What qualifies almond milk as “milk,” per se?
It’s not like it comes rocketing out of an almond’s udders the same way traditional milk squirts forth from a cow’s. Better yet, we should probably ask a few seemingly silly questions before we get into whether it spoils like the standard stuff. Like, what is almond milk made of — besides almonds — and do any of those things go bad?
The answer to the first question is easy: At its core, almond milk is nothing more than the extract of almonds that have been soaked in water, and then blended up, with a little bit of salt and flavoring added after the fact. As for the second question — how long all those almonds stay good for? — almonds are well-known to retain their integrity longer than other nuts. This is owed to some of the phytochemicals contained within them. However, almonds aren’t invincible; they will eventually turn rancid given enough time. In fact, there have been at least three major outbreaks of salmonella reported in different parts of the globe since 2000 that have been directly attributed to almonds.
Disease-inducing almonds? No thanks. How do I keep my almonds from tearing me apart from the inside?
Most almonds are now roasted, blanched or processed to prevent them from becoming the enemy in the short-term. That said, no matter what additional palate-pleasing processes the almonds undergo, or how many steps are taken to preserve their freshness, no almonds can remain safely edible for longer than three years, even if they remain in an unopened container. Moreover, once a container of almonds has been opened, two weeks in the pantry or four weeks in the refrigerator is the longest you should dare to let them linger before you throw them away.
Got it. So how can I tell if my almonds have gone bad?
Even after they’ve been processed, almonds will still signify their spoilage through obvious signs like mold and rancidity.
The unsaturated fats in almonds are oxidized when they become exposed to moisture, light, heat or plain-old oxygen. This leads directly to the almonds becoming rancid, and causes them to taste sour or bitter. You can attempt to power through the foul flavors at your own peril, but your face and mouth will probably find itself on an unscheduled date with the toilet bowl if you choose to travel down that path.
Plainly stated, there’s no way to prevent your almonds from becoming degraded to a point where squirrels wouldn’t even bother to touch them.
Okay, but you’re still talking about almonds. Can’t my almond milk be treated with some sort of special preservative to stop it from spoiling?
There is nothing you can pre-treat your almond milk with that won’t cause you to puke your guts out after drinking a spoiled version of it.
Let’s assume for the sake of comedy that you’re the rare person with enough time on their hands to soak almonds in water, blend those almonds, strain out the pulp and then add salt and flavoring to it. No matter what flavor-savoring measures you employ, that almond milk is going to start going putrid shortly after day four, so chug it down quickly.
If you’re less of a do-it-yourselfer, and you’re more akin to the majority of people who are helping to turn Blue Diamond and Danone into billion-dollar brands, here’s the info you’ve been waiting for: Even your ultra-pasteurized, shelf-stable almond milk will go bad if you permit it to camp in the back of the refrigerator for more than a week after you’ve opened it (10 days if you’re blessed with Herculean levels of bravery).
Since we can’t sniff your almond milk for you, you’re probably hoping for some frontline tests to identify if your favorite alternative to cow’s milk has suddenly gone from friend to foe. Well, aside from the fact that the almond milk will probably both smell and taste noticeably sour, there will also likely be some thickening and clumping together of noticeable solid particles where there was once a creamy texture.
To summarize: Yes, almond milk goes bad, just like almonds go bad and just like how most relationships eventually go bad. In fact, for many of you, there’s a good chance you’re reading this because your body’s relationship with lactose took a turn for the worse a long time ago.