Does Powdered Milk Go Bad

So there’s this bag of powdered milk lurking in the corner of a cabinet in the pantry. And it’s there for who-knows-how-long.

Finally, you decide to do something about it. You check the date on the label, and it’s already over a year past that date. Does powdered milk go bad?

It’s only powder, so you expect that it might be still okay to use it. But at the same time, you don’t want to risk food poisoning for no reason.

If you’re unsure what to do with that powdered milk, read on to learn a bit more about storage, shelf life, and going bad of this dairy product. Please note that this article doesn’t cover infant formula by any means.

A cup of whitened coffee
(credit: Justin Leibow)

How To Store Powdered Milk

You should store powdered milk the same way you store other powdered food, like protein powder, or cocoa powder. That means it should sit in a cool and dry place. The pantry is the perfect spot, but a cabinet in the kitchen works too. Just make sure it’s in a place that’s away from moisture.

Once you open the package, make sure always to keep it sealed tightly.

Tip

If the bag the powdered milk came in isn’t resaleable, transferring the powder to a freezer bag or an airtight container is the way to go. Such container keeps all moisture and pantry bugs at bay so the powder can last a long time.

Once you have mixed the powder into liquid form, store the leftovers in the fridge if you didn’t drink the whole thing right away.

Coconut Meal Powder
Image used under Creative Commons from Phu Thinh Co

How Long Does Powdered Milk Last?

The shelf life of powdered milk ranges from one to two years for the most popular brands up to 20+ years for brands that sell food to preppers and survivalists.

However, each package or bag of powdered milk comes with a best-by date. That date is there to inform you for how long, at the very least, the product should retain freshness.

Since this product comes in powdered form, it usually lasts for years past that date. Fortunately, unlike baking powder, powdered milk doesn’t lose potency over time.

That means you should be able to successfully make milk with a 20 years old powder. Maybe it won’t taste as good as milk made from fresh powder, but as long as the powder is okay, the milk should be safe to drink too.

Info

Many brands fortify their powdered milk with vitamins (usually D and A) and minerals (calcium). And over time some or all of the nutritional value of those ingredients might be lost.

Also, powdered milk is available in all versions: full fat, skim, and no-fat. Logic suggests that the less fat in the powdered milk, the longer it should retain freshness. So if you want to store the powder for years to come, go for the reduced or no fat varieties.

Once you open the bag of powdered milk, the shelf life doesn’t really decrease as long as you store it properly.

When it comes to prepared milk, brands like Nido suggest you should drink the mixture within 24 hours of preparing. Of course, the liquid should retain quality for a day or two more, but don’t push it. Making as much milk as you need at a time is how you go about it.

 PantryFridge
Powdered milk (unopened, opened)Best by + 1-2 years 
Powdered milk (mixed) 2 – 3 days

Please note that all the periods above are for best quality only. Powdered milk will last years longer if stored well.

Pouring milk in coffee
(credit: Miryam León)

How To Tell If Powdered Milk Is Bad?

Let’s start with the unmixed powder. If the powder seems to be okay, meaning the color is unchanged, the smell isn’t funny or off, and there aren’t any big clumps, signs of mold or changes in texture, it should be safe to use.

Make some milk with it and see how it turns out. A freshly made batch of milk made from powder should be milky in flavor and smooth in texture. If it smells off, tastes sour, or generally doesn’t taste or feel as good as it used to, throw it out.