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How to Tell if Your Non-Dairy Milk is Spoiled
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How to Tell if Your Non-Dairy Milk is Spoiled

We’ve all been there. You go to grab your favorite non-dairy milk from the fridge and you are overcome by that pungent scent. Or worse, you start pouring the milk on your Puffins cereal, and realize that it has magically transformed into a yogurt or dare I say, cottage cheese consistency. The truth is that while non-dairy milk usually lasts longer than dairy milk, it still turns sour. Each type has its own clues for you to play kitchen detective.

Have no fear because I am here to tell you about these signals, so you can save your stomach the aggravation — and save those Puffins from drowning in a spoiled sea of yuck. So put the milk down and check out these signs to see if your dairy milk alternatives have crossed over to Sourville.

1. Coconut Milk

A staple in Asian cooking, coconut milk is hailed for boosting immune system health and supporting a healthy heart. It’s a great addition to curries, smoothies and desserts. This non-dairy product has a mild, sweet taste and a similar consistency to dairy milk. Coconut milk should generally be consumed within seven to 10 days of being opened to ensure optimum freshness. Coconut milk is higher in natural oils, so look out for signs of spoilage early. You can usually determine if this milk substitute has gone bad by smelling it and even tasting it a bit. If you are using canned coconut milk, it may have a stale and tin-like taste, because it starts to absorb the flavor of the can. Generally, with coconut milk you could follow the school of thought that if it smells acceptable and tastes alright, it’s most likely fine. You can even make your own!

2. Almond Milk

Some almond milk cartons are supposed to be kept in your pantry at room temperature until you are ready to enjoy, while others must be refrigerated. So be sure to check their labels to confirm that you are storing them properly. Refrigerated almond milk should be used within seven days of opening, while shelf-stored almond milk could be stored for months and used seven to 10 days after it’s opened in the fridge. Moreover, it’s important to shake this milk’s container, as calcium deposits may settle at the bottom of the carton. Signs that your almond milk took a turn for the worse include: the container seems abnormally bloated after opening, mold is present (I know — this one seems like a given), or the product has actually curdled or is visibly thick and slimy. You can do the slime test by pouring a bit of it down the sink and observing its consistency. If it doesn’t have the same smooth, creamy texture then I’d recommend chucking it. Look out for a change in color, as almond milk may appear more yellow when it has spoiled. The same cues apply for cashew milk as well.

3. Rice Milk

Rice milk is widely believed to look most similar to cow’s milk when in the glass. Shelf-stable rice milk can last up to one month and sometimes longer, while refrigerated rice milk can last for seven to 10 days after being opened. Sediment may sometimes appear in your rice milk carton. This is merely an indication of the presence of vitamins and minerals added to enrich the beverage. That’s why it’s important to shake rice milk as if you’re shaking dice in Vegas in the hopes of affording that fancy new food processor. If your rice milk smells off or has a sour taste it has spoiled. Interested in concocting your own nutrient-infused rice milk? We can arrange that

4. Hemp Milk

At the risk of sounding too hippie-dippie, simply put, hemp milk is awesome. This light and nutty-tasting milk, which is made from the seeds of the cannabis plant, does not contain THC, the active ingredient in marijuana that has psychoactive effects. You still may get a high from knowing that this plant-based milk contains 10 amino acids , making it an ideal vegan source of protein. It is important to note that hemp is reactive to oxygen, so it will spoil quickly if left out. Therefore, if some milk spills outside the carton quickly wipe it up. Store-bought hemp milk contains ingredients that stabilize its oils from spoiling too quickly. Thus, refrigerated hemp milk can stay fresh for seven to 10 days after being opened, and unrefrigerated packaging can last up to one month. If your hemp milk starts getting chunky it’s time to throw it out. If you’re looking for an economical and ecological way to savor hemp milk with a holiday recipe, check this out.

5. Flax Milk

Flax milk contains few calories making it the likely choice for conscious consumers who are watching their plant-powered figures. While fresh flax milk has a milder, nutty flavor, spoiled flax milk will taste bitter and have an unpleasant aftertaste. Similar to almond milk, an unusually bloated container is a good indicator that your flax milk is rancid. Flax milk stays its freshest for seven to 10 days after it’s opened (starting to see a pattern?). If you’re looking to create something with delicious cruelty-free milk on your own, check out this recipe.

6. Soy Milk

Perhaps the most popular non-dairy milk within the vegan and non-vegan communities is soy milk. It’s best to first look at the “best by” date on the container. If the carton is unopened the soy milk should stay fresh until this date. Unrefrigerated soy milk can last up to one month in the pantry, while the refrigerated kind is freshest seven to 10 days after being opened. This quintessential dairy-free milk has a mild scent. If you smell strong odors from the container it has spoiled.

Ultimately, making your own raw versions of these milks is a great way to avoid added preservatives while keeping the integrity of the product. Generally speaking, look out to see if the container of your milk is bloated, take a whiff to determine if there is a slightly off-putting smell and check out if the color and consistency have changed. It’s always better to toss the milk if you are even the slightest bit wary, to avoid illness. In addition, never drink straight from the container, as this will introduce bacteria to the carton, quickening the rate of spoilage. As always, let us know your favorite!

Further Tips:

1. Store plant-based milks in the middle section of the refrigerator, avoiding the door, to maintain coldness yet avoid freezing.

2. Some types of dairy-free milk are sold in shelf-stable cartons that require no refrigeration until they are opened. Store these in a pantry away from heat and sunlight.

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Leave a Comment

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    Wonderfully unusual and valuable information! Thanks, Dani-- for contributing to The Flaming Vegan!
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  2. markrules
    Great post! I didn't even realize that there were than many type of "non-dairy" milks out there. Didn't see cashew milk on this list but I'm sure it probably spoils just like almond milk. Thanks for all of the tips and will keep them all in mind. Ever since I was a teen I started to realize I was lactose intolerant and have always looked into alternatives. This really opened up my eyes to some options. Mark - https://www.wecleanboise.com
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    I want to clarify that just because something is spoiled, doesn't always mean it's hazardous to consume. The common bacteria that usually cause the milk to sour, mushy dark tomatoes or slimy strawberries aren't those that cause food poisoning. The type of bacteria that do lead to food borne illness are the few pathogenic bacteria, such as Salmonella, E. Coli, and Listeria, none of which tend to be present in almond milk or similar products. They mostly tend to dwell on meats and some leafy greens. Most bacteria, on the other hand, are completely harmless and the by products they create are almost always benign.
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