Does Evaporated Milk Go Bad? How Long Does Evaporated Milk Last?

Evaporated milk is a mainstay of cooking, especially because it can be stored in the pantry and doesn’t need to be refrigerated like regular milk.  It can last for months, but what’s its upper limit?

Quick Answer

How long evaporated milk lasts depends on multiple factors; if it’s regular milk in an unopened can, it can last anywhere from three months to a year past its “best by” date.  Once opened, it lasts three to five days when stored in a refrigerator.  Evaporated milk in a carton has a similar shelf life.  Evaporated skim milk doesn’t last as long, going for around nine months after its “best by” date.

I’ve made a handy guide to explain where evaporated milk should be stored, how long it lasts, and how to know when it’s going bad.

Does Evaporated Milk Go Bad? How Long Does Evaporated Milk Last?

Your evaporated milk won’t last forever.  The evaporation process killing any bacteria plus being put into a sterile can means that it spoils slower than normal milk, but it will spoil eventually.

How Long Does Evaporated Milk Last Outside?

Evaporated milk lasts the longest when it’s stored in a dry area like a pantry or cupboard.

  • An unopened can lasts for months after its “best by” date.  It can last up to a year afterwards
  • The can protects the milk inside from the light, so you don’t have to worry about putting it in a light area
  • Sometimes you’ll see evaporated milk in cartons, rather than cans.  These can be resealed, however every time they’re opened it’s another chance for contaminants to get in.  These could last for months past the “best by” date, but make sure you check before you use them
  • Turn your can over every two months or so, to keep the contents mixed
  • Once opened, the can will only stay good for a few hours unless you put it in the refrigerator

How Long Does Evaporated Milk Last in the Fridge?

After you open the can of evaporated milk, it’s no longer sterile and the clock starts ticking.

  • An opened can lasts from three to five days when you put it in the fridge
  • To get the most time out of it, you can put the milk in an air-tight, opaque container.  Alternatively, you can use a rubber band to keep some plastic wrap on as tightly as possible, but this isn’t as good at keeping contaminants out
  • Check the milk before you use it to make sure it’s still good.  This may seem like a no-brainer, but the fridge isn’t infallible

How Long Does Evaporated Milk Last in the Freezer?

Evaporated milk can be frozen, but opinion seems to be divided about the subject.

  • Don’t freeze evaporated milk in the can.  It can weaken the can at the seams and even cause cracks to appear, making the can unusable
  • Evaporated milk can last two to three months in the freezer in an air-tight container with some room for the milk to expand as it freezes
  • When frozen, the milk’s components separate and become hard to recombine.  The texture, color, and taste changes, which is why there is so much division on the subject, but it can still be used for cooking
  • Try freezing evaporated milk in smaller containers, like ice cube trays.  This means less milk to recombine when you thaw it out

That’s the “skim” on how long evaporated milk lasts.  Always remember to check your milk before you use it, even if it’s not at the “best by” date yet.

How Do You Know if Your Evaporated Milk is going bad?

Evaporated milk won’t last forever, but there are some tell-tale signs that it’s going bad.

It smells/tastes funny

If you smell your evaporated milk and notice that it seems a little off, then it most likely is.  This is because the milk inside has started to curdle, or change its acidity and clump up.  Curdling is used in the making of cheese and tofu, but not in milk.

Mold

Do you see mold anywhere in or on the can?  Contaminants like bacteria might have slipped in during manufacturing or some imperfection in the can itself.

Lumps

Is the texture of the milk smooth or lumpy?  Lumps are another sign of the milk curdling as the proteins in milk come together to form big globs.

The milk is a different color

Another sign of milk going bad is changing color.  Check to see if your milk seems to be a darker, or browner than what it should be.  Bear in mind, evaporated milk will always be darker than regular milk because of the evaporation process, but turning a darker color is a sign that you should throw it out.

The can’s lid is bulging

If the lid is bulging on the can it means that a kind of bacteria that causes botulism, or food poisoning, could be in your milk.  Do not use it.

How Do You Store Evaporated Milk?

Evaporated milk usually works the best if it’s stored in a cool, dry place, although that depends on what container you’re using and if it’s been opened or not.  Make sure you check the milk out before you use it.

Unopened cans

The basic cans last the longest in a pantry or cupboard.  Keep it out of the light and at a consistent room temperature and you’ll be fine.  Don’t put it in the refrigerator until it’s been opened, however; the moisture of the fridge will make the can rust.

Evaporated milk in a carton

Since these don’t come in metal cans, it’s okay to store them in the fridge or in the pantry until you open it.  Just remember to close the lid tightly when you’re done.

Opened cans and cartons

When you open the can, bacteria and other contaminants can get in, so the milk inside will last longer in the fridge.

Frequently Asked Questions About Evaporated Milk’s Shelf Life

My evaporated milk has a filmy substance on it.  Has it gone bad?

Your milk hasn’t really gone bad, but it’s something that happens when the fat in your milk separates and rises to the top.  It’s called a “milk skin.”  It’s an indication that either your milk has unstirred for too long, or that some air might be getting into your milk.  You can just stir or heat the milk a bit and it will go away.

Should I use evaporated milk after the “best by” date?

In theory if nothing has got into your milk it should be all right, but you definitely want to test it before you use it.  Smell it, take a little taste test, check to see if it’s smooth.  Remember the old saying “when in doubt, throw it out?”  That applies here.

How similar is evaporated milk to regular milk?

Evaporated milk lives up to the name, in that it’s milk that has been put through heating until there’s only about 40 percent of the water left, which means it has more flavor and is thicker than normal milk.

What is the difference between evaporated milk and condensed milk?

While the evaporation method is the same for both kinds of milk, condensed milk has a sweetener added to it.  Condensed milk is also known as sweetened condensed milk for that reason.

Wrap up

The next time you use evaporated milk to cook, or just to sweeten your hot drink, take a look at the can it comes in.  It doesn’t need to be stored in a refrigerator; it also lasts longer and has more flavor than regular milk.

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