Can Condensed Milk Go Bad?

A Vintage Ad for Sweetened Condensed Milk

Condensed milk started as a way for sailors to preserve the unstable dairy product for days at sea, but now finds itself as a staple ingredient in many delicious baking recipes. While that fudge recipe may be out of this world, it does only use half a can of condensed milk. So, what do you do with the rest? Can condensed milk go bad?

What Exactly is Condensed Milk?

Condensed milk is simply cow’s milk that has been reduced on high heat, which not only eliminates pathogens, but also helps to stabilize the milk. Condensed milk is almost always found in its sweetened form, in which sugar has been adding during the heating process, leaving a very thick, sweet syrup that is often used in desserts.

Condensed milk is most often packaged in a can, but can be found in a tube as well. Most condensed milk available today is sweetened, and unsweetened condensed milk is actually incredibly difficult to find.

Can Condensed Milk Go Bad?

Like all dairy products, condensed milk (sweetened and unsweetened) can go bad. Because of the sugar, the shelf life of sweetened condensed milk is a bit longer than that of its unsweetened counterpart.

A Vintage Ad for Sweetened Condensed Milk

While still in the can, condensed milk will have a shelf life of about a year past the printed expiration date. Once opened, the shelf life is drastically reduced. Sweetened condensed milk will last for about two to three weeks in the refrigerator, while unsweetened condensed milk will only last for about two weeks.

How to Tell Condensed Milk Has Gone Bad?

To tell if condensed milk has gone bad, the easiest way is to check for any visual changes. Condensed milk is typically a pale creamy color, but will darken and become more yellow over time. The milk will also become quite thick. Condensed milk is typically thick, but can still be poured. If you can no longer pour the condensed milk, it has likely spoiled and should not be consumed.

Smell is another indicator of spoilage. Condensed milk typically has a sweet, creamy smell. If the milk begins to smell sour or unpleasant, this is a sure sign of spoilage. Another sure sign is mold growth. This is likely to happen if the condensed milk is not properly stored. As soon as there are any signs of mold, the condensed milk should not be consumed.

If there is any sign of bulging or swelling of the can, or if rust or large dents are present, you will want to discard the can and should not eat the condensed milk.

How to Store Condensed Milk

Unopened condensed milk can simply be stored in your pantry, or in another cool, dry location. Like with all canned products, keeping the can out of heat, light and wet environments will ensure that the condensed milk lasts as long as possible.

Once the container has been opened, refrigeration is necessary. Be sure to transfer the condensed milk to an airtight container, as an open container is likely to start molding. Storing an opened can of condensed milk at room temperature is not at all recommended, as this is a sure way to grow mold.

Because the shelf life of opened condensed milk is only three weeks in refrigeration, freezing is actually quite a good option. Condensed milk should be frozen in an airtight container, and will not actually freeze solid because of the sugar content. You can thaw frozen condensed milk overnight in the refrigerator, and then use as directed. Alternatively, warming the condensed milk in a water bath will help to thaw it. Condensed milk can be frozen for up to three months without any noticeable flavor or texture changes, so long as the container is tightly sealed. Whisk the milk if there is any separation, and note that thawed condensed milk should not be re-frozen.

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