Does Evaporated Milk Go Bad?

You’re cleaning up your pantry, and you just found 3 cans of evaporated milk. You hardly remember the last time you used evaporated milk or even bought some. And all three cans are past the date on the label. Does evaporated milk go bad?

Since this variety of milk comes canned, you might think that it probably should last past the best-by date. And that’s correct, an unopened can of evaporated milk can last a long time.

If you’d like to learn more about storage, shelf life, and going bad of evaporated milk, read on.

Nestle Carnation evaporated milk
(credit: Ajay Suresh)

How to Store Evaporated Milk?

Evaporated milk, or unsweetened condensed milk, usually comes in tin cans. Like most other cans these are shelf stable so you can store unopened ones at room temperature. The tin protects the milk from light, so you just need to make sure the temperature doesn’t fluctuate much.

The pantry is where most people store unopened cans of evaporated milk, but a cupboard in the kitchen works too. Of course, you can also keep the can in the fridge, but the dairy product doesn’t benefit much from it.

Once you open the can, you should refrigerate the leftover liquid. Since tin cans are pretty much impossible to seal tightly on their own, it’s best to transfer the product to a plastic airtight container. Of course, you can seal the can using some plastic wrapping and a rubber band, but a resealable container is both more convenient and provides a better seal.

Adding evaporated milk to tea (credit: Richard Masoner)

Can You Freeze Evaporated Milk?

Producers, like Carnation, don’t recommend freezing evaporated milk. Freezing causes separation after thawing, and the quality of the product isn’t as good as it was before freezing. However, frozen and thawed evaporated milk usually works okay for cooking and baking purposes. Plus the liquid can be somewhat reconstituted by stirring, whipping, or blending it after thawing.

If you have some leftover evaporated milk that would go to waste, try freezing it and see how it works in your next baked or cooked recipe. Chances are you will be pretty satisfied with the results. Of course, the outcome won’t be as good as with freshly opened evaporated milk, but it should be okay nonetheless.

When it comes to the method of freezing evaporated milk, I recommend using ice cube trays. The same method works really well for similar liquids like coconut or almond milk. It allows you to easily thaw as much evaporated milk as needed and the setup and process of freezing are quite convenient too.

Freezing unopened cans of evaporated milk doesn’t really make sense, as is can compromise the integrity of the seam. Plus an unopened can lasts quite a long time, so it’s usually much better to simply keep in in the pantry until you need it.

A drop of milk
Image used under Creative Commons from fdecomite

How Long Does Evaporated Milk Last

Like other canned products, evaporated milk keeps up for quite some time. Sure, it comes with a best-by (or best if used by) date, but that date only informs you how long, at the very least, the evaporated milk will retain its freshness. And since this dairy product is canned, it will usually last months past that date.

Once you open the can, the condensed milk only lasts a few days. Some producers, like PET Milk recommend using their product within 2 to 3 days, while others, like Carnation, say it’s good for up to 5 days. Generally speaking, you should either use all of it or freeze the leftovers within 5 days.

Canned evaporated milk (unopened)Best by + 6 – 12 months 
Canned evaporated milk (opened 3 -5 days

Please note that the periods above are approximate.

Image used under Creative Commons from Carsten Schertzer

How to Tell If Evaporated Milk has Gone Bad?

The first thing you should know is that film (or “milk skin”) forming on top of evaporated milk is not a sign of spoilage. The film most often forms after opening the can and storing the leftovers in a container that’s not airtight. It is a natural consequence of fat separation, and all you need to fix this is to heat the product up a bit and stir or mix it together.

Spoiled evaporated milk shows the usual signs: changed color, lumps, funny or sour smell, or off taste. Generally, if anything about the liquid seems to be off, discard it.

Same thing if you stored evaporated milk leftovers for more than a week. Yes, even if the dairy product appears to be perfectly fine. The first signs of going bad are difficult to spot, so it’s better to be safe and get rid of it.