Warning Signs Your Opened Carton Of Almond Milk Isn't Safe To Drink

Out of all plant-based milks, almond milk is the most popular among consumers in the U.S., according to reporting from Statista in 2023. Unsweetened almond milk is low in calories and packed with vitamin E and magnesium (per WebMD). Additionally, while dairy milk contains lactose — a sugar in which bacteria can thrive and cause spoilage — almond milk is lactose-free. This doesn't mean almond milk can't eventually go bad, though. 

Exactly how long it's safe to keep almond milk in your kitchen will depend on whether it's homemade or brought home from the grocery store. However, both should be kept in the refrigerator upon opening, notes Food Network. Afterward, keep an eye on your almond milk's smell, consistency, and appearance to avoid potential health risks associated with drinking spoiled almond milk.

It's pretty obvious when your jug of cow's milk has gone sour; you can smell it from a mile away. When it comes to plant-based milk, however, does almond milk have different warning signs indicating it's now past its prime?

Signs that your almond milk isn't safe to drink

Similar to dairy milk, if it looks funky or smells bad, those are two surefire warning signs your carton of almond milk belongs in the trash. "Signs of spoilage include discoloration or foul odor. It can get lumpy or develop specks of mold," registered dietitian nutritionist Dana Angelo White told Food Network in a discussion about safe almond milk consumption. "Bottom line: when in doubt, toss it!"

Another indicator that a carton of almond milk is no longer safe to drink is if too much time has passed since opening. Refrigerated homemade almond milk should only be allowed to hang around for three days. Meanwhile, refrigerated commercial almond milk can be kept for ten days after popping the top. But don't use the expiration date stamped on your milk carton to determine this timeline. Expiration dates are synonymous with "best by" or "sell by" dates, which is in reference to product quality — not safety.

Another way to tell if your almond milk has spoiled is to use the coffee cup trick. Upon pouring a splash of almond milk into a hot cup of joe, spoiled almond milk will curdle on the surface, explains Good Housekeeping. Right away, you'll be able to spot small, itty bitty chunks floating around. If almond milk has started curdling on its own in the container, this is also a sign that it's unsafe to drink.

What would happen if you drink spoiled almond milk

Taking a sip of spoiled milk can have consequences beyond just making you gag from its unpleasantly sour taste. PharmEasy explains that drinking almond milk that has gone bad can increase the risk of foodborne illness, which can prompt symptoms of nausea or gastrointestinal distress. Older adults, young children, people with compromised immunity, and pregnant individuals tend to be more vulnerable to foodborne illness, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

For the sake of our health, it's important to watch for signs that it's time to depart with your carton of almond milk and replace it with a fresh one to safely enjoy in your morning brew.