How Long Does Powdered Milk Last? Does It Ever 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 (or dry milk), read on to learn a bit more about storage, shelf life, and going bad of this dairy product.

Info

This article doesn’t cover infant formula by any means.

Powdered milk package
Powdered milk package

How Long Does Powdered Milk Last?

Powdered milk usually comes with a best-by date that’s 12 to 24 months from the production date.

That period informs how long the manufacturer guarantees the best quality. It’s not an expiration date, and that powdered milk is, in most cases, still perfectly fine to use for an extra year or two.

In fact, you can even find dry milk that comes with a shelf life of 20+ years. Such products are marketed towards preppers and survivalists.

All in all, dry milk usually lasts for years past its date. And unlike baking powder that loses potency over time, powdered milk doesn’t.

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 a fresh one, but as long as the powder is okay, the milk should be safe to drink too.

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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.

Pancakes topped with fruit
Pancakes topped with fruit, milk made from powder

Also, powdered milk is available in all versions: full fat, skim, and nonfat.

As you probably know, fat stored for a prolonged period might go rancid. Rancid powdered milk is most likely harmless if you drink a glass once in a while, but it will probably smell off and taste funny. That’s probably not what you want.

Tip

Choose fat-free powdered milk if you expect it to sit around for a couple of years.

Powdered milk closeup
Powdered milk closeup

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 reconstituted 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.

Tip

You can make evaporated milk from powdered milk whenever needed. Canned evaporated milk lasts only a few days after opening, so that’s a great option if you only need a little.

 PantryFridge
Full fat powdered milk (unopened, opened)Best by + 1-2 years 
No fat powdered milk (unopened, opened)Best by + 2-4 years
Powdered milk (mixed) 2 – 3 days
Shelf life of powdered milk

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

Milk made from powdered milk
Milk made from powdered milk

How To Tell If Powdered Milk Is Bad?

Throw out dry milk if:

  • the color has changed to yellow
  • it smells rancid, funny, or off in any way
  • there are big wet clumps or mold in the package
  • pantry insects are inside

If none of the above is the case, the powder 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.

Powdered milk based pancakes
Powdered milk based pancakes

How To Store Powdered Milk

You should store powdered milk in a cool and dry place, away from sources of heat.

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. If you don’t have any issues with insects, a clip should be good enough.

As you can tell, these rules are similar to how you store other powdered food, such as protein powder, or cocoa powder.

Powdered milk sealed with a clip
Powdered milk sealed with a clip
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 a 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.

Powdered milk in a container
Powdered milk in a container

Can You Freeze Powdered Milk?

Freezing powdered milk makes sense only if you don’t use it that often and want it to retain great quality for the long term.

For a regular dry milk user, who’s going to finish the bag in a couple of years and has limited freezer space, it’s probably not worth it.

When it comes to how to go about freezing dry milk, it’s easy. Seal the package tightly and place it in the freezer.

Whenever you need any, just scoop as much as you need, and return the rest to the freezer. And don’t worry about bringing frozen dry milk to room temperature before using it.

FAQs about Powdered Milk

How long is powdered milk good for after mixing?

Ideally you want to drink or use the milk right away, but it can sit in the fridge for 2 to 3 days if you have leftovers.

Does powdered milk need to be refrigerated after mixing?

Can you vacuum seal powdered milk?

Sure, vacuum-sealing is a great way to store powdered milk for the long term. But like freezing, it’s only a good idea if you really want your dry milk to keep top quality for long. For most of us, it’s not worth it.