Does Condensed Milk go Bad? Stored correctly, unopened cans of condensed milk will keep for years, as will most canned goods.
Although you may never seem to buy canned milk often, somehow or other, when you go rummaging around in your pantry or kitchen cupboard, you always come across a can or two.
You've usually forgotten about it because it's been there for such a long time, and you have to ask yourself the question, can canned milk go off?
Canned milk is something of a generic term and covers different products, including evaporated and condensed milk.
Both are made from normal cows' milk that has had its water content reduced by 60%. The products are then pasteurized and canned to extend their shelf lives.
Due to the processes that these kinds of milk undergo, they are darker and thicker than ordinary milk and have a tinge of color similar to caramel.
Rather than being used for drinking, it is used for baking and cooking.
As just mentioned, both have extended shelf lives, but does that mean they never go off?
Does condensed milk go bad?
Regrettably, the answer to this question is yes; sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk will eventually go off.
But when compared to unsweetened milk, the sweetened version lasts much longer because sugar is, in fact, a preservative.
Another important consideration is that condensed milk goes through a pasteurization process which kills off any bad bacteria.
You can reckon that canned condensed milk will stay good for 12 months beyond any date printed on the label.
The "Eagle brand" prints a "best by" date on its canned milk labels that indicate it is still good two years after its production date.
However, as I just said, if left in its can unopened, its real "best by" date will be at least 12 months beyond that shown on the label.
Stored correctly, unopened cans of condensed milk will keep for years, as will most canned goods.
So even if the product is past the "best by date" shown on the label, it's well worth checking it before you throw it out.
How long will it last once opened?
Cans of sweetened condensed milk have high sugar content, and it is this that acts to prevent any bacteria from forming or multiplying.
There are no bacteria present because the milk undergoes a heat treatment during the manufacturing process, which is designed to kill off any bacterial spores.
But once you open a can, any airborne bacteria can gain access and contaminate the contents, starting off the deterioration process.
The organisms that are likely to multiply in cans of sweetened condensed milk once they've been opened are molds and yeasts.
So, the following applies once a can has been broached.
- You can keep sweetened condensed milk for between two and three weeks in a refrigerator.
- Unsweetened condensed milk will only last for up to 2 weeks.
The correct way of storing condensed milk
Condensed milk left in its original can, unopened, will be perfectly edible many months after its "best by" date as cans are the best way of packaging foodstuffs to keep them fresh and unspoiled for extended lengths time.
The same doesn't apply to homemade or canned products once the can has been opened.
When this is the case, you need to choose a suitable container that will keep products like condensed milk fresh in the fridge for as long as possible, perhaps for between 10 to 14 days.
Regarding choosing a brand, there are several options, so it is very much a case of individual choice as to which brand of condensed or evaporated milk you buy.
1 Making your choice as to the can size and brand.
Most people reading this will become experienced shoppers, but this is what to look out for when shopping for those new to the game.
- 1 If you come across any cans that look swollen, you should avoid them. It indicates that the integrity of the can have been compromised.
The canned milk swells due to the gasses emitted by the milk, which is spoiling.
- 2 It's also best to avoid buying cans that have been dented. They might look okay, but cans damage in this way are a significant cause of botulism poisoning.
When any dents are around or near seams, there is a danger that the contents can be subject to bacterial contamination.
These tips don't just apply to condensed or evaporated milk, but to all canned products, be they foodstuffs or beverages.
2 Choose a cool, dark storage environment away from heat sources.
Cool, dark storage spaces are the best places to keep any canned products, providing they are far away from any heat sources.
Milk solids can settle on the bottom of cans of condensed or evaporated milk, so you should turn the cans upside down every few weeks.
3 Storing in your fridge
This only applies to cans of condensed milk that have been opened. Cans that have not yet been opened or compromised in any way can be stored as suggested above.
But as soon as a can has been opened, you can store the leftovers in a fridge; otherwise, they will spoil surprisingly quickly.
- You should never refrigerate canned goods in their original after opening. It's a sure-fire way of shortening the product's shelf life.
Not only that, but if the milk is open to the air inside the fridge, it will all too easily absorb the odors of other foods rendering it unpleasant to use.
- You should transfer leftover canned condensed milk into an airtight glass or plastic container, and food wrap should be stretched across the top and kept in place with a rubber band.
Stored in this way, you should be able to use the milk for up to 2 weeks without worrying about it spoiling or going moldy.
- For the avoidance of doubt, when talking about homemade condensed milk, this must always be refrigerated - without exception. If left out at room temperature, it rapidly will go off.
4 Is freezing condensed milk an option?
Yes, it is. However, to freeze condensed milk safely, it needs to be transferred into a clean, airtight container.
However, please note that the milk will not freeze solidly due to its heavy sugar content. Nonetheless, you will be able to keep it for up to 3 months.
When it comes to using frozen condensed milk, the best way to thaw it is in your fridge overnight. It might separate a little, but that isn't a problem.
All you need to do is give it a quick stir or shake it inside its tightly sealed container to reform its consistency.
Once it has been thawed, you should not refreeze it again.
Variants and how long they last
Okay, so after discussing the basic characteristics of the various types of condensed milk, let's now give you a quick summary of how long each one can last.
1 Unopened store-bought condensed milk
The products you buy from stores and supermarkets have an extended shelf life.
They will keep without going bad for as long as one or two years after their given date of expiry.
As with most things, the best quality products cost a little more, but their better quality ensures they last longer.
However, although they stay safe to eat for longer, the quality will slowly deteriorate even though they remain okay to eat.
2 Opened canned condensed milk
Once opened, a can of store-bought condensed milk will be safe for up to two weeks.
Please note that the sweetened variety lasts longer than the unsweetened due to the extra sugar it contains.
To keep it safe to eat, however, once a can has been opened, you should transfer any remnants after using, into an airtight container and seal tightly.
The milk will begin to turn and smell if you don't, particularly when left in its original can.
3 Homemade version of condensed milk
There is no one answer regarding the self-life of homemade condensed milk, and that's because, being homemade, the recipes and processes are not exact.
They vary from cook to cook. I can tell you, though, that as soon as it is made, if it's not all consumed immediately, any leftovers must be refrigerated straight away.
Suffice it to say that if you transfer it into a clean, airtight jar and pop it in your fridge, it will last for up to 7 days.
The alternative is to freeze it, in which case it will remain edible for up to three months.
Condensed milk remain edible past its expiry date?
The "consume by" dates that manufacturers put on the labels of the cans are more for their protection rather than as absolute eat-by dates.
Left unopened, store-bought canned condensed milk allows the products to remain edible many months past the dates shown - providing the product is stored correctly.
The "acid" test to determine if the contents of the can are still edible is the smell test.
Canned foodstuffs stay edible for ages, and the recommendation from the USDA.gov website is to check it before you chuck it.
Tell-tale signs that condensed milk has turned bad
So, when it comes to checking the quality of canned condensed milk that is well past its "use by" date, there are several things to look for:
1 The color check
When condensed milk is safe to consume, its color will be pale cream or slightly yellowish. If the color has darkened, it is a sign that the milk has turned.
Some manufacturers state that are changing color doesn't necessarily indicate that the product has gone off. However, I think you should take this on board to sign that the milk is about to turn.
2 The smell test
When condensed milk is perfectly okay to use, it has a lovely sweet and creamy smell. When it has turned, however, it will smell markedly sour.
3 The texture test
When the condensed milk is still nice and fresh, its texture is slightly syrupy.
If you open the can, you notice that the milk has become quite thick and can't be poured from the can; the odds are it has gone off and is not safe for consumption.
Another indicator that all is not right is when lumps have formed.
4 The taste test
It is still possible that although the aroma, color, and texture look okay, the milk could still have gone off.
Although you may discern a slight difference in taste from brand to brand, none of them should taste sharp or sour. If yours does, it's time to throw it away.
5 Checking for mold
Any sign of mold growth means that the milk is not to be consumed. The most common cause of mold growth on condensed milk is not storing the product properly, having once opened the can.
6 Checking the cans
Canned milk provides a sterile environment for milk. So long as the integrity of the can itself remains complete, bacteria cannot gain access.
But cans that are turning rusty, or have swelling, or had their seals broken may provide a gateway for bacteria to enter and should, therefore, be discarded.
Difference between condensed milk and evaporated milk
Some people are under the misapprehension that condensed and evaporated milk are the same.
They are not. They are two different products. The confusion probably comes from the fact that both are sold in cans of similar size and shape.
They are both types of evaporated milk which is milk that has had 60% of its water removed.
But sweetened condensed milk has had sugar added to it, whereas evaporated milk has not. In essence, condensed milk is a sweetened variety of evap.
Because condensed milk has had a considerable amount of sugar added to it (40% to 45%) and changing its flavor and consistency, this also extends its expiration date.
Using sweetened condensed milk in cooking
When you add sweetened condensed milk to various dishes and desserts, in particular, it imparts a beautiful creamy sweetness.
You can use it straight from the can by pouring or spooning, whichever you prefer.
You can even make dulce de leche candy with it by putting a whole unopened can in water and boiling it for up to several hours until the milk caramelizes and solidifies.
It's not really meant for drinking on its own, but you can use it in certain beverages like hot chocolate or Vietnamese iced coffee.
Sweetened condensed milk also goes well with coconut, so it is often used in savory and spicy Asian recipes - things like coconut curry and satay marinade.
How to describe the taste of sweetened condensed milk
It tastes a bit like a can of candy that has been liquefied. The flavor is richly sweet and milky with an overtone of caramel, and it has a lovely syrup-like consistency.
Is there a substitute for sweetened condensed milk?
There's no real substitute for condensed milk, but if push comes to shove, you can use creamed coconut, which is basically coconut cream with added sugar.
You will most likely find sweetened condensed coconut milk at your local store or supermarket in the natural foods area.
If using coconut doesn't appeal, you can try making your own sweetened condensed milk by using whole milk, powdered non-fat milk, evaporated milk, or, if you're a vegan, you can use a non-dairy milk substitute.
Whatever product you decide to try, all you have to do is boil your choice of milk with added sugar and allow it to simmer until it reduces and its consistency thickens.
Making dulce de leche using condensed milk
I made a brief mention above that you can make dulce de leche from condensed milk. Dulce de leche originates from Latin America. Check the super easy recipe here.
It's a gorgeous, sweet caramel sauce, and all you have to do to make it is to warm sweetened milk until it changes color slowly.
It has a deliciously sweet but not sickeningly sweet caramel flavor that is entirely heavenly.
Making caramel can be quite tricky. You have to watch it like a hawk and stir it non-stop to make sure it doesn't burn.
Making it this way by simmering it in its unopened can is so easy, and you can vary the length of time you heat it to give you the consistency and depth of flavor you're looking for.
Related Read: Does Dulce de Leche Need to be Refrigerated?
Once you've tried making dulce de leche this way, you'll be hooked.
If you find that it comes out a little thicker than you would wish, you can always add a smidgen of milk before popping it into the microwave.
Dulce de leche is wonderful to have in your fridge because you can use it with so many things.
It's fantastic when spread on toast or Graham crackers, and when drizzled on cakes, ice creams, pancakes, or pies, it takes them to a whole new level.
The steps to follow to turn sweetened condensed milk into dulce de leche
- Place the cans into your slow cooker
- Pour sufficient water into your cooker to completely immerse the cans, so they are an inch or two below the water's surface.
- Cook for eight hours. For a darker, slightly stronger flavor, add another two hours to your cooking time.
- Carefully remove the cans and set them on your kitchen worktop to cool for approximately 30 minutes. Alternatively, immerse them in cold water for about 10 minutes.
- To thin the caramel to a pouring consistency, add a teaspoon or two of milk before heating.
- Store your dulce de leche in an airtight container, and you can keep it in your fridge for up to 4 weeks.
- Be careful to use sweetened condensed milk and not evaporated. They are not the same.
- You must allow the cans to cool before opening. If you don't, you could get scalded.
- You can use any make of sweetened condensed milk.
What you can do with leftover sweetened condensed milk
Sweetened condensed milk stores easily. You can keep it in your fridge for up to one month, and freezing will make it last even longer.
It is important, however, not to store any leftovers in the can. Transfer them into a sealed jar or container for safe storage.
Sweetened condensed milk is so moreish that you're hardly likely to have leftovers hanging around in your fridge for long anyway. Here are some suggestions of things you can do with it.
1 Enriching iced coffee or tea
Forget your diet and using skimmed milk - use sweetened condensed milk as an occasional treat. This odd indulgence feels really decadent, and why not - now and again?
It's the perfect foil for Vietnamese iced coffee made from dark roasted beans. It also works superbly with Thai-style iced tea or tapioca pearl bubble tea.
2 Bakery with sweet condensed milk
Adding sweet condensed milk to layer bars brings a delicious toastiness to the party. Also, its gorgeous creamy texture is a must for caramel and fudge, and it transforms coconut macaroons into a dish for royalty.
You must not forget "Tres Leches Cake," of course. It wouldn't be the same without a layer of dulce de leche.
3 Enhancing savory dishes
It's not only desserts that sweetened condensed milk works wonders with. You can add it to savory recipes, too, and with great effect.
Swap out the sugar in marinades. It works incredibly well with Asian foods such as coconut and curry pork skewers.
4 As an ingredient in ice cream
Turn ice cream into an ice queen if you've been put off by all the work involved with making ice cream. This no-churn ice cream recipe is for you.
Just two ingredients - whipped cream and sweetened condensed milk. You've got to try it.
5 Turn it into dulce de leche
You are already halfway there to making dulce de leche when you have a can of condensed milk. You just need to simmer it, unopened, in its can for a while.
If you want to make it even more decadent, you can add some heavy cream or extra sugar after cooking. It's so easy.
If you struggle with making caramel with sugar only, making dulce de leche like this is a breeze.
Sweetened condensed milk is so versatile it's unbelievable. Let's go Vietnamese again, this time blitzing it with avocado into a luxurious green shake.
For the quickest of summer desserts, pour it onto fruits like apricots or peaches and oven bake until it caramelizes. So quick and easy and, of course, scrummy.
You can even drizzle a little onto peanut butter toast or forget the peanut butter and just have sweetened condensed milk toast. The options are infinite.