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How Long Does Evaporated Milk Last and How to Tell if It’s Bad?

Got a can of evaporated milk that’s been sitting in the pantry seemingly forever? Or some leftovers after making soup with it? How long does evaporated milk last?

Most of us don’t have a whole lot of uses for evaporated milk. Sure, it works well in many pies, soups, and main dishes, but how many such recipes do you have in your repertoire? My guess would be not that many.

That means you probably can’t use the leftovers right away and need to know how and how long you can store them.

That’s where this article comes in. In it, we discuss storage, shelf life, and going bad of both unopened and opened evaporated milk.

Carton of evaporated milk
Carton of evaporated milk

How Long Does Evaporated Milk Last?

Canned evaporated milk typically comes with a shelf life of 6 to 12 months and easily lasts for months beyond the printed date. After opening, evaporated milk keeps best quality for two to three days in the fridge but should be okay for at least four days.

That’s the high-level overview.

Evaporated milk (like condensed milk) usually comes in cans, less frequently in cartons. Either way, the product is pasteurized and shelf-stable.

The shelf life of unopened evaporated milk is usually between 6 to 12 months. Each container has a date on the label, which is a good starting point.

Of course, the producers don’t recommend using their product past that date. But the thing is, canned goods usually don’t go bad or even lose much of their nutritional value for months past their dates.

In short, unopened evaporated milk should, in most cases, still be fine even a couple of months past the printed date.

If you’re opening a can of evaporated milk past its date, check the liquid thoroughly before using it. We’ll cover what to look for in a moment.

After Opening

After it’s been opened, evaporated milk is safe for at least 3 to 4 days if you seal it tightly and refrigerate it. Some brands recommend using theirs sooner, like within 2 to 3 days of opening, but the difference in quality between days 3 and 4 usually will likely be negligible.

As usual, transfer the leftovers to an airtight container if yours doesn’t come in something that’s resealable. And refrigerate the dairy product as soon as you can.

If your leftover evaporated milk has been in the fridge for more than 4 to 5 days, give it a thorough check before using it. And if it’s been there for more than a week, toss it for safety reasons.

Half cup of evaporated milk
Half a cup of evaporated milk in a measuring cup

How to Tell if Evaporated Milk Is Bad?

Signs of spoiled evaporated milk include:

  • Mold. If there’s mold in the can or the container you store the leftovers in, the product is no good. Discard it immediately.
  • Lumps. If your evaporated milk is lumpy instead of smooth, get rid of it.
  • Discolorations. Evaporated milk should be milk white in color. Any signs of green, brown, or black mean it’s no good.
  • Off smell or taste. If the product smells or tastes sour (instead of slightly sweet), it’s time for it to go.

As usual, if the leftovers sit in the fridge for more than the recommended five days, it’s best to discard them.

In the previous section, I already mentioned film (or milk skin) on top. If you can see it, no worries. It’s the milk’s fat that separated and rose to the surface. As long as the whole thing is milk-white, it’s safe to consume.

To fix this milk film situation, warm up the container in a water bath, wait until the fat layer melts, then stir the liquid to get it back to its usual texture.

If your evaporated milk has gone bad or you run out, you can make it using powdered milk. It’s going to taste a bit different, but you can easily make as much as you need when you need it, thanks to the long shelf life of dry milk.

Pouring evaporated milk to soup
Pouring evaporated milk to soup

How To Store Evaporated Milk To Extend Its Shelf Life

Storing unopened evaporated milk is no different than storing any other canned goods, such as baked beans.

As long as the can is unopened, all it needs is a cool and dry area. A shelf or a cupboard in the pantry is the perfect place. No, you don’t get any bonus points by putting unopened evaporated milk in the fridge.

After opening, you should refrigerate the leftovers. To get the most out of them, place the unused portion in an airtight container. If it’s not airtight, often a film forms on the top.

If you don’t have an airtight container on hand, sealing the can with aluminum foil and a rubber band will help (a bit).

Carrots, onions, and evaporated milk
Carrots, onions, and evaporated milk

Last but not least, producers don’t recommend freezing evaporated milk. The process changes the color, flavor, and texture of the product, and none of them in a good way. If you have some leftovers and no idea how to use them, feel free to try freezing them but don’t expect much.

Freezing an unopened can of evaporated milk doesn’t make sense. Freezing can compromise the seam, plus the tins have a really long shelf life.

Prepping creamy carrot soup
Prepping creamy carrot soup

FAQs about evaporated milk

How Long Can You Keep Evaporated Milk After the Expiration Date?

The date on the label isn’t an expiration date, but usually a “best-by” date. That means the quality is best if you use the product before that date.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t tell much about how long the evaporated milk is safe to use.

Since regular evaporated milk has a shelf life of about a year, I’d assume the quality should be quite alright for at least 3 to 6 more months. The shelf life of the skim variety is shorter. Therefore, I wouldn’t touch it if it’s more than 2 to 4 months past its date.

Again, those are my preferences, and there isn’t a right or wrong answer here.

Prep for creamy carrot soup with evaporated milk
Prep for creamy carrot soup with evaporated milk

Does Evaporated Milk Go Bad If Unopened?

Generally speaking, if nothing went wrong in the production and storage of the can, the evaporated milk shouldn’t go bad. As long as the seam isn’t compromised, the product shouldn’t spoil because it’s in a sort of sterile environment.

That said, don’t just assume that unopened evaporated milk can’t go bad. If anything, read the recommendations from the earlier question. At a certain point, you need to accept your loss and get rid of it.


  • Unopened evaporated milk can last for at least a couple of months past its date (assuming nothing bad happened to it)
  • Opened evaporated milk keeps for 2 to 5 days in the fridge in a closed container
  • If there’s mold in the can, the liquid changes color or is lumpy, discard it.