Does Sweetened Condensed Milk Go Bad

A few years ago you’ve bought three cans of sweetened condensed milk to make caramel for a dessert recipe you wanted to try out.

Today, while cleaning up the pantry, you found one of the cans buried in a cabinet. Obviously, it’s already past the date on the label. Does sweetened condensed milk go bad?

You can easily find a way to use the milk, but first, you want to make sure if you can use it without making anyone ill. Fortunately for you, canned food usually lasts for years, and your sweetened condensed milk is most likely perfectly fine. If you’d like to learn more about storage, shelf life, and going bad of sweetened condensed milk, read on.

Image used under Creative Commons from RichardBH

How To Store Sweetened Condensed Milk

Storing sweetened condensed milk is the same as storing evaporated milk, which is its unsweetened counterpart. Or pretty much the same way you store any other canned food.

As long as the can remains unopened, you should keep it in a cool and dry area, away from sunlight or sources of heat. The area being moisture-free helps make sure the can won’t rust. Being in a place where the temperature doesn’t fluctuate much helps with retaining the best quality for the long term. While temperature fluctuations won’t make this dairy product go bad, its quality might not be the best after opening.

Once you open the can, you should keep the sweetened condensed milk always refrigerated and sealed tightly.

Since sealing an opened can on its own is impossible, there are a few options. The easiest one is to pour the leftovers into an airtight container or resealable jar. If you don’t have one on hand, plastic wrap and a rubber band can do the trick. The former is a better solution, but the latter can do the job for at least a few days.

Storing the milk in an unsealed can is a bad idea. The liquid will absorb any odors from the fridge, and you can end up with condensed milk that smells like sausage. And believe me, you don’t want that.

When it comes to homemade sweetened condensed milk, you should always store it in the fridge. That is, of course, after you cool it down after cooking. Same thing with any recipes where you use condensed milk or caramel.

Longevity Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk
(credit: Dan)

Can You Freeze Sweetened Condensed Milk?

If you don’t use the leftover condensed milk within a week or two, you can freeze it. There will be some separation after thawing, and the texture will be altered slightly. But if you plan on cooking it to make caramel, the altered consistency shouldn’t make that big of a deal.

Tip

Give the freezing process a try first before freezing a big batch.

When it comes to how you should freeze leftover milk, go with the same method you use for freezing almond or coconut milk. That means freezing the milk in an ice cube tray, or if it’s too small, in a muffin tin.

Freezing an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk is a bad idea. The freezing process can compromise the seams. Plus this product lasts years, so there’s no need to freeze to extend its shelf life.

Dipping a crackers in condensed milk
Dipping crackers in condensed milk (credit: Jeorge Jordan)

How Long Does Sweetened Condensed Milk Last

Like with other canned products, sweetened condensed milk will last for years. Of course, there’s a best-by date on the label, but as you probably know, the best-by date is more about quality than food safety. And when it comes to cans, they retain the quality well for a long time.

To sum it up, an unopened sweetened condensed milk should keep its best quality for a year or two past the date on the label. And it should easily last for another decade if stored properly. The quality might be somewhat worse, like the texture and taste may change a bit, but it will remain safe to use and most likely quite good too.

Once you open the can, the leftovers won’t last long in good quality. While manufacturers like Eagle Brand say it should last for 3 to 4 days, it will probably last longer.

Since this variety of condensed milk has additional sugar, it should last at least a few days longer than its no-added-sugar counterpart. That means it should retain quality for up to two weeks. That is, of course, if you store it in an airtight container and tightly sealed. If you leave it in the tin it came in, use it within the mentioned 3 to 4 days.

When it comes to homemade condensed milk, look for info on how long you can store it in the fridge in the recipe you used.

 PantryFridge
Sweetened condensed milk (unopened)Best by + 1 – 2 years 
Sweetened condensed milk (opened) Up to 2 weeks

Please note that the periods above are for the best quality only.

Tin of Panda sweetened condensed milk
(credit: Ming Xia)

How To Tell If Sweetened Condensed Milk Is Bad?

First, let’s start with an unopened tin of sweetened condensed milk. A tin is pretty much a sterile environment. That means that after it’s sealed, nothing gets in or out until you open it. So if there are no bacteria that can cause this dairy product to spoil, the milk can’t spoil. And because the tinning process includes steps that make any unwanted bacteria getting to the milk pretty much impossible, opening a can of spoiled condensed milk is almost impossible.

That’s, of course, true for cans that were handled and stored correctly. If the can is leaky, rusted, has holes, or is puffed, just throw it away. If the can is intact, the milk in it almost certainly will be too.

Now, let’s talked about opened condensed milk. Fresh condensed milk has a creamy white color that is similar to raw cream or whole milk and flows like chocolate syrup from a bottle. If the color is altered, or there are some discolorations, discard it. Same thing if it smells off or sour, or its texture has changed noticeably.

If everything seems fine, and you don’t store it for more than 2 to 3 weeks already, give it a taste. Based on the taste you should decide if it’s good enough to use or should be discarded.