Milk Substitutes: Soy, Rice, and Almond Drinks

The last decade or so has been very good to the milk substitute industry, thanks to the increasing awareness of lactose intolerance as well as the rise in veganism and general diet consciousness  Soy milk, in particular, has enjoyed a sharp uptick in popularity and has become a significant presence in school lunch programs.  This is good news for the vast majority of non-white Americans and the 21% of white Americans who lack the sufficient enzymes to digest regular dairy products.  It also makes investigating the storage requirements of such beverages--almond “milk” and rice “milk” are among the other leading substitutes--worthwhile. 


In addition to the dietary advantages these milk alternatives have over the lactose-based kind, some of them enjoy the luxury of being able to sit unrefrigerated prior to opening for as long as a year.  Taste the Dream packages Soy Dream, Rice Dream, and Almond Dream in two ways.  With one type of packaging, the product must be refrigerated in the store and at home because it is not completely sealed and, as a result, oxygen could get in. On the other hand, the company’s products in aseptic packaging can be found on the store’s open (unrefrigerated) shelves.  These can last as long as a year without refrigeration.


Similarly, the Kirkland brand of organic soy milk (we are partial to the vanilla-flavored)  we saw in the store had a “Best If Used By” date that was  almost a whole year ahead of when it was purchased.


All three products—soy, almond, and rice drinks--carry the same warning regarding the opened products, which is that they are perishable, should be kept refrigerated, and will stay fresh for only about 7-10 days. (Actually, Almond Breeze suggests “within 7 days,” but that’s in the same ballpark) .  After that? The FAQ section for the website for Silk, for example, merely states: “Once opened, Silk will stay fresh for seven to ten days if kept refrigerated. It is not unusual for Silk to remain good past the ten-day mark; however, we only guarantee that it will be good for seven to ten days.”  The Taste the Dream Consumer Relations spokesperson we spoke to strongly recommended not using the company’s  soy, rice, or almond drinks past the expiration dates because they could become rancid. 


You should be able to consume a whole container of  any of these products with time to spare, particularly if you buy them in one-quart boxes.  But, if you’re an especially slow drinker, you might be asking yourself, “Can I freeze soy milk?”  And the answer is a resounding “Not a good idea.”  Taste the Dream says no to freezing.  Here’s how  Silk puts it: “We do not recommend freezing Silk for storage. Although freezing does not affect the safety or nutritional value of the product, frozen-then-thawed Silk is dramatically inferior in texture.”  Or as more precisely explained on Yahoo Answers (and pretty much everywhere else we looked): “The water in the soy milk will separate and rise to the top and form ice. When thawed, it is difficult to mix the water back in to regain the original consistency of the milk. The soy milk may possibly taste different and it will definitely look different.”


So, forget freezing.  If you use soy milk just occasionally, your better bet would be powdered soy milk, though warns that it “is said to lose in flavor what it makes up for in convenience.” This is pretty much what we expect from any foods that undergo a conversion into powder.


Lastly, the question of whether or not soy milk is healthier or less healthy than regular milk is a hotly debated one.  For every one of these, you’ll find one of these.  And then, further complicating things, are the battles that turn the substitutes against each other. These are matters beyond the scope of our investigation.  All you can do is read the labels, ask the experts, weigh all the evidence, and do what makes the most sense to you.

Milk Substitutes: Soy, Rice, and Almond Drink Shelf Life
Soy, Rice, Almond Milk Refrigerated Packaging (unopened)85 days
Soy, Rice, Almond Milk Unrefrigerated Packaging (unopened)1 year
Soy, Rice, Almond Milk (opened)7-10 days
Handling Tips: 
These shelf life figures come from Taste the Dream, makers of Soy Dream, Rice, Dream, and Almond Dream. However, other brands seem to have similar shelf lives.
Though the store-refrigerated products listed above have a shelf life of 85 days, keep in mind that some of that time will have elapsed by the time you buy the item. Follow the expiration dates on the package to determine when it’s time to discard. Mark on the container the date you open the product, and strongly consider discarding it within 10 days.
Do not freeze these products.
Silk FAQs

Taste the Dream Consumer Relations Phone Line

OChef “The Shelf Life of Soy Milk”

Supermarket research

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