Between cow's milk, almond milk, oat milk, and a dozen other milk varieties, it's not always easy to remember how to best enjoy them. Especially since some varieties spoil so easily, it's always important to remember how to store your milk. Does oat milk need to be refrigerated, or is it okay to store it at room temperature?
The truth is, it depends. Whether or not your oat milk needs to be refrigerated ultimately comes down to where you got it and how it's made. If you want to know whether or not yours needs to be kept in the fridge, take a quick look at our guide below.
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When To Refrigerate Oat Milk
Whether your oat milk requires refrigeration depends entirely on what type you have. Find out how to store each type of oat milk below.
Shelf-Stable Oat Milk
Shelf-stable oat milk is the easiest to store, as it contains preservatives and has gone through an extensive pasteurization process. This, combined with its sterile packaging, allows it to stay fresh at room temperature as long as it is kept in an airtight container. It doesn't matter if it has been opened or not; as long as it's within its best-by date, you don't have to refrigerate it.
If you're not sure whether the oat milk at your grocery store is shelf-stable or not, pay attention to how it's stored before you buy it. If it's not refrigerated, you can probably store it at room temperature after you take it home.
Refrigerated Oat Milk
As mentioned above, it's best to pay attention to how your oat milk is stored at the supermarket. If you found it in the fridge, chances are it needs to be stored there too. You can also tell refrigerated oat milk by its packaging, which is thinner and less resistant to spoilage.
Finally, just read the container itself. If your oat milk needs to be refrigerated, it will say so right on the bottle.
Homemade Oat Milk
Homemade oat milk doesn't contain any of the preservatives in shelf-stable oat milk and hasn't gone through the same pasteurization process. This means it has a much shorter shelf life and needs to be kept in the refrigerator. In fact, even in the refrigerator, you shouldn't try to keep it for longer than five days.
How Long Does Oat Milk Last?
Just like when considering storage, oat milk's shelf life depends on the type you have on hand. It's always a good idea to check the "best by" date on the packaging to get an idea of how long it will last. If you're looking for an estimate, take a look here:
- Homemade oat milk has the shortest shelf life of just 5 days, even when refrigerated in a sealed container.
- Refrigerated or shelf-stable oat milk lasts up to 10 days when stored in an air-tight container.
- Shelf-stable oat milk can last for up to 9 months, even out of the fridge, if its original packaging has not been opened.
Has Your Oat Milk Gone Bad?
If your oat milk has been in storage for more than a few days, it's always a good idea to be on the lookout for signs of spoilage. Some are more obvious than others, do try to keep in mind all of them before taking your first drink.
Normally, oat milk should have a very pale white color, leaning slightly tan or beige. It's not as white as cow's milk, but it's close. If you notice it starts to turn yellow or a darker brown, that means it has started to spoil and needs to be replaced.
Sour Smell and Taste
Fresh oat milk doesn't have much of a smell, with just a slightly sweet aroma. This makes it easy to smell spoilage, with any sour odors being a dead giveaway.
Of course, we don't recommend you give spoiled oat milk a taste. Though if you drink anything that has a sour flavor, you should probably stop drinking it to avoid food poisoning.
Thick or Clumpy Texture
Just like cow's milk, oat milk will start to curdle when spoiled. However, this only happens after bacteria have been growing for some time, so the absence of clumps doesn't necessarily mean your milk is safe to drink.
Frequently Asked Questions
Generally, it's better to keep perishable foods refrigerated whenever possible. The FDA recommends you not leave oat milk or other foods out for more than two hours at a time to prevent the spread of bacteria.
Since oat milk is made from wheat, it's not gluten-free. It should be avoided by anyone with gluten sensitivity or dietary restrictions. You can learn more about oat milk's nutritional information here.