How long does evaporated milk last in refrigerator?

Evaporated milk can last for weeks beyond the date stamped on the can when properly stored in the refrigerator. Unopened and properly stored cans of evaporated milk typically stay fresh for 5 to 7 days past the printed “best by” or “use by” date on the can. Once opened, evaporated milk will last for about 1 week in the refrigerator.

What is evaporated milk?

Evaporated milk is a shelf-stable canned milk product where about 60% of the water content has been removed through evaporation. This process gives evaporated milk a creamy, rich consistency and a slightly caramelized flavor. Evaporated milk contains higher levels of protein, fat, vitamins and minerals compared to regular milk since water has been removed.

Evaporated milk is commonly used in recipes for desserts, casseroles, sauces, soups and more where a creamy texture is desired. It can not be used as a direct substitute for fresh milk since the consistency and flavor are quite different.

How to tell if evaporated milk is bad?

There are a few key signs that evaporated milk has gone bad and should be discarded:

  • Bulging can: If the can appears puffed up or swollen, this indicates gas build-up from spoilage and the milk should be thrown out.
  • Rust: If there are any signs of rust on the can, do not consume as the seal may have been compromised.
  • Curdling: Once opened, if the evaporated milk appears curdled, lumpy or grains have formed, it has gone bad.
  • Sour smell: An unpleasant sour odor is a clear giveaway of spoilage.
  • Change in color: Normal evaporated milk is a light cream color. If it has turned more yellow, brown or gray, toss it.
  • Mold: Any fuzz, slimy texture or spots of color indicate mold growth.

If there are any signs of spoilage upon opening the can or once refrigerated, it’s best to play it safe and discard the evaporated milk.

How long does unopened evaporated milk last when stored properly?

An unopened can of evaporated milk can typically last between 5 to 7 days past the “best by” date printed on the can when stored properly in a cool, dry pantry. The key is making sure it is stored at temperatures below 85°F/29°C.

Here are some tips for maximizing the shelf life of unopened evaporated milk:

  • Check the “best by” or “use by” date on the can and store unopened evaporated milk cans as far ahead of this date as possible.
  • Store in a cool, dry place like the pantry away from direct sunlight and sources of heat.
  • Avoid storage spots that may experience temperature fluctuations like near the oven or refrigerator exhaust.
  • Store cans upright and avoid stacking them too high to prevent potential dents or damage.
  • Once opened, transfer any remaining evaporated milk to an airtight container or resealable bag before refrigerating.

Properly stored in a climate-controlled pantry, unopened canned evaporated milk can typically last for 1-2 weeks past its printed date before the quality starts to decline.

How to tell if unopened evaporated milk is bad?

Here are signs that indicate your unopened can of evaporated milk is spoiled and should be discarded:

  • Bulging Can: If the metal can appears swollen, puffed up or bulging, this is a telltale sign of built-up gases from spoilage inside. Do not eat!
  • Dents or Rust: Dents on the can may compromise the seal, allowing bacteria inside. Rust is also a warning as it indicates the can has been exposed to oxygen.
  • Damaged Seal: If the can has any punctures, cracks or damage along the sealed rim, it should be discarded.
  • Expired Date: If stored properly, evaporated milk may last 1-2 weeks past its printed “best by” or “use by” date. Any longer than this, it should be tossed.
  • Separation: Shake the can. If you hear or feel any sloshing of liquid, this indicates separation has occurred.

When in doubt, remember the old adage – when canned goods go bad, they explode! Rust, bulges or dents along the can rim are signs the seal has been compromised and bacteria has grown inside.

How long does opened evaporated milk last in the fridge?

Once opened, evaporated milk will stay fresh for about 1 week when properly stored in the refrigerator.

Here are some tips for getting the most shelf life out of opened evaporated milk:

  • Transfer any evaporated milk remaining in the can to an airtight container or pour into a resealable bag, pressing out excess air before sealing.
  • Make sure the storage container is clean and dry before filling.
  • Store evaporated milk on a shelf toward the back of the refrigerator, away from the door.
  • Keep refrigerated at 40°F (4°C) or below. The colder the better for preservation.
  • Write the date opened on the storage container so you know when a week has passed.
  • Use a clean spoon each time when scooping out to prevent contamination.

If kept at proper refrigerator temperatures, opened evaporated milk should retain good quality and flavor for 5-7 days before it starts to degrade in quality and sour.

How to tell if opened evaporated milk is bad?

Here are signs that opened evaporated milk has gone off and needs to be discarded:

  • Curdling or Lumps: Fresh evaporated milk should have a smooth, creamy texture. Curdling or grainy chunks indicate spoilage.
  • Sour Smell and Taste: Rancid or “off” odors, or a sour taste mean the milk is no longer fresh.
  • Mold: Any fuzzy spots, film or colors on the surface of the milk is mold. Toss immediately.
  • Change in Color: Evaporated milk slowly darkens with age. A yellow or tan tint means it’s time to throw it out.
  • Expired Date: Throw away any opened evaporated milk if it has passed 7 days since opening.

When refrigerated properly, opened cans of evaporated milk can stay fresh for up to a week. But always rely on your senses. If it smells or tastes off, err on the safe side and throw it out.

Does evaporated milk need to be refrigerated?

Unopened cans of evaporated milk have a long shelf life and do not require refrigeration. The canning process removes oxygen and sterilizes the contents, allowing evaporated milk to be shelf-stable for months at room temperature when unopened.

Once a can is opened however, refrigeration is recommended. Exposing the milk to oxygen introduces the risk for bacterial growth. Refrigerating prevents spoilage and maintains quality.

For optimal freshness and shelf life, store unopened cans in a cool, dry pantry. Once opened, transfer evaporated milk to an airtight container and refrigerate.

Can you freeze evaporated milk?

Yes, evaporated milk can be frozen to extend its shelf life even further past the printed “best by” date or once opened. Frozen properly, evaporated milk can last 6-9 months in the freezer.

Best practices for freezing evaporated milk include:

  • Make sure the milk is fresh and has not expired before freezing.
  • Transfer from the can to an airtight freezer bag or container, removing as much air as possible before sealing.
  • Label bags or containers with the date so you know how long it’s been frozen.
  • Freeze at 0°F (-18°C) or colder for best preservation.
  • Once thawed, use evaporated milk within 1 week.
  • Avoid re-freezing thawed evaporated milk.

Frozen evaporated milk may separate slightly upon thawing but will remix back together when stirred or shaken. It may have some change in texture but will be safe to consume if properly frozen and thawed.

Can expired evaporated milk make you sick?

Consuming spoiled evaporated milk past its use by date or after exposure to air can potentially make you sick. Evaporated milk is a low-acid food, meaning it is not acidic enough to prevent bacterial growth when stored improperly.

Common symptoms from ingesting expired evaporated milk include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Headache
  • Fever

These symptoms may appear within hours or up to days later and typically last 24-48 hours as the stomach bug runs its course. In more severe cases hospitalization may be required for dehydration.

Babies, older adults, those with weakened immune systems and pregnant women have greater risk for complications from foodborne illness. Botulism from damaged cans is also a rare but serious danger of consuming expired canned goods.

To avoid getting sick, inspect canned goods carefully and don’t consume evaporated milk past printed expiration dates or if there are any signs of damage, rust, bulging or spoilage once opened.

Does evaporated milk taste different than regular milk?

Yes, evaporated milk has a noticeably different taste and texture compared to regular milk due to the concentration through evaporation.

Here’s how it compares to regular milk:

  • Color: Deeper cream color versus white.
  • Consistency: Thick and creamy versus thin.
  • Flavor: Richer, sweeter, slightly caramelized taste.
  • Fat & Calories: Nearly double the fat and calories as whole milk.
  • Use: Cannot substitute evenly for fresh milk in recipes or uses like drinking, cereal, etc.

The evaporation process removes water content to concentrate the nutrients, resulting in a milk product that is richer, sweeter and more flavorful. The deeper color and caramel notes develop during heating.

Evaporated milk has a unique taste and texture that doesn’t directly substitute for fresh milk. It adds richness when used for cooking, but results will vary if swapped evenly in recipes calling specifically for fresh milk.

Can you substitute evaporated milk for regular milk?

Evaporated milk cannot be substituted directly for fresh milk in recipes or uses like drinking, over cereal, etc. However, it can be modified for use in some cases calling for regular milk.

Here are some tips for using evaporated milk in place of regular milk:

  • Dilute evaporated milk with equal parts water to reduce the concentrated flavor and thickness.
  • For savory recipes, add a pinch of salt to offset the sweetness.
  • For every 1 cup fresh milk, use 1/2 cup evaporated milk + 1/2 cup water.
  • Expect a slightly richer end result using the diluted evaporated milk swap.
  • Evaporated milk may not work as well for delicate baked goods leavened with eggs or heat-sensitive custards.

In general, evaporated milk adds creaminess and body when used for cooking. But the unique flavor and richness do not replicate fresh regular milk for all uses. Adjust amounts and dilute to achieve the best results.

How long does sweetened condensed milk last after opening?

Properly stored, an opened can of sweetened condensed milk will last 3-4 weeks in the refrigerator. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container and use a clean utensil when scooping to prevent contamination.

Signs that opened sweetened condensed milk has gone bad include curdling, watery appearance, mold growth and sour odor or taste. Discard if any of these occur.

Unopened canned sweetened condensed milk has a shelf life of 9-12 months and does not require refrigeration before opening due to the heat sterilization process. Refrigerate remaining portions after opening.


With proper storage, both unopened and opened cans of evaporated milk can be kept safe and fresh for use beyond their printed expiration dates. Sealed, unopened cans maintain quality for 1-2 weeks in the pantry when stored in cool, dry conditions. Once opened, evaporated milk will last 5-7 days in the refrigerator.

For even longer shelf life, evaporated milk can be frozen for 6-9 months at zero degrees. Always rely on your senses and don’t consume evaporated milk if there are any signs of rust, bulging cans, spoilage or “off” odors or flavors.

Diluted 1:1 with water, evaporated milk can work as a substitute for regular milk in some recipes, though the taste and results will vary. Store all opened evaporated milk in clean, sealed containers in the coldest part of the fridge and use within a week for safety and best quality.

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