Orange juice is a refreshing and nutritious drink, so I always keep it around the house. But sometimes I forget about it only to realize it’s been sitting in the back of the fridge for who knows how long. And when this happens, I never know whether it’s still safe to drink.
Sometimes, even when it’s past its expiry date, it still looks and smells okay to me. But for good measure, I just toss it in the trash. What a waste!
So I decided to do some research on the shelf life of orange juice, and I’m here to share everything I’ve learned with you.
If you’ve ever accidentally kept a carton of orange juice around for too long, and you’re not sure whether you should throw it out, this one is for you!
So, Does Orange Juice Go Bad?
Yup! Just like everything else in the world, orange juice also has an expiration date. This is because orange juice oxidizes over time, which will cause microorganisms to infiltrate the juice. This results in a change in color and an unpleasant sour taste.
In fact, even if you leave your carton of orange juice unopened, it will still go bad. Ultimately, the sugars in the orange turns into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
In short, it ferments over time. It will result in a beer- or wine-like juice, and if you think that’s a good thing, it’s not.
How Long Does Orange Juice Last?
The answer depends on the orange juice. Again, all types will go sour, but some have a longer shelf life than others.
For instance, store-bought orange juice has additives in it, so it has a longer shelf-life than freshly squeezed orange juice. Here’s a simple guide for navigating the different types of OJ:
- Freshly squeezed orange juice has the shortest lifespan among them all, especially if it’s got pulp in it. It’s best to drink it on the same day you squeezed the oranges, but it is still safe to drink it within two to three days.
Here’s a tip: Be sure to pick the best oranges to make homemade orange juice. You can’t go wrong with Tangerines, Clementines, Valencia, and Blood Oranges.
- Unopened store-bought OJ from the refrigerated section will last up to two weeks past its best-by date. But, once you’ve opened the carton, consume it within seven days.
- Unopened packaged orange juice from the shelf has the longest lifespan. This variety of orange juice has been pasteurized, so it can kill any harmful bacteria such as salmonella or E. coli entering the juice. If left unopened, it will keep well for up to one to two years!
If you’ve already opened it, though, you have to consume it within seven to ten days.
- Frozen orange juice, no matter what kind it is, will last forever! But it’s better if you consume it within four months, because its flavor will start to deteriorate after that.
How to Store Orange Juice
As a rule, you must keep an unopened bottle or carton of orange juice at the same temperature as it was when you bought it. Once you’ve opened it, it has to go to the fridge – regardless of what type it is.
- Freshly squeezed orange juice should go straight to the fridge.
- If you bought pasteurized juice from the shelf, keep it in the pantry until you have to use it. Place it in a cool and dark area, far from any source of heat and light. Changes in temperature and light will sacrifice its integrity. If there’s no space left in the pantry, any kitchen cabinet will do.
But, once you’ve opened the container, transfer it to the fridge.
- If you got it from the refrigerated section, store it immediately in the fridge upon purchase.
- But, if you want your orange juice to last for up to a year, freeze it! Just keep in mind that frozen OJ has a much lower nutritional value than fresh OJ. It will still taste good, though!
Pour the juice into an ice cube tray and freeze indefinitely.
How to Tell if Orange Juice Has Gone Bad
Aside from the unpleasant taste and odor, it is very unsafe to consume orange juice that’s gone bad.
Orange juice contains harmful microorganisms that reproduce, even though you store it properly. When they’ve multiplied enough, they can cause diarrhea, stomach cramps, vomiting, and nausea when consumed.
I’m sure you don’t want that for your family, so here are some telltale signs that your orange juice has reached its expiration:
- The OJ has a sour or sharp scent, similar to that of alcohol or vinegar.
- The container is showing dark spots – those aren’t dirt, but molds. Sometimes molds appear in the juice itself, too. Pour out a bit of juice into a transparent glass and check. If the juice has changed in color, it’s time to go.
- The container is bulging. This is a sign of fermentation, so just throw that thing out already.
- It tastes strange. If it’s sour or fizzy, or has a strange texture, that also means it’s fermented, and is no longer safe to drink.
Now, if you’ve accidentally left fresh orange juice in the pantry for over 2 hours, throw it out! It’s already gone bad, for sure. No need to investigate.
But, if it’s an unopened carton of pasteurized OJ you’ve left sitting out, it’s fine, don’t worry about it.