Combining ethical growing practices with sustainable production methods, almond milk is one of the newest and most popular revolutions in food science for a number of reasons. It is healthy, made without relying on factory farming, and produced with a minimal carbon footprint. In essence, it is new milk for a new age.
But partly because it is so new and so superior to normal cow’s milk, it must be put through a few important tests and questions: How does it taste? How long does it last? And can you freeze it?
Interestingly, no, you cannot freeze almond milk. While the freezing itself will not kill the milk, the thawing process will. This is because thawing the milk causes the nutrients to separate from the milk. This not only ruins the nutritional value of the milk but makes it taste bad.
The issue is that almond milk actually contains a significant amount of water. Milk derived from almonds is a lot thicker than milk as most consumers understand it, and it will basically always be watered down in order to have an agreeable texture. This chemistry trick is what causes it to freeze badly.
Water freezes at a different temperature than the nutrients of almond milk. This means that any bond the two have will be separated, either immediately or after thawing. There are ways to counteract this situation, however. All you need is a little know-how.
How To Thaw Almond Milk
This section is on how to thaw almond milk because freezing it is the easy part. Stick a jug or carton of almond milk in the freezer and it will freeze. But just because it freezes does not mean that it is freezing properly. The truth is though, there is no way to freeze it properly. It will always run into problems when it is frozen.
You can observe this with an experiment: Pour a glass of almond milk and freeze that. This will allow you to see what happens when almond milk is frozen. What you will see is that the water of the almond milk separates out from the rest of it. The water will rise to the top of the glass, while the fat rests at the bottom.
The nutrients of the almond milk will create a layer in between these two substances. This is how different they all are from each other, as this only happens when chemicals in liquid are completely different temperatures and densities. The thing is, while freezing and thawing separate these chemicals, they can be rebonded.
Many store-bought almond milk will contain “emulsifiers”. These are chemicals that are inert most of the time, but aid in the rebonding of chemicals that have been separated out. Many milks and drinks that contain milk will carry these chemicals. Any drink that says to “shake well” contains them, as that motion activates them.
What this means is that once your almond milk is thawed, shaking, and stirring it might serve as sufficient motion to get its components mixed together again. However, it obviously is not always that simple.
If you are worried that your almond milk will not rebond together when shaken, or if you frequently run into situations where it simply refuses to, then two things might be happening. The first is that you are dealing with homemade almond milk. The second is you are using a unique or health-food brand.
In both of these cases, it is possible and in fact likely, that the almond milk does not contain emulsifiers. Do not fret though, as it is easy and safe to add your own. Similar to spices, you can get your own emulsifiers and leave them in your pantry for the odd time when you need them.
The best (or at least most common) store-bought emulsifier is sunflower lecithin. This will get your almond milk’s water, nutrients, and fat all rebonded to each other and safe to drink.
This might result in a diminished taste or texture, but it is better than nothing. Given that almond milk goes bad in just over a week, it is preferable to having no options for drinking it at all.
How Long Can Almond Milk Last In The Freezer?
Almond milk will last for up to two months in the freezer. The separation of fat, nutrients, and water happens immediately, and it is reversed by the same method every time. Essentially, you do not need to overthink it.
Almond milk is finicky when frozen, but the separation of chemicals in the first and last obstacle you will have to deal with. After two months, the separation will have caused too much damage to the nutrients and fats for rebonding to be possible, and the almond milk will lose its taste, texture, and nutritional value.
Does This Affect Recipes With Almond Milk In Them?
The short answer is no. The long answer is that by the time the almond milk has mixed in with the recipes that include it, it has long since stopped bonding with the water. This means that it is bonded with something else, usually something that has a closer freezing temperature to itself.
This does not mean that the nutrients and fats of almond milk are indestructible after being used in other foods. It just means that it is unlikely that they will be put into a state that will result in their separation from those foods.
For instance, if the almond milk was used in the baking of a cake, then it has reached a completely different chemical state by the time you freeze that same cake. At that point, it is not even almond milk anymore, no more than the sugar in the cake is granulated sugar, or the egg is runny egg whites with the yolk.
Cooking is chemistry and chemistry is complicated. But most of the time people only interface with a small amount of it. Almond milk is a rare case of the average consumer having access to the right proper chemical problem. But now you know how to solve that problem. Just shake well and add emulsifiers when you need to.