So, you left your almond milk out overnight. You should be ashamed of yourself. Just kidding—it happens to the best of us. But now you’re wondering: Is this almond milk still safe to use?
Almond milk left out for more than two hours (including overnight) should be discarded unless it is in an unopened, shelf-stable package. Even if the almond milk does not have noticeable signs of spoilage, it could have unsafe levels of bacteria and toxins produced by those bacteria.
Below, I’ll give you the full explanation of why it’s unsafe to use almond milk that was left out overnight. I’ll also clear up which almond milks are shelf-stable, how long they can be refrigerated after opening, and more.
Shelf-Stable vs Refrigerated Almond Milk
The first important thing to realize with this issue is that there are two types of almond milk you can buy in the store: Shelf-stable or refrigerated.
- Refrigerated almond milk is found in refrigerators or “cold” areas in the grocery store. It usually has a cardboard carton, like a typical, old-school milk carton. You need to keep it refrigerated when you get home, even if it’s not opened yet.
- Shelf-stable almond milk is found on the shelf in the grocery store, not refrigerated. It usually has a “Tetra Pak” style container, and it’s usually smaller than the refrigerated ones. You don’t need to refrigerate shelf-stable almond milk until it is opened.
Keep in mind that most of this blog post is about refrigerated almond milk or shelf-stable almond milk after it’s been opened. Those are the cases in which your almond milk is perishable.
If your almond milk is still unopened in a shelf-stable Tetra Pak, then you don’t need to refrigerate it or worry about leaving it out. It’s fine to leave it out at that point.
So now, let’s answer some questions about how to handle your perishable almond milk.
How Long Can Almond Milk Sit Out Unrefrigerated?
Here is the official answer, based on USDA recommendations: Almond milk should not be consumed if it was left out for more than two hours. This applies to refrigerated almond milk or shelf-stable almond milk after it has been opened.
Temperatures between 40 and 140 °F are referred to as the “Danger Zone.” In this temperature range, bacteria double quickly, and these bacteria can make you sick. (source)
If it’s extra hot in your house (over 90°F or 32°C), the rule is one hour. After merely one hour left in these hot temperatures, the almond milk should be discarded. This applies if you leave a carton of perishable almond milk in a hot car, for example.
“But I Do It All the Time…”
If you ask your friends about this topic or read on Internet forums, you will hear from people who say it’s fine to use almond milk that was left out. Some will say they do it all the time and they’ve never gotten sick.
However, the FDA estimates there are 48 million cases of foodborne illness each year in the United States. Many people mistake food poisoning for something like the stomach flu. So common people are not the best authorities to ask on this subject.
Some people may also say that if you boil the almond milk, it will kill any bacteria that had grown. But this is misleading.
Boiling will not rid the almond milk of all possible toxins that were created by bacteria—even if it kills the bacteria itself. Therefore, if you want to be on the safe side, you should just throw out the almond milk if it’s been left out overnight (or more than two hours).
Side Note: This is the best free video introduction I’ve found on adopting a plant-based diet—the right way. You’ll learn how to lower your risk of cancer, heart disease, type-2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and obesity—all with plants. Watch the free Masterclass here.
Can Bad Almond Milk Give You Food Poisoning?
What actually happens if you drink bad almond milk? Can you get food poisoning or get seriously sick? Drinking bad almond milk can cause symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps.
Microbiology K.D. Shives has explained how old almond milk could potentially contain Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, Neisseria, or Campylobacter bacteria—especially if someone drank directly from the container. These bacteria can cause serious illness.
Does Almond Milk Go Bad If Not Opened?
Almond milk will eventually go bad, even if not opened. However, shelf-stable almond milk will last much longer than refrigerated almond milk.
Unopened shelf-stable almond milk may have a “use by” date years in the future, while refrigerated almond milk will have a “use by” date only weeks or months in the future.
How To Tell If Almond Milk Is Bad
You may have heard some of these common sense ways to check if your almond milk has gone bad:
- If the carton is bloated
- If it smells bad
- If there are clumps forming
- If the color has changed
- If the taste has changed
These may help you identify some cases of spoiled almond milk. But I would not rely on these signs alone to check my almond milk.
When it comes to almond milk that was left out unrefrigerated, you shouldn’t try to judge if it’s bad by using your senses. Instead, make the decision based on the number of hours it has spent in the “danger zone” of 40 to 140°F.
If it was in the “Danger Zone” for more than 2 hours, it should be thrown it out, according to USDA recommendations. Additionally, if it’s been open in the refrigerator for more than 7-10 days, it should also likely be thrown out.
Unfortunately, you cannot rely on your sense of smell and taste to know for sure whether almond milk has gone bad. This is explained in a fact sheet from the FDA:
“You may be surprised to learn that food can make you very sick even when it doesn’t look, smell, or taste spoiled. That’s because foodborne illnesses are caused by pathogenic bacteria, which are different from the spoilage bacteria that make foods ‘go bad.'”
The document goes on to explain that many foods contain a small amount of pathogenic bacteria when you buy them from the store. So all it takes is a few hours of time in the “danger zone” (40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit), and those bacteria can multiply many times.
Here’s the takeaway: Don’t try to “figure out” if your almond milk went bad by looking at it, smelling it, or tasting it. You can’t accurately judge the levels of pathogenic bacteria that have multiplied by using your senses alone.
Does Almond Milk Really Go Bad 7 Days After Opening?
Most almond milk containers will advise drinking it within 7-10 days of opening. But often, it will still look and smell fine at that point. So, what’s the deal? Is it okay to drink your almond milk on day 11+ or not?
According to several experts who work for plant-based milk companies, 7-10 days is just a general, conservative guideline for perishable foods. If you’ve been diligent about keeping your almond milk closed tightly in the refrigerator, then it will often last longer.
For example, a representative from Ripple Foods explained why they only guarantee their product’s safety for 7-10 days after opening. It’s likely the product will still be safe after that, but it depends too much on environmental factors.
So, it’s a bit of a risk to consume almond milk more than 10 days after opening—but most of the time, it may work out just fine if there are no signs of spoilage (covered above).
Keep in mind, as well, that homemade almond milk will only typically last around 3-5 days—not as long as store-bought almond milk.
Two More Recommendations for Your Plant-Based Journey
1. This is the best free video training I’ve found on plant-based nutrition. You’ll learn how to reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and obesity—all with plant-based food. Watch the free “Food for Health Masterclass” here.
2. This is the best vegan multivitamin I’ve found in my 14 years of being vegan. It has vitamin B12, vitamin D, omega-3—and nothing else. Translation: It only has the nutrients vegans are actually low in. Read my full review of Future Kind’s multivitamin here (with 10% discount).