Soy milk is a popular plant-based drink, mainly for vegetarians and people with lactose intolerance. This dairy alternative can be enjoyed alone – a similar way with how you drink cow’s milk – and as a cooking ingredient.
It goes well for a quick breakfast with cereal, for your morning coffee, or to make yourself tofu from scratch. Basically, soy milk can substitute any recipes with dairy milk.
Dairy products are known as perishable products that need refrigeration to extend the shelf life. Does that mean that soy milk does not need refrigeration just because it’s not dairy?
If you forget to refrigerate an opened soy milk from last weekend, is it still safe to drink? Does soy milk go bad?
If you have the same questions, let’s go through this article to find useful information and answers to the most common questions about soy milk shelf life.
How to Store Soy Milk
Soy milk is widely available in local supermarkets, particularly with the rise of the plant-based diet. It is nutritious, relatively cheap and can be enjoyed in many different ways.
Commercial soy milk products can be divided into two: unrefrigerated and refrigerated soy milk.
So, what’s the difference between the two? It’s nothing but the pasteurization process. Pasteurization is a common sterilization method in milk and beverages products to kill unwanted bacteria and to extend the shelf life.
Unrefrigerated soy milk undergoes UHT (ultra-high temperature) sterilization or simply referred to as ultra-pasteurization. This product is packed in an aseptic carton and usually sits on the milk and beverage aisle. Before opening, it can be stored at room temperature. But after opening, it should stay in the fridge. Make sure the pack is tightly closed.
You might also find refrigerated soy milk in a bottle or carton pack in the refrigerated shelf next to fresh milk and juices. Refrigerated soy milk is processed with HTST (high-temperature short-time), and the product thereof is simply referred to as pasteurized soy milk.
Refrigerated soy milk has a shorter shelf life and should stay in the fridge before and after opening the pack. Don’t forget to tightly close the pack.
Another handy tip to maximize soy milk’s shelf life after opening is to drink it from a glass. Even when you’re in a rush don’t drink it straight from the package. Bacteria from your mouth can easily transfer to the pack and speed up spoilage.
Besides buying commercial soy milk, of course, you can also make your own soy milk. The process is not very complicated and easy to follow. But, you will always need to keep your homemade soy milk in the fridge in an airtight container.
How Long Does Soy Milk Last?
Soy milk is rich in nutrients which also makes it a favorable environment for microbial growth that causes spoilage and food-borne illness.
Ultra-pasteurization is a common method to extend the shelf life of milk (dairy and non-dairy) and other beverages. Unrefrigerated (ultra-pasteurized) soy milk is more shelf-stable and typically lasts for 8 months up to a year after manufacturing date, and this can vary by brands.
Meanwhile, refrigerated (pasteurized) soy milk has a shorter shelf life of 2 – 3 months. Observe the “expiry date” or “best before date” provided by the manufacturer as guidance.
Once opened, both types of soy milk will only stay fresh for the next 7 to 10 days maximum. Try to consume it within these days to enjoy the best quality.
Homemade soy milk tends to have a short shelf life of up to 3 – 5 days since aseptic processing can’t be guaranteed.
How to Tell if Soy Milk is Bad
The rule of thumb to quickly check if food is spoiled is by using your senses. Check the appearance, smell, and taste.
For a pack of soy milk, a bloated package is a telltale for spoilage. Bloating is caused by the gas released by a bacterial colony inside the pack. The gas can’t be released when the package is sealed and thus causes bloating.
Good soy milk usually comes in an off-white color and similar consistency as dairy milk. If you see any change in color and unusual texture, such as thickened or curdled liquid and darker color, it’s time to discard the milk.
Just like dairy milk, non-dairy milk also smells sour when it’s going bad. If you see any of the spoilage signs, it’s best to throw the product away.
It depends. If you happen to have soy milk that has passed its date, it is advisable to discard it. But, it is not impossible that soy milk may still be good surpassing its expiry date.
If you’re trying to reduce food waste and hesitate to throw it right away, try to check signs of spoilage. If spoilage signs are not found and the quality is acceptable, feel free to drink. But, try not to keep soy milk too long after its expiration date for safety reasons.
Freezing soy milk is unnecessary and not recommended by many producers. Refrigerator temperature is enough to maintain its quality and safety. But if for other reasons you want to freeze it, yes, of course, you can.
To ease the use after being frozen, it is advised to freeze soy milk in ice cubes. Once frozen, transfer the cubes into a freezer-safe container. Many enjoy these soy milk ice cubes for smoothies.
Soy milk is susceptible to microbial contamination. That’s why commercial products must undergo pasteurization and packed into an aseptic packaging. Only soy milk sterilized with UHT can be stored without refrigeration.
If we’re talking about an opened pack of soy milk, it should always be kept in the fridge. It will get spoiled very fast when left outside the fridge.
Soy milk is a healthy alternative for dairy products suitable for certain diet restrictions. It goes well both as a drink and a cooking ingredient.
Soy milk can go bad very easily when not properly stored. Unrefrigerated ultra-pasteurized milk has a long shelf life up to a year. Meanwhile, refrigerated pasteurized soy milk has a much shorter life of 2 – 3 months. Use the expiry date provided by the manufacturer as guidance. After opening, soy milk should be consumed within 7-10 days.
Up Next: Does Tofu Go Bad?
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