evaporated milk

Evaporated Milk Shelf Life: Can It Go Bad?

You are making a recipe that calls for evaporated milk. But, it does not need that much milk and you will end up with leftover milk in a can.

Since you are not familiar with the product, you start to wonder: how is the proper storage for evaporated milk? Is it okay to use it for other recipes next week? What to do with the leftover? Does evaporated milk need refrigeration? Does evaporated milk go bad?

Do you have the same questions above? Fret not! You are on the right page. In this article, we address the most common questions about evaporated milk shelf life, storage, and ultimately how to tell if evaporated milk goes bad.

What is Evaporated Milk?

Evaporated milk is another variety of dairy products. As implied by the name, it is made by evaporating milk and removing half of the water content.

Evaporated milk is commonly sold in cans and has a stable shelf life. It is versatile and can be used for many different purposes.

In many Asian countries, evaporated milk is usually poured on hot tea or coffee. Evaporated milk is also commonly used for baking and cooking. It is also a popular substitute for whole milk, by simply diluting the concentrated milk with water.

How To Store Evaporated Milk

When it comes to storing evaporated milk, it is simple and straightforward. Canned evaporated milk is shelf-stable and can be kept at room temperature. Store it at a dry, cool area, away from sources of light and heat.

Your kitchen pantry or cupboard is the ideal place for storage. It is not necessary to store an unopened can in the fridge. The production process and packaging are enough to make it last longer outside the fridge.

After opening, keep the product refrigerated for further use. Wrap the open surface with plastic wrap or better to transfer the remaining product into a sealed airtight container or jar.

Can you freeze evaporated milk?

Although it is not recommended by most producers, yes you can freeze evaporated milk. Freezing is always a smart way to prolong the food shelf life at home. So, if you don’t plan to use leftover milk anytime soon, freezing is your best option.

Don’t put the whole can into the freezer. Transfer the liquid into ice cube trays (a similar procedure to freeze soy milk). This way it is also easier if you only need to take a small amount of frozen milk.

How Long Does Evaporated Milk Last?

If you think that canned food lasts longer, yes you got it right. However, dairy products will go bad at some point.

Use the “best before” or “best by” date stamped on the label to guide your purchase or consumption. This date is an estimate from the producer to guarantee that the product will stay in prime condition, subject to proper storage.

An unopened evaporated milk can last up to 12 months in the pantry. After opening, it should be consumed immediately, between 4 – 5 days. Some manufacturers (such as Carnation) suggested to keep it for 2 days for maximum freshness.

How To Tell If Evaporated Milk Is Bad

Evaporated milk will go bad eventually, let alone if not stored properly. Your senses are quite reliable to tell if this versatile product is already spoiled.

According to Carnation, one of the major evaporated milk producers, after being stored for more than 2 days in the fridge, a layer called “milk skin/ film” starts to form on top of the liquid. This usually happens if the milk is not tightly sealed and exposed to the air. This layer is not harmful and still edible.

The easiest spoilage sign to detect is the sour smell. It is a sign to toss the remaining product.

If you are not quite sure yet, try to pour the milk and inspect the appearance. Good evaporated milk is thick and comes in slightly golden color due to the heating process (instead of while like normal milk).

If discoloration or change in texture occurs, the milk may have gone bad. If you see clear signs of spoilage, there is no better option than to discard the product.

If you happen to have evaporated milk that has been kept in the fridge for more than a week, it is also suggested to throw it away for safety reasons.

If unopened cans are damaged, rusted, leaking, dented, quickly toss the can for safety reasons. Damaged cans are a potential risk of botulism poisoning. This is also applicable to any canned food and beverages.


Is evaporated milk and condensed milk the same?

No. If you are often confused by these two products, you are not alone. Many people have the same issue.

Many people think both products are similar. It is not completely wrong though. Both evaporated milk and condensed milk are concentrated or dehydrated milk.

The significant difference is the sugar content. Evaporated milk is also popularly known as unsweetened condensed milk. It is simply dehydrated milk, with no sugar added.

Condensed milk is short for sweetened condensed milk, which is dehydrated milk added with a high amount of sugar.

Although both products seem similar, they have different properties and functions, particularly with the addition of sugar. Make sure you read the recipe correctly before picking up the right product at the supermarket.

Can you use expired evaporated milk?

Yes, an unopened evaporated milk has a stable shelf life. If the package is not damaged and you don’t see any spoilage signs, it is generally safe for consumption.

You may expect a difference in the taste or flavor as the quality may have degraded over time.

What can you use leftover evaporated milk for?

Pour it into your coffee or tea or use it for baking and cooking. You can find many recipes calling for evaporated milk. You can also use it to substitute whole milk. To do so, simply dilute the milk with water with a 1:1 ratio.

How long can you leave evaporated milk unrefrigerated after opening?

Following the rule of thumb for food storage from the USDA, once opened, evaporated milk should not be left outside the fridge for more than 2 hours.

Bacteria can grow faster than you can expect at room temperature and may render the food unsafe for consumption. Although many people have eaten or drunk food or milk that have been left outside and did not get sick, you never know your luck. So, better safe than sorry.


Evaporated milk is a versatile dairy product that can go into your hot drinks or baking recipes. Like other dairy products, evaporated milk will go bad eventually.

When properly stored in the pantry or cupboard, a can of evaporated milk can stay fresh up to 12 months. Once opened, it should be consumed within 5 days maximum.

Avoid getting risks of food poisoning by practicing good hygiene and proper storage. If you observe any signs of spoilage, always stay on the safe side and discard the remaining product.

evaporated milk shelf life

*Photo by AndreySt/depositphotos

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