Does Freezing Milk Extend Shelf Life and Make it Last Longer?


Recently, we found ourselves with a surplus of milk in the house. I wondered if it would be a good idea to freeze some of it to avoid it potentially going bad. I did some extensive research, and this is what I learned.

Freezing will extend the shelf life of milk. For best results, use an airtight, freezer-safe container. Frozen milk will generally maintain quality for up to 3 months. To thaw properly, put the milk container in a cold water bath or microwave it at a low to medium temperature.

Please read on to learn how to freeze milk properly and ensure that you get the best result possible.

How Long Frozen Milk Will Last?

Depending on who you ask, frozen milk will stay fresh anywhere from one month to six. The exact length mainly depends on how old it was before it was frozen.

If milk is frozen immediately after purchase, it will usually maintain its quality for at least 3 months and sometimes 6. On the other hand, if frozen on or close to the expiration date, it should be used within a month.

Check the Quality Before Consuming

Before giving it out to your family or using it in a recipe, make sure your thawed milk is still good. This is especially true if it has been frozen for more than three months. If this is the case, use it with care. The longer the milk is frozen, the more chance it will yellow and/or absorb odors from the freezer.

Checking the quality: Small changes to the flavor of milk is common after thawing and doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad. However, if it has a sour smell, sour taste, or has yellowed, you are better off throwing it out.

How to Freeze Milk Correctly

The container you freeze milk in can affect what you end up with. The National Dairy Council recommends freezing in small containers. Be sure that no matter what container you use, you leave room for expansion. Like other liquids, other liquid, milk will expand when it freezes.

What Type of Container to Freeze Milk In?

To properly freeze milk, you will need an airtight, freezer-safe container. This means you can use almost anything that meets those criteria.

  • Tempered glass
  • Plastic
  • Self-sealing freezer bags (Provided they are airtight)

Glass will usually be noted as tempered, oven-safe, freezer-safe, or all three if it is safe to use. Mason jars are traditionally a safe option.

The good news is that even if the glass breaks in the freezer, the mess is likely to be contained. Leaving room for expansion (a head) is key. If you are freezing milk for recipes, ice cube trays are a great option. Cover with plastic wrap to seal, or place in a large freezer bag and remove all air.

I prefer to use airtight plastic containers, like these found on Amazon. They are airtight and leakproof and specially designed for liquids.

You can even use plastic bags with a vacuum sealer, although this is not what I recommend. If you decide to go this route, be sure to use bags designed for use with liquids and follow these guidelines in your user’s manual.

To make life easier, place the milk in a bag, and freeze normally for an hour. Then simply seal as you would a solid item.

Freezing Milk in its Own Container

If you’d like to use the container the milk came in to freeze it, go for plastic. Paper cartons don’t hold up well to freezing, and once opened, aren’t airtight. Avoid these for freezing.

When using a plastic jug, first make sure that it is no more than 3/4 full. Carefully and thoroughly inspect the container to ensure the cap is sealed properly and there are no holes anywhere. Then simply place in the freezer.

How Long Does Milk Take to Freeze?

Milk will take approximately 12-24 hours to freeze, depending on the quantity you are freezing and should be used within 2-3 days of thawing.

How to Thaw Frozen Milk

Thawing milk should always be done carefully to avoid spoilage.

Some frozen milk aficionados will thaw in the sink, shaking every half hour or so. This is risky and thawing by sitting in a bath of cold water is a much better idea if you are trying to thaw quickly. Leaving milk at room temperature can allow bacteria to grow. There is a much better method.

The safest and most traditional method is to thaw milk in the refrigerator. This will eliminate the risk of spoilage that comes with leaving at room temperature but can take up to 3 days. Alternatively, place the frozen milk container in a bath of cold water or the microwave for 5-7 minutes.

Always smell and taste a small quantity of the thawed milk before using it to ensure it has not spoiled.

Results May Vary

Be aware that freezing milk can alter the taste and/or texture – if freezing to drink, you may want to make a test batch to see if you still like the taste. Clemson University, Home & Garden Center, notes that while frozen milk can be stored for up to three months, but while safe to drink, it will not retain the same texture.

In fact, when thawed, whole milk can be watery and chunky, and skim is likely to be a bit separated. Frozen eggnog, when thawed, is likely to end up a smelly, watery, chunky mess.

The freezing process will separate the liquids and fats in whole milk – merely shaking it up can solve that problem. If you’ve ever had “fresh” or unpasteurized milk, it’s basically the same. The homogenization process used with store-bought milk reduces the fats to tiny particles and stabilizes the milk so that the cream will not rise to the top. Shake up the milk, and you mix everything together again.

Other types of milk can be frozen too, including evaporated and condensed (not in their cans), goat’s milk, plant-based milk, and even breast milk! You will want to follow the same basic rules of using an airtight container, leaving room for expansion, and will want to use it within a few months.

Almost all will undergo some change when thawed – some will separate, others will change color, etc. While the texture or appearance may not be as pleasing, this does not necessarily mean that the product has spoiled.

Alternative to Freezing

If you’re trying to stretch your dollar, powdered milk may be a good option – you can make only as much as you need at any given time. While it does taste a little different than “real” milk, it costs about half as much and has a long shelf life.

The Final Word

Freezing milk is an easy option for those looking to stretch the shelf-life. However, since taste and texture can vary once thawed, it may be best only to freeze milk that will be used in cooking.

Take care to use airtight containers, leave room for expansion, and be sure to thaw safely. Freezing a small quantity as a test batch will allow you to determine whether this is an option you’d like to pursue again in the future. Also remember, that making powdered milk can provide an alternative to freezing.

I hope this article has been helpful. Thanks for stoppin’ by!

Jelly Grandma

Anne James

Hi, I'm Anne but my grandchildren call me Jelly Grandma. I have over 50 years of experience as a Southern cook and am a retired librarian. I love sharing what I have learned. You can find me on YouTube as well! Just click the link at the bottom of your page. I hope your visit here has been a sweet one.

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