Spring cleaning is the time when you find various food products in your pantry that you didn’t know were there. Like an odd bottle of orange juice, sitting there for who knows how long.

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You grab that bottle, check the date on the label, and it’s already a few weeks past that date. Does orange juice go bad?

Or maybe you’ve bought a carton of refrigerated orange juice, drank half of it, and put it in the fridge. A few days later you’re not quite sure if you can finish that juice or should you discard it.

People ask similar questions regarding OJ time and time again, and this article is here to help. In it, we discuss storage, shelf life, and going bad of orange juice. If you’re interested in learning a bit more about OJ, read on.


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(credit: Eiliv-Sonas Aceron)

How to Store Orange Juice

Like with apple or lemon juice, there are a few varieties of orange juice available on the market. And the storage methods are quite similar for each variety too.


Tip

Rule of thumb: you should store unopened OJ at the same temperature it was in the store and put it into the fridge after opening.


Let’s start with the most popular kind, that is the orange juice sold unrefrigerated.

You should keep it in a cool and dark area, away from sources of heat. If it comes in a clear bottle, avoid any light too. Both temperature fluctuations and light affect the juice negatively. The pantry is the best choice, but a cabinet in the kitchen works also. Once you open the container, keep it sealed tightly and in the fridge.


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(credit: Eiliv-Sonas Aceron)
Another variety of OJ is the one available in the refrigerated section. Orange juice from Simply Beverages is a good example of such juice. This kind should always be refrigerated, plain and simple. As usual, make sure the container is sealed when not in use.

Last but not least, there’s the homemade orange juice you make with fresh oranges. Like with the refrigerated variety, you should keep fresh OJ in the fridge.

If you won’t be able to use all your OJ before it goes bad, freezing is a tried and tested way to preserve orange juice. While freezing might degrade the quality of the juice a bit, it should be just fine if you use it in a drink. Or throw in a cube or two of frozen OJ into a glass of water on a hot day for a tasty refreshment. That’s why I recommend freezing orange juice in an ice cube tray.

And one more thing, please don’t freak out if you leave unopened bottle or carton of OJ in a hot car for a few hours. Especially if it’s the sold unrefrigerated variety. The juice most likely will be perfectly fine. If, on the other hand, the bottle was already opened, cut your losses and discard the juice for safety purposes.


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(credit: Eiliv-Sonas Aceron)

How Long Does Orange Juice Last

Once again, let’s start with orange juice sold unrefrigerated. This variety of OJ is always pasteurized to kill any harmful bacteria. Left unopened, it usually lasts between one and two years.

Every bottle or carton comes with a best-by or best-before date. That date is an estimate of how long the juice will retain freshness. Of course, it’s a rough estimate, and OJ should easily last at least a few months longer.

Once you open the container, you should finish or freeze it within 7 to 10 days.

Orange juice sold in the refrigerated section usually comes with a use-by date. The juice should stay fine for a few days past that date, but don’t expect miracles. Once you open the bottle or carton, it will retain freshness for up to 7 days.

When it comes to homemade OJ, it’s ideal to consume it the same day you squeeze the oranges. If that’s not possible, try to use it or freeze it within two to three days.

PantryFridge
Orange juice sold unrefrigerated (unopened)Best by + 3 – 6 months
Orange juice sold unrefrigerated (opened)7 – 10 days
Orange juice sold refrigerated (unopened)Use-by + 3 – 5 days
Orange juice sold refrigerated (opened)7 days
Fresh orange juice2 – 3 days

Please note that all the periods above are estimates and for the best quality.


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Fresh OJ in a glass

How To Tell If Orange Juice Is Bad

Like other juices, OJ deteriorates in quality over time. That process accelerates upon opening the bottle or carton.

That means that after a few days of refrigerating the liquid won’t be as tasty as it was right after you opened the bottle. At a certain point, you might find the taste unpleasant, and that’s when you should discard it. The juice most likely is still safe to drink, but there’s no point in consuming flavorless OJ.

Now to the signs that your OJ is spoiled.

First off, if the container is bulging or swollen, something went wrong in the production process, and you should throw the juice out.

Now pour some juice to a transparent glass so you can see the liquid clearly. First, take a close look at the liquid and make sure it has the usual color and there are no signs of mold or any sediment.

The sniff test comes second. If the juice smells sour, somewhat like vinegar, throw it out.

Next on our checklist is taste. If everything up to this point seems to be perfectly fine with the liquid, it’s time to drink a little. If it tastes fizzy or reminds you of alcohol, discard it. Given that the taste is okay, feel free to use it.

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One more thing to remember. If you already store the juice for a pretty long time, like a half-open carton for 2 or 3 weeks, or homemade OJ for a week, discard it anyway. Better safe than sorry.