How Long Does Evaporated Milk Last?

Got a can of evaporated milk that sits 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 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?

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 an unopened evaporated milk is usually between 6 to 12 months ([PET]). Each container has a date on the label, and that date is a good starting point.

Of course, the producers don’t recommend using their product past that date ([CAR]). 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 its date.

If you’re opening a can of evaporated milk that’s past its date, give the liquid a thorough check before using it.

After opening, evaporated milk keep quality for around two to five days ([PET, CAR]) if you refrigerate it.

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

How To Store Evaporated Milk To Extend Its Shelf Life

Storing evaporated milk is similar to storing any other canned good, such as baked beans.

As long as the can is unopened, all it needs is a cool and dry area ([PET]). 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 ([PET, CAR]). To get the most out of them, place the unused portion in an airtight container ([PET]). If it’s not airtight, often a film forms on the top ([CAR]).

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 ([CAR]). 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

How Can You Tell If Evaporated Milk Is Bad?

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

Warm up the can in a water bath for the fat layer to melt, then stir the liquid to get it back to its usual texture.

When it comes to symptoms of spoiled evaporated milk, look for the following:

  • Mold. If you can see mold anywhere in the can after opening it, something went wrong in the production or transportation of the product. Discard it immediately.
  • Lumps. If your evaporated milk is lumpy instead of smooth, get rid of it.
  • Discolorations. White like milk is how this dairy product should look like. Any signs of green, brown, or black means 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.

Pouring evaporated milk to soup
Pouring evaporated milk to 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 a sterile environment.

That being 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.

Summary

  • 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.

References