If you’re a full-time vegan, testing out plant-based milk, maybe even keeping a substitute around for a friend or family member, you might be wondering if there are any ways to extend its shelf life.
The easiest and most obvious solution might be to pop it in your freezer, as is the case for preserving most foods, but although it’s an imitation of dairy milk which freezes fine, it’s more delicate in texture.
Simply put, it is possible to freeze soy milk, but you might not get the best results, as some of the ingredients are prone to separating, which leads to an altered consistency that isn’t necessarily pleasant.
Manufacturers Advise Against It...
Popular plant milk manufacturers including Alpro, Silk, and Edensoy all state clearly in their website’s frequently asked questions section that they do not recommend freezing their products.
Whilst they also outline that it won’t alter the nutritional value or safety of consuming their products, it’s not advised to freeze them because of the potential for a different taste or texture.
However, should you be looking to make frozen desserts like ice cream with a soy-based substitute, don’t panic: as part of a recipe, plant milks are absolutely fine to freeze and won’t have the same textural issues.
Each brand will have its own list of ingredients, so the results you achieve will be different with every milk you try - play around and see which one offers you the best result if you’re going to make it a regular thing.
How Best To Freeze?
Unopened soy milk has an extended shelf life of around eight months if it’s stable and doesn’t need refrigeration, so it isn’t necessary to freeze it unless you’ve popped the top and aren’t planning on using it in the next week to ten days.
If you’re planning to use it as an ingredient in your cooking, as part of a blended drink (iced soy frappe anyone?) or you aren’t too bothered about the change in consistency, you want to freeze it properly for best results.
It’s best to freeze as soon as the carton’s been opened, as that guarantees plenty of time to consume once it’s thawed and avoids a sour, spoiled taste in the end. Should you know the exact amount you need, just freeze that much.
Don’t bother freezing the whole thing if you aren’t going to use it all - it’ll take forever to be usable, which kind of defeats the purpose of its convenience. Wasting half a carton at the end of every week? Freeze it right at the start in advance!
Important Storage Information
Now, the majority of soy milks are composed of mostly water, which means when you freeze them, they’re likely to expand considerably - you need to leave room in your container so there’s space for it to spread out.
As a result, it’s dangerous to freeze soy milk in a glass mason jar or similar rigid container, as this process of expanding might cause it to crack or explode in the freezer, which wouldn't be very pretty.
Planning to make iced coffees or other icy drinks, or maybe just want something a little easier to deal with? Use an ice cube tray! You’ll have dedicated, accurate amounts of milk to grab at a moment’s notice.
We recommend picking up a silicone tray to use for this, as once frozen, soy milk takes on a sticky texture and can be hard to remove, so it’s helpful for easily extracting your cubes if you can bend and push the tray to nudge them out.
Sealed food-safe containers like Tupperware or lunch boxes are also good bet, as it’s less likely to freeze into a weird shape, though it’s fine to use a freezer bag and this will save you space if you only need a little.
Strange Color Change?
Come to check on or use your frozen soy milk only to find that it’s taken on a weird yellow tinge? This isn’t a cause for concern or a reason to throw it out - it hasn’t gone bad, we promise! It’s just what happens.
Just in case, though, always write the date onto your container or an adhesive label you can stick on - if you’ve frozen a specific amount, you could write this down too, especially if you’re working in batches.
Defrosting Done Right
Before you commit to thawing your milk, please note that you cannot freeze it a second time, so it’s either use it or lose it once you’ve made that decision. Please take our word for it, unless you fancy a disgusting taste experience.
Soy milk can be kept in the freezer for up to three months of safe consumption, which is plenty of time to use it up, but don’t forget about it! You’ll need a few hours to defrost it in the refrigerator before it's usable unless for blending.
Simply pop the bag or sealed container in there as is - ice cubed milk can be popped out and placed in a bowl for defrosting if you don’t want to use the whole tray. Shake vigorously once thawing is complete, to help any remaining lumps dissolve.
As we’ve said, though, you’ll never be able to recreate the original creamy texture of a high-quality soy milk, so don’t be too disappointed if it isn’t great in your coffee or poured over your cereal.
How Else Can You Preserve Soy Milk?
Storing shelf-safe soy milk in a cool dry place like your pantry will help you to extend its shelf life, as will keeping it in the fridge once opened; constantly refrigerated soy should only be removed from its cold resting place when you need to use it.
Once the sell-by date has passed, you’re always looking at an inferior taste and consistency, and it might be more difficult to completely dissolve in hot beverages, so we don’t suggest keeping it for very long once that has passed.
You’ll know for sure if a soy milk has gone bad when there’s a new, different, off-putting smell emanating from the carton, any lumps or curds have formed, or you’ve noticed any changes in color.