Many of us have a can of sweetened condensed milk in the back of our pantries that have been there forever. It’s a useful and delicious ingredient to keep around.
But have you ever stopped to ask yourself how long it lasts? Does sweetened condensed milk go bad?
Eventually, sweetened condensed milk will go bad, but it can last years. If stored correctly, it will be good to use for a year after its expiration date.
As with many shelf-stable products, sweetened condensed milk has a very long shelf-life, but it is very important not to eat it when it has gone bad, as this can cause you to get sick.
In this article, we will explore why condensed milk has such a long shelf-life and whether it really does go bad.
Let’s dive in.
What Keeps Condensed Milk Fresh?
Condensed milk is a sweet dairy product created by evaporating 60% of the water content of milk and adding sugar to form a thick, syrupy liquid.[*]
This got us thinking: if condensed milk is made from dairy, why can it be kept at room temperature for years?
Sweetened condensed milk has a long shelf life compared to other dairy products because of the canning process and added sugar. [*]
Sugar is a natural preservative that has been used to prolong the shelf-life of ingredients for hundreds of years. It works by absorbing the water present in food to prevent bacteria growth.
Sweetened condensed milk has a sugar-to-evaporated milk ratio of 9:11, so almost half the quantity is sugar.
This extends the shelf life and creates a thick consistency.
During canning, the sanitized can is heated to high temperatures before it is filled with hot condensed milk. Then the air is driven out of the container using a vacuum before it is sealed.
This creates a sealed environment that will prevent the growth of microorganisms until it is opened and the seal is broken.
As long it is protected from the air and external contaminants, your condensed milk will last for years on your shelf.
Does Sweetened Condensed Milk Go Bad?
If stored correctly, sweetened condensed milk can last a year past the marked best-by date.
Once opened, sweetened condensed milk will last for two weeks in the fridge.
Since it is sweetened and preserved in a can, condensed milk has a really long shelf compared to fresh dairy.
The way you store the can make all the difference in its shelf life, so you also need to know how to tell if your condensed milk is fresh.
Fresh sweetened condensed milk will be:
1. Undamaged Can
If the condensed milk can remains undamaged, then the sterile environment inside will be kept intact.
This will mean that, in most cases, the condensed milk inside should still be fresh.
2. Pale Yellow Color
The natural color of sweetened condensed milk is a pale, buttery yellow.
The color will be consistent throughout the can, and the texture will be smooth and homogenous.
3. Sweet Flavor
The easiest way to tell that your condensed milk is fresh is to taste it.
We love an excuse to taste condensed milk!
The flavor will be creamy and very sweet with a caramel aftertaste.
How to Tell if Sweetened Condensed Milk Has Gone Bad
But what if you have had a can of sweetened condensed milk for long after its best-by date? How can you tell if it has gone bad?
Off-sweetened condensed milk will be:
1. Damaged or Rusty Can
If the can has been improperly stored and has become dented and rusted, then it is very likely that the condensed milk inside will be contaminated.
We recommend discarding it immediately.
2. Mold Present
If your condensed milk has been opened for a while in the fridge, it may begin to grow mold.
It will start as a white fluffy mold around the perimeter that will grow darker as it spreads across the surface.
3. Darkening, Uneven Color
If the color darkens beyond a pale yellow, it is likely that there are bacteria growing in your condensed milk.
It will likely be uneven and marbled through the liquid, which may have become watery and split.
4. Sour Flavor
Tasting off dairy is gross, we know, but you might have to in order to determine if it has gone bad.
It will still taste very sweet, but it will also be sour and very off-putting.
What is the Best Way to Store Sweetened Condensed Milk?
The shelf life of sweetened condensed milk is totally dependent on how well you store it.
We recommend storing condensed milk in a cool, dark cupboard away from moisture and excessive heat.
Once opened, the condensed milk should be transferred to an airtight container and stored in the fridge.
If it is left in the can in the fridge, the metal may start to leach into and contaminate the condensed milk.
Can You Freeze Sweetened Condensed Milk?
If you have leftover sweetened condensed milk, you can freeze it to prolong its life.
Due to the fact that it is almost 50% sugar, it will not freeze solid but rather as a thicker paste.
Transfer the condensed milk to an airtight container and mark it with the name and date.
It can be frozen like this for up to 3 months.
Is it safe to eat expired condensed milk?
If the can of condensed milk has been stored right and there is no visible damage to the can, it should be safe to eat for at least a year past the expiration date.
Be sure to use the signs we outlined above to check if it is still good before consuming it.
However, eating sour condensed milk can cause food poisoning with symptoms like diarrhea, stomach cramps, and vomiting.
Is evaporated milk the same as condensed milk?
These products are very similar with one key difference.
Both products are shelf-stable forms of whole milk that have had 60% of the water content evaporated.
The difference is that sweetened condensed milk has a large quantity of sugar added, while evaporated milk hasn’t.
For this reason, evaporated milk is a much thinner consistency.
Is It healthy?
Since it is made from milk, condensed milk does contain some important proteins, vitamins, and minerals. [*]
However, there is a very high percentage of sugar added, so it is overall not a healthy ingredient.
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After learning all this about condensed milk, what can we say about its shelf-life?
- Sweetened condensed milk can last for a year past the marked expiration date.
- Once opened, it will last two weeks in the fridge.
- The best way to store condensed milk is in a cool, dark cupboard.
We hope this has helped you diagnose your condensed milk so you can enjoy it with peace of mind.