Is it okay to use expired evaporated milk?

Quick Answer

It’s generally not recommended to use evaporated milk past its expiration date. However, evaporated milk may still be safe to consume shortly after the expiration date, as long as it was properly stored and there are no signs of spoilage. The shelf life of unopened evaporated milk ranges from 5 to 15 months. Once opened, it should be used within 5 to 7 days. If the evaporated milk has developed an off odor, flavor or appearance, it should be discarded. Expired evaporated milk is more prone to bacterial growth. Consuming spoiled milk can cause food poisoning symptoms.

What is Evaporated Milk?

Evaporated milk is a canned milk product in which about 60% of the water content has been removed through evaporation. This makes it more concentrated and shelf-stable than regular milk. Evaporated milk contains milk solids and proteins like casein and whey, but in higher amounts compared to fresh milk due to the water removal. It looks like a thick, creamy liquid and has a slightly caramelized, cooked flavor. Evaporated milk is commonly used in recipes that require a creamy texture and rich taste, such as desserts, sauces, casseroles, and more.

How Long Does Evaporated Milk Last?

The shelf life of evaporated milk depends on whether the can is opened or not:

Unopened Evaporated Milk

Factory-sealed, unopened evaporated milk that is continuously refrigerated will stay safe and retain good quality for:

– 5 to 7 days past the “Best By” date on the can
– 5 to 15 months from the manufacturing date (will be stamped on the can)

Properly stored unopened evaporated milk has a longer shelf life compared to regular milk because the canning process helps kill bacteria while the reduced water content inhibits microbial growth. The fat content also acts as a preservative.

Opened Evaporated Milk

Once opened, the shelf life decreases:

– Refrigerate after opening and use within 5 to 7 days
– Do not store at room temperature as it can spoil quickly

Keeping evaporated milk refrigerated and using clean utensils to remove portions helps prevent contamination with bacteria and molds. The milk fats can go rancid over time after exposure to air.

Signs of Spoiled Evaporated Milk

Here are some signs that indicate evaporated milk has gone bad and should be discarded:

– Sour odor and off flavors
– Lumpy, thick, or curdled texture
– Gas bubbles and frothiness
– Mold growth around the opening or lid
– Bulging or leaking can before opening

Evaporated milk contains less lactose than fresh milk, so it generally will not curdle as quickly. But over time, bacteria can grow and produce acid, causing proteins to coagulate and curdle. Mold requires air exposure to grow, so evaporated milk spoiled with mold indicates it was not properly refrigerated after opening.

Can You Use Evaporated Milk After Expiration Date?

The short answer is no, it’s generally not recommended to consume evaporated milk past the stamped expiration or “Best By” date on the can. However, milk that has been continuously refrigerated may still be safe for a short period, up to 1 week past this date.

Here are some guidelines on using expired evaporated milk:

– Evaporated milk that is up to 1 week past expiration can be safe if it was properly stored in refrigeration and there are no signs of spoilage like odor, taste, texture, or appearance changes.

– 2 weeks to several months past expiration, safety becomes questionable, especially if stored at room temperature for any period. At this point, it’s not worth the risk of food poisoning.

– Over 1 year past expiration should be discarded, as bacterial loads can build up over time regardless of refrigeration. Milk proteins and fats also degrade in quality over longer periods.

– Do not consume evaporated milk that is lumpy, curdled, moldy, smells bad, or shows any signs of spoilage. Botulism spores could potentially grow in bad milk.

– Do not boil or re-cook spoiled evaporated milk, as this does not kill the toxins produced by bacteria.

Risks of Consuming Expired Evaporated Milk

Drinking or eating food containing spoiled, out of date evaporated milk comes with potential health risks:

Foodborne Illness

Consuming expired evaporated milk increases the risk of contracting a foodborne illness. Bacteria like Staphylococcus, Salmonella, Listeria, Bacillus cereus, and E. coli can grow in the milk over time, especially if not refrigerated properly. These can cause vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fever, and other symptoms if the contaminated milk is consumed.

Newborns, pregnant women, elderly, and those with weak immune systems are especially susceptible to serious complications from food poisoning.

Toxic Chemicals

As milk fats break down over time, they can release free fatty acids that have a harsh, rancid taste and irritate the lining of the stomach. Spoiled milk may also contain chemical byproducts from bacterial growth that are toxic to humans.

Allergic Reaction

Protein structures in milk degrade as it spoils. This can lead to an increased allergenicity and make it more likely to cause a reaction in those with milk allergies.

Nutrient Loss

Over time, the vitamin and mineral content of evaporated milk degrades. So consuming expired evaporated milk means you lose out on the expected nutritional value.

How to Store Evaporated Milk Properly

To extend the shelf life and safety of evaporated milk:

– Purchase evaporated milk before the “Best By” date and check cans for dents, damage, or swelling which can affect shelf life. Avoid cans with visible rust.

– Check the manufacturing date code and pick milk that has been processed more recently.

– Refrigerate unopened cans at 40°F or below immediately after purchase. Keep away from the refrigerator door which can expose it to warmer air.

– After opening, transfer any leftover evaporated milk to an airtight container or pour into ice cube trays for freezing. This prevents contamination and limits air exposure.

– Use clean utensils each time when removing evaporated milk from the container. Don’t return leftover milk back into the original can.

– Mark opened cans with the date opened and use within 5-7 days.

– Don’t store opened evaporated milk on the refrigerator door shelves, where temperature fluctuations can occur as the door opens.

– Look for visual signs of spoilage like lumps, sheen, or molds each time before using. Don’t consume if expired milk looks or smells bad.

How to Tell if Evaporated Milk Has Gone Bad

Here are simple ways to determine if that expired can of evaporated milk in the pantry is still usable or has spoiled.

Check Consistency

Pour the evaporated milk into a glass. It should have a smooth, creamy texture without separation or clumps. Curdling, lumpiness, or a cottage cheese-like appearance signals spoilage.

Smell It

Evaporated milk that has gone bad will have a distinct sour, unpleasant smell. Fresh milk should have a mildly sweet aroma. even when refrigerated. Rancid or rotten odors mean it should be discarded.

Taste a Small Amount

Sip a tiny bit to check for foul, bitter, or sour flavors. You should immediately spit it out and not swallow if it tastes off. Good evaporated milk will have a slightly sweet and nutty taste.

Inspect the Can

Check if the can swells or leaks which indicates gas build up from bacterial activity. Also look for dents along the seams or rim which compromise the seal. Either of these suggest spoiled milk.

Check Expiration Dates

Compare the current date to the stamped expiration or “Use By/Best By” date printed on the can. As a general rule, don’t consume evaporated milk more than 1 week past this date even if refrigerated.

How to Use Up Evaporated Milk

If you want to use up a can of evaporated milk that’s close to expiring or already expired but still smells and looks OK, here are some safe ways to use it:

– Make milk-based sauces like cheese or mushroom sauce. The cooking process helps destroy potentially harmful bacteria.

– Bake it into casseroles, mac and cheese, or desserts like pumpkin pie where it gets heated thoroughly. The added sugars and flavorings can mask small changes in taste.

– Add a small amount to your morning coffee or tea to use it up more quickly. The acidity of coffee inhibits bacteria.

– Make homemade ice cream, blending it into the custard base before freezing. Freezing stops bacterial growth.

– Mix it into pancake batter or creamy dips that will be eaten right away rather than stored.

– Whip it with sugar to use as topping for cakes and fruit. The sugar helps prevent bacterial growth.

– Make evaporated milk cubes to add to recipes later. Freeze in an airtight container for storage.

– Feed it to pets if it’s just recently expired. But avoid giving significantly spoiled milk.

Ultimately, your nose is the best guide. If your evaporated milk passes the smell test and is not more than 1 week past the expiration date, then using it in cooked dishes or beverages is likely fine. But when in any doubt, play it safe and toss it out.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can expired evaporated milk make you sick?

Yes, consuming evaporated milk that has spoiled can make you sick. Over time, bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella, and E. coli can grow and produce toxins that cause food poisoning symptoms. Babies, pregnant women, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems are especially at risk.

How can you tell if opened evaporated milk is bad?

Check for changes in appearance, texture, smell and taste. Evaporated milk that is lumpy, moldy, curdled, or separates easily is past its prime. Rancid or sour odors, a bitter taste, and a slimy or gritty texture are also red flags of spoilage. Discard if any signs are present.

Is it okay to use evaporated milk after the expiration date?

It’s generally unsafe to consume evaporated milk more than 1 week past the printed expiration date. While it may look and smell normal shortly after, microbiological risks increase over time. For best quality and food safety, use opened cans within 5-7 days and don’t consume more than a week past expiration.

Can you get food poisoning from expired evaporated milk?

Yes, food poisoning is possible if you consume evaporated milk contaminated with pathogenic bacteria that can multiply over time. Staphylococcus, Salmonella, Listeria, E. coli and other microbes can cause vomiting, diarrhea, fever, cramps, nausea and other symptoms if you drink or eat food containing spoiled, expired evaporated milk.

How do you know if evaporated milk is still good after opening?

Refrigerate opened cans and use within 5-7 days. Check for changes in appearance, smell, and taste before consuming. Evaporated milk that smells or tastes rancid or sour should not be used. Look for signs of curdling, separation, gas bubbles or sliminess which indicates spoilage. Discard if any of these are present.


The bottom line is that evaporated milk should not be consumed past the marked expiration date without carefully checking for signs of spoilage. While it may still look fine shortly after, the risk of foodborne illness increases over time especially if it was not stored properly. Pay attention to changes in odor, flavor, texture, and appearance. When in doubt, remember “if in smelling, it’s telling” and discard rancid or curdled milk even before the expiration. Consuming bad evaporated milk is simply not worth the potential stomach ache or other health risks. But with proper refrigerated storage and careful inspection, evaporated milk can be safely enjoyed within a short window even after its “Best By” date.

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