coffee

Many people add unsweetened almond milk to coffee, tea, and other heated beverages. In fresh almond milk, the proteins should remain dissolved when heated. However, over time the protein bonds weaken.

If your almond milk curdles or separates after adding it to hot coffee, that is an indication the proteins have destabilized and the milk is past its prime. Always inspect the almond milk before using it in hot beverages if you have any doubt about its freshness.

Check for Mold

Like any dairy milk or plant-based milk, unsweetened almond milk can develop mold if left too long in storage. Visible mold spots – usually black, green, or white fuzz – indicate the milk has been contaminated and gone bad.

Mold can grow from exposure to air, so check along the top inner rim of the carton. Sometimes a small spot will be present even if you do not see large fuzz patches. Do not consume any almond milk that shows signs of mold growth.

How to Store Unsweetened Almond Milk

To help your unsweetened almond milk stay fresh as long as possible, be mindful of proper storage methods:

  • Purchase unsweetened almond milk with the furthest away sell-by or best-by date.
  • Inspect cartons before purchasing to make sure there are no signs of damage, leaking, bloating, or mold.
  • Store unopened unsweetened almond milk cartons in the back of the refrigerator furthest from the door.
  • Once opened, transfer unsweetened almond milk to a clean airtight container if not finishing quickly.
  • Keep unsweetened almond milk refrigerated at all times after opening at 34–40°F.
  • Use opened cartons of unsweetened almond milk within 7-10 days.
  • Do not store almond milk on the refrigerator door shelves.
  • Check frequently for signs of spoilage like change in color, smell, or texture.

Proper refrigeration and sealing out air is key to maintaining freshness and preventing spoilage bacteria from contaminating your milk. With optimal storage conditions, unopened unsweetened almond milk can last 5-7 days past the sell-by date before the quality starts degrading.

Can You Save Spoiled Almond Milk?

Unfortunately, once unsweetened almond milk has soured and gone bad, it cannot be safely salvaged. The bacteria and mold that caused the milk to spoil can produce toxins that are not destroyed through cooking. Consuming spoiled almond milk even in baked goods or other cooked dishes can potentially cause food poisoning.

If you have any doubt about whether your unsweetened almond milk has gone bad, it is best to play it safe and discard it. The small amount of money saved is not worth risking your health.

Alternative Uses for Spoiled Almond Milk

Although you should not consume spoiled unsweetened almond milk, here are some other potential uses if you want to avoid waste:

  • Add to bath water to moisturize skin
  • Use in place of water to steam vegetables
  • Water houseplants
  • Mix with flour as a homemade facial mask
  • Mix with sugar and olive oil for a body scrub

Just be sure the almond milk does not contain mold before using topically or around the home. Mold spores can still cause respiratory irritation.

How Long Does Unopened Almond Milk Last?

The shelf life for properly stored unopened unsweetened almond milk is:

Pantry 3-4 months past printed date
Refrigerator 5-7 days past printed date
Freezer 6-8 months in airtight container

The shelf life is shortened once opened. An opened carton should be used within 7-10 days.

To maximize the shelf life of unopened unsweetened almond milk:

  • Purchase fresh products before the sell-by date.
  • Avoid damaged packaging.
  • Promptly refrigerate once home.
  • Store almond milk cartons towards the back of the fridge.

Does Unsweetened Almond Milk Go Bad Once Opened?

Yes, opened unsweetened almond milk can go bad faster than unopened cartons. Once air is introduced, the rate of spoilage speeds up.

Follow these tips for storing opened unsweetened almond milk:

  • Keep refrigerated at 34–40°F.
  • Seal the carton tightly or transfer to an airtight container.
  • Store for only 7-10 days after opening.
  • Keep the opening clean when pouring to prevent contamination.
  • Do not return unused milk back to the carton after pouring.
  • Check frequently for signs of spoilage.

Discard immediately if you detect any odor, change in color or texture, curdling, or mold growth. Do not attempt to prolong the shelf life of opened unsweetened almond milk past 7-10 days.

How to Tell If Thawed Frozen Almond Milk Has Gone Bad

Properly frozen unsweetened almond milk can be thawed and retain its freshness for several days. Here are some signs that thawed almond milk has spoiled and should be discarded:

  • Sour, unpleasant smell
  • Lumpy texture or separated liquid
  • Grey/yellow discoloration
  • Mold spots or fuzzy growth
  • Off taste that is bitter or rancid

Thawed milk that smells pleasant and has a smooth, creamy white consistency when shaken is still good. Use thawed frozen almond milk within 3-4 days for best quality.

Does Unsweetened Almond Milk Need to Be Refrigerated After Opening?

Yes, unsweetened almond milk always requires refrigeration after opening. The low acidity level allows microbial growth at room temperature. Keep opened almond milk stored in the fridge set below 40°F at all times.

Leaving unsweetened almond milk unrefrigerated for over 2 hours after opening can lead to rapid spoilage. Discard any milk that has sat at room temperature for more than a couple hours after opening.

Can You Freeze Almond Milk to Extend Usability?

Freezing is an excellent way to prolong the shelf life of unsweetened almond milk. Unopened almond milk cartons can be frozen as-is direct from the grocery store for 6-8 months.

To freeze opened almond milk:

  • Transfer milk to an airtight freezer container leaving 1⁄2 inch of headspace.
  • Seal tightly and label container with date.
  • Freeze for up to 3-4 months.
  • Thaw in refrigerator before use.
  • Use within 3-4 days once thawed.
  • Do not refreeze thawed milk.

Frozen storage below 0°F effectively stops bacteria growth allowing the unsweetened almond milk to stay fresh longer. Just be sure to smell and inspect thawed milk for signs of spoilage before consuming.

Will Frozen Almond Milk Separate When Thawed?

It’s common for unsweetened almond milk to separate a bit when thawed after freezing. The water partly separates from the nut solids. This is normal and does not indicate spoilage.

Gently shake or stir the thawed frozen almond milk to reincorporate. The milk should go back to a smooth, uniform consistency with no curdling or lumps. Separation alone does not mean frozen milk has gone bad.

Is It Safe to Drink Almond Milk Past the Expiration Date?

It is generally not recommended or safe to drink unsweetened almond milk past the printed expiration or use-by date. However, the experts at StillTasty say unopened almond milk can sometimes last up to 5-7 days past its expiration date if stored properly in the refrigerator.

To determine if expired unopened unsweetened almond milk is still good, assess the smell, color, and appearance carefully. If it has developed any off-odors, strange colors, curdling, or mold growth, it is no longer safe to drink and should be discarded.

If the milk still smells and looks normal, a small sip test can confirm if it has soured or tastes odd. Trust your senses. But when in doubt, throw expired almond milk out or use it for other non-food purposes, rather than risk getting sick from consuming spoiled milk.

Does Almond Milk Last Longer Than Cow Milk?

Thanks to the lower protein content, unsweetened almond milk generally stays fresh a few days longer than cow’s milk when properly stored. The shelf life for unopened almond milk is 5-7 days past the printed date versus only 4-6 days for cow’s milk.

When comparing shelf life after opening, almond milk will last 7-10 days refrigerated while cow’s milk is only good for 5-7 days. The lower acidity of plant-based milk gives it better stability.

Follow the same storage tips of prompt refrigeration, pouring out only needed amounts, and checking for spoilage signs. And as always, smell and taste test before consuming if the age of either milk type is uncertain.

Does Nutritional Content Decline as Almond Milk Spoils?

The nutritional value of unsweetened almond milk slowly decreases as it reaches the end of its shelf life. Levels of protein, vitamins and minerals can decline due to natural degradation.

Mold or bacteria that cause milk to curdle or spoil can further break down nutrients. Consuming spoiled milk means you will not benefit from the full nutritional profile advertised.

For highest nutrition, only consume unsweetened almond milk before the printed sell-by date or within 7-10 days of opening. Discard milk that shows any signs of spoilage.

Is Expired Almond Milk Safe in Smoothies?

It is risky to use expired or spoiled unsweetened almond milk in smoothies, even if other fresh ingredients are also included. Blending will not destroy the bacteria or toxins from milk that has gone bad.

Consuming a smoothie with spoiled milk can potentially cause foodborne illness. For food safety, you should always discard and not consume expired or curdled unsweetened almond milk in any form, including smoothies.

Should You Smell Almond Milk Before Using?

Yes, it’s important to always smell your unsweetened almond milk before use to check for freshness. Your nose is very sensitive to the compounds produced as milk spoils and sours.

Even if the milk looks okay, a quick sniff test can reveal early signs of spoilage you might not otherwise notice. If your almond milk smells at all sour, musty, or bitter, do not consume it. Odor is one of the most reliable ways to identify bad milk.


Checking for changes in smell, consistency, appearance and taste are the best ways to determine if your unsweetened almond milk has gone bad. Observing the printed expiration date is a helpful starting guideline. But your senses, along with watching for curdling or mold, provide the most accurate spoiled milk detection.

With proper refrigerated storage and use within 7-10 days of opening, unsweetened almond milk can remain fresh and safe to drink. But discard immediately at any signs of spoilage to avoid foodborne illness. By understanding the shelf life and using caution with older milk, you can safely enjoy the benefits of unsweetened almond milk.

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